Progressives, again and again, keep complaining about the super-rich, especially how little/unfair taxes they pay, and I entirely agree with this critique, but none of them, to my knowledge, will come out in favor of the National Safety Net (NSN) political proposal that would Federally mandate a minimum threshold of quality living for every American. It is one thing to properly diagnose the problem (that the rich have too much wealth), and another thing to publicly endorse a positive solution (of re-distributing the wealth so that everyone has a guaranteed decent and dignified lifestyle). Progressives, just like liberals, don’t like the gross inequality of capitalism, but they are unwilling to challenge this economic system enough to really do what needs to be done in order to properly correct this completely unnecessary and undesirable situation. They can’t bring themselves to say and support the idea that there is more than enough wealth in America to go around so that every citizen can and should have a safe and secure life. NSN solves the problem of gross inequality in America, but any serious challenge to Capitalism is labeled “Socialism,” and is rejected, or at least not openly supported, by Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives. However, no Party or organization/ group can adequately address the worst symptoms of this society without offering a positive concrete alternative. NSN doesn’t claim to be the be all and end all for social improvement, but it’s a BEGINNING that breaks out of the blame game taking place within the established framework/ ideology: “earn a living through hard work or suffer and perish.” The starting point for real change in America is the recognitions that 21st Century Americans deserve a middle class lifestyle because we are all members of a very rich society, but don’t expect Progressives to recognize this simple and basic moral truth because that’s too “radical.”
The idea that basic needs for everyone can be satisfied through a competitive economy has not only been falsified (in practice) by history, but it is also impossible (in principle) because not everyone can be a “winner,” as anyone who has played the game of “Monopoly” knows. After Republicans succeeded in discrediting and disgracing the concept of a “Liberal,” more and more of the best and brightest political folks in America began to call themselves “Progressives,” continuing the political line that it is necessary and desirable to ameliorate the worst aspects of Capitalism, but these Progressives have not defined and demanded a real safety net for the country. They are shaky and shady about what the satisfaction of basic needs means in a modern society. They don’t recognize that Universal Health Care, Free Higher Education, Living Wage, Peace, Fair unemployment, Affordable Housing, and Ecological Integrity should not depend on the success or failure of the marketplace, and that these social benefits belong to all citizens equally. It’s cowardly and hypocritical to want to take the rough edges off Capitalism, as Progressives claim, without calling for (all the essential elements of ) a strong safety net that ensures a decent and dignified lifestyle for everyone. Progressivism is morally and politically bankrupt because it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to even advocate for the bare minimum of a safe and secure life for the American people. It’s not good politics for the 21st Century because it aims beneath what is necessary, desirable, and possible in America. All explanations and excuses aside, Progressives are striving for so little, so slowly, that we need a new, bold, visionary political movement, and NSN is such a BEGINNING.
The same criticisms that Progressives are making against the Obama Administration and the rest of the Democratic Congress and Party could be and should be made against themselves: they lack Vision, or a comprehensive, long-range view of what they believe in, they don’t fight hard enough for what they believe in, and they are afraid of how the public will respond to the political call for big change. In other words, Democrats and Progressives are weak about articulating and achieving an agenda that would greatly improve American lives. As evidence for this claim I present the following facts: over the last year I submitted the National Safety Net (NSN) political proposal that federally mandates a guaranteed minimum quality lifestyle for every American–paid for by the filthy rich– to more than thirty of the top progressives websites and organizations across the country, and almost all of them either did not respond, declined to publish/post, or refused to even LINK on the grounds, mostly, that NSN is “unrealistic, unachievable in this political climate, too grandiose, premature…” The fact that the best and brightest folks in America , many of whom regard themselves as Progressives, would find it utopian that the richest country in the world can and should provide a basic standard of living for everyone (in need) is strong testimony, I submit, that the American intelligentsia is far behind the rest of the evolved world, and that those who now occupy positions of power and influence in this established “progressive” community are either unwilling or unable to lead us to a qualitatively better world NOW. What ‘s needed is a fresh, bold start outside the established Progressive Organizations, and NSN can play the role of a new, visionary BEGINNING–assuming that there are some American, anti-academic, anti-conservative process people, who want to get involved? If you’re willing to raise your voice for the simple obvious truth that it’s obscene and morally unacceptable that some have so much, while others don’t even have the basics–all ideological and strategic arguments for keeping quiet aside–then join the Big New Deal Of NSN Now .
Even Bernie Sanders, certainly one of the most Progressive voices in the Senate, voted to confirm General Petraeus as the new commander in Afghanistan. Sanders called Petraeus a qualified and competent leader for this historical moment, even though Sanders knows that Petraeus is one of the architects of the failed Iraqi war, and even though Petraeus plans to continue this disastrous US war in Afghanistan. The big problem exemplified here is not that all politicians, including Sanders, are bad, stupid, or the same, but rather that even the best and brightest politicians in America, the so-called progressives, have become so preoccupied with strategy, so afraid to alienate or lose the support of people, that they no longer speak for, fight for, or vote for critically important moral issues. The National Safety Net (NSN) political proposal, or the idea that every American is entitled to a (concretely defined) decent and dignified lifestyle, is one such moral imperative that entails ending America’s imperial wars, and it is not really controversial or considered impractical (in principle) among the most intelligent and caring individuals in this country– for these folks realize that America could easily afford it– but still this fundamental moral idea finds virtually no vocal or active support within the “progressive” community because this community has at least a thousand different reasons why it believes it is not strategically smart to push for such an idea at this historical moment. However, when the political leadership becomes afraid to demonstrate basic moral leadership to the people, then we end up with good people such as Bernie Sanders voting to confirm General Petraeus, and a society in which a lot of people don’t have enough for the basics of life, while others are filthy rich, but almost no one is willing to break the false, immoral, bankrupt political consensus (of Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives) that governs or guides this country in favor of the new, bold, positive alternative of NSN. That’s pathetic politics by any other name.
The crisis in the Gulf shows, once again, how economy is being played against ecology. Not only are many people who have lost their jobs because of the oil spill demanding “drill baby drill,” but many who have been, or soon will be, negatively impacted by the spill are demanding that the oil industry keep operating, growing, and employing. Of course, it’s true that people have rents, mortgages, car loans, insurance, utilities, food, and numerous other bills to pay each month, and that individuals are going to do what they have to do in order to survive/sustain, even if it means risking their personal health and lives, as well as the health and lives of others, as well as the Gulf ecology, and the planet as a whole. This terrible contradiction between personal/family survival and the environmental well-being of the Gulf (and the Earth) could be resolved through the creation of a National Safety Net (NSN) that insures a government provided basic lifestyle for every citizen who needs it, for as long as s/he need it, but this simple and readily available solution (paid for by a tax on corporate profits and on the upper class) is not even being seriously considered by the Obama administration, or the Democratic Congress, which is not surprizing given the market-driven mentality of American politics. What is surprizing is that the so-called Progressives in this country are still not demanding , or supporting, a strong public safety net under middle class Americans, even as the country faces an entire regional collapse in which million upon millions of fellow citizens are sinking into poverty and desperation. There just doesn’t seem to be enough intelligence and courage in the country to see beyond the spirit of “you’re on your own, swim or sink,” to a vision of ” we’re all in the same boat.”
Unemployment is high in America, much higher than the statistics show, and higher than is being reported, and the entire Gulf Region is facing economic collapse, and still it’s unpopular and unacceptable, even among “progressive” people, organizations, and websites, to call for a strong safety net ( such as NSN). Instead, “progressives” throughout this country are timid, or lost in strategic considerations, and ignore the simple, obvious truth that no one in America needs to, or should, crash and burn in times of socio-economic crises. If people can’t find decent work, or if they are thrown onto hard times by dire circumstances, then of course society ( We The People) should support and assist them as long as necessary, as concretely defined by NSN, and yet the fear of being labelled a socialist, and/or the compulsive force of a tyrannical American work-ethic, mutes the voices of compassion and generosity. In its willingness to let tens of millions of fellow-citizens suffer and sink, America shows itself to be a very sick society indeed. A healthy and good society would not hesitate to put a real safety net under all its citizens because disaster can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime. One can only wonder how many casualties it will take–50 million, 100 million, 200 million–before enough of us, including “progressives,” realize that we need laws and institutions, beginning with the creation of a National Safety Net (NSN), that secure a decent and dignified life for everyone?