Monday, December 16, 2013

Divided We Fall

All those in the American lower and middle classes, know this: Your federal government is your only hope for a decent future. It is your only recourse against an increasingly abusive and rapacious hyper-Capitalist economy. It is your only hope for reducing income inequality that is reaching banana-republic levels. It your only hope, albeit a long one, for achieving true justice and equality of opportunity in the United States of America.Forget state and local governments. They have very little political power and limited financial resources. They are staffed with second-tier politicians and policy officials, who often work only part time. As impotent and corrupt as the federal government is, state and locals are worse.Throughout US history, it has mostly been the federal government that carried out the progressive reforms to create a strong middle class and unprecedented prosperity.

Supporting any movement, measure, or politician that advocates for weakening, shrinking, or reducing the federal government is suicidal for you and your fellow middle class Americans. Similarly, any initiative to transfer spending, power, or program management to a state government is purely an attempt to weaken the program, and thus justice and opportunity for the middle and lower class. "Giving power back to the states" has only ever been an excuse to thwart progress and justice. It was the go-to line for slaveholders, and it is the go-to line of modern conservatives, who hate the idea of an activist federal government that improves the lives of the majority of its citizens (ever heard of "divide and conquer?") More fragmentation and division is not the answer to an increasingly complex and competitive world.

The federal government has been, and will be the only way for the vast majority of the country to establish and maintain a decent standard of living. It is the only bulwark against total domination by, and servitude toward, the richest 10% of the country. Progressives in the 30's and 40's, and later in the 60's and 70's, rightfully focused their energies on Washington, with powerful results. If 21st century progressives want to succeed, we must pursue a similar strategy. As comforting as it may be, we cannot just retreat into our local blue state or big city enclaves to make piecemeal reforms.Our country as whole is suffering, and our country as a whole needs our help.

Of course, federal initiatives are never perfect, and they always have flaws, sometimes enormous ones. As economist Dean Baker regularly writes, many federal initiatives actually serve to make inequality and injustice worse. Federal officials are often incompetent and corrupt, but this doesn't mean that the whole federal government should be thrown out! To the contrary, we the middle class have an enormous stake in a strong, efficient, and functioning federal government. WE own it, and WE have to start acting like it, otherwise someone else will. And that someone is large corporations, their media machines, and their corporate lobbyists.