Life in America ain’t what it used to be. Wages are stagnant, debt is growing, opportunities are few, and a sense of powerlessness has taken hold. Many commentators cite growing inequality as the primary catalyst. The post-1970 divergence of wealth began a long period of flat wages and less opportunity.
But decades-long economic trends like inequality are not purely random events. While there is always a possibility of “unintended consequences,” these trends are more likely the result of deep thought, planning, and the misguided actions of democratic representatives. Recent history is full of examples: the repeal of Glass-Steagall and Bush tax cuts come to mind.
But scouring the history books and pondering actions not taken are all worthless unless done within the context of the future.
The mechanism for achieving a better future is public policy that tears down the foundations of the current system. More oversight of the Federal Reserve, simplification of the tax code, effective campaign finance reform, and restoration of civil rights are obvious examples. But these common sense policies are perennially blocked by the government that’s supposed to help.
Most would agree that this is because our politicians are beholden to Wall Street and many other groups that have profited from post-1971 wage stagnation and inequality. They’re intelligent folks – they reinvested their profits in the pockets of Congressmen. This has paid off handsomely – creating a mesh of legal protections and skewed public policy obediently enacted by the “representatives of the people.” It is no surprise that used car salesman and Communism have a better approval rating than the US Congress.
Unfortunately, this is what we have to work with. Until we realize this and start engaging our elected officials and the parties, they will continue listening to Wal-mart and DC lobbyists, and that means the stakes are high. However weak and ineffective it may be, the Democratic Party has generally defended the social safety net, plus civil rights and economic protections.
At this point, continued apathy or wholesale withdrawal from their “tent” is unwise – weakening them only strengthens the defenders of corporate America, making their eventual downfall a more difficult task.
Absent some compelling reason – abandonment of Medicare, perhaps – backing party progressives sympathetic to the middle class is a great idea. A strong Democratic Party, reinvigorated by activism and broad support, can help in the struggle against our economic overlords.
Let’s start by reelecting President Obama… and putting Democrats on notice that pandering to radical right-wing policy or going along with murderous, wasteful foreign wars are no longer acceptable.
The alternative is a Romney Administration … putting middle class interests at risk and better times even further off in the future.