The Coastal Post - September, 1995

Really Reinventing Government

BY FRANK SCOTT

The legislative bloodbath in Washington is hardly what America needs. "Slouching Towards Devastation" with liberals has been replaced by "Rushing to Oblivion" with conservatives. The right wing acts out a confused version of the Unabomber's plan: he urges the destruction of industrialism, while they are destroying what little had been done to control that force. Woe to all until these corporate commissars are once again replaced by, uh, the other corporate commissars, and society resumes its slow march toward disaster. Is that all the choice voters have? It seems that way, but there are elected government figures offering vision, ideas and actual legislation that would head us in a new direction, toward a future of real potential rather than one of almost certain chaos.

Government needs to become an expression of the majority interest, something it hasn't been since the time of Roosevelt and the New Deal. Then, while it saved American capital from ruin and revolution, it at least created policy that offered hope to the majority of citizens. It took the global devastation of a world war to really bring prosperity, but the human face put to capitalism during the FDR years is now being transformed back into an ugly monster. A sometimes well-meaning but often hateful mob is busy undoing what little protection had been created as it works to free market forces, destroys public service and prove its shameless ignorance at public expense.

The year before his death, FDR proposed an "Economic Bill of Rights," something left out of our constitution. It would offer security through a guaranteed job, and not simply float those words in an idealist daze, but have government be the agent in making them real. The idea didn't die with FDR, but the current fad for "downsizing" government, with fans ranging from Clinton to Gingrich, has given it little hope. Still, the view of government as the agent of social change exists even in these trying times, as does legislation that would create the very program FDR advocated back in 1944.

HR1050 is a truly revolutionary bill that deserves the support of citizens who want change that benefits the overwhelming majority. That group may exclude most of the present regime in D.C., but thanks to Rep. Ron Dellums of California and 20 co-sponsors, there is real hope that government will do the right thing at some point in the near future.

Full employment is impossible under slave-market enterprise, which demands a suffering sector so that others can profit. But social-democratic western nations have shown that while it doesn't solve all problems, full employment makes life much better for society. What would a guaranteed job for every American mean, besides sounding nice in rhetoric? A recent Congressional Budget Office study showed that by merely lowering unemployment 1% a year, within five years government would be enriched by more than $300 billion, through collecting more taxes from working citizens and paying out less for social services like welfare and unemployment. A fully employed work force means less crime, more consumer spending, less social tension and more saving. It would mean smaller deficits and balanced budgets as well, though those last two aren't nearly as important as fundamentalists make them out to be. And the Dellums bill would create jobs in areas where they are most socially needed, providing human guidance instead of relying exclusively on an unseen, supernatural and inhuman market force.

Full employment needs to be accompanied by a substantial increase in the minimum wage, and a bill that would do that while also closing the income gap between CEOs and their lowest paid workers currently exists. Rep. Martin Sabo of Minnesota and 12 co-sponsors support raising the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, thereby ending the shameful category of working poor. The evidence does not support those who insist that such an increase would hurt business and cost jobs. Big firms like McDonalds and Wal-Mart, which rely on cheap labor, already pay more than the minimum wage to their help, and sales of burgers and barbecues don't seem to be slipping.

Smaller firms might initially suffer from a minimum wage increase, but they'd benefit in the long run from a better paid work force which could purchase more of their goods and services. Even the possible inflation that might result wouldn't be so bad, since debtors benefit from inflation, while creditors and investors can well afford to absorb the brief cost such inflation might bring. In case you hadn't noticed, the great majority of citizens are debtors. And the CEOs whose outrageous salaries would be controlled by this same bill are part of the minority creditor population. Sabo's bill, HR 620 deserves support, and with congressional changes in the next two to four years, it could become reality.

These are only two of the many proposed bills in Congress that would create a new form of government, one that would act as servant to the majority, rather than paid lackey to a wealthy minority. Before angry citizens are further swayed by alleged budget slashers and red tape destroyers whose rhetoric masks their subservience to wealth, they should heed the voices being raised for real change. Since both these measures are not addressing special categories or interest groups, they would benefit all, especially those who suffer most, and help end the tragedy of balkanized and divisive minority group politics. The only minority worthy of citizen concern is the one at the top of society. Stay tuned.