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What a populist rebellion might look like

COMMENTARY | February 17, 2011

A cogent reminder of the economic policies and philosophy that once defined liberalism, plus some up-to-date innovations, and 21 suggestions on how to turn things around. The theme is 'promoting policies people will appreciate and the establishment will fear.'

This column first appeared in Sam Smith’s publication, Progressive Review.

By Sam Smith

The media tell you about the Tea Party, but not that, according to a recent poll, an equal number of Americans have similar positive feelings about socialism. Part of the reason is the deep conservative bias of the mass media, but it is also because progressives and liberals have not done a good job of promoting specific policies that people will appreciate and the establishment will fear.

Further, progressives and liberals have done a rotten job of reaching out beyond their own natural constituency to find the new supporters that change will require. They have been increasingly content – often quite smugly so – to remain in their nest attacking the right but failing to offer a decent alternative. In other words, they have forgotten the importance and skill of organizing.

Finally, as liberals have become more upscale they have drifted right in their political view, particularly demonstrated by growing indifference to the economic policies and philosophy that once defined them. The right has exploited this shift by distracting a logical constituency away from its own economic and social interests towards such matters as gay marriage and abortion.

But, as Egypt has reminded us, things do change. And since the bipartisan right – i.e., the GOP and Obama – are clearly failing at getting the country back on its economic feet, it's worth considering that how a populist rebellion might turn things around.

Here are a few suggestions:

•    Repeal the upscale tax cuts provided in the GOP-Obama tax package. This alone would eliminate the need for Obama's deficit proposal for the next two years. Yes, it would be class warfare, but until the upper classes start behaving themselves, go for it.
•    Press for the indictment of those criminally responsible for the foreclosure disaster. Fifty states are doing it and the feds should do it, too.
•    Start a drive for a constitutional amendment for an elected Attorney General. 43 states have them and it's a major reason they're going after the banks now.
•    Join the drive for a constitutional amendment to deny corporation the status of a human person in political matters.
•    Oppose all deficit reduction programs aimed against lower and mid income Americans such as the cut in heating fuel assistance.
•    Allow the government to become co-owners of troubled mortgages, just as they became co-owner of GM.
•    Replace the high-speed rail program with transportation and other public works programs that help ordinary citizens rather than the business class.
•    Support instant runoff voting to increase the influence of the rightfully discontented in our nation.
•    Pursue a strongly localist politics aimed at bringing decisions down to the lowest practical level. We need local democracy as well as local lettuce.
•    Support public campaign financing.
•    Get banks out of financially risky and speculative activities by restoring key provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act.
•    Support cooperatives and worker-owned businesses.
•    Establish state banks as in North Dakota.
•    Start selective boycotts, probably the single most effective and underused organizing tool left in our increasingly oppressive society. The boycotts should be carefully chosen and include easy alternatives (e.g. Coke vs. Pepsi).
•    End usury, starting with the prohibition of two digit interest rates on credit cards.
•    Strong support for small businesses and strong regulation of large corporations.
•    Increase taxes on business outsourcing to foreign countries. For example, over half of Americans support a tax on foreign customer service calls.
•    End offshore tax havens.
•    Protect Social Security and Medicare.
•    Prevent employers from taking a tax deduction, loss, or credit if they downsize or cease operations in the U.S. and subsequently expand or reopen overseas.
•    Single payer health care.

There are, of course, other important things we need to do like end the drug war and dismantle our failed empire with its huge military costs. But the list above is centered on one goal: doing the most for the most in ways that an ordinary citizen can understand and which involve the wallet, the shortest path to a voters' heart.

If progressives strongly pursue policies of economic populism, they will discover millions of new allies. If they continue to fail to do so, they can expect little but the continued collapse of their country.

PS: Suggested addition by a reader:

Eliminate the income cap on Social Security contributions. 

Posted by Hmmmm
02/18/2011, 01:35 PM

Sorry to spoil your day buckaroo, but we saw what a populist rebellion looks like last November.

Only Fools believe what they are told to believe......
Posted by Truth to the People
02/21/2011, 08:33 PM

At the City/County level read the State Statutes, Regulation for Cities and Counties and the local Ordinances and the Rule of Order for the City and County Councils and compare what the Legal requirements are.

No legal requirements are being followed.

If local Citizens can not or will not hold their local political politicians accountable you can kiss of the State or the Federal Politicians.

We are not a Democracy and are in reality on the way to what we see in the middle-east!

In fact we are worse off as we will not acknowledge what is in front of our eyes.

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