Tag Archives: United States

What is True Progressivism?

This 1978 DSOC pinback button features the log...

I was talking to my friend on the way back from school when he asked me what I meant with true progressivism. Since the name of my blog is called The Left Progressive, and since the word “progressive” is commonly used and generalized in the modern context thus being diluted by liberal worshippers like The Economist, it would be appropriate for me to manifest my interpretation of the word. The premise of progressivism is to establish pragmatic policies which do not favor particular interest groups based on partisan populism; instead it creates a political program based on necessary laws in order to ensure the welfare and will of the nation and its people. The growth of progressivism was a natural effect of the extension of universal suffrage between 1870-1945, in which the will of the growing proletariat and the sympathy for the workers entered the political arena through the growth of socialist parties and the growth of their influence.

Although my leftist views may be a contradiction to the non-partisan aspect of progressivism, (as progressivism is based on pragmatism not partisan ideology) I truly do believe that socialism will provide for a sustainable economic and social future, and therefore I consider myself a “true progressive”. The fact that capital can flow in and out of nations freely and unrestrictedly creates financial instability as well as economic inequality. The fact that investors can determine staple food prices through speculative investment which causes deadly inflation. And the fact that banks can unlimitedly issue loans causing credit bubbles and dissolution of our financial sytem. All of this is part of an inefficient form of capitalism where the 1% exploits the rest through their capital, creating economic hardships like the one following the financial crash in 2008. Instead I opt for pragmatic solutions to these problems through promoting the implementation of a public banking system, restricting capital flows and creating a more democratic capitalism which is not based on top to down corporatism, but through democratic enterprises where decisions on the allocation and production of resources are made by the producers, not the owners at Wall Street.

Yet true progressivism does not merely address economic issues, in fact the reason for addressing economic issues is for social purposes, because the current elitist mode of production prospers the rich but impoverishes the poor (see sustainability). Healthcare, education and poverty are all social issues which must be solved through progressivism. 2.1 billion people in the world do not have access to essential medicine, (World Health Organization)this is proof of the deficiencies of modern capitalism. Statistics from before 2012 showing the amount of people uninsured in the US clarifies the failure of privatized healthcare even further. As a progressive, I believe that free and public healthcare ensures equality and universal access to treatment which is a human right according to article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Similar trends can be seen with both education and poverty. Privatization of higher level education systems means that only the rich elite will profit from graduating from university as lower members of society are required to take out student loans, which in many cases take lifetimes to pay back. This can be solved through a public higher level education system ensuring social mobility and increased innovation. Poverty is the cause of western imperialism both through traditional and modern means such as the World Bank and the IMF, as well as unequal “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA. If these institutions were abolished it would allow for an end to western protectionism (which is limiting the growth of developing nations) thus creating free and fair trade and therefore reducing poverty.

Progressivism has however been used in inappropriate ways by liberal populists, most recently by the neo-liberal magazine The Economist. In its article “Policy Prescription: True Progressivism” it says “A freer financial sector [in China], with market-driven interest rates, would remove a potent source of income concentration and economic distortion.” They do not understand that the liberalization of financial markets was the prime cause of the financial collapse in 2008 due to the growing credit and housing bubble sponsored by Wall Street. And now they are calling for China to free the financial sector from capital regulations in order to increase capital flows? This is especially ironic when the highly statist economy in China has been achieving on average 10% annual growth rates since the early 1990s. Furthermore, in the subtitle it says, “Bold moves are needed to tackle inequality”. Essentially they are promoting policy-making that increases inequality, not tackling it. This is not progressivism. Progressivism is about being a revisionist and learning from historical mistakes. Instead of admitting that large financial sectors are the cause to economic instability (as they are the cause of speculation driven inflation and the fuel for credit bubbles) they blame low growth on “big government”. It is hypocritical, but a good example of the failure of corporate media.

Progressivism is not about expanding the financial market and allowing capital to squander the economy, while the bankers get richer through the “too big to fail” concept. It is about providing healthcare and education for the general population as well as economic stability and development. This cannot be achieved through the present corporatist model, only through democratizing the economy and granting greater influence over production to the actual producers. We need to re-initiate the progressive surge from 1870-1945 in order to overcome these issues. The problems cannot be solved by implementing Reaganite neo-liberal imperialism through institutions like the IMF and World Bank. I call for true progressivism, a progressivism that will change the world from exploitative to sustainable.

 

 

 

A Socialist’s Critique of Obama’s Presidency

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today Barack Obama was announced victor of the extensive and corrupted presidential race over his republican contester Mitt Romney. I am not relieved, sad or filled with joy at this result; in fact my response is indifference. Not because I am nihilist or because I don’t care about the elections, it’s because both candidates are representatives of Wall Street, and both candidates will or would have offered little progressive change to Capitol Hill that is necessary in order to create a more sustainable and developing society in the US. I was listening to a debate between students during lunch regarding Obama’s success during the presidency. The students in favor of Obama’s policy claimed that his presidency has bolstered social programs for the underprivileged and unemployed, when in fact Obama’s presidency and social programs favoring the poor are totally irrelevant; policies favoring the poor are even anti-theses of Obama’s presidency.

The only major bill which did favor the poor and underprivileged was the Affordable Health Care Act which was passed November 7th 2009. This act included an expansion of people eligible to Medicaid programs, increasing benefits to low income Americans for healthcare and prohibiting insurance companies from refusing coverage based on one’s medical history. This bill was more an act of emergency than of solidarity considering that 32 million people were uninsured, which is scandalous for a nation with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. However claiming that the bill was merely an act of solidarity for the underprivileged is naïve; in fact the biggest earners from the bill were Wall Street having large investments in HMOs and insurance companies. This is because it brought 32 million people in to the market, increasing profits. If the Affordable Health Care Act was a true legislation of solidarity, then the health care system would be nationalized in order to eliminate health care inequality and increase the quality of healthcare for the poor and low income earners. Public health care could be implemented and financed through military spending cuts by 50% (US would still have the largest military expenditure by 300 billion dollars) and increasing taxes for the rich and incorporating the Tobin Tax for Wall Street fat cats. This would be a truly progressive healthcare system where the rich as well as the poor have access to the same level of healthcare and where quality is favored over profits.  Instead Obama is opting for the Wall Street version.

Although the Affordable Health Care Act may seem as an act of solidarity and pragmatism as well as progressivism, the rest of his domestic policy has lacked the same success. His attempt to revive the US from recession through the Stimulus package was successful in retaining economic growth however it did not provide the general restructuring that the economy needed in order to return to the growth before 2008 and reduce unemployment. Through this bill he cut 120 billion dollars’ worth of taxes including income tax credit for middle income earners and low income earners, as well as investments in infrastructure and renewable energy. As much as I believe in relieving tax burden on the poor, the reason why economic recovery has been so slow is because of the household debt which is worth 13 trillion dollars in the US, which is only 2 trillion dollars short of the total economic output. This has serious effects on consumption and is the reason why companies are hoarding 1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of liquid assets, the money is there but businesses are not willing to invest due to the lack of demand from private debt. Only by restructuring debt through buying mortgage loans and eliminating interest rates can consumer confidence increase. Not through measures like Quantative Easing which is only injecting money into Wall Street to serve investors. And especially not through cutting taxes which will only go into savings even though interest rates are at a record low.

Obama’s presidency has done what Wall Street wanted. Preferably the bankers would have liked further extensions to the Bush era tax cuts in order to increase their private wealth; however he has spent billions of dollars on ineffective tax cuts further increasing public debt so that Wall Street can feed off of government bonds, while the federal reserve is buying “toxic” assets from the bankers in order to alleviate and increase their billion dollar profits from mutual funds, hedge funds, increased savings and the bond market. He has however served some of the poor through funding their health insurance, but then again, this has also increased the wealth of Wall Street investors and venture capitalists that get increased returns from their CIGNA investments. All in all the Obama’s first mandate was essentially a mandate serving Wall Street fat cats while doing little to alleviate the increasing private debt of the middle and lower classes. While approaching the “fiscal cliff” in which Bush era tax cuts will be suspended and payroll taxes will rise, as well as huge cuts in public spending, congress and the white house will obviously need to address this issue but not through excessive austerity. The cliff needs to be tackled by progressive tax reform. Considering Obama’s promises of further tax cuts for the middle class and spending cuts, the future looks grim for the US. In any case, I am not looking forward to it.

Drug Legalization! Yes Please!

Marijuana

Marijuana (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)

English: Number of arrests in the USA, by drug...

After reading many articles on drug legalization over the past few days and after talking to friends about it, I felt that it was appropriate to express my own view on drug legalization and the war on drugs. To me it’s not understandable that we have declared war on something that cannot be defeated, and instead of exploiting the trade in our favor we are plunging other states into underdevelopment when the drug trade can give them so much potential.  I think there are two  main implications which must be taken into consideration when discussing drug legalization; the economic effects and most importantly the effect on health. All of which clearly points in favor of legalization.

Let me start with the effects on cost. So far this year 34 billion dollars have been spent on the war on drugs in the United States according to drugsense.com, moreover it is estimated that the total money spent on drug crackdown since the declaration of the war on drugs by the Nixon administration accounts for one trillion dollars, which is data published by the New Internationalist magazine. These costs include the arrest and detainment of people who were accused for 1,400,000 drug offenses this year; every 19 seconds someone is arrested for drug law offenses (drugsense.com). These costs also go to police training funds in Central and Latin America which either, in the case of Mexico, ends up in the pockets of bureaucrats, or used to bolster the machine of terror and repression instead of drug crackdown. One trillion dollars is enough money to socialize healthcare in the US or provide free college education in order to find remedies to more solvable issues such as student bankruptcy and house disclosures, or even investing it in rehabilitation programs and drug education in order to restrict the abuse of drugs. It is definitely worth relocating the funding of the war on drugs to more pragmatic issues such as education and healthcare.

In addition to the positive fiscal domestic effects of legalization of drugs, thereby ending the war on drugs is the economic development of areas which are hit hard by the criminalization of drugs most like in Columbia. The problem with the criminalization of drugs is that the middle men between the poppy plant farmer and the consumer are the ones that gain the largest share of profits for the transaction sales. This is because the farmers cannot sell their produce directly to the market and cannot set the market price, while the consumer of the drug is also paying higher than the actual market price due to the illegality of the drug and the costs of smuggling the drug. Therefore the mafia and drug gangs are free to exploit both the consumer and the producer of drugs. Legalizing drugs would mean the end to the middleman and therefore the farmer will be able to sell his produce directly to the market, thereby increasing efficiency and market welfare as price reduces to its natural equilibrium, and increases profitability for both the consumer and producer.  Also the fact that the crackdown on drug farmers will be stopped, means that there will be an increase in productivity, and the ability to allocate more resources to the production of drugs meaning market expansion and economic growth and an increased income for farmers in Columbia or Bolivia or any other producer of drugs in Central and Latin America.

In addition to the increased economic efficiency in the underdeveloped regions, States can also tax the industry in order to improve underfunded services such as healthcare and education. It is estimated that the total value of the drug market is between 320-400 billion dollars, thus legalizing the market would eliminate current deficiencies and expand the value of the market. With the current market value, if the drug trade was taxed by 10% it would lead to at least an increase in revenue by 25 billion dollars considering that the demand for drugs is relatively inelastic and the market size reduction due to the tax would not have a significant effect on sales.

What is more important than the economics behind drug legalization is the health improvement. With the legalization of drugs also comes the ability to regulate the content of drugs. At the moment drug dealers may mix the cocaine with rat poison in order to make it heavier to sell for a higher price, in essence the drugs consumed can contain anything as there are no law enforcement agencies determining what goes in the drugs. Also through drug legalization limits on buying heavy drugs like cocaine and heroin can be established by reserving sales rights to state pharmaceutics companies which can track individual’s consumption, even though that would keep the illegal trade alive, it would still reduce the consumption from illegal trade as it will be more expensive. Decriminalization of drug use has had positive effects in the country where it has been instituted, Portugal. Since 2001 (when decriminalization was instituted) the number of addicts on hard drugs went down from 100,000 to 40,000.

The legalization of drugs has a huge potential of increasing economic development in underdeveloped regions heavily dependent on the drug trade, while also decreasing health and security costs in the North America and Europe. It is almost disgusting how drug legalization was not ever mentioned in the US election by the two mainstream parties while it is very likely that it can improve the situation for the key issues; legalization can give the rise to a new industry in America thus creating new jobs, and it is also a source of tax revenue for increasing income to solve the rising debt. When asking classmates and friends all agreed that drugs should be legalized to some extent, although I believe in full legalization of all drugs, drug legalization of at least marijuana seems universally accepted. Then why isn’t it becoming a political issue for the mainstream parties in both the EU and North America?

Response to American Politics and The Election

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuCaWYvpVZg&feature=player_embedded#t=0s

I was looking for blogs on wordpress for the sake of interest and maybe even debate, I found a blog called You Viewed/Editorial. It had a post with a video called “Voices Without A vote”. I was writing a response to the video until I realized that the response was very long and I might as well post it on my blog. This is the link to the blog and the post: http://youviewedblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/if-not-you-who-if-not-now-when/

And this is my response:

Don’t you guys see the populism in this video and the two candidates? The United State’s political system is rigged and corrupted by lobbyism, the candidates are bought, and the two party system is elitist. The Democratic Party used to be a worker’s party, now its a conservative party favoring populist tax cuts and injecting billions of dollars into wall street through QE instead of mainstreet. Making wall street rich and the 99% left behind.

Romeny is not truly in favor of debt reduction, Obama isn’t either, but since this video is praising the GOP and ultra christian conservatives I will focus on him. He proposes a 20% income tax cut, let me remind you that only about half the country pays a substantial amount of income tax, yet almost all americans (except for the 1%) pay payroll tax. If one should cut taxes, (which they shouldn’t in the United States or they’ll face an increase in debt, bond yields and debt servicing leading to crisis) it should be payroll tax. The only way in which Romney will pay for these cuts is closing loop holes which according to the CBO will not make up for it.

I also want to say that the reason you have so much debt in America is not because of Obama, he followed textbook keynesian economics in order to stimulate the economy through investments in infrastructure and clean energy, QE(1) and other components of the stimulus package. But the debt was already in place due to Bush era tax cuts and the two wars. During the Clinton era taxes on the wealthiest were increased and growth was higher than during George Bush jr, in addition he was able to balance the budget, not that I am a supporter of Clinton or the democratic party for that matter. But Obama came into office with a huge budget deficit and economic collapse, don’t blame Obama for 2008-2012, blame Bush and the GOP.

And when they talked about returning to Reagan’s policies I started laughing, because he is anti-democracy and not pro-free trade or pro-small government. In both of his election campaigns he claimed that he would reduce the federal deficit, but in reality the deficit increased through his investments in the Space Program and funding the Muhajadeen which would eventually kill thousands of Americans on 11th September 2001. Reagan is the biggest paradox, in addition he supported the military junta and dictatorship in Haiti and aided rebels against the DEMOCRATICALLY elected government in Nicaragua.

If you want the budget to be balanced you shouldn’t vote for Romney or Obama but for the Constitutional Party’s candidate Virgil Goode, not that I am a supporter of his ideas either. What you guys don’t realize is that American politics is bought by wall street, as long as corporations can still make donations to campaigns, the poltics in the USA will not represent the people of America, but the corporations of America.

English: , member of the United States House o...

English: , member of the United States House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Job Creation Progressive Style!

So I watched this video on www.therealnews.com which is a independent news network based on private donations not corporate sponsorship. The video included many left wing and progressive intellectuals discussing job growth and job creation. There are many aspects of the video which I agree with, for example that growing inequalities within the economy leads to economic ineffieciencies and eventual collapse due to the fact that accumulation capital and investment does not reflect the demand of 99% of the population. Also the obvious fact that tax cuts for the rich does not increase investments or consumption, as there is only so much one can consume with million dollar incomes and therefore this money will end up in Swiss bank accounts, is also correct.

However, I did disagree with one point, the fact that the US government should continue investing in public services and stimulus programs in a time when the deficit is equal to 1 trillion dollars and when the economy is at risk from the fiscal cliff scheduled for January next year. The fact is that the US government is larger than it can afford to be, they have already lead a deficit spending plan and still are. I believe in keynesian theory of economics in the sense that government should be running a deficit in economic downturns and a more balanced or even a surplus budget during normal economic performance. However considering that the US government were already in deep deficit prior to 2008 due to the two wars and the Bush Administration’s tax cuts there was little room for stimulus, and the level of deficit accumulated today should definitely be the maximum incase of a huge increase in bond yields and increase costs for debt servicing which would lead to a debt crisis similar to that of the EU.

What needs to be done in the US is not making a 20% tax cut like Mitt Romney proposes, not even a middle class income tax cut like Barrack Obama proposes, but a tax increase on the richest 10% of americans and increased cuts in military. In fact both parties, republicans and democrats, propose to increase military spending and decrease taxes while cutting medicare funds for the old and vulnerable. It is almost embarrasing that the democrats and Obama consider themselves to be progressives when they are actually hardline conservatives; their policy proposals don’t even represent liberalism.

Apart from the Green Party’s candidate Gill Stein, who has no chance of winning due to the corrupted political and electoral system based on money, Obama is probably the better choice as the Mitt Romney campaign expresses policies extremely similar to that of George Bush; cutting taxes on the rich, increasing oil drilling, and having plans to invade Iran if necessarry. America does need a more democratic political system in which the entire political spectrum is represented, not only conservatives, that way we can truly fight the problems of the US and achieve humane deficit reduction plans.

Sustainability

middle class too big to fail

middle class too big to fail (Photo credit: Vince_Lamb)

The problem of sustainability rests in modern capitalism itself. Since 1990 atleast one region of the world has been in recession or economic downturn. This is the cause of the market forces placing increasing financial pressure on middle class, working class, students, public workers, and in essence any member of society who are not members of the economic and political elite. These are the owners of banks which are “too large to fail“, receiving billions in bail outs and billions of cheap loans from the Federal Reserve’s measures like quantative easing.

All of this is occurring while governments in the EU and the United States are initatiating cruel austerity measures including pension and salary cuts as well as cutbacks on public services such as healthcare, education and transportation. In the USA the Congress will meet a dilemma from the fiscal cliff, when the bush era tax cuts expire and income as well as payroll tax will increase substantially, while also cutting social security funds. In my view, if capitol will not alleviate the effects of the fiscal cliff it will cause the end of capitalism as we know it.

Instead of a wall street and capital based capitalism in which the economic and politcal elite are deeply intertwined we will see a liberalisation of politics and an increasingly egalitarian and democratic market structure in which trade unions and workers have larger influences over the economic structure than at the present structure. An economy based on production not financial transactions, where the economy is democratically organized by workers, engineers and managers through enterprises; not through top-down power based corporations where the largest shareholder have the most power resulting in economic oligarchy and centralization. We need a decentralized economy and decentralized politcal system in which communities provide social services and determine tax rates, not the federal state who has less of an idea of the local needs.

Freer and fairer trade must also be assured, markets should not be restricted by Reagenite protectionism which is harming global growth and development in the regions with the greatest need in freer and fairer trade. Not a free trade based on WTO, IMF or WB in which the region’s sovreignity and local needs are rejecied. These organizations are opting for an unethical neo-liberal strategy improving the economic imperialism of the protectionist west while limiting potential growth in the underdeveloped areas and sometimes even causing further poverty like in Mexico.

This is my vision for a sustainable and more equal future for the next generations. I am of course an idealist, and these reforms should not happen over night, in fact maybe not even during my own life time, but this should be the direction for which we should lead the economic system, from wall street style elitism to a more democratic and egalitarian economic system providing sustainability for all.