Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Filtering Out the Establishment Voice

Over at The New Republic, Noam Schreiber wrote a compelling piece today in response to an op-ed in the Wall-Street Journal written by Gary Becker who proposes that political uncertainty is the reason many businesses are so reluctant to hire right now. We continue to hear this brand of fear and manipulation from conservative media sources: health care reform [government burdening small businesses with mandates to insure all their employees], cap-and-trade [increasing regulation will drive up costs] and tax policy [increasing marginal tax rates on the wealthy will drive down consumption] are hindering economic growth and ruining our country. Schreiber helpfully documents recent US recessions, juxtaposing the current Obama economic recovery with the length of recovery during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Screiber also points out the shady logic and evidence used by Becker and his team of Chicago-style economists. He unveils yet another case of political agenda driving economic policy. Schreiber flips the script and ask reasonable questions about these 3 progressive policies and how they might very well aid an economic recovery and save us from impending crisis:

1. Health Care Reform--if we do not do anything in the health care industry, costs will continue to skyrocket and this will be disastrous for families and small businesses. Only a real re-structuring of this industry will reduce costs and cover millions of uninsured.

2. Climate Change--conservatives have been effectively spreading the gospel of competing science on global warming, but, again, if government does nothing to regulate the irresponsible behavior of our citizens, we will have to deal with the consequences in the future, not to mention the devastation it is already causing in the Third World now.

3. Progressive Tax Policy--the 30-year Reaganomic mantra of trickle-down economics claims that everyone wins when the wealthy get wealthier. The statistics just do not support this. If we continue to believe this lie, the future will be unsustainable for those in the lowest classes and this will eat into the middle class as well.

With help from the prophet Howard Zinn, we are reminded that Becker is simply a voice of the American Establisment, who we can count on to consistently appeal for the status quo. He represents those who have an agenda to keep things just the way they are so that their comfortable, powerful, convenient lives will be untouched by real change that could really help others. In A People's History of the United States, Zinn beckons us to remember that this Establishment 'cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbagemen and firemen.' Zinn calls these Americans 'the guards of the system,' the ones with the real power to bring radical change that would require some real sacrifice:

We would need--by a coordinated effort of local groups all over the country--to reconstruct the economy for both efficiency and justice, producing in a cooperative way what people need most...available--free--to everyone: food, housing, health care, education, transporation.

This vision is what Zinn refers to as 'a neighborly socialism avoiding the class hierarchies of capitalism and the harsh dictatorships that have taken the name 'socialist.' Of course, Zinn concedes that this is beautifully 'utopian,' but this is what we must start with. As a Christian, I have strong convictions that what Zinn is describing is what the New Testament calls the 'kingdom of God,' inaugurated in the loving, giving, sharing, caring, gentle, humble, sacrificial campaign of Jesus of Nazareth. The mustard seed revolution is slow and steady, with a vision for sustaining those on the margins. It is a 'bottom up' revolution that can only be fulfilled when people mobilize and risk their own comfort and convenience, through a change in lifestyle [personal responsibility] and economic structures that continue to hold many in bondage. A spiritual activism in the way of Jesus seeks personal, as well as socio-political and economic, transformation. Jesus was crucified because he overturned the tables of the
Establishment in the Temple. He calls us to do the same.

--Theological Autopilot

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