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Sunday, August 27, 2017

ReDistribution or growth -- Why don't we do both? -- apparently, we can't

Recent posts have noted an emergent, and intensifying, split between Democratic party trends favoring "pro growth" vs. "reversing inequality" (the meaning of the economists' term 're-distribution') having the top spot for solutions to winning elections and defeating Republicans. 

The split tends to follow the lines of the Sanders-Warren vs Clinton/Obama economic policy debate, but is more nuanced and complex than that (which  is complicated enough!! :) ).

Some years ago I would have answered "Why don't we do both?". Its much easier to get everyone on board to correct discrimination and reduce/erase poverty if all boats are rising. Saying "much easier" is sugar-coating it of course. The 50's and 60's civil rights movements swelled to historic levels on such a rising tide, but at no cheap price in blood, tears, courage, and sacrifice. Median wages rose proportionally to profits and overall GNP throughout the post war years  until 1972. But NOT for African-Americans! 

Nonetheless, the strength of the 60's campaigns and movements won the REAL, not fake, support of the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson. Hope was in the air. When Walter Reuther walked the walk with Dr. King, a new era of possibility opened, a view from the Mountaintop, so to speak.

45 years later, the median family hasn't gotten a raise worth spit, and most of the working class is scrambling for crumbs. Divisions on race and nationality are taking on terroristic dimensions reminiscent of past fascist movements for which half million Americans laid down their lives to suppress. Unions are being exterminated. A fascist jackass is president of the US.

I think the "Why don't we do both?" approach won't work anymore. Neither Clinton nor Obama -- despite both being brilliant politicians -- could get growth rates that could come close to matching the post-war (WW II) boom, and thus could not reach the "rising boats" heights that would even admit the REAL, not hype, possibility of correcting austerity. (my one word for the  so-called neo-liberal mess). 45 years is too long, nearly three generations, for the majority to go nowhere while the 1% streaks to the heavens

Both growth AND productivity rates are now way below parallels to the New Deal -- shared prosperity --  era. There is a growing and diverse trend among economists that inequality IS a big factor in an overall slowdown in both growth and innovation because both depend on growing demand -- the latter requires CASH in WORKERS POCKETS!.

If our political system -- increasingly riddled with vast inequities -- can't solve the growth problem with either Keynesian or Monetary policy methodologies, we have to move on, even if into unknown territory.  

And it is unknown territory. Regardless what kind of progressive, socialist, liberal, communist, anarchist, conservative (in the sincere not fraudulent sense) you may be, there are few certainties -- an no true model -- for democratic alternatives to rule by billionaires and multinational corporations in the globalised world, and on the scale of the US. Much trial and error, science IF you will, must inform the process.

 But values, lessons learned, may be the most reliable guides at important times. Among the important lessons, IMO, is the observation that values themselves are changed by the fulfillment of rising aspirations. Self actualization replaces solidarity against adversaries, as the prime want of life. In the globalized world -- the only world in which peace may be promised -- the brightest path to self actualization as a more human human being embraces internationalism in favor of nationalism at each possible opportunity.

Growth is important. We have to figure it out. But there's no figuring anything out with the divisions and impoverished futures stoking fascist fires around the world.Unfortunately, or perhaps fatefully, the same questions must be put before the whole world, for any to sustainably advance.


John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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