Who’s a progressive?

We need politicians who will think outside the box. The need for new ideas is out there. It's just a matter of choosing the ones that'll work.

Image Credit: J Pat Carter/Getty Images

I wrote an article not long ago, in which I called Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both progressives.  Quite a number of people rejected the idea that Warren is progressive (no one criticized Bernie on that ground), but since then Warren has come out with her wealth tax proposal, and she immediately became stamped “progressive.” (“Progressive bandwagon: Warren proposes a ‘wealth tax’ on the ultra-rich”). Warren’s idea came right on the heels of Ocasio-Cortez’s 70% tax on high incomes.  These ideas point to the means of funding important ideas to improve our country.

In another article, I suggested that the U.S. adopt the ancient Chinese system of selecting government officials by neutral examinations. I thought that such a system, combined with “free for all” education would radically improve our government. Building on this idea, I would like to propose improving our economy with a model that joins capitalism with socialism to make a better world.

Take a look at our economy. Large corporations dominate it. They beat down the smaller enterprises as they cause a greater and greater disparity of wealth. When large corporations function properly, they can produce better and less expensive products. But the benefits of that production causes poverty by pushing all of the benefits into a small number of hands.

Those who promote capitalism say that it makes the economy grow. Which it does, but at the same time it leads to a concentration of wealth and power and a growth of political corruption. And the inequality of wealth makes for poverty, poor education for those without money, crime, and other bad things.

My solution for this? First, free education so that all Americans are educated and can help make the economy grow. Second, leave the corporations at a size where they can efficiently cause the economy to grow. Third, make the corporations into public entities, so that their profits do not go into the hands of the ultra-rich but into the treasury of the society. And don’t let the CEOs of the corporations get millions of dollars in salaries.

How do we get people to work hard without giving them huge paychecks? Think of things that will reward them besides money. If Amazon and Facebook were owned by the nation, don’t you think we could figure out ways of rewarding their leaders for good ideas and hardwork? Think of the society as the stockholder in those companies. The stockholder should get dividends; everything shouldn’t go to the corporate officers. By shifting the profits to the shareholder, we get a way of financing the programs that we want – like “free for all” education, “Medicare for All,” and the like. But we preserve the competitive spirit which is the central benefit of capitalism.

What we are learning today is that the economy is moving more and more to one based on robotics and artificial intelligence. This cuts into the job market. The days when unemployment will be 25% or more are not far away. And this means that there will be fewer consumers to purchase the economy’s production. “[O]nce adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labor passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery,” he wrote in his then-unpublished manuscript Fundamentals of Political Economy Criticism. “The workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.”

“Gradually, in the century and a half since Marx wrote those words, machines have taken on more and more jobs previously done by humans. The 20th century political movements that attempted to make Karl Marx’s ideas reality may have failed but, 200 years since the philosopher’s birth on May 5, 1818, his analysis and foresights have repeatedly proven true. We are, in many ways, living in the world Marx predicted.”

One of the things to help cure this problem is the Universal Basic Income, an idea which would move money into the hands of those lacking jobs.  Mind you, this isn’t a perfect cure, because workers who lack work need other occupations to keep them from being bored, even if they have enough money to live on.  And in order to have a UBI, there must be a source of money. Warren’s “wealth tax” and Ocasio-Cortez’s hike in the income tax are a pathway to such money. So, too, would be a plan to nationalize all the big companies.

What progressive politics means is thinking outside the box. It means recognizing that our present system – which creates climate change, poverty, and income inequality – must be changed.  We have to recognize the need for change. Robotics and artificial intelligence are around the corner. We know that driverless cars and trucks are upon us, and 4 million driving jobs are at risk. These are people who do not have many marketable skills, and if a large proportion of them were to become unemployed, the poverty levels would increase dramatically. (And artificial intelligence is going to eliminate many jobs, as many as 10 million).

We are on the cusp of the future, and it will not be a good future if we don’t rethink our economy and our society to achieve a more progressive model. Let’s support Bernie, Warren, and Tulsi in 2020 and begin the turnaround that’s been needed since 1970.


If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.