Nov 16, 2016 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 158

AFD-logo-470

Topics: An interview with Virginia/Scotland socialist organizer Emily Robinson (@see_em_play). Produced: Nov 13th, 2016.

Episode 158 (49 min):
AFD 158

Discussion Points:

– Dissecting the disaster of the 2016 election and what to do next.
– What was the campaign like in Virginia this year?
– Should you join Democratic Socialists of America?
– What is Scottish Labour Young Socialists working on?

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

Proposed: A Constitutional Right to Childcare & School

In this Arsenal For Democracy mini-series, we propose new, progressive Constitutional rights. Part III: A right to free and high-quality childcare and education, by Maria.

Education – and the possibility that it means your children can and will do better than you have been able to do – is what drives nearly all American citizens and citizens-to-be to believe in the dream of America. However, to realize that dream, both quality public education and quality early childcare/pre-K must be considered an unquestioned public right for all Americans. Access to both must be guaranteed to all, regardless of means or geographic location, to secure that right.

A need to act

Childcare and education are often intertwined. In order to spend an 8 hour day working, parents drop off their kids at a Pre-K, Daycare Center, or Day Camp that promises an enriching learning environment. Recently it was reported that childcare costs more than college in 24 states. An impressive and depressing statistic when you consider that college tuition “…has been rising almost six percent above the rate of inflation”.

Study after study shows that children who receive pre-school education do better than their less fortunate peers; progress begets progress for the rest of their lives. Competition for Pre-K programs can be so fierce that many schools operate by lottery.

We shouldn’t have to stage a Hunger Games for tots to decide who gets to learn the numbers and colors. We are failing our children and our own futures by not addressing this burden.

Uneven funding

Adding to this challenge is the inherent inequality in the way schools are funded in the United States, through local property taxes. What you and your community can afford to pay (or how much your local government prioritizes educational investment) will determine what kind of education your child receives over a lifetime.

Some parents are fortunate enough to be able to navigate and afford systems that may require applications for a child even before he or she is born. Others are financially secure enough to be able to move to better school districts. Clearly, not everyone can do this.

Should a child be denied a chance at a better life due the geographic circumstances of their birth? Should the quality of their earliest years of school be determined on their parents’ incomes? A meritocracy cannot emerge from such inequalities. These inequalities rob a certain share of our population’s youngest members of the opportunity for a decent start, for arbitrary reasons.

If the core of the American Dream is believing that your children will do better than you did, every child must be provided with at least a baseline of quality education and childcare. For our society to have any hope of realizing a meritocracy to, neither of these can be beholden to rich or poor, urban or suburban, etc.

The right of the people

State constitutions or the federal constitution should be amended to include a free public childcare and schooling provision along the following lines:

“Every person has the right to access high-quality, free education and early childcare regardless of his or her means or geographic location. The legislature [or Congress] shall make such laws as are necessary to secure this right to all residents.”

Those who wish to supplement public offerings with private options would continue to have that ability, but everyone would have access to a strong starting point before reaching adulthood. The fresh slate promised by the American Dream currently does not exist for a poor child, but it could.

Countries the world over have enshrined the right to a free, high standard of education in their constitutions. If America truly wishes to remain one of the most highly educated countries, we must focus on making education freely accessible to all, while also highlighting quality.

Ensuring free public education and childcare for all children not only increases their chances at fulfilling their parents’ dream of a better future, it would also make sure the future of the parents – and our entire society – is well cared for.

Baseline goals

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

arsenal-bolt-logo

“Bernie Sanders invokes FDR in explaining socialism as ‘foundation of middle class'” – LA Times:

“The next time you hear me attacked as a socialist,” Sanders said, “remember this: I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own means of production. But I do believe the middle class and working class of this country who produce the wealth of this country deserve a decent standard of living, and their incomes should go up and not down.”

 

Two Big Takeaways for the NDP on Canada’s 2015 election

ndp-npd-canada-logo

Editor’s Note: On October 19, 2015, Canadians voted all across their country to elect a new parliament. There were three major parties contesting the election everywhere and a couple minor parties. After the last federal parliamentary elections (in 2011), the Conservatives held a majority, the social-democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) were the second-place party (heading the opposition for the first time), and the centrist Liberal Party finished third. At the start of this year’s election, the NDP had a large lead in the polls seemed poised to form a government for the first time in Canada’s history. As the campaign progressed, however, the NDP’s support collapsed and voters instead chose to elect a Liberal Party majority to parliament. This majority will be led by Justin Trudeau, the son of former longtime prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who led the party from 1968 to 1984. The Conservatives finished second. The NDP finished a distant third.

Below, guest contributor and NDP supporter Adam Chaikof presents the two major lessons he drew from the NDP’s unsuccessful campaign to lead the federal government for the first time in party history.

Lesson 1: Don’t treat balanced budgets like a sacred cow (especially during economic downturns).

It certainly goes without saying that one of the most common right-wing retorts to any suggestion of expanding the welfare state or investing in jobs or infrastructure is that such measures are too costly and will only increase the national debt and deficit.

Besides the obvious ideological reasons, the Right constantly employs this line of attack because voters easily understand it. After all, many voters reason, if we have to live within our means, why shouldn’t the government do the same?

Within this framing, beyond completely rejecting the Left’s core principles, left-wing parties can respond to these accusations in one of two ways: they can either try to convince the electorate that they’re actually better at balancing the budget than the Right, or they can argue that running a short-term deficit isn’t harmful and is necessary to stimulate the economy.

In other words, the Left can either try to win the debate on balanced budgets on the Right’s terms, or they can try to reset the debate’s terms altogether. During this most recent election in Canada, the NDP chose the former route, while the Liberals chose the latter.

The NDP chose this strategy for two reasons. First, NDP provincial governments actually have better fiscal records on average than both Liberal and Conservative ones despite spending more on economic and social programs.

Unfortunately, there is one notable – and very noticeable – exception to the NDP’s fiscal record: Bob Rae’s provincial government in Ontario from 1990 to 1995. Rae’s early 90s legacy still haunts the NDP in the electorally vital province of Ontario. This is the root cause of the second reason for the NDP’s strategy of campaigning on fiscal responsibility.

Rae’s record is still hotly debated – and he actually has long since defected from the NDP to the Liberals – but the most commonly accepted narrative is this: After leading the NDP to its first ever victory in Ontario in 1990, Rae unsuccessfully tried to spend Ontario’s way out of a recession and was then forced to implement austerity measures after exploding the province’s deficit.

Whether you accept this narrative or not, it’s undeniable that Rae’s poor economic record has been like a millstone around the NDP’s neck in Ontario at both the federal and provincial levels for the past 20 years. Ontario sends the most federal MPs to Parliament. In other words, eager to convince voters of its fiscal credibility and finally excise the ghost of the Rae Provincial Government, the NDP made maintaining a balanced budget one its main campaign planks.

This decision, however, had serious repercussions for the NDP. Many voters simply didn’t believe that the NDP’s proposals for raising revenue (e.g. raising corporate taxes by 2%, closing tax loopholes, etc.) would be enough to pay for its other spending promises. These included universal childcare and pharmacare, a national housing and transit strategy, reversing Harper’s cuts to health care and pensions, a national cap-and-trade system, and new investments in clean energy and manufacturing.

These proposals remained very popular, to be sure, but Canadians didn’t have much faith in the NDP being able to implement them properly because it seemed like they were trying to have it both ways: Spending a lot while balancing budgets. Read more

Should USPS be empowered again to offer banking services?

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

Speaking of underbanked Americans without access to safe, low-cost services for cashing checks and saving money…

Don’t miss “Bernie Sanders’s Highly Sensible Plan to Turn Post Offices Into Banks” – The Atlantic:

…only about 7 percent of the world’s national postal systems don’t offer some bank-like services.
[…]
The reason why this would be so useful in the U.S. is that somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of the population has to rely on check-cashing or payday-lending services, which in some places charge usurious rates that send people into spirals of recurring debt.
[…]
…in 1910, William Howard Taft introduced a postal-savings system for new immigrants and the poor that lasted until 1967.

 
Low-grade localized socialism we can believe in! (And a new revenue stream for our constitutionally mandated postal service.)

Sanders-021507-18335- 0004

The return of democratic socialism to middle America?

There was a period about a century ago (give or take a couple decades on either side) when democratic socialism was taking root in some of the rural, populist regions of the United States. Government by and for the people was the counterweight to corporate rule.

The fact that we now once again have op-eds in major newspapers in conservative states explaining to people why “socialism” isn’t necessarily an extreme word to be feared suggests a major sea change is afoot:

We often get too hung up over political labels and then reflexively dismiss the person. Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” but what he stands for is actually more mainstream than people realize.

He wants to expand Social Security, invest massively to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure, provide Medicare for all, make public college tuition free, break up banks that are too big to fail, and combat climate change, among other things.

If you follow the figures, large percentages of Americans agree with many of these positions.
In his words: “To me, socialism doesn’t mean state ownership of everything, by any means, it means creating a nation, and a world, in which all human beings have a decent standard of living.

“I think (democratic socialism),” he has said “means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship all of our people have health care; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality child care, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interest. I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly. That’s all it means.”

 
I’m not saying this means everyone in the American heartland is about to run out and vote socialist (or even for Sanders necessarily) but let’s hope it does signify that the Reagan Revolution cycle in American politics is coming to a close. We need to end the great lie that portrayed government as the enemy, while corporations were supposedly by and for the people against it.