Follow the People to an FDR-Style Agenda

Polls show Americans are for an FDR-style agenda: percolate-up economics works; trickle-down does not.

Usually, the Powers That Be swat away the kind of big-ticket, FDR-style reforms our country needs by haughtily asserting a few hoary economic fables they dress up as immutable “truths.”

“We don’t have the money.”

They cluck that it would be nice if everyone could be given the right to top-quality health care, education, child care and (fill in the blank), but alas, the money just isn’t there. A year ago, however, a pandemic slammed into America, and suddenly, trillions of dollars gushed out of Washington for everything from employment checks to crash medical programs, revealing that if our country has the will to do what ought to be done, the money is there.

“The debt! My God, think about the debt!”

No, don’t. Sure, there can be too much debt, but the USA is a resource-rich, sovereign nation, not a fly-by-night corporate huckster. The only debt problem our government has in this time of immense national need (and extremely low borrowing cost) is that we’re not incurring enough of it — for the right purposes. Recall that in 2017, then-President Trump and the Republican-majority Congress didn’t hesitate to shove the national debt through the roof to let a few millionaires and billionaires pocket a trillion-dollar tax giveaway. So, if those drunken spenders can declare that it’s good to use federal borrowing to make the likes of Jeff Bezos, the Koch brothers and Mark Zuckerberg richer, wouldn’t it be even better to use borrowed funds for such clear national needs as infrastructure investment and quality education for all?

“The rich are the ‘makers’ whose work contributes the most to society.”

This silly myth quickly melted right in front of us as soon as Señor Coronavirus arrived, making plain that the most valuable people are nurses, grocery clerks, teachers, delivery drivers, med techs, farm workers, postal employees and millions of other mostly low-wage people. For the past year, even the richest families have been urgently crying out for those “lowly” ones to provide truly essential needs. The lesson is that this is the same invaluable workforce that sustains our economy and society every day, year in and year out. So let’s capitalize on the moment to demand that lawmakers start adopting policies that reward these grassroots makers over Wall Street’s billionaire takers.

“Tax cuts drive economic growth, which lifts everyone.”

Once again, the sirens of corpocracy are mouthing the same old refrain: To help workers, cut corporate taxes. They trill that freeing corporations from the “burden” of taxes will encourage CEOs to invest in worker productivity and — voila — wages will miraculously rise. This scam has never worked for anyone but the scammers, and at last, it’s obvious to the great majority of workers that the way to increase wages is to increase wages! Enact a $15 minimum wage; restore collective bargaining; punish wage theft; implement a green energy jobs program, etc. With such strong, honest policies, workers will pocket more and spend more, and the economy will rise. Percolate-up economics works; trickle-down does not.

Well, say those in the know, recalcitrant Republicans in Congress won’t allow such a bold FDR-style agenda, so who could get it passed? Try the people themselves.

  • Two-thirds of America (including a majority of moderate Republicans) say yes to doubling the minimum wage.
  • Seventy-two percent of the people, including 46% 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 the ones all other developed nations provide 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 such as 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. Instead of fearing the people, Democratic leaders need to get out of Washington and join them.

Jim Hightower