Dean Baker has a great piece on truthout, urging progressives to rethink the government’s role in the economy. It’s obviously timely – could such contemplation ever be more salient than now? – but important for long-range progressive goals as well. Baker was one of the few economists to have seen the current crisis coming (a lot of alliteration for a bleary blogger penning powerful posts*…), and he’s ahead of the curve here as well. Instead of contenting ourselves with stimulus packages that have been perverted and weakened by the same lame brains who led us down the garden path, we need to get busy on the future. For far too long, progressives, or liberals depending on your fancy, have worked within a framework wrought by conservatives, achieving piecemeal goals with the occasional big program. Baker sees ways to change the framework. bringing more goals within our collective (oooh, yeah, I said collective!) reach.
There are many other ways in which we can change the rules so that less money flows to those on top, leaving more for the rest of us. Changing the rules does not require big government in the sense of large portions of GDP being collected in tax revenue.
It does require that government take an active role in the economy, but it is already taking an active role in the economy in these areas. The difference is that, currently, the conservatives have been setting these rules, while progressives have been polite enough not to pay attention. Instead, they have mostly focused their energy on matters that will have far less impact.
The economic crisis brought on by the collapse of the housing bubble offers progressives unprecedented opportunities. But we have to be prepared to actually think big, and not just think about big programs.”
What better time to really open our minds to the kinds of fundamental changes we can make to our system to make it more equitable for everyone? People are no longer going to be satisfied to forgo decent, affordable health care as long as they can watch the big game on an ever-bigger screen. (Because the big screens are getting repo-ed, but still…) They’re going to stop tolerating the second mortgages needed to pay for their children’s college educations while corporations pay king’s ransoms to the executives who’ve slashed their work forces. (Mainly because they’ve no more houses to mortgage, but still…) And, finally, we’ll all refuse to accept that slashing care for the poor and the weakest of mind and body is the necessary cost of creating an attractive business climate for corporations that don’t intend to hire those who need jobs the most. (Because soon that will be all of us…) Won’t we? If this crisis is about more than the economy, if this crisis is about what it means to be American and to be America, then the time is now. Change must be more than a bumper sticker and “Yes We Can” has to refer to more than Nov. 4, 2008.
*Remember “Broadcast News”? That’s a take-off on one of Albert Brooks’ best lines. And, while I’m on it, isn’t Holly Hunter’s character the mother, if you will, of Liz Lemon? Talk amongst yourselves.