We're forgoing our regular weekly candidate chat this week to talk about another the choice voters have to make in November-- the choice between Austerity and Prosperity. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and Co. have brought back Voodoo Economics under a new, more respectable (in certain non-C&L circles) name: Austerity. Yeah, that thing failing miserably in every single European country that's ried it, including the U.K., which is currently experiencing a double dip recession. The alternative, Prosperity Economics, is what our candidates have been talking about all year.
Progressives are in an awkward position right now. It's pretty essential the our most important task is to help as many progressives as possible win seats in Congress. And we have to do what we can-- those of us in swing states-- to prevent Wall Street from imposing their anti-democracy ticket, Romney/Ryan, on the country. But after that we're still going to have to contend with a Barack Obama who doesn't quite live up to the progressive approach we need to move the country forward. In fact, certain people-- if you accept Romney's definition of "people"-- are already looking forward to a post-election "bipartisan" lame-duck session in which Obama and Boehner will sell out working families to Big Business. Over the weekend, the president did a major interview with AP's White House correspondent Ben Feller which sounds, on first glance, like some standard reelection stuff about how radical the GOP has become. But digging just a little deeper you find some scarier stuff than that... stuff about Washington's conservative consensus that threatens America almost as much as Romney/Ryan.
Obama's view of a different second-term dynamic in Washington, even if both he and House Republicans retain power, seems a stretch given the stalemated politics of a divided government. He said two changes-- the facts that "the American people will have voted," and that Republicans will no longer need to be focused on beating him-- could lead to better conditions for deal-making.
If Republicans are willing, Obama said, "I'm prepared to make a whole range of compromises" that could even rankle his own party. But he did not get specific.
Those last 6 words should chill you to the bone. Judging by actions he's taken in the past-- particularly in appointing Wall Street shills, from Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to Simpson/Bowles to key economic positions-- the kind of compromise the president is talking about leans very heavily towards thos same failed Austerity programs being pushed by Ryan and Romney and their Wall Street masters. It's the wrong way to go. And that's why that video of Jacob Hacker talking about Prosperity Economics is up top. I hope you watched it already. If not, please do so now. I'll wait; don't worry.
Obama didn't get specific... but he should-- and he should in exactly the way Professor Hacker has laid out, in the video and at the Prosperity Economics website. Short version:
Prosperity economics is built on three pillars: growth, security and democracy. These pillars reinforce one another and are intertwined politically and economically.
• Dynamic, innovation-led growth, grounded in job creation, public investment and broad opportunity
We must take immediate action to jumpstart our sagging economy. In the future, we need to invest in people and productivity that will lead to good jobs and rising wages. Growth alone is not sufficient to sustain our nation. We need long-term growth that is broadly enjoyed, sustainable in light of our resource and energy constraints and driven by investments in our workforce and strong collective bargaining rules that raise our standard of living.
• Security for workers and their families, the environment and government finances
Markets work better when working families feel a basic security for their futures. A dynamic and competitive market requires a strong foundation that is reinforced by programs like Social Security and Medicare that guarantee a secure retirement and access to health care. Markets also work better when governments have the resources to operate smoothly far into the future. These resources are best raised through a progressive tax structure that supports the middle class; no more tax giveaways for corporations and super rich.
• Democratic voice, inclusivity and accountability in Washington and the workplace
Money is increasingly corrupting and corroding democracy. When economic winners are allowed to write the economic rules, the rest of America becomes poorer and our political system weaker. For democracy to thrive, strong Unions, and empowered citizens and community organizations are needed to ensure that workers and the broader public have an organized, effective voice in our politics.
Good luck getting Barack Obama to sign onto that. In his analysis of Prosperity Economics, Dr. Lee Rogers, the progressive opponent to Austerity-mad Buck McKeon (CA-25), points out that "both parties lack any motivation for leadership beyond keeping or obtaining more power." As citizens and voters, though, a reasonable alternative isn't electing something far worse than Obama (Ryan/Romney). Our alternative is to put our efforts and energy into electing progressives to Congress. And that's how we came up with Americans For Real Prosperity. On that page you'll find statements from congressional candidates who have read Professor Hacker's work and are making common ground with him for these kinds of sensible reforms. Like Dr. David Gill, the Democrat running for the open seat in IL-13:
"The politics of austerity embraced by Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans are not a solution to the ongoing economic malaise here in central Illinois-- in fact, such policies will only exacerbate the real pain that has been experienced by so many of my neighbors for so many years now. The ever-growing income gap between the extremely rich and the rest of us has reached historical proportions, and it is this gap that fuels economic misery on 'Main Street.' Politicians who refuse to acknowledge the need to have corporations and millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share are serving but a tiny minority of their constituents, and they are forcing us to remain in an economic quagmire. American workers are amongst the most productive in the world, but with real wages stagnant for 30 years now, with virtually all the gains going to a small fraction of society, we are left with a populace unable to enjoy the fruits of its labor, and unable to fuel economic recovery. Austerity is not the answer-- investing in people is the answer! Make the millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. Put in place Improved Medicare for All, which will provide an economic stimulus the likes of which we've rarely seen by taking back the 30+% of our health care dollars currently wasted on the private health insurance industry. And fully invest ourselves in the Green Revolution so desperately needed to ensure clean air and clean water for generations to come, producing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. These are the steps which will restore our economic health and bring additional benefits in the bargain."
Jay Chen, the Democrat running for the new 39th CD in the L.A. area, is taking on one of Wall Street's most devoted servants, Ed Royce, who uses his perch on the House Financial Services Committee to push a Wall Street agenda that makes a few people incredibly wealthy while decimating the middle class. Jay, who worked for Bain when he graduated from Harvard and saw the monster from inside, is brimming over with enthusiasm for the ideas behind Prosperity Economics:
"When I first read up on Prosperity Economics, I thought someone must have really taken a liking to my stump speeches. The ideas espoused by Professor Jacob Hacker and Nate Loewentheil are completely aligned with my core beliefs for getting our country and economy back on track. These beliefs, which include investing in infrastructure, education, and our social safety nets, and limiting the power of corporations to distort our political system, are not new. They are part of the original formula that drove the unparalleled success our nation has enjoyed up until recently.
"But these ideas are now under constant attack, as is the prosperity of our nation, by corporate interests and social extremists whose ultimate goal is to increase income inequality and cultural disharmony. Wealth accumulation has now been confused with job creation, and the right wants to slash government services further to grow the war machine. All the while our middle class, which is the true engine of economic growth and stability, continues to shrink. We simply cannot cut our way to prosperity anymore than we can drill our way out of oil dependence. We need leaders who understand how smart, sound investment made us the great nation we are today, and how prosperity economics can ensure our leadership in the world for generations to come."
Let me urge you to read the statements from all the candidates who are running on Prosperity platforms and help us support their efforts. It's by electing men and women like these to Congress, that we'll be able to make sure that when President Obama wins his second term and sits down to make his Grand Bargain, it isn't only Boehner and Wall Street he's bargaining with.