Sunday, May 24, 2015

How To Sell Blue-State Economics In A Red-State Nation

In the post-World War II era, which celebrates its 70 anniversary this year, America has always looked West--and, specifically, to California.  The Golden State set the pace for the rest of the nation in making us a country of suburbs and freeways, and in setting the tone of our politics from conservatism to liberalism, then back to conservatism and maybe, just maybe, back to liberalism again.  For the past six years, Californians have chosen to have the most predominantly Democratic state government in the entire county, with many Republicans and right-wing media outlets prophesying that this would be a recipe for economic disaster.

Far from it, as it turns out.  I have written many times about the California economic miracle that has taken place under the second coming of Jerry Brown to Sacramento.  And, as I wrote last month, while red state after red state has continued to fiscally gag under the mathematical impossibility of supply-side economics, blue California, along with blue Minnesota, has led the way in showing that combining tax hikes with targeted social spending is the key to a balanced public sector budget and a prosperous private sector economy.  And, despite what some may both expect and hope, California's miracle doesn't seem to be running out of steam; if anything, it appears to be picking up steam.

Not surprisingly, you won't hear so much as a peep about it from the likes of Fox News.  But what is a lot more surprising is that you hear absolutely nothing about it in the legacy media--i.e, what's left of the so-called "liberal press."  You would think that, if they were as liberal as their detractors claim they are, that they would be billboarding the success of blue state economics night and day.  So where are their billboards?  I think it's safe to say that their absence tells you all you need to know about how tightly the legacy media are gripped by their corporate masters.

Okay, so that's their excuse.  But what about the Democratic Party, and its national and state office holders?  For that matter, what about the rank-and-file members of the Democratic Party, and its allies in progressive causes all over the country.  Why aren't they shouting the good news from the proverbial housetops.  Why is the national silence, save for a select few Internet outlets (and bloggers like your humble and obedient servant), so unbelievably deafening on this subject?  It seems puzzling, especially in light of the contrasting records of recent Democratic presidents (shrinking deficits, and even an occasional surplus) with those of the last three Republican presidents (an unending river of red ink).

I can offer no definitive answer to this paradox, but I do have a theory.  Democrats have been mugged so often by a combination of corporate and media dishonesty when it comes to fiscal issues that, in time, as with most victims of bullying, they simply give him and hope that nobody will notice when they dare to make the occasional insight into public finances.  That may be understandable, but it is not excusable, given the long-term national and international interests that are at stake.  Bullying cannot be remedied with cowardice.  Bullying can only be remedied by bullying back.

And it is easier to do this if you have an argument whose conceptual framework can be undergirded by principles easily articulated to and understood by the broadest possible audience.  Which is why, without further ado, I offer The Three-Legged Stool, my own conceptual framework for justifying the tax reform (and yes, that will mean hikes) that will be required to give our public finances the stable footing they need and deserve.  The Stool's three legs can be described as follows:
  • Accelerate payment on public debt, to not only reduce long-term obligations, but lower interest rates and expand the money supply for everyone's use.  This can be justified by liberals (promoting government stability) and conservatives (protecting taxpayers from expanding debt obligations);
  • Put money aside for pensions and public assistance programs, including entitlements such as Social Security, and invest the money in short-term debt obligations.  Again, this can be justified by liberals (ensuring protection of the vulnerable), and conservatives (using the markets to finance public programs);
  • Finally, resolve that new public spending be financed by public investments, either in financial instruments or infrastructure, including solar-power installations.  Once again, this can be justified by liberals (creating stable streams of public revenue) and conservatives (focusing on "baking more pie," and not just finding new ways to carve up the existing pie.
So, there you have it.  The Three-Legged Stool.  Easy to explain, easy to understand, easy to justify on a bipartisan basis.  So get over your bullied selves, progressives, and get to it.  Bully back the other, clearly loosing side, and claim a well-deserved victory for yourselves and for Americans everywhere.

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