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A recipe for the future from the past: Pan Metron Ariston

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"Pan Metron Ariston" was a common expression in ancient Greece which translates as "all good things in moderation."  Coupled with Santayana's "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," both expressions are exceedingly relevant to our so-called "modern" times.  Looking towards the future, we are wise to remember the wisdom of the ancient phrase, and develop a strategy of governance that integrates its tenets.

As we watch the Republican campaign collapse like a house of cards, its unstable alliance of neo-cons, libertarians, and Christianists disintegrating in the gale of the economic crisis, we are once again promised an alternative in the Democratic ticket.  To save us from the abyss, from John McCain's implosion and Sarah Palin's end times, should we elect Obama/Biden?  Of course.  But, we need to recognize that, at best, Obama will bring us back to the status quo of the Clinton years, and avoid any substantive and needed change in our system of government.  A relief that doesn't truly relieve the basic flaws in our system of government.

So, after Obama/Biden are elected, what should be our next steps?

First, just as the LGBTI movement has reclaimed the word "queer," we need to reclaim the banner of "socialism."  Americans have been intentionally taught to abhor the term as much as they do "communism."  And the recent identification of bailouts for the rich as corporate socialism has enhanced the pejorative connotation.  But socialism is defined as "a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole."  Socialism returns ownership and control of the fruits of our labor to us, the "hoi polloi."  Socialism implies civic cooperation, responsibility, and control; but, it also embraces diversity in a community.  Diversity of culture, but also of ambition, contributions, and rewards.  Unlike communism, which is often sabotaged even in its ideal form (as opposed to its Soviet proto-fascist form), by human nature; socialism provides incentives to motivate productivity and caps to limit power and greed.  That "moderate" solution to the devastation wreaked by unbridled capitalism and the oppression of monolithic communism would preserve the founding tenets of our country and promote improved social functioning, i.e. a better life for those of us in the bottom 99%.

How would such a system look in the United States? Some options are itemized below:

Habeas Corpus and Posse Comitatus would be fully reinstated. 

  • There would be a universal minimum wage that would truly be a living wage.  A worker at the basic wage working 40 hours a week would be able to purchase a small home, food, and a means of transportation on the basic salary.  Government would promote domestic job creation to minimize the unemployment rate and prevent global outsourcing via laws, fines, and tariffs on imports.
  • There would be universal income and salary caps that would be X times the minimum wage.  A figure of X=20 may be a reasonable scale that would stimulate and motivate entrepreneurial productivity without encouraging greed or executive welfare.
  • Taxation would be progressive, starting at zero for minimum wage to 100% over the income caps.  Arguments that the wealthy would move on from the US are unconvincing.  Many would remain in a society where they would still be at the top of even a lower pay scale--to the others we can actively say "good riddance."  Most have built their parasitic wealth not from their own efforts and abilities, but on the backs of workers.  New, capable, moderate leaders will arise.
  • There would be universal health care, not for profit.  Providers of the care would be salaried and given professional school loan forgiveness.  Any revenues from health care would be redistributed into the provision of health care and not removed from the equation as profit for insurance company stockholders and other profiteers.  Funding of this health care would be provided through progressive taxation AND a re-allocation of defense spending domestically.  Additional insurance could be electively purchased privately, but providers working in the single payer health system would not be allowed to "double dip." 
  • Social Security would be expanded to provide a secure, portable pension for all citizens and permanent residents.  Funding would come from abolition of the tax cap for Social Security and through progressive taxation.  Individual retirement plans could augment Social Security, but not serve as a hidden draft for unknowing victims of Wall Street's Ponzi schemes.
  • Ponzi scheme fraudsters at any level would be prosecuted and convicted.  Their punishment--not 2 years in a country club prison while their offshore assets continue to grow, but enormous fines that essentially absorb all of their assets and return them to the victims they have swindled.  Then, a long sentence of community service to be fulfilled among the least fortunate of our population.
  • The airwaves, spacewaves, and cablewaves would be regulated to the extent that all licensees will provide designated forums for political discourse of all perspectives--free of charge as a condition of licensing.  This could be done via identified segments on news programs or through an hour each evening for such programming.  Appearance on these political "open mikes" would be contingent not on funding, but on the collection of a designated number of signatures of support.
  • Campaign donations and use of personal funds for campaigns would be outlawed.  Currently, only the rich and the bought can truly run for office.  And they vote to repay their sponsors--not the voters.  Instead, a designated number of voter signatures would determine which candidates would be considered for each level of a campaign, and a series of national primaries would winnow down the candidates to the finalists.  Free advertising on the airwaves as above would be provided to all candidates and a set reimbursement for expenses for each finalist would be provided via a $1 tax on all taxpayers.  The Electoral College would be abolished and replaced with a one person-one vote system which is paper-based and audited fully post election. 
  • Positive aspects of parliamentary systems would be considered.  Multiple parties should be advocated, and the selection of a leader should be able to be influenced by a coalition.  This process allows for a more mediated and moderated system of government with executive "checks and balances."  The possibility of recalling a President by the voters should also be on the table--either through the process of impeachment if Congress is now responsive to voter input, or through a direct voted recall.
  • Wars for profit would be outlawed.  No profits would be allowed to the "military-industrial complex" from the provision of defense needs and supplies. Strict oversight of this function would include criminal penalties for violation.  All defense contracts would be handled through a transparent open bidding process and only be funded to cover externally monitored costs of providing the service.  If military action is needed, it would be authorized only by Congress after voter approval. Action should be considered only in conjunction with an alliance of democratic countries operating under altruistic and not capitalistic principles.  The funds saved from this change in policy would be allocated to education, health care, and infrastructure.
  • Free speech would be encouraged, civil rights defended, and the right to privacy respected. Separation of church, temple, mosque, or other house of worship and state would be absolute.  Government's role would be to ensure that all citizens and permanent residents have a safety net for basic needs--food, health care, housing, education, disability services, safety, and retirement.  Personal issues that do not impact others such as recreational drug use, consensual sexual activities, religious activity or its absence, would not be within the purview of the government but remain issues of individual choice.
  • A government commitment to subsidize climate-protective alternative energy sources that will lead to a complete independence from oil and its robber barons and speculators within 25 years is critical.  Energy, utilities, and infrastructure should be under the strict supervision of the government--and also not for profit.
  • Profit-based ventures?  Anything that isn't critical to safe, stable life.  Anything that can reasonably be called "a choice".  Luxury cars and boats, furniture, clothing, entertainment, tourism, etc,"
  • But, profits should be capped at 25% of gross revenues. Anything over that amount should be taxed at 100%. Money that makes money--capital gains--should be taxed progressively and capped as well.  Finally, inheritance taxes should be imposed at 100% on any inheritance over a set amount--perhaps as low as $1 million.
  • Finally, the issue of immigration would be addressed with other countries at a global forum. Without corporate incentives that promote the utilization of expanded numbers of low-wage workers to enhance profits, immigration flow would be moderated and could be handled through a legal process of permanent residency to maintain and encourage our country's diversity and energy.

These options embody the principle of moderation that would return America to a fair and balanced life of moderate socialism.  Moderate government by the people for the people, avoiding the abuses of both the Soviet left and the Prescott Bush right. The last 8 years have seen the devastation wrought by the excesses of the unregulated wealthy.  It is time for us "hoi polloi" to put this country on a free market diet, and fight to regain our own freedom once again.  Class warfare? Yes, indeed, you betcha.  Or, as ancient wisdom so well put it, "Enough!"  "Pan Metron Ariston".


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Jill Jackson is a practitioner of kindness and common sense. Unlike her cat, she prefers to think out of the box.

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