The Inevitable Boringness of Liberalism
I was waiting for my comment to escape the
censors moderating queue at Pogie and PW’s place earlier today (sure, it was from having three links in the comment, uh huh), and was looking at the significance of a few of the piece’s elements.
First off, James Conner hits a home run with his analysis of Pogie’s piece:
“Saying this is one of your best posts probably is being stingy with praise.”
Of course, my comment was all about enticing democrats that have a hard time thinking outside the box, particularly when they are down and out, to cast their policy nets a bit wider. When I looked at the photo accompanying the post — of a beggar boy holding his bowl out for morsels — I first thought that this is how the dem faithful go about asking their politicians for attention to their pet issues. Of course, a closer look showed it to be a reconstruction of some Dickens novel character or another.
It’s not that I’m not supportive of raising the minimum wage, I am all for doing whatever it takes to address poverty in America (our band performed at a benefit concert this weekend for a women’s shelter in Kalispell, for instance, at our own expense). But when Dems reduce themselves to begging for table scraps at a time when the political response of an “opposition” party demands to be more than just maintaining the status quo (with “tweaks”), I get a bit skranky.
But what do I expect from a political party that is beaten down so far it can’t even look to the past, is to see how democrats once used to respond to things like depression, poverty and wealth inequality. I merely pointed Pogie to an article (an article written by an AFL-CIO ExCon member) that did nothing more than talk about how FDR used a wage ceiling (by Executive Order no less) to limit executive pay while the nation was trying to recover from the Great Depression.
“The idea is not unprecedented. In a time of massive domestic and economic distress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order during World War II limiting corporate salaries to no more than $25,000 per year after taxes. The president believed that if middle class fathers, brothers, and sons were putting their lives on the line for just $60 per month, the rich should be required to make some sacrifice too.
FDR’s maximum wage proposal was bold and brilliant. Believing that all citizens should help out with the mobilization effort, he refused to be bullied by the rich, and never lost sight of the fact that fair compensation and a thriving middle class are essential elements of a healthy economy — particularly during a national emergency.
A maximum wage law would actually ensure that “a rising tide [would lift] all boats,” and encourage competition while improving lives at every level of society.
The minimum wage certainly must be raised. It’s also time to start a national discussion about creating a maximum wage law.”
Of course, Pogie responded vociferously with his usual ad hominem, which is his preferred method when the left points out simple facts and alternatives to liberal dems’ tepid calls for some kind of action or the other. How dare I attack liberal dems!!!
“And the truth is that simply braying for radical change and condemning the current system isn’t an alternative. It’s intellectual onanism, empty and only satisfying for the person doing it.”
Sheesh, I never realized that asking today’s liberal dems to act more like liberal dems of the past is “braying for radical change.” Just thought a bit of a roadmap of where a party had been might help to guide them today. But I thank Pogie for the opportunity to look up “onanism.” I didn’t realize that Pogie thought that policies like FDR’s were just the masturbatory fantasies of crazed presidents (or those writing about FDR’s ideas). I guess I could just refer to his piece as nothing more than “thumb capping”, but I doubt he’d get the reference without talking to some of his school boys.
Don then proceeds on his temper tantrum spouting about a bunch of stuff I never even mentioned — insinuations of how I live my life, and what I do that have no bearing in reality. Anything to take the spotlight off how dems have forgotten how to ask for what they believe in — to espouse their values — in the desire to get a few scraps for the masses, and a feather in their cap (and maybe the favor of a special campaign contributor or two).
Of course, he then has the audacity to throw out this unbearable bit of progressive hope:
“Policies matter. Let’s work to pass the ones we desperately need today, which will matter for millions of people, while dreaming of an even more just, more equitable future.”
Well, yes policies matter. I just happen to believe that people should not just dream about their values and offer policies that are so pre-compromised so as to ensure that the resulting legislation is a mere table scrap, compared to what could come out of putting your dreams into concrete policy statements, like FDR did.
At least James Connor got it right. Pogie’s article was the best blogging he could do, so I should just leave it at that. It’s ok to go to the powers that be with our bowls outstretched asking for a pittance, because we know that if we ask for what we really believe in, we are doing nothing more than engaging in “smug ‘progressive’ cynicism.” When will dems learn that if they want a bump in the minimum wage, they need to ask for a maximum wage, or a wage ceiling? Since when has politics descended into a unilateral disarmament of solid policy ideas? When did good old fashioned political compromise beginning with a set of competing beliefs and values go the way of the dodo?
Well, I put my progressive hat up long ago, realizing that for today’s liberal dems, progressivism no longer means what it once did. Today, to be a progressive is to beg, and leave one’s dreams for another day. If today’s liberals wanted to have an engaged dialog with the masses, they are going to need more than a bump in the minimum wage to get people excited. As with Max Baucus’ “it’s off the table” proclamation about not allowing the healthcare debate to begin with a full range of alternatives like single payer, it’s obvious that Montana dems don’t want to start the discussion about the minimum wage by talking about FDR’s maximum wage, or France’s current policy of pay rations for government workers (factor of 20, highest to lowest paid state worker).
And I guess asking that dems like “I do indeed support the idea of a maximum wage” Don Pogreba might have a discussion about wage ceilings and income caps, as many people are starting to do across the United States is also taboo (or “smug self-righteousness)”. We might have a discussion like the following about wage ceilings:
“This idea has always existed in the United States. During the Revolutionary Era, Philadelphia’s citizens wanted Pennsylvania’s new constitution to declare that “an enormous Proportion of Property vested in a few Individuals is dangerous to the Rights, and destructive of the Common Happiness of Mankind; and therefore any free State hath a Right by its Laws to discourage the Possession of such Property.”
This is because rich people corrupt democracy. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” It seems this choice has been made from the backseat of splendid limos as they cruise through neighborhoods of boarded-up houses.
Instead of living in a country where anybody can get rich, we should live in a country where nobody can be poor. To achieve this, we need income caps, not income gaps.”
It would have been far too easy to give Pogie a pat on the back and an “atta-boy” for his post on the minimum wage. I prefer to challenge his sensibilities and get him riled up to find out what he and other dems really think. And I guess it is that they would rather attack the left for not going along with the program, than to engage in any sort of policy debate and historical analysis that might result in a better policy resolution. But then again, many mainstream dems’ hatred for any who might criticize from the left seems to always get in the way of any form of introspection about the state of policy development in the dem party.