We're on the cusp of the 2012 election. What will
it be about? It seems reasonably certain President Obama will be
confronted by a putative Republican candidate who:
Believes corporations are people, wants to cut the top corporate rate
to 25% (from the current 35%) and no longer require they pay tax on
foreign income, who will eliminate capital gains and dividend taxes on
anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, raise the retirement age for
Social Security and turn Medicaid into block grants to states, seek a
balanced-budged amendment to the Constitution, require any regulatory
agency issuing a new regulation repeal another regulation of equal cost
(regardless of the benefits), and seek repeal of Obama's healthcare
Or one who:
Believes the Federal Reserve is treasonous when it expands the money
supply, doubts human beings evolved from more primitive forms of life,
seeks to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and shift most public
services to the states, thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, while
governor took a meat axe to public education and presided over an
economy that generated large numbers of near-minimum-wage jobs, and who
will shut down most federal regulatory agencies, cut corporate taxes,
and seek repeal of Obama's healthcare plan.
Whether it's Romney or Perry, he's sure to attack everything Obama
has done or proposed. And Obama, for his part, will have to defend his
positions and look for ways to counterpunch.
Hence, the parameters of public debate for the next fourteen months.
Within these narrow confines progressive ideas won't get an airing.
Even though poverty and unemployment will almost surely stay sky-high,
wages will stagnate or continue to fall, inequality will widen, and
deficit hawks will create an indelible (and false) impression that the
nation can't afford to do much about any of it -- proposals to reverse
these trends are unlikely to be heard.
Neither party's presidential candidate will propose to tame CEO pay,
create more tax brackets at the top and raise the highest marginal rates
back to their levels in the 1950s and 1960s (that is, 70 to 90
percent), and match the capital-gains rate with ordinary income.
You won't hear a call to strengthen labor unions and increase the bargaining power of ordinary workers.
Don't expect an argument for resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act,
thereby separating commercial from investment banking and stopping Wall
Street's most lucrative and dangerous practices.
You won't hear there's no reason to cut Medicare and Medicaid -- that a
better means of taming health-care costs is to use these programs'
bargaining clout with drug companies and hospitals to obtain better
deals and to shift from fee-for-services to fee for healthy outcomes.
Nor will you hear why we must move toward Medicare for all.
Nor why the best approach to assuring Social Security's long-term
solvency is to lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security
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Don't expect any reference to the absurdity of spending more on the
military than do all other countries put together, and the waste and
futility of an unending and undeclared war against Islamic extremism --
especially when we have so much to do at home.
Nor are you likely to hear proposals for ending the corruption of our democracy by big money.
Although proposals like these are more important and relevant than
ever, they won't be part of the upcoming presidential election.