The Coastal Post - January, 1996

Walk The Talk

BY FRANK SCOTT

1996 is an election year, so be prepared for an outburst of toxic political gas that will further pollute our intellectual environment. It seems possible that the corporate Republican rush back to the 18th century will be stalled, and that corporate Democrats may once again prevail. Thus we may have some space to breathe, think and ultimately act.

But nothing will really change as long as power remains in the hands of capital's representatives of the extreme right or the extreme center. What passes for the left in this country would be laughed out of the room in most European nations, where capitalism is at least addressed, if not confronted. Here, the C-word inspires reverence, ignorance or complete silence.

The sad truth is that most Americans are working more and earning less. While immigration, crime and other social realities are cited as the cause of this situation, they are all really the affects of a widening gap between a wealthy minority at the top that is rarely discussed, but which must be bridged. Fat chance, as long as that wealthy minority continues to buy Congress, the Presidency and major media, using these institutions to peddle its principle of self-perpetuation, which is: All citizens must rely on themselves for survival while capital will rely on all citizens for its profits.

And so we have the investor-minority's global economy creating a layer of garbage deep enough to bury the entire planet in several feet of muck, while the worker-majority must come up with the tax dollars to clean up the mess before it buries them. The forces of individualism are tearing us apart, but the public sector is awful—except when it has to pick up the pieces of reality that has been shattered by those forces. Ah, the magic of the market! Makes you want to throw up your hands, shout hallelujah and run out and buy something.

Of course, the recent holiday credit-buying frenzy has already raised our debt to new epic proportions, so a wise citizen might just settle for throwing up the hands and shouting, though "hallelujah" might not be the most appropriate epithet. And cursing politicians or corporations won't do much good either, though it might vent anger at a reasonable target instead of an innocent victim. There are better things for anxious citizens to do this election year, even if there aren't many politicians provoking them to take serious action. Whether particular candidates offer hope or not, we must ultimately create substantial changes, since the stop-gap measures that will result in 1996 won't amount to much, and the fire next time may be all consuming.

New social priorities

These are just a few of the things that would help create such change:

• In order to bring minority capital under majority control, we need campaign finance reform that takes money out of politics, and gets rid of the massive industry of pollsters and advertisers who are to democracy what a pimp is to romance.

• We need a minimum wage increase to a point high enough to enable worker survival on a 20-hour a week job. That way a two-worker family could have time to share child-care responsibilities, and a much shorter work week is the only way we can ever have full employment.

• It's also time to think about a maximum wage limit, to end the obscene 150-1 ratios in pay that our executives have over their workers.

• And of course, national health insurance that covers every citizen, is socially controlled, allows free choice of practitioners and ends the private insurance scam that wastes billions of dollars a year on everything but health care.

• As further insurance for the national health, we should ban smoking in public, since smoking-related disease kills more people than AIDs, gunshots and auto accidents combined.

• We'd all benefit from a freeze on income taxes for the 80% of Americans who are either standing still or earning less than in the past; a tax on wealth for the top percentile that is literally stealing billions from the public without such a tax; the closing of all corporate tax loopholes; an end to the interest deduction on homes and properties valued at more than a million dollars, and on any homes other than a family's first; and felony convictions for those traitors who stash their cash in off-shore banks to avoid their legal tax responsibilities.

• We ought to improve the natural environment by practicing Environmental Economics which treat people as a part of nature, and nature as something more important than a source for short-term financial gain. That calls for ending the massive subsidy to the oil and gas lobby and single-occupant auto transit, and initiating environmental controls with a view of the total picture, not just the scenery a few can afford to gaze at while driving.

Ideas like these put into action could help transform our government, our economy and our society into institutional forces that put people first, not merely in words, but in deeds. We need new social priorities that make humanity more important than hysterical materialism, and never put profit before the common good, but rather use profit to serve the common good. 1996 is a good a year to start acting on our ideals, instead of just paying them lip service. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and it's time to start walking. Happy New Year!