Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.
Topics: How the Reagan Revolution influenced the American Left; the US airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan; Perkins Loans end. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: October 11th, 2015.
Episode 146 (54 min):
– Generational Politics: How the Reagan Revolution influenced the American Left
– The US blew up a hospital in Afghanistan. What now?
– Why was the Perkins Loan program allowed to expire?
– AFD: “Getting trapped in Reagan’s ideological framing”
– France24: “Aid workers killed in US air strike on Afghan hospital”
– AFD by Kelley: “Perkins Loan program expires after 57 year run”
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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.
I, for one, am shocked that a young caucus of people raised by Reagan to believe government should be abolished is having trouble governing.
Ronald Reagan campaigning with Nancy Reagan in Columbia, South Carolina. Oct 10, 1980. (Credit: Reagan Presidential Library)
“Getting trapped in Reagan’s ideological framing” is a theme you can probably expect me to continue to expand upon soon, but I wanted to quote some key passages from an excellent article from July by economist George R. Tyler (formerly of the U.S. Treasury Department), to help set the stage for my future arguments on this point:
…a host of proposals to address wage stagnation and the ensuing economic malaise of middle- and working-class Americans.
Few quibble with the problem, and a host of constructive solutions have surfaced…
Good ideas all, but they share a common framework provided by Reaganomics in which returns to labor are ultimately dictated by market forces. […]
Government wage subsidies, educational enhancements, daycare and the other economic menu offerings shuffle income from taxpayers and employers to the middle class. Yet […] the salad bar contains no market disruptors, the essential ingredient to restoring middle class prosperity.
The reforms are offered within the conceptual framework provided by Reaganomics that eschews market disruptors.
American middle-class prosperity is being held hostage by Reaganomics. Only when reforms offered by Democrats move beyond that conceptual framework by linking wages to productivity can its prospects brighten.
Various specifics come up in Tyler’s article (and many of his other articles) with regard to wages, of course.
But the bigger picture point here is a good one that many Democrats should do well to take a harder look at: Are we on the left no longer seriously pushing big and transformative ideas because we’re still trapped inside an ideological box (or Overton Window) framed by the rhetoric and views of Ronald Reagan and his legion of devotees now in government?
Even many dedicated progressive policymakers, policy developers, and policy activists are perhaps still too constrained in what they imagine in possible and are reluctant to push back — and to push the American people to see government as possible solution and partner, not as the source of all ills like the Reagan Revolution insisted.
Again, more on this down the line, but I want to get the ball rolling with the quotes above.