My Response to Andy
What’s Broken in America
Andy, I agree with what you say. I just don’t agree how it happened and what we need to do about it. Both political parties have been complicit in turning our financial system into a welfare system for the ultra rich. Given our campaign finance system and the general voter apathy (<45% turnout in the 2016 Presidential Election) we have in America, no other result was likely.
Obama was the first Democrat for whom I ever voted. I think he did a pretty good job overall, but I believe that his greatest failing was listening to Larry Summers on how to structure his recovery package. Getting advice from a wolf when you’re trying to save the sheep is a chancy proposition. The whole economic recovery was also upset by the rise of the Tea Party dupes in the mid-term elections. Ultimately, the recovery made whole the very people who caused the recession, leaving the rest of America alive but still badly wounded.
I’m a capitalist in the Adam Smith vein. Properly regulated, capitalism is an excellent (not perfect) mechanism for setting the value of goods and services. It is not a religion and should not be revered as such. America does not have properly regulated capitalism. It has a misregulated, bastardized, form of crony capitalism — created through the corrupting influence of money in politics. The net result of that system has been the movement of wealth from the middle and working classes to the upper 0.1% of the wealthy class at a rate not seen since the Gilded Age.
That economic, and the resulting political, imbalance is not sustainable. One kind of revolution or another will always follow. The Gilded Age spawned a (probably modest, by your standards) progressive backlash that relieved some of the stresses. The election of a faux populist con-man like Donald Trump is a sure sign that the social stresses crony capitalism has generated have reached a critical point. Both the Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic collapsed because too small a portion of the population had captured too great a portion of the wealth — causing those democracies to morph into oligarchies/plutocracies. America is rapidly moving in that direction.
How to fix it is the problem? We wouldn’t be having the problem if we had a knowledgeable, engaged, electorate that votes its own self-interest — but the elaborate fantasy of American exceptionalism that has been so carefully cultivated, and the other myth that votes don’t count, has kept voter participation to less than 45%. You may have also noticed that our public education system has been dumbed down in many Republican controlled states (there goes critical thinking and hello, Fox).
Personally, I would have put Elizabeth Warren in the White House, but that’s not going to happen in 2020 — though a Biden election would probably put her in the Cabinet. I have a deep suspicion of revolutions, violent and otherwise. Just like wars, they never turn out the way the people who start them intended and they always end up hurting more people than they help. Even the American Revolution, though necessary, was not squeaky clean. But we do need to do something similar to Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive (r)evolution.
We have to get Wall Street under control and return the financial and banking industries to their original purpose — not as the trough at which the ultra-wealthy feed. The stock market is subsidized gambling for the rich. We have to get money out of the election system — it is costing us far more than it should — look at the taxes the ultra-wealthy pay versus the rest of us. We have to fix public education and we have to make higher education affordable to all who are qualified. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that no modern developed nation can afford not to have universal health coverage — the pandemic’s economic dislocation will cost far more than guaranteed health coverage would have. We have to face the fact that global climate change is real and probably the result of human activity — if we do not address it, it will eventually kill most of us. And finally, we have to give more than lip service to equal rights under the law. “What you do to these, the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”
And then comes the really hard part — bringing some semblance of truth and civility to electronic and social media. I haven’t a clue how to do that without giving the government far too much control over information. Maybe, if we can fix enough things to get the social stresses under control, communication will take care of itself (but I’m not too hopeful).
Doing any of this requires an engaged electorate and requires voters to make hard choices. For good or bad, our election process is binary. Pick one or the other. Not voting accomplishes absolutely nothing. I think that the Democrats give us more to work with than today’s GOP. Unless or until we have a viable third party, a third party vote is wasted. It is not even an effective protest. Those who vehemently refuse to vote for the Democratic nominee because he/she is not far enough to the left will merely be handing the election to the Trump. Bernie Sanders failed to draw enough primary votes in both 2016 and in 2020 — and the radical left needs to make peace with that and figure out how to make their point more effectively.
By my standards, wasting a vote fixes nothing and we desperately need to fix many things. Four more years of Trump might make free and fair elections a distant memory.