Monday, June 26, 2006

Who Speaks for the Middle Class?

Arent we all?

The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (MLK Jr called himself "a drum major for justice") has just issued two report cards on legislator records (for NY state and US congressional bodies). They do a pretty good job of outlining the major pieces of economic legislation (and dialectical thought says that our consciousnesses are oftentimes economic) facing politicians in Albany and Washington DC.

Where the Institute gets it wrong though is where they say that they speak for the "middle class" and give the "middle class" view (thumbs up or down and why) for each piece of legislation. A friend of mine is a history teacher and he tells me that when he asks his classes who comes from middleclass families, 99% of the people raise their hands.

The point is is that in American we are all (99% anyway) middleclass.

Should not a government and its policies speak for all? Isnt singling out a group, in this case "middle class", just directing government policy and spending towards that special interest group?

Let me give just a few examples of Drum Major's yeah or ney votes and how their ideas create an unlevel playing field, despite the good intentions:

New York State Legislation:

* Removing taxbreaks from companies that outsource jobs out of New York. Why do some companies get taxbreaks anyway? If so why not all companies? And if all companies why not just lower taxes for all? Not allowing, or penalizing, companies for seeking lowest cost production just creates a bad business climate and keeps business and jobs away, definetely not good for the "middle class".

* Not allowing banks to do predatory lending, eg charge higher rates to the poor. Banks charge rates (in fact the whole basis of capitalism which reductio has allowed us to live 50% longer than we did 150 years ago) based on risk; the higher the risk the more expensive the loan. To not allow risk-adjusted lending is to freeze the flow of funds to the poor (eg the lower "middle class") as no one will then lend as are not compensated for the risk. The "middle class" too like everyone else needs money to live invest consume.

* Increase state funding for subsidized day care. This is good for the "middle class" with children at the expense of the "middle class" without children. Why should somebody pay for someone else's children? If the purpose is to give employment or education ability to parents then there are institutional constructs for that, but this does not help the middle class per se. Only those that can afford or want or are lucky enough to have children.

Federal Legislation:

* Dont make it harder to declare bankruptcy. This is bad public policy because if it is easier to declare bankruptcy it raises the interest rates, cost of borrowing, for the "middle class" who are more prudent (more "middle class" ?) with their money. Why should those who can manage their money subsidize those that cant?

* Dont decrease the increase of welfare payments, medicaid and other welfare programs. Ok this is the big one. The government of the USA is on its way towards bankruptcy itself around 2020. This will definetely have negative implications for the middle class. The dollar might not be able to buy anything and all those subsidized children wont have anything to eat! Something needs to be done to re-address our welfare state, and get government out of the compassion business so people can get back in, or at least to start decentralize it to our communities and neighborhoods where those we care about actually live.

Anyway heres to the middleclass in all of us.

Chomsky's New Book

Same as his old book

Noam Chomsky they say (whoever they is) is the second most quoted person in America after Seinfeld. For a lot of people, Chomsky is the first person out of mainstream America who we read and become politically aware of the failings of the State. Chomsky’s new book is called Failed States, several years ago he had one called Rogue States.

Chomsky gives you facts you cant find anywhere and lots of them and serves up a good dose of getting you pissed-off at what the US Government does to us and others. He defines rogue states as those that 1) don’t follow the international law they agree to follow, 2) only use force when the necessity for self-defense is immediate and overwhelming, and 3) guarantee rights at home, provide security for the population and have functioning democratic institutions. Of course Workers only thinks 2) and part of 3) are accurate (eg government can do no good only prevent bad) but you get the point.

Chomsky’s works – except for the brilliant and funny film Manufactoring Consent - are kind of like what they used to say (wrongly) about Ramones records, you heard one you heard them all. But Chomsky does a good job of pointing out problems albeit if only mostly of US actors and not those breaking golden rules elsewhere and a bad job of defining solutions. I think Chomsky defines himself as a communitarian (though it is hard to tell).

I keep waiting for him to take the next step which is to say yes the Power of Government and the State-Capitalist institutions are the problem and therefore it is obvious that a government that tries to do less is a better government, eg libertarianism eg classical liberalism can be the solution to State-Capitalism and our crony-capitalist institutions. People who know the problems, and are listened to widely with respect can help identify the solutions, not just the problems.

Of course Chomsky's IQ is probably 2x that of yours or mine so it is sure good to know he is on the right track.