What If We Started Over

Some say the difference between Republican and Democratic visions for the country’s future comes down to this: Democrats want to fix it; Republicans want to scrap it. And Republicans think now is the time, when, they believe, the Democratic vision is a proven failure. (That is hardly a foregone conclusion, but that’s another topic.)

Now, I think it would be possible to build an excellent democracy by scrapping it all and starting over, but it wouldn’t be wise.

Could we provide economic
efficiency with economic justice?

The Republican vision is all about business, and the Democratic vision is all about people. The real question is: Could we build a nation with the economic efficiency that Republicans envision while at the same time providing all Americans with economic justice, protection of the life support system, and human rights that Democrats want? Could we do it without starting over?

My belief is that our Constitution is so far the best provision for a stable and just government the world has ever seen. But the mega-rich have devised many new ways to subvert it, and inequality is now at record levels and worsening all the time. In a nation where all persons are supposed to have equal opportunity, there is grave danger when inequality is so high.

Inequality is now at record levels
and worsening all the time.

Equal opportunity does not exist when inequality stalks the land. When workers can’t earn enough money to provide for their families, their children begin life without equal opportunity, and will experience inequality all their lives. This is where we are. At its most basic, it comes down to unjust pay, which we have cemented in place by arranging the laws so that money flows from the poor and middle class to the rich.

Republicans would like to do away with public health care and retirement benefits. This would certainly be possible, but cannot be logically defended. There would be a net loss of wealth that was meaningful for everyone but the rich, since privately financed health care costs literally double what national health care would. Most families simply couldn’t afford it. Personally financed retirement benefits are likewise possible through personal savings, but workers must earn enough to pay for it, and few come even close. Besides, anything in the private sphere will cost more because business must earn a profit, which is not true of publicly funded institutions. All workers would need to earn $20,000 to $30,000 more to privatize these two things, whereas many don’t earn even that amount.

We must protect equality of opportunity,
which does not exist when economic
inequality stalks the land.

So both political parties agree that a different path is possible, and I would assert that it could be a just arrangement, no matter how economically inefficient it might be. But it is not possible unless the lowest income levels are adequate. Instead, we have great economic inequality that continually worsens. The poor and, increasingly, the middle class, simply don’t earn enough money to pay for what conservatives say they should buy themselves. Nor do conservatives show any inclination to improve wages; on the contrary, they want to lower wages because they believe that will make us more competitive. You can believe that when exorbitant CEO pay is cut for that reason.

It’s the rich who are getting the money. We have proof before our eyes that ever more money flows to the rich, and that they control government and the very means by which they gain more money. This is the direction of greater inequality and less justice, from a government that has been manipulated by the rich to care only about the rich.

This is the direction of plutocracy. It is not the path to a just democracy.

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