"Better the occasional fault of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference" -- FDR, 1940.
Dear American Middle Class:
There is an insidious fantasy afoot in this country that you, the middle class, somehow do not have the right to make the government further your ends.
You do not need statistics or fancy analysis to know that you struggle just to maintain your standard of living, to educate your children, to afford decent healthcare and to enjoy a dignified retirement. You know from experience how that struggle was made far more difficult by the disastrous Bush administration, and the challenge it has been first to halt, then stabilize, and then slowly reverse that trend.
For nearly 40 years the right-wing has told you that it is illegitimate for you to use government to ease your struggles and improve your lives. You have been told that taxing the wealthy, or regulating industries and markets, threatens your job, and that you have no right to do it. You have been told that America can only have limited, small government and that any suggestion to extend its activities into any other sphere of economic activity is illegitimate. You have been told that taxing the top 1% of estates is a "death tax". You have been told that regulating industry to ensure safety of the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, your children's toys, the cars you drive, the buildings you live and work in, the drugs you are prescribed, and so forth, kill jobs, and that you have no right to do it. You have been told that the government providing a secure old-age pension, medical care when you become elderly, medical care for veterans and the poor, and nursing-home care when you need it are "foreign", "socialist", "european" policies alien to America's traditions. You have even been told that the First Lady championing obesity prevention is the "nanny state".
Yet, the very same people who have been telling you all that have used that very same government to transfer enormous wealth to themselves, to design trade deals that undermine your wages, to subsidize themselves for shipping your jobs overseas, to eliminate regulations that had prevented major financial collapses for half a century, to cut their own taxes, to establish loopholes that allow enormously profitable corporations to escape taxes, to delay or stop enforcing regulations, to reduce competition by approving mergers of gigantic corporations, to eliminate city and county elected officials, to abrogate contracts, and so forth. They have also enlarged the scope of government intervention in your private lives, telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, even forcing physicians to read scientifically false information to pregnant women.
They engaged in voter intimidation, invented stories about 'voter fraud', enacted measures making it more difficult to register to vote, and, for good measure, they captured the judiciary, having them overturn a century of precedent so that corporations can use unlimited resources to buy our elections. They have told you that corporations are amoral, existing only for their shareholders, and yet that they are persons that have to right to influence our elections.
When reality caught up with their fantasies and lies, and their system imploded, did they depend on the rugged individualism they insist you rely upon regardless of the consequences to you and your family to dig themselves out of the mess they created? Of course not! They rushed on bended Armani-suited knees to the same government they tell you that you cannot use to shore up your security or improve your lives, to bailout their jobs, their enterprises, and to do it with your money. They then used this period of enormous insecurity to consolidate their power even further, and to make you pay for the calamity they visited upon you.
The right-wing strategy is clear. Weaken the middle class, destroy your organizing ability, intimidate and disenfranchise voters, and, most insidiously, convince you that it is wrong and illegitimate even to attempt to use your one strength -- numbers -- to make government work for you.
Don't buy it.
You, the American middle class, have just as much right to take the reins of power and make government work for your interests as the right-wing has so successfully done for theirs. There is nothing wrong, foreign, un-American or illegitimate about it.
Indeed, it is perfectly right. It is what our system of government was designed to do. Listen to the reasons the Founders fashioned the Constitution: "to establish justice", "to provide for a common defense", "to promote the general welfare", from the Preamble to the Constitution.
Here are some things you can have government do for you to make life better for yourselves, your children and your grandchildren. Donate your time and money to, and vote ONLY for, people who will:
1. Raise tax revenues from the wealthy to reduce debt, invest in the future;
2. Make corporations pay their fair share of taxes;
3. End loopholes that subsidize shipping jobs overseas;
4. Cut spending: create jobs, reduce healthcare inflation, reduce military spending.
5. Preserve social security;
6. Support a public option and/or medicare-for-all for healthcare;
7. Maintain Medicare as a guaranteed benefit for the elderly;
8. Invest in clean, domestically-produced energy;
9. Invest in upgrading/modernizing roads, bridges, rail, electric grid, and so forth;
10. Support a Constitutional Amendment declaring corporations are not people, and money is not speech;
11. Impose increasingly higher percentage capital requirements on banks as they become larger;
12. Impose a financial transactions' tax;
13. Invest in your children;
14. Preserve and enlarge our National Parks, "America's greatest idea".
You have every right to do this. And, more. You can follow Donald Trump's idea to tax accumulated wealth over $10M, and reduce the national debt that is causing so much apoplexy by 50% in a single stroke.
First, and most importantly, you need to exorcise any vestige of doubt that you have the absolute right to do this. It is in the Constitution. There is nothing illegitimate, nothing wrong, nothing un-American, nothing foreign, nothing mean-spirited, in asserting your rights and power. You are not a wimp, a wuss, or a weakling for doing it. In fact, you are all of those if you do not. Anyone would do the same for their family.
Second, ignore any claims or suggestions that you have no such right. Do not waste your mental or emotional energies defending your right to make the government work for you.Third, when they tell you that "it is not really in your interests" to do something that seems, logically, in your interests, ignore them. They are not in the least interested in you. Never forget the words of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar:
"Does anyone really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts, are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs?...They are blatantly trying to manipulate the will of the people and the public good... Their motivation is self-serving greed".This same concept applies to insurance companies that oppose the public option (or medicare-for-all), manufacturing companies that support subsidizing moving jobs overseas, or the maintenance of tax havens, and so forth.
Fourth, when you are bombarded with "information" purporting to predict indirect consequences, just support direct, straightforward actions that will help you. Remember, Ronald Reagan predictions about the dire future for America under Medicare:
The doctor begins to lose freedom... So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him, you can't live in that town. You have to go someplace else. And from here it's only a short step to dictating where he will go... All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man's working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it's a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay. And pretty soon your son won't decide, when he's in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.
For example, Medicare is a direct, straightforward program -- if you are over 65, you are guaranteed health care. Period. End of story. The American people ignored Ronald Reagan's nonsense about indirect consequences, had Medicare enacted and have enjoyed its benefits ever since. [Years later, Reagan denied opposing Medicare].
Same with social security. It is a guaranteed payment. When you reach retirement age, you get it.
Raising taxes on the wealthy increases revenues to the government, reduces deficits, enables investments. Direct, straightforward. If they try to skirt the law, nail them.
Investing in clean, domestically produced energy means people have to be employed to produce it, here at home. No overseas nonsense. Right here, in your America. And, if they tell you that if you scrap oil subsidies, you have to get rid of the others, you answer: "when solar, wind, biofuels, wave-generated electricity have had subsidies for 75 years like the oil companies have had, come talk to us".
Fifth, when they tell you that "government doesn't know how to do X or Y", say, "sure, government makes mistakes, but so does every other human institution, and at least it is trying to help the middle class". Consider your situation for the last several decades. Government that supported your interests was mercilessly attacked. The only reason your air is clean, or water remains pure, or drugs remain safe and effective, or food is safe, is that regulations and agencies already on the books were not so readily dislodged. And, the government spawned the internet, contained the bird flu, pushed the frontiers of science forward in multiple fields that spawned innovation.
But, with the war on your right to have government fulfill your interests, your income remained stagnant, or you lost your job. Healthcare costs skyrocketed, and you may have been denied coverage. The value of your home, your major asset, evaporated -- assuming you are still in it. Your retirement funds, other than social security, were wiped out. As the character Elaine said in response to Seinfeld's comment that getting married would be a big change for her, "Jerry, it's 2:30 in the morning, I'm at a cock fight. What am I hanging on to?".
Lastly, recognize that you are all in this together, that your strength is in numbers. Do not let them pit one group against another. Small farmers and urban workers, shopkeepers and public employees, your interests are aligned. When Scott Walker (R-WI) lies to you that public employees' salaries or benefits are higher than yours, do not even bother refuting it -- instead, join together to increase yours.
You have every right to make government work for you. Do it.