The capitalists in America at the turn of the 20th century were essentially monopolists, competing to own their entire industry and share of the marketplace, in order to set pricing at maximum profit levels. Caught up in the struggle to eliminate competition, and the banker's profit motives in funding such endeavors, the greed motive overtook reason and rational judgment, which resulted in the capitalist barons and bankers pricing their products beyond the reach of consumers and investors, and the entire system collapsed in on itself in a series of severe and protracted economic recessions. A resurgence of this era in our history has been underway in the form of oligopolies, monopoly by a few cooperating competitors.
Charles Dickens wrote in his Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.Though Dickens was writing of the plight of the lower classes in England, where the industrial revolution began, his words above are as poignant today in America, as they were in 18th century England and France. In America today, corporate profits have achieved historical highs ( the best of times), and poverty, bankruptcy, and loss of homes by middle to lower income groups have risen steeply, as has political paralysis to govern (the worst of times).
Billionaire and millionaire numbers are climbing at an alarming rate, concentrating the nation's and economy's wealth into a disproportionately small number of the populations hands. (This is similar to capitalist baron and banker's concentration of wealth in the 1920's which preceded the Great Depression, choking consumer demand.) Conversely, the consuming public had become so debt ridden in its decades long attempt to climb the economic and social ladder against the tide of falling real wages, that the growth in consumption inevitably had to come to an end, and that sent banks into a tail spin trying to cover their obligations in the face of growing numbers of defaults on their loan and asset backed holdings. We were literally taken to the precipice of another Great Depression, with the potential for another 25% or higher unemployment rate and massive poverty sweeping the nation into political and economic disorder.
Massive deficit spending, loans, and loan guarantees by the government, in a very, very short period of time, is what arrested our headlong plunge into an abyss of another economic depression. But, the cost of those measures to halt the spiral of unemployment, bankruptcies, and home foreclosures, now threaten to bankrupt the federal government going forward under a debt burden more than doubled from 2001 to 2011, 5.65 trillion to over 14 trillion dollars, and climbing fast. It is truly both the best of times for corporate profits and the financial elite, spared their potential losses by government intervention, and the worst of times for 10's of millions of Americans either out of work, or working at such low wages as to struggle to keep their home, put food on the table, and to pay for medical expenses.
The extremes of capitalism and government economic intervention are now at war in this battle for the future of America, represented by the voices of the Republican (capitalist funded), and Democratic (working middle class supported) Parties. I intentionally avoid the use of the word socialist here, because, the opportunity for government ownership and management of General Motors and Goldman Sachs presented itself, and our government declined to go down that road. Our government declined to take ownership of the means of production which is the definition of socialism. For lack of a better term, I shall refer to our Government's economic rescue response as 'pragmatic intervention'.
Elections are an integral part of determining the future of our nation. Though the capitalists and pragmatic interventionists debate endlessly over priorities and ever shrinking portions of the discretionary financial pie, a number of realities have imposed themselves to the point that the winner of this debate has already been determined, and all that is left is for the loser to acknowledge their loss. That is where the election comes in. What is likely to come, is the most profound rejection of the Republican Party since the Great Depression and the elections of 1932. This rejection will, for decades to come, alter the construct of the Republican Party, either as a permanent minority Party or, a dramatically changed political party that adopts many of the tenets of pragmatic intervention in order to compete with the Democratic Party for independent voters.
The first of the above mentioned realities which have imposed themselves on the American scene is the rapid rise in numbers of Independent voters, often referred to, somewhat inaccurately, as 'swing voters' (many, like myself, have no rhythm at all). A great many self-acclaimed independent voters are nonetheless, Republican or Democratic voters exclusively. The vast majority of Tea Party voters will vote Republican, regardless of who the Democratic Party, or independent candidate, is. Conversely, many independent voters would never vote for a Republican, regardless of how disappointed they are in their Democratic incumbent or challenger.
While the meaningful measures of how independent voters vote, are sorely wanting, it is safe to say that a broad cross section of independent voters will cross party lines, and have done so, as a means of registering their discontent with either the incumbent Party or, the government's performance, in general. Such was the case in the 2006 and 2010 elections, when millions of independent voters who voted for Obama in 2008, voted for Republicans in 2010, largely to register their fear and frustration over the economy. These Independent voters now control national election outcomes, having wrested such control away from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
The majority of the independent voters aware of Republican attempts to end Medicare and Medicaid are incensed by such GOP efforts, and are likely to forever retain that picture of Republicans killing Medicare, in future elections. No doubt, Democrats will assert that picture upon every election to come. These same independent voters now have the history of the Bush II administration doubling the national debt and fostering the Great Recession, as well as Democrats having salvaged the economy, grown jobs, and acting tough on terrorists and national defense in the killing of Osama bin Laden. These events mark a political shift that may well prove enduring for election cycles to come.
A second and most important reality is the national debt and deficit spending by all levels of government. Texas, for example, a Republican dominated state, is 21 billion dollars in the red, despite a Constitutional mandate to balance their budget, Texas has no income tax, and relies primarily on its own legislated sales, motor fuel, and franchise taxes as well as federal revenues. Surprisingly, despite Texas Republicans railing against federal taxes and spending, only 40.5% of its revenues come from its own State resources, while 42% of its revenues come from the federal government. As clear a case of biting the hand that feeds one, as one can find, where Texas Republicans are concerned.
Similarly, in the States of Ohio and Wisconsin, Republicans have earned a national reputation of being anti-worker with their union busting measures, and highly publicized assaults upon collective bargaining. In Michigan, the Republican Governor has put in place a voter nullification scheme in which his office asserts the right to put in place a manager of the Governor's choosing to replace elected city councils and mayors where that municipality's budget has fallen into the red. This is an action so clearly unconstitutional, as to be destined to the Supreme Court. In Florida, the Republican governor's approval rating has been dropping like a lead weight for a host of reasons, including rejecting federal dollars for high speed rail jobs, which the voting public has recently become aware of. (Florida is a major factor in the 2012 election for president.)
Clearly, the Republicans did our nation a great service in bringing the deficits and debt to the foreground for Congressional and Presidential debate and policy. That is as far as they would carry that ball, however. Paul Ryan proposed a Republican budget so draconian to the middle class and poor in America, and which fails to address the debt, or even the deficits in the near term, as to have made its sales job a standing joke on late night comic shows. Embedded in that budget was favorable tax treatment for wealthy and corporate GOP funders and contributors, and was a serious source for the Ryan budget's failure to address deficits and debt in any meaningful way, at all.
Surely, the explanation for such GOP failures rest in the fact that they were ousted from power in 2006 and 2008, and are now preoccupied with the politics of increasing their House victory in the elections of 2010, which they could not accomplish without their base. Their base, however, is splintered, and shares little in the way of policy initiatives with the majority of independent voters and virtually nothing with Democratic voters. Here is a list of just a few major ones.
- Replacing Medicare/Medicaid with a privatized system in the hands of for profit insurance companies.
- Ending Social Security for those currently under 55.
- Ending collective bargaining rights for workers.
- Massive cuts to public education and expanding education by voucher supplements for private schools.
- Bankrupting the current economic recovery with immediate and massive deficit cuts.
- Perpetual effort to eradicate the abortion option for women in America, even in cases of rape, incest, and mother's life threatened by the pregnancy.
This agenda, leaves the GOP with legislative policies enormously unpopular with the majority of voting Americans aware of those policies. Acknowledging this, the GOP is hell bent on distorting the reality that the majority of voters view, in the hopes of hoodwinking them into voting Republican in 2012. Those efforts failed in Wisconsin and Ohio, and a unanimous vote in the House to kill Medicare and Medicaid, very likely sealed the fate of Republicans in the 2012 election, if the media and Democrats make more voters aware of it. Polling this month indicates half of Americans approve of the GOP as majority in the House, apparently holding out hope for a divided political government. The door is wide open for Independents and Democrats to drive those numbers South in a significant way before next year's elections.
And that is potentially very good news for America's future, if, Democrats continue to adopt and pursue Republican's one rhetorical strength in advocating for deficit reduction and eventual debt reduction. That is entirely possible, if it proves the case that Democratic victories in 2012 reflect a freshman class committed to long term deficit and debt reduction and incumbents convince voters of their commitment.
In the tug o' war between the Tea Party, the radical religious right, and US Chamber of Commerce members who fund GOP candidacies, the GOP has no policy path forward that will appeal to the majority of the American voters. Many Democrats have taken up the deficit and debt cause, but, unlike the Tea Party leaders, they are not willing to kill today's economic momentum to turn deficits and debt around on a dime. That too is potentially good news for America's future, since, logic dictates you can't improve tomorrow's economy by destroying today's economy. Democrats are most likely to be the majority party going forward as a result, though my preference would be for a dramatic rise in elected Independents.
Job creation and growth is on a steady trend upward. Investors and corporations are flush with trillions of dollars of investment cash to expand the economy, as demand increases. The incessant rise in commodity prices has been broken this week, which likely marks a reprieve from higher consumption prices going forward and some inflation pressure relief. The bottom of the housing market price fall is nearing. With, what appears to be landslide Democratic victories coming in the 2012 elections, the political stalemate in Wa. D.C. will end. This can mean the federal government will be able to proceed with more measures which will hasten the return of stable job growth, lower unemployment, energy and transportation innovation investments, and a return to sane social policies which will shore up the Middle Classes of the future in the form of education quality improvements, lowering of health care costs, reforming and sustaining Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security programs for seniors, increasing tax revenues on the wealthiest, cutting spending on defense, and ending subsidies to record profiting corporations. All of these can contribute to lowering the deficit in coming years.
With a plan and commitment to lowering and ending deficit spending, fears of America's investors and lenders will be eased, and our debt will be underwritten with more confidence, salvaging America's potential for the foreseeable future. It is even possible, that a new economic paradigm might take root based on common sense and an entirely logical approach to providing sustenance to the American people, like food, some energy, and health care, on a non-profit basis. This one simple shift could do more to eliminate poverty, expand the Middle Class, and unleash disposable income consumption for profit oriented economic activity, than any other. Many Independents and Democrats are awaking to this potential for salvaging America's economic future. It is a model in place in nearly all other Westernized democracies around the globe.
The single greatest obstacle to this future and 'pragmatic intervention' that can take America there, is the Republican Party which, opposes all these measures. The internal civil war within the GOP, however, very nearly guarantees that this Party will be remanded back to its historical minority Party status, and in sufficient numbers as to remove the GOP as a major obstacle to America's future progress. It will then be incumbent upon Independent and Democratic voters to demand, with their anti-incumbent vote, that the majority Party deliver on improvements in America's future progress toward fiscal balance and citizen prosperity, simultaneously. It can be done. It must be done. The alternative is Americans losing their world leader and greatest nation status hard earned in the last century.