The American People are United on Key Policy Issues
by John M Repp
There has been so much corporate media commentary lately about the huge divisions running through our political landscape. Republican, Democrat; conservative, liberal; urban, rural; black, white; high-school educated, college-educated; male, female; coastal, heartland and more. There is an element of truth to all this. What is left out is what many Americans agree on.
Americans agree that we should tax the wealthy. Americans agree we need Medicare for All. Americans agree we need a Green New Deal.The legislation to enact a Green New Deal includes the right to a good, living-wage, union job with full benefits. In the last forty years, with neoliberal policies, unions have been busted and average wages have been held to basically the level of wages in 1970 while the cost of living have risen.
To quote from the Economic Policy Institute : ‘From 1978 to 2018, CEO compensation grew by 1,007.5%, far outstripping S&P stock market (706.7%) and the wage growth of very high earners (339.2%). In contrast, wages for the typical worker grew by just 11.9%.”
In the United States, we like to think of ourselves as “the land of the free and home of the brave”. In contemporary society, a person cannot be free if they do not have a good income and some accessible wealth. It came as a shock to many in 2014, when researchers found out that 47% of Americans could not come up with $400 in case of an emergency.
The question then becomes: if we are a healthy democracy, why don’t these agreements of the American people make their way into law and policy? I suspect many people already know the answer. I quote from an Atlantic article summarizing a famous 2014 study by Gilens and Page: ”Economic elites and narrow interest groups were very influential: They succeeded in getting their favored policies adopted about half of the time, and in stopping legislation to which they were opposed nearly all of the time. Mass-based interest groups, meanwhile, had little effect on public policy. As for the views of ordinary citizens, they had virtually no independent effect at all.” The people who said they wanted the wealthy to be taxed, Medicare for All and a Green New Deal were the same demographic as the “ordinary citizens” of the Gilens and Page study.
The massive amount of money in our election process and lobbying industry is the tool kit used by the economic elites to get their favored policies translated into law and policy. To paraphrase a famous right-wing book, none dare call it bribery.
So, what must be done for the policy preferences of ordinary people to be made into law? It could be done through elections if most candidates were like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It could be done if progressives had a much larger media presence, even an equal presence, in radio, television, Facebook and the rest of the Internet. It could be done if vast numbers of ordinary people came to understand nonviolent strategy and learned to creatively use the 198 methods of nonviolent direct action. (Organizing huge numbers of people to go into the streets and demonstrate is but one of the 198 methods.) A vigorous nonviolent direct-action campaign combined with the election of candidates who support the policies people want, and need, is the bare outline of a strategy. We are getting closer to that good reality as more and more young people experience a vastly different world than those who came of age in the 1960’s.
Surveys of the Nordic countries, Norway, Denmark and Finland tell us that the people in those countries are happier than Americans. The wealth gap there is much, much smaller than here. Women are less dependent on men because of generous government programs that help them when they are pregnant, and their children are young. There is nation-wide collective bargaining between unions and corporations. Conservative Americans like to call the Nordic model a “nanny state”. Should we call our government “cruel”?
If our political leaders listened to the vast majority of ordinary people and implemented the policies that majority agrees upon – tax the rich, health care for all and taking care of our natural environment – our country would be happier and healthier.