#32: A Manifesto, of sorts (part one?)

It seems impossible to believe that the United States has descended into an argument over the meaning of ‘fact’ and ‘lie;’ it seems even more impossible that a man who celebrates his bankruptcies as smart business maneuvering is president because people think he will successfully businessfy the government and somehow make us great again; and, yet, these same people will tell you that America is the greatest country in the world; and yet, to point out this illogical leap is to invite lectures on how our country has nearly descended into the chaos of Venezuelan dictatorship cloaked under the guise of socialism because we don’t seem to understand 1) the definition of ‘socialism;’ 2) logical fallacies; and, probably most damning, 3) how government works. A government is not a business; it does not have shareholders, and its goals should not be to create wealth for itself. Instead, it should maximize its ability to create opportunities for its people to create wealth and to protect those people. Efficiency does not mean small-government. And, most of all, success should never be measured solely on a short-term horizon; that’s called greed.

The hard part of constructive dialogue after Trump’s election is this: hypocrisy. Republicans spent 8 years trying to delegitimize President Obama, by openly or subtly accepting birthirism; openly saying they were going to refuse to work with him or the Democrats in the hope he would not be re-elected; breaking standards of congressional conduct–shutting down the government, refusing to even entertain his Supreme Court nominee, etc. They did this because it was convenient for them; they did this because partisanship keeps them in office, country be damned. But now, they want to complain about protests; they want to say we need to move past the possible outside influence on our election process. 8 states want to ban protesting, including North Dakota who wants to make it okay to run over protestors with your car, and, yet, they howled that the government would dare intervene when a group of people took over government property, with guns, and refused to leave. That’s an okay protest, apparently.

They say they believe in the Constitution, and then ignore it when it suits them–torture, due process, voting rights, these things are only important when it involves the appropriate citizen: white. male. Hypocrisy is saying they defend the working class and then: Right to Work laws; refusal to expand Medicaid; taking away health care; giving more rights to employers than employees; tax cuts for the wealthy; the demonization of government programs that help the poor and needy; the demonization of education and teachers; the demonization of government programs that protect the environment, and, thus, citizens health; the demonization of The Other; the rank hypocrisy of demanding the federal government stay out of state rights, but states having no such problem taking rights away from cities.

The United States does not just suffer from systemic racism; it suffers from systemic classism; we have, purposefully, created an unacknowledged caste system, which is ignored through the proliferation of the idealized ‘American Dream.’ We float the American Dream in the same way we sell lottery tickets: a sucker’s chance that has periodically worked out for someone so we all can point at it and exclaim, ‘that could be me!’ as long as we ignore the growing data that shows it’s increasingly harder to move up in economic class; millennials are significantly behind their parents when it comes to economic opportunity, and, no, this has nothing to do with laziness; and that, essentially, your economic success in life is determined at birth. That’s a caste system. And it’s built into our society because it suits the people who are at the top. Which is how a caste system has to function.

It is also inevitable that machines will overtake a significant number of jobs. This is essential to the caste system, but, yet, ironically, it also means the end of capitalism. Capitalism’s existence depends entirely on a population’s ability to spend money. Technological advancements that remove even more jobs means even less money at the lower tier, which is, coincidentally, the tier upon which capitalism depends the most as it is the tier that churns through money, creating the quick purchase turnover necessary for businesses to succeed.

As such, I believe the following is not just a good idea, but a necessity: universal income. The government should eliminate Social Security, welfare, and Medicaid. In its place should be Medicare-for-all, with an 80/20 split and a guaranteed income for all citizens who have graduated high school. Private insurers can offer Medicare supplement plans to cover the 20%. While this creates a chasm between those who can afford the MSPs and those who can’t, that chasm already exists, and this gives everyone coverage at that 80%. Employers can also offer MSPs as part of a benefits package, and, as the rates will be lower, it will save money for businesses. The guaranteed income will be $2,000/month and $3,000/month for those who have retired, chained to the Republicans favorite tool, CPI to limit increases. This amount has nothing to do with annual income, and will be doled out to everyone who qualifies. In exchange, there will be no minimum wage, and there will be no paid parental leave; however, parental leave will be required to be guaranteed for a set amount of weeks.

Should you elect to waste all of your money and not work, I hope you know some good charities.

This does multiple things:
1) It acts as a defacto union. It presents a buffer that allows employees to negotiate pay and benefits, while at the same time creating the financial room for people to pursue jobs in typically underpaid arenas, like social work. Even without a minimum wage, employers will have to find ways to make their jobs attractive. Also, the $2,000 threshold does not de-incentivize work because it covers necessities, but does not in any way put people into a comfortable middle-class on its own.
2) It gives people who need it cash protection; it gives people who are a step below middle-class a push into middle-class and incentivizes capitalistic spending.
3) It can help better fund 401(k) accounts, so retirement is not just dependent on the G.I., especially as pensions continue to disappear and 401(k) accounts continue to be overwhelmingly underfunded.
4) It allows for more entrepreneurship, as people can better assume the risk of starting a new business knowing that they have guaranteed income. It also allows money to go directly into neighborhoods, gives people spending power, and facilitates growth in underserved areas.
5) Lowering the retirement age to 60 will encourage retirement without the downside of reduced benefits, thus opening up more jobs for recent graduates.

The left gets something they want: a poverty-attacking plan and health care coverage; the right gets some things they want: no minimum wage, no social security, no welfare, and no Medicaid. And it gives money to people to spend on goods and services necessary to maintain capitalism, while working to minimize the inherent caste system.

Efficiency of government, in turn, can come from streamlining the tax process, identifying wasteful spending, and holding government-backed projects accountable. Creating appropriate tax levels that somewhat lower than now could be possible if loopholes and deductions are eliminated. Essentially, working backward from 30% tax on all income, regardless of passive, etc., or something along those lines.

Instead of spending money on military equipment like planes and tanks that end up sitting in the desert rusting just because representatives want that pork for their region, spend the money to send those workers back to school to adapt their skills to infrastructure rebuilding: roads and bridges; outfitting buildings for earthquakes; updating our entire utility system which is woefully unprepared to endure an attack or a solar flare; and expanding renewable energy sources. These are all jobs that can’t be outsourced because they are all things right here. And they are necessary. Sending people back to school to adapt their current skill set is a necessary investment in the future.

We also don’t need the thousands of nuclear warheads that we maintain; the absurdity of having that many warheads is staggering. It is literally impossible to fire them all and expect humanity to exist afterward. We should be updating our military to be more precise, not in some humanity-defeating arms race that basically sets money on fire. The obsession with military size is outdated and narrow; our military should be judged on its effectiveness and precision. Having a million ships in the navy is irrelevant if, again, all that power essentially means the end of the world and if it is not capable of responding in a precise manner. We are so concerned with a show of force to prevent an attack that we don’t spend that time working on actual prevention; escalating arms races means eventual destruction.

Also, contracts accepted for government-funded projects should not be allowed to staggeringly increase in budget. The contracts should be honored, and any increase to the budget should have a thorough explanation and documentation. It is utterly ridiculous that the high speed train project in California has more than doubled in anticipated costs, especially considering its short track mileage. It’s an inexcusable drain on government spending and efficiency, and it limits our ability to improve our infrastructure, expand our mobility options, and create jobs.

Donald Trump and the Republican agenda is an attack–on governing, on poor people, on working people, and on the sick and elderly. They attack for the sake of supporting the rich, corporations, and large donors (which, typically, are some combination of those three). I do not believe Democratic agendas are inherently better; they suffer from the same lobbying foibles of the rich, corporations, and donors. I do not believe we can tax our way to prosperity. But I do believe it is possible to balance taxes with exhaustive investment in our people–on jobs, on education, on health, and, most importantly, on poverty.

What holds us back is threefold: an ingrained belief that government spending is a ‘handout;’ corporate short-sightedness that cares more about quarterly profit reports and duty to shareholders instead of employees and consumers; and an inability to see our nation as a fluid interface in which we all become responsible, in some way, of supporting those around us. We are selfish and greedy, and we have been told that it is only others who are actually like that.We ignore our own shortcomings while pointing out any that we can find in others–Ronald Reagan demonized welfare with the idea of ‘welfare queens,’ started by one woman who ripped off welfare. Our effort goes into discovering the few negative events and ignoring the ways in which our entitlement programs have helped lift up an incredible amount of people in the fight against poverty. We construct enemies because it is easier to blame the poor / the Other than it is to realize our country has failed to help us prepare for the technological changes in the work force and has also allowed corporations to dictate economic policy. You do not matter because there is no reason for you to matter, under these terms. That’s the caste system.

Capitalism needs corporations. But it also needs workers. It needs spenders. And the best way to get people to spend is to put money in their hands.Anything else is shortsighted.

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