THE ABNORMAL NEW NORMAL
THE ABNORMAL NEW NORMAL
by Norman Spinrad
(a presidential platform for a non-existent campaign)
“Things are more like they are now than they ever have been before.”
“They wrote the biggest rubber check in history and passed it off on themselves.
What supposedly began in 2008 and was or still is so-called “Great Recession” was or still is not primarily a recession nor did it begin with the fiscal crash of 2008. One might trace it back to the post-World War II reaction to the New Deal, one might trace it back to the invention of the steam engine and the resultant Industrial Revolution, but to arbitrarily bring the beginning of what is now being called “The New Normal” down to a single event that occurred within the lifetime of many Americans now living and suffering the not very indirect consequences, begin with the air traffic controllers’ strike of 1981 and the resulting demolishment of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization by the administration of Ronald Reagan.
Air traffic controllers were civil service workers and therefore their union, PATCO, was legally forbidden to strike. But it struck anyway, for the usual improvement in pay and benefits, but also demanding to be freed from the status of civil service workers so that their union would in the future not be legally forbidden to strike.
Reagan gave the air traffic controllers 48 hours to go back to work, and when they didn’t obey his order, fired over 11,000 of them, banned them from federal jobs for life, hired scabs to replace them, and had the union decertified.
I was living in New York, but at the time the strike was called I was in Los Angeles on business and preparing to fly home. I grew up in an extended family with union connections and I had been taught from an early age that ladies and gentlemen do not cross picket lines unless they have damn good reasons. I also did not need to be told that flying across the country when the air traffic controllers had been replaced by questionably qualified scabs might not really be too swift and idea for less idealistic reasons.
Still, I really wanted to get home, so I called Gene Roddenberry, who had been an airline pilot, and asked him whether he would fly as an airline passenger under such conditions, and got the answer that was not exactly unexpected, which was “No way!”
Not just the expected answer, but the welcomed answer, because I knew damn well what was at stake here, that it really had to trump my desire to get home, and I wanted my self-interest in personal safety to back up what I knew would have to be the politically necessary decision.
Because I knew that if Reagan got away with such a blatant piece of union busting, one that also blatantly endangered airline passengers who screwed up their courage to fly with quickly scooped up scab labor running the national air traffic control system, it would only be the opening round of a campaign to break the American labor movement as a whole.
You didn’t need to be a strategic genius to know that the only way to defeat this union-breaking Pearl Harbor attack would be for the AFL-CIO to call a general strike. One of my family union connections was Jerry Wurf, President of the America Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, another union many of whose locals were legally prohibited from striking. But that didn’t prevent Wurf from calling strikes anyway, because the first non-negotiable demand was always that there would be no negotiations about anything else, including ending the strike, until it was agreed that the union would be held blameless for striking illegally.
Why didn’t the AFL-CIO do likewise? Call a general strike and set up picket-lines that the Teamsters wouldn’t cross, meaning no truck deliveries to airports or airport support facilities, until Reagan re-certified PATCO, fired the scabs, forgave the strike, and negotiated settlement terms with the union like a civilized employer. A display of union power instead of union impotence.
Well for one thing, George Meany, a hard-core son of a bitch who might have had the brass balls to do it, was no longer the President of the AFL-CIO, Lane Kirkland was, and he didn’t.
And for another, the Teamsters had been thrown out of the AFL-CIO for various more or less good reasons, and could not be counted on to support such a strike.
And the clincher was that PATCO had been just about the only major labor union that had supported their current destroyer Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election, leaving them out there all alone, and the Gipper knew it, hah, hah, hah.
The rest of this sad story is the long downward slide of the American labor movement into its caponized near-irrelevance in the New Normal in which we find ourselves today.
In simplified terms, the Republican Party began as a maverick third party that elected Abraham Lincoln and then became the dominant party for decades, thanks to the secession of the Confederate states and their temporary disenfranchisement during Reconstruction and the champion of the freed enfranchised former Southern slaves, while the Democrats became the party of the reactionary white South and a minority elsewhere.
But this isn’t the whole story, since the schism between the Northern Union free states and the Southern slave states that precipitated the Civil War had an economic aspect too. The more agrarian Southern economy was heavily dependent on cotton plantations which were dependent on slave labor, and the more industrial Northern economy was not. So during the decades of Republican political domination, as the American economy became more and more industrialized, the party of Lincoln stepwise metamorphosed into the party of industrial and financial interest, and during the same period, to some extent by default, the less powerful Democratic party came to largely represent a coalition of Southern white reactionaries, family and small scale farmers, and industrial workers whose natural self-interest conflicted with that of the owners of the banks and factories.
If this sounds as if the party of Lincoln became the party of the upper economic classes, that is exactly what happened. The Republican party, which had begun as a radical party, became the party of economic conservatism, representing the class self-interest of those benefiting from the economic status quo, namely what the French call the “rentier class,” those who don’t have to work for a living because they own things that make their money for them, otherwise known as the rich.
Nor was this really democratically illegitimate. Any democratic state is going to end up with a party to represent such self-interest, and in good times it might be able to command an electoral majority as long as such so-called trickle-down economics allowed the good times to continue to roll.
But of course no party can win elections by openly admitted that it is the political champion of the self-interest of the rich minority. So the Republicans did their rather successful best to mask this simple and democratically legitimate but politically poisonous truth by declaring that America is a “classless society” and “class self-interest” an “un-American” concept synonymous with Godless Atheistic Communism. By thus demonizing the Democrats as akin to socialists and socialists as akin to anarchists and anarchists as nihilistic terrorists, the Republicans managed to win the majority of presidential elections and dominate most Congresses until the economic shit hit the fan in 1929.
In Germany, the economic collapse and mass unemployment destroyed the liberal democratic Weimar Republic and ended up electing the Nazis, a racist, dictatorial, chauvinistic party to be sure, but one whose full name was the National Socialist Party, and not a true conservative party in economic terms.
In the United States, this dire crisis in conservative economic capitalism discredited not liberal democracy but the politically bankrupt economically conservative Republican Party which had presided over the catastrophe, and perhaps to a large extent at first merely by default, elected Franklin Roosevelt and Democrats.
Roosevelt was no socialist and the Democrats were not a socialist party, but the New Deal, with its government-financed Works Project Administration employment projects, its Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, farm subsidies, support for unions, graduated income tax, and so forth, was indeed a liberal democratic revolution that saved the American market economy from its own self-destructive excesses, kept the presidency in Democratic hands for an unbroken 20 years, and maintained a Congressional majority almost unbroken for the same length of time.
After these 20 years in the the political wilderness, the Republicans were so marginalized that the only way they could finally win an election was to nominate Dwight Eisenhower for President, a war hero so popular and so politically neutral that there was speculation he might run as a Democrat instead. Moreover, for much of his eight years as President, Eisenhower confronted, and that was not exactly the correct term, a Democratic Congress, and when his Vice President, Richard Nixon, ran to succeed him, he lost to the Democrat John Kennedy.
When Kennedy was killed, and Lyndon Johnson became President, he rammed the Civil Rights Act through Congress, even though he openly admitted that it was going to cost the Democratic party the so-called “Solid South” for at least an entire generation. Which it did. But even so, Johnson was re-elected over Barry Goldwater by a landslide.
The Republican party was dead in the water or so it seemed. But the Viet Nam War, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and the ruthless pragmatic cynicism of Richard Nixon saved it from the tarpits. The Republican party had been incapable of winning an election on its economic policies at least since Herbert Hoover and its stock in trade, ala Joe McCarthy, had been to run against commies, pinkos, and the Soviet Union, to pretty indifferent results.
The Viet Nam War and the rise of the Counterculture split the Democratic Party between its center wing and its left wing, the center being led by Johnson, and the left being led by Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, presuming to challenge a sitting president of their own party in the primaries in 1968 as well as each other. When Johnson pulled out of the race and Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, the Democratic nomination came down to a contest between Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, a one-time passionate liberal constrained to support a war and a cultural conservatism he really didn’t believe in, and McCarthy, the fair-haired boy of the moderate Countercultural left who had no chance of being nominated and less of being elected.
Humphrey was still an economic liberal and the Republicans still the party of the class self-interest of the economic power elite, but Nixon and his Vice Presidential running mate and hatchetman, Spiro Agnew, made sure that the election of 1968 was contested on non-economic grounds. As for the last 36 years or so, in order to win a national election, the Republicans had to get voters to vote against their own economic self-interest and this time they didn’t have a neutral war hero to do it with, they only had Tricky Dick.
But Dick proved tricky enough. And down and dirty enough. Really down and really dirty. Nixon and Agnew anointed themselves and the Republican party the cultural warriors of the so-called “Silent Majority” which they invented for the purpose and which, riled up against one set of racial and/or cultural boogey men or another, has been the demographic electoral base of the Republican party ever since.
You are the majority. You are the only true red, white, and blue Americans. Or rather we are. Because we Republicans are your only true champions. We are the majority. We had damn well better be because those who aren’t with us are against us and those who are against us are the are evil enemies of the American Way of Life, so a vote for them is a vote against ourselves.
The party of the established economic power structures and the just plain rich pandered to Bible Belt religious fundamentalists, cultural reactionaries, closeted and not so closeted racists, and in general paranoid fear of whoever they could brand as the Other in order to con such folks into voting against their own economic self-interest.
In 1968 and 1972 and some distance beyond, it was hippies, New Left pinko peaceniks, Godless Atheistic Whatevers, Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, and, well, in certain Southern quarters, uppitty niggers. In 2004, thanks to Osama bin Laden, it became ragheads, and has been ever since. Plus right-of-choice fetus murderers, wetback illegal immigrants, gays and their right to gay marriage sympathizers, the Federal government itself, the UN’s Black Helicopters, and the aliens in Hanger 51.
In Weimar Germany, the economic powers that be made a deal with an anti-Communist National Socialist Party and a nutcase named Adolph Hitler, who they were confident they could control as the puppet masters.
But the lunatics took over the asylum.
Welcome to the Third Reich.
In the United States, the Republican party economic puppet masters made a deal with the paranoid right that in the 19th Century were known as the Know Nothings in order to win elections.
The lunatics do have a tendency to take over the asylum, now don’t they?
Welcome to the Republican Mad Tea Party.
Welcome to the House of Representatives.
Welcome to the Congress of the United States.
The Great Depression of the 1930s was the result of the bursting of a stock market bubble, the resulting banking system crisis--the failure of out-of-control and largely unregulated rapacious capitalism that screwed up the real market economy and resulted in mass unemployment, which reduced demand because consumers found themselves with less and less money, which reduced demand in a downward spiral that fed on itself.
The Great Recession which started in 2008 was the result of the bursting of a real estate bubble, resulting in a bank system crisis which was only prevented from become a failure of the largely deregulated banking system as a whole by loans of taxpayer dollars, and in huge drops in homeowners’ wealth, which caused big drops in consumer demand, which caused massive unemployment, which caused more drop in demand, in a downward spiral that fed on itself.
Sounds familiar? Plus ca change, plus la meme chose?
Because the conditions into which the Great Recession was born were decades of change different from those of the Great Depression that began in 1929. True, the deregulation of the banking system emulated the lax regulation of the pre-New Deal era. But the concept of so-called “collateralized debt obligations” that triggered the Great Recession did not exist in 1929. Nor did the bloated growth of the virtual casino economy at the expense of the real productive economy resulting in the extreme difference in wealth and income between the famous 1% and the dwindling middle class.
Banks indiscriminately wrote huge amounts of dodgy mortgages to people without the income to keep paying the monthlies, many of them, if not the majority, interest-only with big balloon payments due at the end of a short fixed period the collection of which would be even more problematic.
They did this to bundle them into derivative bonds called collateralized debt obligations, which with the collusion of ratings agencies and certain investment banks, hid the fact that the underlying debt obligations were the financial and moral equivalent of gold-painted bricks and shares in the Brooklyn Bridge, and palm them off on suckers who fancied themselves sophisticated derivatives traders.
Yes, the mortgage writers, the bundlers, investment banks, the hedge fund mavens, the derivatives market, the rating agencies--the whole out of control virtual casino economy based on nothing but bullshit and hot air and contributing nothing to the real economy producing goods and services and therefore jobs and consumer demand to purchase them, did indeed write the biggest rubber check in history and pass it off on themselves.
The Great Depression of the 1930s, with unemployment rates triple those at the peak of the Great Recession, with a stock market crash that famously had wall street mavens jumping out of windows, with no such thing as unemployment insurance, Social Security, and so forth to cushion it at all, was such a catastrophe that it could only result in one kind of revolution or another, meaning a discontinuity, violent or not, democratic or not, a Communist revolution which was a real fear at the time, a Fascist revolution ala the replacement of the Weimar Republic by the Third Reich, or, as fortunately happened, something like the New Deal.
The New Deal was indeed a revolution. Instead of a violent uprising against the powers that be who had created the catastrophe, there was a democratic election which resulted in a landslide victory by Franklin Roosevelt and Congressional Democrats. Instead of the overthrow of the market economy by Marxist Communism, Fabian Socialism, or Fascist mercantilism, FDR, with an overwhelming Congressional majority, rammed through a radical reform of the American market economy and did much of it in the famous revolutionary 100 days.
Close the banks temporarily to prevent further runs and the destruction of the dollar. Massive deficit financed public works programs to begin to sop up unemployment and increase consumer demand. Farm subsides. Unemployment insurance. Social Security. A government that favored union power instead of combating it. Redistributive tax rates to shift income and wealth downward from the rich and into a growing middle class.
Indeed arguably creating the very mass American middle class that the so-called Great Recession began the process of destroying. FDR was no flaming socialist but the wealthy scion of a great establishment family. FDR saved American capitalism and the American market economy from its own greed and assholery by forging a social contract, a pragmatic deal, that became the engine of the post World War II American economic prosperity, the so-called “American Dream” which began to be dismantled by the Great Recession, a crisis which is being morphed by the economic elite and power structure into a permanent condition called “the New Normal.”
Roosevelt and his New Deal took Rahm Emmanuel’s advice to “never waste a crisis” before Emmanuel was even born to reform the American capitalist economy into something capable of living long and prospering. The uppercrust fools whose asses he was also saving hated FDR and the New Deal for it, scarcely even able to utter his name, referring to their enemy as “That Man.”
These days, it’s the 1% & Co. who haven’t been wasting the crisis previously known as the Great Recession to dismantle what’s left of the aptly-named New Deal to return the economy to as close to the status quo ante as they can get, only more so if they can manage it, A.K.A. “The New Normal.”
It may seem as if the Congressional lunacy of cutting Federal spending while unemployment is high and blocking a raise to the paltry Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which at a full year’s full time employment won’t lift anyone above the official poverty level, while the gap in terms of income and wealth between the upper 1% and the remains of the middle class is growing rather than diminishing, is the result of politically necessary pandering to the Tea Party Know-Nothings on the part of the Republicans.
But not if you follow the money.
If one considers who is benefiting from the New Normal and who therefore wishes to make it permanent, it begins to make cynical economic sense.
While unemployment is high and wages are not only stagnant but have declined in inflation-adjusted terms, while GNP growth is also stagnant and perpetually on the edge of even dropping into negative territory, corporate profits are sky-high, and the stock market is collectively feeling no pain.
Whether one is paranoid enough to contend that this New Normal was deliberately created or not, it’s easy enough to see that for the folks of the upper income bracket, things are more like they are now than they have ever been since the advent of the New Deal, thank you very much Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and the fortunate crisis called “the Great Recession.”
The social contract that the New Deal established between capital and labor, between the rich and the mass middle class that it created out of the crisis of the Great Depression which was the essence of the late lamented American Dream, has been severely eroded if not destroyed.
The caponization of the labor movement, high unemployment, and the option of out-sourcing to low-wage countries thanks to “globalization” have driven down American wages while increasing “productivity” and therefore profits--the difference from what it costs to produce goods or services and what you can sell them for. The lower tax rates on capital gains than for earned income further engorges the slice of the pie gobbled up by what the French call the “rentier” class, the people who don’t actually have to work for a living.
If that’s you, brother, the New Normal suits you just fine. You’re all right, Jack, now aren’t you?
In the short run. Maybe even in the medium run. However, as Malcolm X put it in a difference context, sooner or later the chickens are going to come home to roost. Because the New Normal has a singularity at its core. In the long run it won’t work because in absolute bottom line terms it simply can’t.
As we all probably know, the prime directive of a market economy, A.K.A the Sacred Bottom Line, is produce something as cheaply as you can and sell it for as much as you can get, the result being profit. Easy enough for anyone to understand in practice, but will it work in theory?
No it can’t.
Because attaining the theoretic ultimate goal of the market economy, namely making things for nothing and selling them for a ton of money, would destroy it. If everything is produced by human slave labor and/or robots, there aren’t going to be customers with the money to buy what you produce for nothing.
In absolute terms the prime directive of a market economy approaches a singularity in the mathematics of the Sacred Bottom Line itself as a limit, an economic black hole. If there are no labor costs, unemployment is total, and there is no demand for what is produced. If the labor costs eat up too much of what customers are willing to pay for anyone to make a profit, nothing will be produced.
There has to be a balance between those who make their living by working for it and those who make their living on profit because the former are the main customers of the latter. Without it a market economy will either collapse of its own contradictions or be overthrown by the desperate impoverished majority.
To work in the long run even for the rich and super-rich, a market economy must have a large and relatively prosperous middle class. That’s what the New Deal created, or arguably rescued, from the ruins of the Great Depression. The vast majority of people must have enough money to at least consume the goods and services that they produce or the economy will slide down the black hole.
That in essence is the unwritten social contract of the American Dream and what made it economically viable. That is the real economy. That is what made America great. But that balance is what the New Normal is threatening. The real economy that both supports a prosperous middle class and thereby creates demand for the goods and services that it produces has become overshadowed and disrupted by a virtual economy, a casino economy, that produces nothing of real economic and social value, an economic vampire bat that produces nothing but profit for itself.
Time was, banks made money by getting deposits and making loans, the spread between the interest they paid on deposits and the interest they charged on loans less overhead being their profit. Time was, companies issued stocks to raise capital in order to create or expand businesses, stock exchanges existed so that people could buy and sell these certificates of partial ownership and stockbrokers made their money by agenting this necessary commerce.
Obviously banks, stock exchanges, and stockbrokers performed services that were essential to the functioning of the real economy which could hardly exist without them. Perhaps a bit less obviously, commodities future exchanges also served the real economy by allowing farmers to get advances on crops not yet harvested in order to finance the planting and growing. This virtual economy, virtual because it did not actually produce goods or crops or provide direct services to consumers, was necessary to the commerce, industry, and agriculture of the real economy, did not dominate it, and was not really parasitic upon it.
No longer. Not in the era of the New Normal.
Time was, not that long ago, when the business sections of major newspapers like the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times carried pages and pages of direct stock quotes. No longer. Time was, even more recently, namely before the Clinton administration, savings and commercial banks that lived off deposits and loans were separated from trading banks that lived off trading stocks, bonds, and derivatives. No longer.
The virtual economy began innocently enough to service the real economy but then began to spread and grow like a tumor metastasizing out of control.
Mutual funds seemed innocent enough. Instead of investing in individual stocks yourself, you could buy and sell stocks in mutual funds which bought and sold large baskets of stocks for you. Thus were born the first primitive derivatives.
But now business sections of newspapers devote more space to mutual fund prices than they do to the prices of the underlying stocks. Now there are things called index funds to invest in which simply buy the stocks aggregated in stock indexes like the Dow Jones and the Standard and Poor 100. And funds which don’t even buy underlying stocks but in effect place bets on their movements. Funds, investment banks, hedge funds, and more shadowy nameless entities, which don’t trade in stock or bonds, but in complex derivatives of derivatives, like well, uh, collateralized debt obligations and even basketed derivatives thereof.
Welcome to the derivative economy.
Welcome to the casino economy.
Welcome to the virtual economy.
A virtual economy so complex that 40% of its trades are now made back in forth in nanoseconds or fractions of nanoseconds by computers not only buying and selling but placing and withdrawing buy and sell orders in nanoseconds to manipulate prices. A virtual economy so virtual and so vast that it somehow makes a daily worldwide trade total whose dollar value is greater than the GDP of the whole planet!
How can this be possible?
Perhaps at least in part because the New Normal makes it necessary.
When millions of people are out of work and millions more are being squeezed out of the middle class by declining wages, salaries, and real estate values, and climbing student loan and credit card debt, thus depressing consumer demand, which in turn depresses production, which in turn depresses business investment in increased productive capacity, what is the top 1% or even the top 10% going to do with all that money?
Well what else can you do with what’s left over after you’ve bought your fourth mansion, third yacht, second private jet, and lifetime stash of caviar, Champaign, and cocaine, but invest it in making more money?
In a healthy economy, that could generally mean investing in manufacturing, agriculture, or consumer services expanding and or innovating to meet rising demand, which in turn either increased employment if that were possible, or empowered a tight labor market to command higher wages and salaries, thus increasing demand, and so forth in a so-called upward virtuous spiral.
But in the New Normal economy all that excess moola which the rich, filthy and otherwise, can’t dispose of buying goodies, and can’t rationally invest in meeting growing demand that isn’t there, ends up funneled into the virtual economy of derivatives, derivatives of derivatives--a casino economy, where the house is exponentially devolving into a literally mindless cabal of nanosecond artificial intelligences gambling against against each other.
You are saying that this can’t possibly continue forever? You are saying that sooner or later there has to be a 1929 on electronically amplified steroids?
You are saying that what I have just described is an economic singularity with its ever ballooning greedy mouth opening up an ever widening black hole to sooner or later gobble up the capitalist market economy in its entirety? You are saying that this is not Marxist dogma but game theory inevitability run through the simple mathematics of the Sacred Bottom Line?
Say hello to the Abnormal New Normal.
Soon or later, one way or another, you’re going to have to wave it goodbye.
“It’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.”
Mostly attributed to John F. Kennedy, but sometimes, karmically appropriately, to Eleanor Roosevelt. So since I don’t really see anyone in Congress or the White House, or even in the mainstream pundit parlor, doing much to suggest a way out of this Abnormal New Normal, this black hole of a bummer, it seems I ought to at least give it the old college try.
Not so difficult in theory, but could it be done in political practice?
Not so easy, because, like the New Deal, it wouldn’t just require a revolution, it would have to be a revolution, because one way or another, democratic or not, peaceful or violent, there’s no way out without one. Because the Abnormal New Normal is a singularity, an economic paradigm that isn’t merely not working, but can’t work, a logical black hole that can’t just be modified but must be replaced.
Just what do I mean by a revolution? In the terms I’m using here, any revolution is a paradigm shift, a discontinuity between one political, social, and economic order and another that supercedes it. It can, and perhaps most often is, a violent discontinuity like the American Revolution or the Russian Revolution, but it doesn’t have to be. It can replace one constitutional framework with another, but it doesn’t have to be that either, it can be accomplished at the ballot box within the context of an existing constitution, like the New Deal, or for that matter, in negative terms, the Abnormal New Normal itself.
But you just can’t have a revolution without winners and losers, at least in the short run. And that is what has to happen to rescue the American economy from the Abnormal New Normal.
So called “Monetarism,” the economic dogma that small changes in inflation rates, interests and debt figures can leverage large changes in the real economy may be true, but if it is, the reverse has to be true too, namely that you have to screw up the real economy big time in order to effect such small changes in the accountancy of the virtual economy, as the globalized version of the Abnormal New Normal has disastrously done.
Tinkering with less fiscal austerity, inflation and interest rates, more government spending, and so forth may ameliorate transitory economic recessions, but cannot resolve the existential flaw in the system itself.
Which is that the income and wealth of the dwindling middle class, which uses most of its income to buy goods and services, has been shrinking, which reduces demand, which reduces investment in increasing production, which reduces employment, and innovation, and channels the surplus income of the already rich and super-rich into the virtual casino economy where all it does is make the rich richer.
So what a revolution must accomplish is to shift income and wealth not so much from the greedy to the needy but from the greedy to regrowing a demographically and economically dominant middle class. Which will increase demand. Which will increase production. Which will increase employment. Which will further increase demand. Which will grow the overall economy and therefore in the end even rescue the rentier class from its own eventually self-destructive excessive greed.
In theory at least, doing this does not exactly require Nobel level economic rocket science.
Raise and extend the scope of the Federal minimum wage so that any regular full-time employment will raise income to say 120% above the poverty level and index it to keep it that way.
Eliminate the favorable tax rate for capital gains, tax all income equally but allow income averaging. Raise the upper income tax brackets a bit and lower the income tax rates on the middle class modestly.
Make it illegal for an entity loaning funds to sell the debt to any other entity without the expressed written consent of the debtor. Make nanosecond computerized trading in stocks, bonds, derivatives, and anything else illegal.
Reinstate the separation between banks that make their profits on the spread between loan interest rates and deposit interest rates and “investment banks” that play in the virtual casino markets.
Appoint a Secretary of Labor who comes from the labor movement as a statement of which side the government now is on, supporting the health of unions, and encouraging the extension of unionization to low wage jobs currently without it.
Replace unemployment insurance and welfare with a guaranteed minimum income for all Americans as suggested with the moniker of a “negative income tax” by that notorious pinko Richard M. Nixon. This would not only save a lot of money by simplifying the machinery, no one’s unemployment insurance would ever run out, no one would want to stay on welfare who didn’t have to because welfare as a hand-out would be replaced by a guaranteed annual income, and part-time work would be subsidized.
Everyone would be guaranteed the same minimum income protection and those making large salaries or high wages could always buy supplemental unemployment insurance if they wanted to, just as one may choose to supplement Medicare now, creating a new business for private enterprise.
These glaringly just and glaringly obvious steps would not turn the Abnormal Normal into a utopian Big Rock Candy Mountain. They would not eliminate the economic stratification of American society and turn it into a “classless society,” which would probably not be such a good idea anyway. But they would turn the downward economic spiral that the Abnormal New Normal has created into an upward virtuous one.
Politically impossible, you say?
Well, given current politics, maybe it is. But sooner or later either a revolution like it is going to happen within the current democratic system, flawed and corrupted as it may be, or the singularity towards which the Abnormal New Normal is careening will be reached, the shit will hit the fan big time, and there will be a paradigm shift without any guarantees that being caught in that one will be anyone’s idea of a Rose Garden.
The failed Weimar Republic, after all, was not replaced by an enlightened free market utopia or worker’s paradise but by the Third Reich.
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
And the only justice there is, economic or otherwise, is the justice that we make.