Saturday, June 11, 2016

249.2 - Part Two: Issues that won't be discussed in the fall election

Part Two: Issues that won't be discussed in the fall election

You want some examples of issues they don't want discussed? I'll give you some. But let me say at the top that the sort of political revolution I envision, which I dream about, goes beyond what Bernie Sanders has proposed. So what I will be talking about here is not my revolution, but issues, ideas, proposals, that have been brought up during the course of the primaries but which are now threatened with being disappeared because too many among our power elite don't want us to be thinking about them.

That said: What do you think are the changes that single-payer health coverage is going to be a topic in the election we now face? The Clintonites mocked the idea and mocked Sanders for advocating it; they called it impractical, impossible, pie in the sky, rainbows and unicorns, all that and more despite fact that US has been and remains almost the only industrialized nation without some sort of national health system.

And no, Obamacare is not that, not even close, not when by the estimates of even its most ardent defenders it will leave tens of millions without health insurance and an unknown number more with insurance they can't afford to use because of high deductibles and other costs. Obamacare doesn't even provide universal access to health insurance, much less what's really important, which is universal access to health care. But if we hear anything about health care this year, it will be about "preserving Obamacare" - because that is a debate the economic and political powers are willing to have.

Another example: As I've noted before, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, this secretly-negotiated trade deal looking to turn the entire Pacific Rim into a playground for transnational corporations and banks, is going to be an issue after the election, during the lame duck session of Congress. What do you think are the chances that either of the campaigns or the media will bring it up in the coming election season? Do you really think that Hillary Clinton, who once called the TPP "the gold standard" for trade deals but turned against it - supposedly and only gradually and only in reaction to its obvious unpopularity and Sanders' opposition - is going to make that part of her campaign? If you do, remember that Tom Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, has said not to worry about what Clinton is saying about the TPP now because once she is office she will flip back to supporting it.

If we hear anything about trade, it will be about the supposed "millions of jobs" free trade has created and will create - with no consideration of the type of jobs, even as evidence shows that living-wage jobs, jobs that pay enough to provide for a family, are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment such that even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations have collapsed."

This is all part of the new "gig economy," the latest corporate buzz-phrase echoing across the country. We won't have jobs, they say, we'll do "gigs." We won't be stuck in traditional jobs with moldy, old-fashioned concerns such as regular hours, middle-class pay rates, benefits, some job security, and all those other silly "traditionals" of the workplace. In fact, in the gig economy, we won't even have a workplace. Instead, we'll be "liberated" to work in a series of low-paying, no-benefits, short-term jobs in many different places, always being on-call through a mobile app on your smart phone or through a temp agency.

What do you think are the chances that the phrase "gig economy" will pass the lips of either Hillary Clinton or Donald TheRump this fall?

Meanwhile, income inequality, one of the centerpieces of Sanders' campaign and which earlier drove the Occupy Movement - which was crushed by some of the same forces now arrayed against the resurgence of those issues which Sanders has helped spark - is now the highest it has been since 1928. And it continues to worsen, as it has across several decades, including during the administration of the sainted Bill Clinton, who Hillary now proposes to bring back to manage the economy in her planned administration.

Do you really think that economic, that income, inequality will be a centerpiece of the fall campaign? Do you think it even will be addressed in any way beyond vapid bromides?

Do you think a $15 minimum wage is going to come up in this race, particularly when Clinton opposes it? Consider that a new study of all 22 increases in the federal minimum wage between 1938 and 2009 not only showed no correlation between raising the minimum wage and loss of jobs, it actually showed that in a substantial majority of cases, employment in affected industries went up. Is that going to be part of the debate? What about the fact that despite the doomsday predictions, a year after Seattle raised its minimum wage, retail prices have not risen?

Will the moral scourge of poverty be on either candidate's regular agenda? Since as I noted last week, our major media are already prepared to ignore it, to make it a non-issue, why should the candidates bring it up?

Will either the GOPpers or the Dems talk about homelessness, again, in any way more than as rhetorical devices? It's generally agreed that to comfortably afford housing, it should take up no more than 30% of your income. (Years ago, it was 25%.) Will either party address the fact that, on that basis, as a national average it takes an income of $20.30 an hour to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment - at a time when the average hourly wage for Americans is $15.42? Will they address the fact that there is not a single state in the US where someone working full-time, year-round at federal minimum wage can comfortably afford even a one-bedroom apartment? Will they talk about how homelessness has long since spread from the cities to the suburbs, such that now school buses can been seen to drop off childen at tents and cars? They won't - because they and their backers don't want to.

Remember concerns about student debt, something else that drove the Occupy movement? What are the chances that will be a focus of the concerns of the major parties?

I have to make a quick detour here. A couple of minutes ago, I referred to the Occupy Movement as having been crushed by some of the same forces now arrayed against what strictly and solely for the convenience of the moment I'll call the Sanders movement. I want to make clear that while there actually was evidence of coordination among federal and local officials on the best ways to break the backs of Occupy encampments, I'm not talking here about grand conspiracies; I'm not talking about secret cabals Skyping each other in a weekly meeting to plan their latest outrages. It's rather agreement based on common interests, common values, common ways of viewing the world. It doesn't require conscious cooperation, in fact if doesn't require active cooperation at all. What it requires - and what it has - is a range of powerful interests all heading in much the same direction, with much the same attitudes.

But getting back to the issues, talking about student debt leads directly to something else that Bernie Sanders talked about but I'll guarantee won't come up after the convention: free college.

It is, in fact, not a particularly radical idea. Twelve nations currently offer college tuition free to their citizens: Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, and Turkey; Chile will make it 13 next year.

When last year Obama proposed a government program to make community college tuition-free for a number of students who met certain guidelines and academic standards, why the Dems were falling all over themselves with praise. Because that idea, offering some help to a limited number of people that wouldn't cost that much or change that much in the grand scheme of things but which can be made to sound like a great dramatic advance, that is the kind of debate our political establishment is willing to have.

But go beyond that, talk about four-year public colleges being tuition free? Talk about something that actually is dramatic, that actually would make a fundamental change in our educational system? Impossible! Crazy! Just promising "free stuff!" And something to be forgotten as soon as the convention lights dim.

Oh, and here's something: See if there is any talk this fall about breaking up the big banks, about actually doing something about "too big to fail." It's something else that Sanders made one of the centerpieces of his campaign and something else I guarantee you will not sully the lips of Clinton or TheRump.

But all that has happened since 2008 is the the biggest banks have gotten bigger. Just four huge banks - Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase - now hold $6.87 trillion in assets, 42.2% of the total assets held by banks in the US. They have continued to grow since 2008 and will continue to do so.

Conveniently for the Dems, the GOPpers proposing to revoke Dodd-Frank, legislation setting up regulations which have already been watered down almost to the point of irrelevancy. So see if there is any discussion about regulating the financial industry, about controlling Wall Street, beyond "preserve Dodd-Frank" - which is another debate the economic establishment is willing to have, while actually fracturing their hold on the economy is not and so will be off the table.

And then there's the elephant in the room: campaign finance reform. I noted just last week that 80% of the $76 million Clinton's Super-PAC has raised has come from just 20 donors and the so-called "Hillary Victory Fund" has acted essentially as a money-laundering scheme to get around limits on campaign contributions. The idea that she will make campaign finance reform a significant part of her campaign - in fact, that she will raise it at all - is laughable.

There is so much more, so much that has been raised over these past several months that now will be pushed to the shadows because those that have the power in our society don't want to talk about them, don't want to take them on in any actual way, because to do so would be too much of a challenge to their privileged positions, raise too many uncomfortable questions about our economy, about our society, about our culture.

See how much either campaign talks about fracking.

See how much they talk about immigration reform in any way other than vote-pandering.

See if they talk about our broken criminal justice system in any way other than that same vote-pandering.

See if they bring up Black Lives Matter; see if they talk about police brutality, particularly in minority communities; see if they talk about racism in any way other than platitudes.

And see, frankly, if foreign policy even comes up in any form other than "terrorists bad, US good."

Sources cited in links:

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