It’s no secret that I am a progressive liberal with a longstanding belief that social justice must be at the core of our democracy. I don’t oppose capitalism per se; I believe that there is much to be valued about regulated free markets. But neither do I believe that billionaires are good for our nation. In the big picture, I see the social democratic style systems of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland as much more egalitarian than the system we live with today in the United States. Frankly, I prefer them.
I suspect that the United States is not nearly egalitarian enough in our nature to create the underlying political culture for such a system in the United States. We value individual liberty more than social equality. But we do have the ability to be much better than we currently are and the pervasive social and economic inequality we live with now is gravely in need of reform. A tax on incomes greater than a million a year is just the start, but it’s a badly needed beginning. As our economy evolves and the sorts of middle class manufacturing jobs that were the backbone of our mid-20th century economy are no longer financially sustainable in world markets, we must actively create opportunities for a new economy. It must be one that sustains and supports people who long for decent-paying jobs. People seek to live with their families in good homes with safe neighborhoods, well-functioning schools and a reliable, affordable system of healthcare.
These are modest goals and that we cannot achieve them for everyone right now should be a source of deep and grave concern to all of us. We cannot be the richest nation in the world and have 1 in 4 of our children living in poverty.
These are the goals of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. In my estimation, Warren’s plans to achieve this kind of America are better developed than Sanders’ policy prescriptions. But the two candidates are literally the opposite sides of the a well-conceived progressive coin. Their ideas are not revolutionary; they are evolutionary and progressive. They were at the core of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society. They are noble and good.
The hand-wringing and ominous warnings that “socialism” won’t fly; that moderate Democrats won’t vote for a progressive or will vote for Trump instead is the ridiculous fear-mongering and bullshit that got us into this system of grave inequality. Protection of the top 10% and billionaires will not save us. The ultra wealthy do not care about the rest of us. They never have and they never will.
We need serious reform; systemic change of a sort that tells the truth about the inequality we experience and confronts racism. We need ideas and policies that strengthen the economy for all of us, provide healthcare for all of us, recognizes global climate change and harnesses science and reason to respond to it.
The list of policies we must change is bigger than this and we all know it. In the face of Donald Trump and his systematic degradation of our nation, arguing for some imaginary “return to normal” is the very worst kind of incrementalism, the kind that ignores the suffering of the most vulnerable among us and advises them to be patient and wait.
I won’t do it and we can't wait.
I want change; big change; systemic change. I know that leadership and good ideas win elections. I want a nation that truly acts as if it believes that all of us are created equal and that we all deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I want it now.