An idea whose time has come

A new political and economic model, a new New Deal, at the government and corporate level, is urgently needed.

This model will favor working people, the racially and nationally oppressed, women, youth, seniors, immigrants, small and medium businesses, sections of industrial capital, and other social groupings too. People and nature would come before profits and militarism.

Much like Roosevelt's New Deal, it will be a product of a series of struggles over time, including within the broad coalition of forces that drives the process.

The opposition will be formidable. Most sections of corporate capital (oil, military, mining, health insurance, pharmaceutical, and transportation among others), the Republican Party, and elements within the Democratic Party too, will resist any basic political and economic restructuring that impedes profit and war-making.

But for this article I want to focus on finance capital - Wall Street. It ascended to the apex of power in tandem with right-wing extremism three decades ago and has remained there since.

As the right wing and finance capital tightened their grip on the levers of power, U.S. economic expansion came to depend on massive debt, unprecedented income inequality, huge imbalances in trade, successive bubbles (high tech, then housing), growing military budgets, mind bending jobs losses, especially in manufacturing, the disempowerment of the working class, racial minorities, women, youth, immigrants, and many others, and, not least, state intervention on the side of the corporate class.

For a while the economy grew, albeit slowly and unevenly, but in the end it ran into built-in limits to the further accumulation of capital (out of which profits come) and economic growth.

The housing bubble - resting on mountains of debt, highly toxic financial securities, and wage stagnation - burst and spread its havoc to hundreds of millions who had no directing role in this tragic drama.

To describe what the financial moneybags did as criminal is almost a sugarcoating; it doesn't really capture the pain and hardship that their actions have caused.

And yet, though they brought the world to its knees, the tycoons of finance are not about to yield - or even slightly diminish - their power and privileged position in the global economy. In fact, their aim is to extend and consolidate their power in the midst of this crisis.

Their memory isn't so short that they have forgotten that the regulatory regime established in the Roosevelt years hemmed them in for four decades. None of them starved, of course. But during those four decades, they did not hold the nearly unchallenged political and economic sway that they were able to regain in recent years. Any thought of a repetition of that New Deal experience sends them into fits.

So far they have done quite well. The financial reform measures passed in Congress establish some limits on finance capital, but they don't go far enough. Much tougher regulations are imperative. But it would be unwise to stop with a new regulatory regime, no matter how tough it is.

Financial institutions - and here I include the Federal Reserve Bank - play too large a role in the national and global economy for them to remain in private (corporate) hands.

Like the captains of the Titanic, the masters of finance had their chance and blew it. They ran the ship into an iceberg, leaving the rest of us to drown or barely afloat in a churning sea. By any measure of justice, they should be relieved of any further duties - at the least.

A new captain and crew should be assembled from a pool that includes everyone who has a stake in a sound and people-friendly financial system.

In other words, the nation's financial system should be democratically owned and operated in the public interest.

Two years ago such a step would probably have found only a few supporters, but the meltdown of Lehman Brothers and the financial crisis that followed changed everything. Tens of millions are losing confidence in the nation's financial czars and in the financial system they constructed and manipulated.

The environmental and economic catastrophe in the Gulf, daily reports of corporate negligence and criminality, lower living standards and generalized feelings of insecurity have only added to this crisis of confidence. More and more people wonder if the corporate form of organizing and managing the economy is workable anymore.

A socialist transformation isn't around the corner, nor have radical ideas become today's common sense in every instance. But it is fair to say that old ideas - for example, the idea that private corporations are the indispensible pillar of a healthy and just economy - are competing in the public mind with new ideas - for example, the widely held view now that deep-going anti-corporate democratic reforms are a necessary response to the financial mess, and the idea that we need a people-friendly economy.

Which ideas become dominant is still to be decided in the trenches of mass struggles.

Right now, the struggle to curb the financial elite as well as for jobs and relief is focusing on the mid-term congressional elections. The main task is to increase the Democratic majority and enlarge its progressive current in both the House and Senate. That may not sound "sexy," but the truth is - a favorable outcome in November will position the broad people's coalition to fight with new vigor and strength against concentrated financial power and corporate power in general, for a new New Deal.





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  • Someone at the U.S. Social Forum 2010 taking place in Motown should conduct a little experiment to find out if there is any support for a new progressive political party...

    Get a couple cardboard boxes and ask people to vote for three tickets:

    Palin/McChrystal... See More


    Cynthia McKinney/Cindy Sheehan

    Of course Palin/McChrystal would have to have a slight handicap of some sort--- maybe pay anyone voting for them $10.00 and offer the opportunity to vote as often as possible.

    The Obama/Biden ticket probably wouldn't need as much of a handicap... just offer a free drink of Detroit River Water or what we called Stroh's.

    To the McKinney/Sheehan team, don't provide any incentive except for a future of peace and social justice to voters who are only allowed to vote once.

    I wonder if anyone has thought that the U.S. Social Forum 2010 would be the perfect place to launch a new progressive political party? It seems like there might be an activist or two with such a notion... imagine, 20,000 left-wing political activists returning home to organize a real progressive political party as they are engaged in their other peace and social justice activities!

    Now, for a name for this new political party?

    In their new book on page 83 of "Getting America Back To Work," Stewart Acuff and Richard Levins give us a pretty good hint:

    Warriors for Peace and Social Justice

    Posted by Alan L. Maki, 06/25/2010 7:20pm (5 years ago)

  • Two things:People and nature before profits and militarism-and-the nation's financial system should be democratically owned and operated in the public interest?
    At first glance,this seems so,so,revolutionary,so much different than what the great numbers of people would fight for,but is it really?
    Given the latest evidence through polls,the people of the U.S. may be more ready and willing for change in these above two ways than we may first think.
    Much of it is understood by common people like us,George Bernard Shaw style. But this does not mean that the way is short and easy,on the contrary,the way is long and difficult as W.E.B. Du Bois warned us,but it humanity survives,our victory is certain,because it not only makes common sense,it makes scientific sense,since Das Kapital or Capital,which since the double dip financial crisis,is,by the way,flying off the book shelves. Du Bois might say-"The battle for humanity is not lost or losing."
    As with all science,it is not so much settling on a goal as it is finding the way to complete it,through changing the world,and in this way,though winning,we have a long way to go.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 06/10/2010 8:30pm (5 years ago)

  • It seems so obvious. But political actions has ground to a near halt in Congress because of the uncertainty surrounding the elections. Progressive forces need to turn that tide by getting back into the electoral struggle in a meaningful way between now and November. There are no other options; ranting and raving about things ain't gonna change it until action on winning the elections becomes serious.

    Posted by Smarter-than-a-teabagger, 06/10/2010 3:09pm (5 years ago)

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