‘Those in the know” say that We the People should forget any progressive fantasy that — at long last — Washington might finally produce the kind of bold FDR-style agenda that America needs. They smugly lecture us that recalcitrant Republicans in Congress, not to mention a swarm of corporate lobbyists, are opposed to progressive change, so who could get it passed?
Here’s an idea: Try the people themselves. Those in the know don’t seem to know it (or don’t want us to know it), but big majorities across grassroots America are strongly in favor of the fundamental changes that Washington elites are rejecting. For example:
• Two-thirds of America (including a majority of moderate Republicans) say “Yes!” to doubling the minimum wage.
• 72 percent of the people, including 46 percent of professed Republicans, shout their approval for Medicare for all.
• Eight out of 10 Americans, including strong majorities of Republicans, support a paid family leave program like every other developed nation provides for their people.
• What about increasing taxes on the rich, expanding Medicaid for poor families, raising teacher pay, spending more for early childhood education? Yes, yes, yes, yes say majorities, not just in blue states, but also in GOP strongholds like Idaho, Nebraska and Utah.
These are not just poll numbers, but solid ideas embraced last year by a broad cross-section of voters in ballot elections across the country. For example, Florida voters enacted a constitutional initiative to up the state’s minimum pay to $15, with “yeas” topping “nays” by a whopping margin of more than 20 points — making it more popular than either Trump or Biden.
But then you hear, “We don’t have the money.” The power elites tell us it would be nice to do the big-ticket reforms America needs, but the money just isn’t there. Then a pandemic slammed into America, and suddenly trillions of dollars gushed out of Washington for everything from subsidizing meatpackers to developing vaccines, revealing that the money is there.
They say, “We can’t increase the federal debt!” Yet, Trump and the Republican Congress didn’t hesitate to shove the national debt through the roof in 2017 to let a few corporations and billionaires pocket a trillion-dollar tax giveaway.
They’ll tell you, “The rich are the ‘makers’ who contribute the most to society.” This silly myth quickly melted right in front of us as soon as coronavirus arrived, making plain that the most valuable people are nurses, grocery clerks, teachers, postal employees and millions of other mostly low-wage people.
Then they’ll claim, “Tax cuts drive economic growth for all.” They always claim that freeing corporations from the “burden” of taxes will encourage CEOs to invest in worker productivity and — voilà — wages will miraculously rise. This scam has never worked for anyone but the scammers, and it’s now obvious to the great majority of workers that the way to increase wages is to just increase wages! Enact a $15 minimum wage, restore collective bargaining, etc., and workers will pocket more, spend more, and the economy will rise.
Instead of fearing the people, Democratic leaders need to get out of Washington and join them. Let’s rally and organize the power of outsiders to produce transformative policies of, by, and for the people.