Tip the Wagon

Many ask, "What happened to the Democratic Party?" The answer is that too many economic winners are calling themselves "liberals" in order to assuage their guilt for living well while so many must suffer. Edward Bellamy's classic, Looking Backward (published in 1894) provides the defining metaphor. Bellamy describes his society as a great wagon that's pushed and pulled over rough terrain and through periodic bad weather (Katrina?) by those who are "driven by hunger," while the folks up in the wagon call down words of encouragement and send down bandages and minimal medicine. Not surprisingly, says Bellamy, those in the wagon will do anything to stay in the wagon and keep it upright.

Now that the Reagan Devolution (tax cuts, de-regulation, privatization, "free" trade, military adventurism, blind adoration of the marketplace) has restored Social Darwinism with a vengeance, Bellamy's indictment of the late 19th century once again applies. Now of course, the wagon is much larger, and there are many more citizens comfortably ensconced, but the chasm between them and the rest of us gets wider and deeper every day.

The bad news: the only hope for a meaningful Progressive renewal is a significant change in the ratio of those who have it made vs. those who don't. The only good news: those now in charge of the wagon seem determined to tip it over, if not drive it off a cliff, thus insuring an economic catastrophe. The last time this happened, the Great Depression, was also the last time we acted like a "civilized" society, paying artists to create art, writers to write, establishing the 8-hour workday, the 40-hour week, and Social Security.

This time around, Progressive reforms must reflect new realities. The most important &emdash; there will never again be enough good jobs. There is nothing "progressive" about looking longingly back to the 20th century, when jobs provided a decent life for the vast majority of Americans. Automation, outsourcing, productivity (a nasty concept!), the Internet (goodbye to the middleman) &emdash; all conspire to change the employment model forever.

The new Progressive paradigm must emphasize economic justice. Identity politics has destroyed the Democratic Party. It's time to emphasize our common interests, our interdependence, our mutual responsibilities, our enlightened self interest. We need to outgrow the adolescent concept of personal freedom that dominates our social and economic relations.

Representative Democracy has failed us abysmally. Liberal politics and "Liberal" (unregulated) economics are fundamentally incompatible. Money is the incumbent that can never be ousted and will always corrupt the political process. As the Internet matures, we can use it to develop a more direct form of Democracy, but that will be possible only if we forbid the dissemination of misinformation and severely punish violators (e.g.: Karl Rove). The first democratic society was brought down by clever Sophists; "those who do not learn from history ..."

Shorey Chapman
San Francisco, Calif.


Fight the Profit

"Banking on Wal-Mart" by Dave Zweifel [9/1/06 TPP], reprinted from the Madison, Wis., Capital Times, leaves out the essentials of accuracy. Zweifel shoots at Wal-Mart's bid to "get into banking" but fails to make clear that it is not real banking, but so-called "Industrial Banking" &emdash; a financial deception of special privilege for "chosen" companies. Few states have "Industrial Banking" and it is no accident that most industrial banks are in Utah.

This monetary institution emerges from a loophole created by Congress in 1987, providing that stock brokerages and commercial enterprises such as retailers could own special "banks" insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Attacking Wal-Mart may appear to be protesting on behalf of underpaid workers. All workers are underpaid. I join with Wal-Mart in shouting "Increase the minimum wage!" It is a laugh here in right-to-work, anti-union Utah to see all the protest against "low-pay Wal-Mart" having the same opportunities as the other money-grubbers.

Wal-Mart is the poor people's store: poor people work there and poor people shop there (and we smile at each other).

You wonder about my credentials. None. I am one of the molecules in the underlying populations that shop at Wal-Mart, and one of the working-class persons who reads The Progressive Populist. I feel betrayed when my publications mislead. Why don't you pick on the entire profit system?

Ethel C. Hale
Salt Lake City, Utah

Editor Replies: Zweifel noted the irony that bankers who welcomed Wal-Mart to their towns in the 1980s, oblivious of the mega retailer's effect on local merchants, now are fighting Wal-Mart's attempt to run its own bank, which they fear will turn into full-service bank branches that will run local banks out of business.


Health-Care Fraud

Threatening to veto the most effective, far-reaching health-care reform legislation in California history, Gov. Schwarzenegger disingenuously promises to veto a bill that would provide affordable health care to all Californians. Proclaiming his opposition to reform by way of a "tax increase," the governor, by opposing SB 840, actually condemns families, business, local, county and state government to a never-ending spiral of unaffordable health care tax increases that threaten to overwhelm tight budgets throughout the state.

Who would have thought the governor would propose a job-killing, wage-arresting, pension-threatening, budget-busting series of health-care tax hikes on business and the middle class? Big insurance and the vested health care interests that's who. They are the ones who will benefit from the increased taxes (call them health care premiums if you must). In turn, a substantial portion of these profits will pass on to legislators who will ensure that reform measures that contain costs and cover every Californian never occur. Who can blame them? Great gig and easy money too. Want the story to have a happy ending? Get involved! See SB 840, "The California Health Insurance Reliability Act," at www.healthcareforall.org.

Lee Guelff
Atascadero, Calif.

Editor's Note: Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill on Sept. 5.


Killing From Above

Alexander Cockburn's article ["Hezbollah's Top Ally in Israel," 9/1/06 TPP] has done a good job of bringing down the glamor accorded to air warfare. Over the years these "glamor boys" have walked away with mass murder without accountability. We have seen this in the Iraq war also where any killing of innocent civilians (Iraqis) by our land forces becomes a subject of "investigations" but no questions are asked of the bombers who kill many times more civilians. What makes "face-to-face" killings of civilians at ground level more heinous than the indiscriminate bombings from upon high? Does it say anywhere in The Commandments that "Thou shall not kill unless from up above"? (italics mine).

It is apparent that Dan Halutz [chief of the general staff of the Israeli Defense Forces] has not been at the receiving end of air bombardments where the term "slight tremor" does not apply. It is best described as "death and destruction." I hope that his thumb, which pressed the button, rots and falls off.

G.M. Chandu
Flushing, N.Y.


Green Choice

I disagree with your view that the Greens should not run a Senate candidate in Pennsylvania.

You are really saying we must not have a progressive in the race, that it is OK to have two candidates who are both rather conservative. An anti-war voter should be stuck with two pro-war candidates. I am sick of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle Dum. I voted for Kerry in 2004 and he was a disgrace. He avoided new ideas and any policies really progressive.

So I am glad I can vote Green if no one better comes along. It is the function of minor parties to introduce new ideas and attitudes. I don't need the Greens if the Democrats had some guts.

Harry R. Major
Hollywood, Calif.


Resist Much

All of us who read TPP are opposed, I'm sure, to the provisions of the "Patriot Act." So, too, are all the other "good guys."

Let us all look to and heed Walt Whitman who, in his Leaves of Grass, had the prescience to write more than 100 years ago the following:

"To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist much, obey little,

"Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,

"Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty."

Daniel D. Schechter
Manchester, N.J.


No Jobs for Immigrants

RE: Wayne O'Leary's "Agony of Immigration" [6/15/06 TPP], thank you for one rational commentary amid the clutter of emotion, irrelevance and political pandering. If the illegals can't get jobs and welfare, they will leave.

Robert Melsha
Georgetown, Texas


Who's Sucking Now?

Why the current immigration problem? Thousands of illegal aliens from Mexico cross our borders continuously. That has upset some Americans. We've got to stop this invasion!

But, who's to blame? Most all would say, "Why, the Mexicans! They're all sneaking into our country trying to take away American jobs."

It's not quite that simple.

You may recall that President Bill Clinton persuaded Congress to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was to be good for both nations. But was it?

I remember Ross Perot, the Independent candidate, with President George H. W. Bush rounding out the three-way race. He said that, if passed, there would be a great sucking sound from Mexico, selling us their goods at a cheap price and hurting us economically.

Well, there is a great sucking sound, but it's not quite as Perot forecast. But, it was, and still is, the Mexican economy that's hurting and these Mexicans are running to our border as fast as they can.

NAFTA allowed American agricultural giants to sell our corn below Mexican farmers' prices. The result? We destroyed the Mexican peasant farmers' market. Now those Mexican farmers are starving and they are forced to come to America seeking a job to support their desperate families. Perot was right; he just got the endangered country wrong.

Percy Pascoe
Cuba, Mo.


Heckuva Job

Sidney Blumenthal's account of the Bush administration's role in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon ["Israel's Debacle, Courtesy of Bush," 9/15/06 TPP], was so penetrating and informative, it reminded me why I subscribe to and contribute to TPP.

No other publication that I've read, either printed or on-line, so clearly and informatively delineated the US participation and support that beggars comparison with the Iraq debacle.

When it comes to Israel, few publications are as independent and objective as The Progressive Populist.

Mitchell Kaidy
Rochester, N.Y.


Stop Terror

As long as there is bigotry, torture, injustice, aggression, hypocrisy, intolerance, greed, immense poverty in our society, there is no hope to conquer terrorism.

Terrorism is like a boomerang. It is firing back at our society. Stop committing these evils and crimes I mentioned before and terrorism will ease off &emdash; and disappear slowly, without spending millions to fight it.

It doesn't make much sense to accuse others of terrorism, if you are yourself a terrorist.

Lisa Zencoe
Lake Worth, Fla.


Atheists in Arms

Sam Uretsky, in his 9/15/06 column, "Ignorance of the Law is Current Policy," stated, "Since it is a well known fact that there are no atheists in foxholes ..."

That statement cannot be true. Until 1979, only the Latin Cross, Star of David and Wheel of Righteousness could be requested for headstones. In that year the list was extended to cover other beliefs or sects. Today, 38 symbols (including one for atheists) have been approved (see Washington Post, 7/4/06, page A2). The latest total of headstones requested that I have seen ... covered the period 4/1/01-3/31/02) was for a total of 306,909 headstones, including for 18 atheists and 25,716 that did not request an emblem.

John F. Jones
Washington, D.C.


Harkin for President

I was recently watching C-SPAN2 coverage of the US Senate, where Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was calmly, grandfatherlike, or old family friend who you know you can trust, pointing out the errors in the ways of the War on Iraq. I have seen Sen. Harkin speaking on TV in various fora, always the kindly old progressive guy, Midwest, Middle-America roots, communicating simply, eloquently, with firm compassion and able intelligence. So why have I never seen a campaign for Harkin for president? He has the whole package, well over the other candidates I've seen touted. He seems much more likely to win than the Kerry/H. Clinton/Gore crowd, with the folksy persona those who voted for GWB claimed they liked as well as thoughfulness, grit, and competence.

Laurie Corzett
Medford, Mass.

Editor's Note: Harkin ran for president in 1992 and he pretty much got it out of his system. He told us once that if he ran again he wasn't sure he could find his six supporters in New Hampshire.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2006

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