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?
Whatever kind of economic system one favors–Capitalism or Socialism–the first and most important social objective, or social End, is the satisfaction of basic needs for everyone. The National Safety Net (NSN), with its Seven Point Agenda that clearly defines and demands a minimum level of quality living for all members of a given society, is an independent moral requirement that governs, or should govern, all considerations and claims concerning the “best” society. In other words, NSN is the essential standard by which we can and should measure a society’s claim to be the “best” in the world. It is “better” for any society to have achieved a basic threshold of good living for everyone than for citizens to live in a society in which some people have too much while others have too little. American-style gross inequality, with no strong safety net, creates more jealousy, resentment, unhappiness, and unrest than can be compensated for by any amount of material goods and services. Primitive societies, arguably, that have not reached a stage of material development where they can secure and sustain all the members of their respective societies are still better off, better places to live, than modern societies that have reached a high level of development but refuse or decline to provide adequately for everyone. Modern societies that accept and adopt NSN as the independent criterion for the Good Life are optimal–I believe.
It turns out that BP spent little to no money on safety concerns about deep water drilling. It seems that they are overwhelmingly focused on profits, so now we need congressional committees and hearings to fully reveal just how selfish and irresponsible they have been, and continue to be. What A Surprise that a big corporation would care a whole lot more about making money than it does about everything else! How sad that the American people do not understand the consequences of an economic system that legally mandates money-making as the bottom line. This is the reason The National Safety Net (NSN) does not enter into the debate between Socialism and Capitalism–namely, the country is not willing and ready to accept the logical outcome of this debate because it is ideologically bound to Capitalism. Instead, NSN simply clarifies and demands a minimum threshold of quality life for everyone. If Capitalism provides this for all citizens, which of course it will not and cannot, then let it do so, or try to do so. NSN refuses to define its strategy and goals in terms of Capitalist possibilities and propaganda. It begins with the obvious self-evident truth that America is rich enough for everyone to have a decent and dignified lifestyle, and that everyone deserves at least as much. The National Safety Net is a bold, new, visionary political line that is very different from the major “Progressive” organizations and websites, which have become next to useless because people need and deserved a clealy outlined ( by the NSN Seven Point plan) good life NOW, but they are unwilling to say so, let alone actively push for it.
The National Safety Net (NSN) Seven Point Plan would provide a decent lifestyle for all Americans, but the major Progressive Organizations and Websites must think that this is too much to ask for, or work for, because at least thirty of the top groups (that I contacted–CommonDreams, TruthDig, The Nation, TomDispatch, PDA, for examples) refuse to post or even link with NSN, which just goes to show how out of touch they are with what really matters to Americans–namely, the substantive elements or ingredients of everyday life. Progressives are so busy cutting the heads off the Hydra of American Empire, and analyzing and strategizing politics to death, especially electoral politics, that they have forgotten or turned their backs on the obvious self-evident truth that there is more than enough wealth in this country to take basic care of everyone, and that it is perfectly rational and just that we as a country do this, and that the political leadership should demand it NOW. Unfortunately, Progressives ignore, shy away, or run away from this simple moral calling. They would rather stay negative, or point in the direction of abstract alternatives such as Jeffersonian Democracy, than support a concrete political plan for a quality life for all US citizens. Since Progressives are unwilling or unable ( for whatever reasons) to recognize and support such a modest, yet fundamentally important social objective, then we need a new visionary movement (beginning with NSN) that is committed to the clear common good, and not afraid to say so and act so (unlike modern-day Progressivism that is lost in sophisticated arguments and strategies not focused on the basic goods and services of daily life).