More than five years after Wall Street’s near meltdown the number of full-time workers is still less than it was in December 2007, yet the working-age population of the U.S. has increased by 13 million since then. This explains why so many people are still getting nowhere. Unemployment among those 18 to 29 is 11.4 percent, nearly double the national rate. Most companies continue to shed workers, cut wages, and horde their cash because they don’t have enough customers to warrant expansion. Why? The vast middle class and poor don’t have enough purchasing power, as 95 percent of the economy’s gains go to the top 1 percent. That's why we need to (1) cut taxes on average people (say, exempting the first $15,000 of income from Social Security taxes and making up the shortfall by taking the cap off income subject to it), (2) raise the minimum wage, (3) create jobs by repairing roads, bridges, ports, and much of the rest of our crumbling infrastructure, (4) add teachers and teacher’s aides to now over-crowded classrooms, and (5) create “green” jobs and a new WPA for the long-term unemployed. And pay for much of this by raising taxes on the top, closing tax loopholes for the rich, and ending corporate welfare.I agree with both Reich's diagnosis and his recommendations. But in the piece offering up his recipe Reich declares that the recent "McCutcheon" decision demolishing yet another limit on Big Money in political campaigns is a crucial dot that connects to the rest of his account, and I think this is rather wrongheaded. It's not that I disagree that Big Money is anti-democratizing, of course, it's that I think it is quixotic to seek to circumvent Big Money through campaign finance reform efforts that expend enormous legislative and organizational time and energy and yet rarely to never pass and which Big Money always proceeds to circumvent in unexpected ways anyway.
I believe that Reich has already proposed the better remedy in delineating his recipe for ending the ongoing unemployment crisis and re-invigorating our sclerotic plutocratic economy: ameliorate wealth concentration with steeply more progressive taxes. If the richest of the rich have less money to spend they will have less to waste on political meddling, and if they have less chance at arriving at the super-rich stratospheric heights now available to them because expansive tax brackets await them there they will have less incentive to game the political system to accomplish this sociopathic feat in the first place.
Lowering taxes for those at the lower end of the income distribution while at once raising taxes on the rich and especially the richest of the rich, as Reich proposes, amplifies the steepness of this progressivity even more than simply adding brackets and raising the taxable cap for social security would, and I think this makes his proposal more firmly and fleetly democratizing still in its effects -- not to mention the fact that it should make such a proposal more a political winner for Democrats who would campaign on it.
But here's the thing. I happen to think that there are many -- and ever more -- professional economists and policy wonks who would agree with all of these proposals, and also many -- and ever more -- Democratic politicians who would find these proposals very congenial. This is true even in the dysfunctional political world of "Citizens United" and "McCutcheon."
While I recognize the obvious connection of the two, I think the problem Reich's Recipe faces (and hence the great majority of people who work for a living continue to face) is too many Republicans in Washington more than too much Big Money in Washington.
I am the last to deny the reality of Blue Dogs and Corporate Dems and DLC-types, but these are neither definitive nor ascendent in the Obama coalition (which would be the same coalition that elects Hillary Clinton and hence should shape the way she runs and then governs), and I believe that the Democratic Party we have rather than the Democratic Party we might wish for would still be good enough were it to prevail in the Executive and Legislative branches -- and hence soon enough also in the Judicial -- to implement Reich's proposals, or proposals very much in their spirit. Campaign finance reform is the wrong focus here and now, and in fact only squanders attention and energy needed elsewhere.
Nothing matters more right about now than keeping the Senate in the hands of Democrats and making gains in the House sufficient to enable enough scared scarred fractious undisciplined Republicans to be manipulated into voting with Democrats on a case by case basis to give the last two years of the Obama Presidency some room to stimulate the economy and provide more support for those who are precarious and suffering.
Even if, like me, you really want entirely public financed campaigns with the campaign season limited by law to a couple of months and you want universal voting by mail and a national election holiday and instant runoff voting to enable actually viable third parties and you want universal enfranchisement and registration of adults via the information gathering of a national single-payer healthcare administration, even if that is what you really want, then more -- and better -- Democrats is still the best shot you've got to get it. So, eyes on the ball, people.