Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Political Offices

"Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes."

When Herman Cain can put his hands upon
Any skirt that he should chance upon
Heaven knows,
Anything goes.

I chanced upon yet another ancient surprise this weekend, the Child Labor Amendment, proposed in 1924. Mostly child labor has since become illegal or highly regulated, but in 1924 children were still working under appalling conditions in a variety of industries. Not only was there not a federal law prohibiting child labor, but the Supreme Court had struck down, over the years, a number of state laws prohibiting or regulating child labor (just as they had struck down other labor laws.). For instance, in 1923 the Supreme Court ruled that even in the federal district of Washington, D.C., a minimum wage law for women and children was unconstitutional, in Adkins v. Children's Hospital.

The Amendment was opposed not just by the crueler members of the business community, but by the Catholic Bishops. In their wisdom they felt the amendment would lead, eventually, to government control of child rearing. In Catholic Countries they took a different attitude. There the Church used the Government to force Catholicism upon all children. That would be a central dogma of fascism in the next two decades, and in Spain until the death of General Franco.

Text of this amendment, worth considering (for style, not content) by those who are moving to amend the U.S. Constitution:

Section 1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age. Section 2. The power of the several States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.

28 states passed the amendment before the drive petered out.

At least they needed laborers in the 1920s. The U.S. people had made out like bandits in World War I. In fact, the U.S. people acted exactly like bandits in World War I. We sold our excess products to the warring parties and loaned Britain and France vast sums of money. Then we entered the war at the last minute and helped Britain and France to loot Germany. Holding most of the world's money at the end of the war, and reaping interest and principal on the loans, enough trickled down from the big New York banks to allow the entire nation to have a party that included a real estate boom and a stock market anyone could get rich playing.

Then things fell apart. Capitalism fell apart without any help from government regulations. Don't forget that.

Occupy Wall Street and its spawn continues to evolve and exchange DNA with labor unions and political ideas and trends of all kinds. Can Occupy, or some related organization-like substance, do what the Tea Party did in 2010? Which is to say, convert ideas into practice.
That would take something the Left is very bad at: winning political offices. Winning here meaning elected our own people, and ones with backbone, rather than allowing career politicians to slightly change their election rhetoric and appear to be aligned with us.

We have a big disadvantage compared to the Tea Party: a lack of billionaires willing to fund our campaigns in the way necessary to actually win political elections. But we also have some serious cultural issues of our own holding us back. First, like the Tea Party, we mostly don't really like government. But, like the Tea Party, we should not let that stop us. We should capture the government that is there now and make it smaller. We should cut Pentagon spending and eliminate an entire branch of the armed services, the Marine Corps. We should minimize the DEA. We should abolish the system of farm subsidies. We should kill federal transportation dollars and allow the states to take care of their own highways.

We should also close all tax loopholes used by the rich. All capital gains in liquid assets (stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments) should be taxed at the regular income tax rates, with capital gains taxed the year they accrue (not waiting until an instrument is sold, as is currently the practice). The oil and gas industry should lose its subsidies and tax breaks. Once we start paying down the deficit run up by the Pentagon and oil companies, we can adjust tax rates to optimize happiness for the rest of us.

But to do all that, we need our own people in office. We need the kind of backbone in the state legislatures and Congress that the Tea Party has now. And that means pissing off the Democratic Party establishment. Pissing on them until they go away and we can occupy their old offices. Face up to reality: in the short run we can't occupy many offices held by Republicans. But we could occupy a significant number of offices held by establishment Democrats.

That means taking risks, just like the Tea Party took risks in trying to win offices from the Republican Party. The mainstream and Wall Street Republicans told the Tea Party that if they ran their own candidates in primaries, even if they won the primaries they would just lose the general elections and put more Democrats in office.

For decades I have heard the same argument from establishment Democrats: run your own candidates in the primaries, and even if they win, they would just lose the general elections and put more Republicans into office. We wouldn't want that, would we?

People are mad at incumbents, but they need some outside agitation to make offices actually change hands. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Now is the time to start organizing campaigns for 2012. It is not easy. The banks have robbed us, and the law allows them to give themselves bonuses. We are not allowed to rob banks to finance our campaigns; that would be against the gruel of law. But ways and means must be found, or America will become increasingly like a capitalist gulag for the vast majority of American citizens.

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