I don't play chess but if I did, I am sure I would equate today's politics with three-dimensional chess. And in the game, middle-class and poor are likely to be ill-prepared to win. Centrism has powerful allies.
It must be repeated ad-nauseam, the American political game is played between two rails both moving biased to the right. Parties attempt to keep flanks on their particular side of the rail attempting to prevent derailment. Over time this is consequential. Like the frog that stays in water as the temperature gradually increases to its eventual cooking, our political reality is sealing our economic demise.
We attempt to maintain the status quo my steering everyone to a mythical center, that rightward skewing center. Stray too far from it and we incur the wrath of the "liberal" punditry and media. One should not forget that Donny Deutch, a "liberal pundit" who at times has good Democratic marketing ideas, once blurted out that he would vote for Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren won the nomination.
But this should not be a surprise. Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party made a statement at Netroots Nation 2019 that caught my attention. Encapsulated within is the analysis that should define the Progressive narrative and path.
In order to shift folks towards our side, the only way that could happen is by actually saying and standing on what we actually want. And so there's a lot of folks who are fearing us from doing that indeed in the interest of false unity. Whenever anybody talks about unity, it's actually a surrender. And whenever anyone talks about ideology, they're always talking about progressives. For some reason the radical centrists don't have, ideology. You are being way too ideological because we're talking about our values. They're talking about their values. They're talking about their corporate values. So to me, the intervention needs to be like we need to demystify some of these terms and stop pretending that these are neutral terms. These are loaded terms. These are political terms that are designed to steer us towards a particular politic. And we need to resist that.
When former President Obama said, "This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement. ... The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it," at the Democracy Alliance, he was not speaking for the people Mitchell was talking about nor the wants of most Americans polled. It was an ideology he was projecting on us all.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg had no problem with a regressive soda tax but will spend millions to buy the Democratic Party Presidential nomination to oppose a wealth tax most Americans support as well as other progressive policy proposals. He is entering into the race to make life better for who?
Stated in many past articles is the fact that most Americans support progressive policies. Yet we have a crop of politicians going out of their way to tell Americans why they shouldn't want these policies with misleading narratives.
- Free tuition will make give rich kids an unfair break.
- Paying off student debt is a moral hazard.
- A Green New Deal is just too expensive.
- Medicare for All will raise your taxes.
- Giving everyone the option for childcare is not realistic.
- A living wage is too expensive for employers.
Here is an interesting fact. The last time the federal minimum wage was changed was on July 24th, 2009, more than 10 years ago. Just like Social Security is indexed to inflation for older people. Shouldn't the minimum wage be as well?
Centrism dictates the belief that the above policies are unattainable, unaffordable, or just wrong. Neither under our current economic paradigm nor a more equitable one is that true.
We exist in a closed economic loop based on the economic model we choose. It is beyond the scope of this article to detail economic models but examples that follow give some flavor. It is all about how we choose to distribute. For each of the policies enumerated above, there is a cost associated with not providing them.
As an example. Not having free college tuition means that corporations and the rich pay less in taxes which end up in the hands of shareholders and the wealthy. Students who must take out loans must delay or downsize expenditures as they pay loans back. Interest from the loans in the aggregate goes to the rich. This dynamic creates three things. Corporations get trained employees on the cheap. Wealthy people get paid on all sides (fewer taxes, interest payments), and reduced economic activity stunts the growth of the many.
A similar dynamic occurs with Medicare for All which I discussed with the co-founder of the Center for Economic And Policy Research Economist Dr. Dean Baker on Politics Done Right. He detailed why Senator Elizabeth Warren is correct in the manner in which she addressed the question about tax increases with Medicare for All. Most importantly, allowing ourselves to acquiesce to the fallacy that we cannot afford it means we are complicit in the early deaths of many of our fellow Americans.
Failure to provide every single progressive policy has an opportunity cost. And the beneficiaries are always corporations and the rich. Centrism is the engine that makes the will of the Right palatable. Unfortunately, the outcome is not indigestion but permanent disability.