Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Sanders and the American Dream

There are still about 47 million poor Americans, including 15.5 million poor children. Under the official poverty measure, the nation has achieved a poverty rate among the elderly of 10 percent (whereas it was over 30% at the beginning of the War on Poverty), but the child poverty rate is more than double the rate among the elderly.
Meanwhile, economic mobility has been stagnant in recent decades, with a rate of mobility that lags behind that of most other Western democracies. The odds that a child reared in the top fifth of the income distribution will fall to the bottom fifth is 8 percent; the odds that a child reared by parents in the bottom fifth will stay in the bottom fifth is 43 percent.
The top 5 percent of D.C. residents earned 52 times the income of the bottom 20 percent in 2014,
according to a report released last week by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. That puts the nation's capital fifth in income inequality behind New Orleans, Boston, Atlanta, and New York City. Right before the Great Recession, the poorest fifth of D.C. households earned just $10,800, when adjusting for inflation. Seven years later that figure fell by nearly 14 percent to $9,300. That is about equivalent to what low-income families earn in El Paso and Albuquerque—places with significantly lower costs of living.
Conversely, D.C.’s high earners are among the wealthiest in the nation—the third highest in fact, with the top 5 percent making an average household income of $487,000.

In 1980 the average top 100 CEOs earned $45 for every dollar earned by an average worker. Today, the gap is an astounding $844 to 1.

Whatever else might be said about these and related facts on economic mobility, they show that America is not a land of opportunity in which everyone has a good chance to get ahead. The rich are getting richer, at the expense of the rest of us. This is not a radical viewpoint. It is well understood by everyone. The hard part is not grasping what is happening. The hard part is motivating people to do something about it.

We have choices to make. There's no way that reforming this current system is going to change the quality of life for the majority of humanity. Quite the opposite. The more we improve the system, the more we're keep the system whose logical outcome will be the destruction of the planet. The global economy by definition destroys the planet. To-days capitalist way of living has maybe a 30-year expiry date on it. Communicating this message to our fellow workers is a strong and urgent priority. The global capitalist culture wants us to believe that there is no alternative. Free access and sharing is going to be a central pillar of the post-capitalist world. The social revolution needn’t be violent. It will probably be multifaceted, and multilayered.

Socialism is one of the most abused and misunderstood words in modern history. Sanders is frequently on the receiving end of hysterical and irrational attacks due to his alleged support for “democratic socialism”.

Socialism has always been based upon the idea of social ownership and control of the means of production, to be achieved through the expropriation of the private property of the capitalist class. Eugene Debs called for workers to unite to “assert their combined power” to “break the fetters of wage slavery.” Sanders is yet to refer to wage slavery as endemic in a capitalist economy, as Debs did. Debs spoke derisively of the business owner, who “holds the exploited wage worker in utter contempt…No master ever had any respect for his slave, and no slave ever had, or ever could have, any real love for his master.” “Prostitution,” Debs wrote, “is a part, a necessary part, of capitalist society.” He called for workers to “assume control of every industry” and for ownership to be “transferred from the idle capitalist to the workers to whom it rightfully belongs.” Sanders still guarantees the corporations their independence.

Sanders explains his “socialism”:

—"All that socialism means to me ... is democracy with a small 'd.' To me, socialism doesn't mean state ownership of everything, by any means. It means creating a nation, and a world in which all human beings have a decent standard of living." —November 1990, to The Associated Press.

—"What does it mean to me? I want government to stand up for working people, for the middle class, rather than representing, as is currently the case in the United States, multinational corporations and wealthy people." —May 2005, to the AP.

—"I think we should look to countries like Denmark and Sweden and Norway and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people." —October 2015 Democratic presidential debate.

—"The next time that you hear me attacked as a socialist, like tomorrow, remember this: I don't believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production. But I do believe that the middle class and the working families of this country who produce the wealth of this country deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down." —November 2015 speech at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Asked whether he considered himself a capitalist, Sanders gave this reply: "Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little? By which Wall Street's greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don't. I believe in a society where all people do well, not just a handful of billionaires."

As Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs explains "He has worked since the days when he was [Burlington] mayor with business groups in Vermont. Private businesses thrive in other countries with democratic socialist values."
Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor said he agrees with Sanders in certain areas, including the influence of money in politics, as well as income inequality. "[Sanders] is bothered by the fact that, in a country with a $56,000 GDP per capita so many people are poor. ... He would like to do something about that."

Sanders advocates a mixed economy, meaning one with both private and public enterprises. Currently, federal spending is projected to account for about 22 percent of the U.S. economy. Based on the Sanders campaign's own estimates, his proposals would increase that share to about 30 percent over 10 years, and perhaps more in later years.

Jeffrey Isaac, an Indiana University political scientist points out that democratic socialism aims to achieve change "by working through the institutions of a liberal, representative democracy, mobilizing citizens and voters, winning elections, and legislating social reform," not by imposing a dictatorship as Vladimir Lenin and his Soviet and Chinese followers believed. Sanders is running for president of the U.S. He is not organizing a vanguard revolutionary party intent on seizing power!”
Garrison Nelson, a University of Vermont political scientist says, "As socialists go, he's pretty mild. Bernie's socialism is vanilla. This is not socialism at the point of a gun where the Red Army comes in and takes over your country. There's no collectivized agriculture. There's no nationalization of industry. "It's basically New Deal liberalism squared. He's not going to destroy the capitalist system, but he wants a more equitable distribution, greater transfer of payments from the wealthy to the not so wealthy."

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