The Nina Turner meme below summarizes what contemporary “progressives” typically favor when it comes to economic reform. These kinds of ideas are going to be increasingly pervasive and, likely, popular in the future for two reasons: 1) widening class divisions and growing poverty; 2) the rising cultural hegemony of the Left, which has a social-democratic component (although the cultural Left is dominated by neoliberals and neocons). While I have no particular animus toward Nina Turner, here is what I see as problematic with the social democrats’ most popular ideas:
“Medicare for all” is a sideways move that merely transfers the control of the healthcare system from the insurance cartel to the state, which may have the effect of increasing the immediate availability of healthcare to some, and at lower costs, but only by rationing healthcare for others and increasing costs in other areas (ranging from payroll taxes to debt inflation). Instead, workers should demand their entire salaries without deductions from either the government or employers and create their own healthcare support systems through mutual aid societies. Additionally, we need healthcare consumers’ unions and cooperatives for the purpose of establishing low-cost clinics and other healthcare services in opposition to the medical/pharmaceutical cartel. As for legal reform, we need to repeal all laws that create barriers to such activities, (e.g. the monopolies given to the pharmaceutical industry through the patent system). In fact, we need a constitutional amendment repealing the government’s authority to issue patents.
“Canceling student debt” is something I agree with. Student debt is the modern version of indentured servitude. And the feds don’t need any more money.
Recurring survival payments in the form of the UBI, NIT, or something similar is also something I agree with. I see this as reparations for two government-induced depressions so far in the 21st century, not to mention every other form of ruling class looting that has taken place since, well, time immemorial.
“Ending fossil fuel addiction” is something I am skeptical of. Mostly, “green energy” proposals are crony-capitalist/corporate welfare scam intended to shift the focus of corporate welfare in the energy sector from the petroleum industry to their competitors in the “green energy” industry. There is no evidence that any of these proposals would actually be better for the environment. This kind of stuff has been introduced in Germany with no net reduction in carbon emissions. Meanwhile, proposed carbon taxes and other such ideas will merely raise fuel costs for the poor and working class. The only serious alternative to fossil fuels is nuclear power. Love it or leave it.
“Demilitarizing our police” goes without saying, although I don’t know about this “our” part and fuck the pigs.
“Making public college tuition-free” will have the effect of substantially lowering the quality of college education. At present, undergraduate education is just a glorified high school, and with this proposal, it would be more like a glorified middle school. If everyone is okay with that, fine. Preferably, education and state would be totally separated like church and state.
As for “ending systemic racism,” the way to end police abuse of blacks, or anyone else, is to repeal laws. No more drug laws, vice laws, loitering laws, anti-vending/peddling laws, vagrancy laws, etc., etc. etc. Police should have no more authority than firefighters.
“Making housing affordable” is a no-brainer BUT not by building more housing projects but by eliminating policies that raise the costs of housing, most of which exist at the state and local level, e.g. zoning and land use regulations.
As for “passing a living wage,” I’m against continued minimum wage escalation which has the effect of raising the wages of some low-wage workers at the cost of unemployment for other low-skilled workers. Instead, all workers should demand their entire salaries without deductions. The UBI/NIT is actually preferable to minimum wage escalation.
Of course, all of this only scratches the surface. The state/corporate system is the modern version of feudalism and dismantling it would be just as far-reaching as the dismantling of feudalism.
Social democrats are mostly folks who want to take power out of the hands of the aristocrats and only to put it into the hands of the king and his ministers, while conservatives and right-libertarians typically defend the aristocrats. We can do better than that.
Categories: Economics/Class Relations