Sunday, March 27, 2011

Creating more liberals to build our base

To raise our standard of living and create higher wages and benefits for regular people requires a larger base of Americans believing that we should raise our standard of living and create higher wages and benefits for regular people. Our base is not large enough to do so today on an ongoing basis. One particularly important task, then, is to create more liberals out of the millions of 18 year olds, newly naturlized citizens and persuadable Americans that emerge every year.

There aren't many institutions that focus on what it takes to convince someone to self-identify as a liberal. The Democratic Party doesn't, as the Party rightly focuses on convincing Americans to self-identify as Democrats. The people running the party are delighted if conservatives elect Democrats and delighted if conservative Democrats are elected. If that means those conservative Democrats don't support the progressive agenda, well, too bad for the liberals. Better to elect a conservative Democrat than a Republican. After all, if there were more progressive voters in that district, the representative would likely be more progressive.

Self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals in every state in the Union, according to Gallup. This is a problem for progressives, as governments reflect the views of the people who elect them.

We need to figure out how to grow the number of self-identified liberals and then we need to figure out who will actually do that work. I suspect that education has a lot to do with liberal self-identification, so potentially funding a lot more scholarships for students can help. I imagine that the general idea of antipathy towards the government needs to be overcome (polls show that particular government programs like Medicare or Pell grants are far more popular than the term 'government spending') so a direct mail campaign to swing voters explaining that these popular government programs are, in fact, government spending of the type liberals advocate for might be helpful. I find an historical context helps explain the direct connection between a person's standard of living and the progressive triumphs of the New Deal and the Great Society and, more recently, the Affordable Health Care Act, so developing and distributing more movies, television shows, books and web videos that explain how liberal policies make people's lives better would help.

There are literally tens of millions of potential liberals in our country who could be convinced to self-identify and then vote as a liberal. They are waiting for us to reach them with the right essay contest or movie or internship or free magazine or infomercial or Google ad or book that shows up unexpectedly one day to grab their attention and change their mind. And it's all tax deductible to the investor who funds the work! Who else wants to get to work?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour reminds us to widen our horizon globally for progressive advocacy

Today is the day for Earth Hour when people turn off the lights from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time to raise awareness of the need to confront global warming - an idea dreamed up only six years ago by Australians looking to raise awareness about climate change and now the largest single action taken by the people of the world to advance a political cause. There will likely be close to half a billion people participating or made aware of Earth Hour today in almost every nation on earth.

What I really like about Earth Hour is the reminder that our electorate is really global and our ability to successfully wage advocacy campaigns does not end at our national borders. While I prefer to focus on state and local governments to implement the progressive agenda, largely because they are run by Democrats who are far more sympathetic to the agenda than the opposition, the prerequisite work to build consensus among citizens before their representatives are ready to implement an improvement can occur everywhere, both in Republican-majority states in the US and in nations without basic democracy. It is just as important that the average Chinese citizen (who doesn't vote for her government) comes to see global warming as an economic threat as it is for the average American citizen (who does) in order to forge a binding global agreement on reducing pollution.

When I turn off the lights and sit in candlelight tonight, I'll do so not only to remember the need to modernize our economy to emit far less pollution, but I'll do so as part of global solidarity with the other tens of millions of progressive advocates who similarly work to build consensus for a higher standard of living for all. And I'll be thinking about what sort of similarly effective campaigns my clients can launch or participate in to change the minds of everyday people in order to hasten the day when we implement their particular part of the progressive agenda.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Political opportunity for the wealthy to support higher federal income taxes on multi-millionaires

This is a great opportunity for wealthy Americans to build support for a middle class country.

The middle class is shrinking as the wealthy, particularly the very wealthy, are getting increasingly richer.

We don't tax high incomes much at all. The consequence of relatively low tax rate on high income when most of the income growth is for the very rich is that governments are broke. And when governments are broke, the investments that make a middle class and allow for upward mobility (good public education, health care, public sector jobs) wither, shrinking the middle class with it.

Most public school districts are firing teachers this year.

Most states are firing social workers who take care of disabled people or people with drug addictions.

Most public transportation districts are raising fares and cutting back on service.

Most public colleges are raising tuition and cutting classes.

This takes money out of the pockets of the middle class and makes us poorer.

The best way to fix this is to raise taxes on people who are making millions of dollars and use that money to make public transportation more affordable, keep public libraries open longer, hire more teachers in the public schools and dozens of other state and local government investments that make the middle class better off.

But right now, in the face of united Republican opposition to raising taxes on wealthy people, Washington has taken high income tax cuts off the table for the next 18 months.

This month, several U.S. Representatives just put higher taxes for millionaires and billionaires to pay for a middle class back on the table.

Here is a video of Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky talking about why the wealthiest Americans should pay more for the good of their country.

This is a great opportunity for some progressive wealthy people to define the debate on tax fairness for the next year.

When wealthy people make the point that those who earn more than ten million dollars a year can afford to pay a higher tax rate on the income above $300,000, it is uniquely compelling, because the faint aura of class envy doesn't exist as when a poorer person makes the same point.

Plus, the notion of solidarity, so central to a stronger consensus on the necessary taxpayer investment in our economic growth, is engendered when the wealthy who will pay more call for a higher tax rate on high incomes in order to benefit other Americans.

As the Senate Democrats and House Republicans in Washington march towards an inevitable budget clash this spring, a stronger call by wealthy Americans to raise more revenue from the people who are enjoying their best years and can thus afford higher taxes would resonate. This call should especially be directed in a campaign to purple parts of the country to help shape popular perception of whether the Bush tax cuts should be repealed in 2013, as President Obama will campaign for in his re-election effort and the Republica nominee will campaign against. The more we can convince Americans in swing states to embrace higher taxes for high incomes, the better the electoral terrain for President Obama and the Democratic Party 19 months from now.

We can't expect President Obama to convince the nation on his own to do the right thing. Wealthy Americans who understand the economic and moral imperative of fair taxes on high income have an opportunity and obligation to convince millions of Americans in 2011 to support the policy, both to help win the budget battle this year and to win the federal election in 2012.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

America is not broke - Michael Moore speaks in Madison yesterday

America is not broke. We are the wealthiest nation on earth.

The problem is that the super rich have almost half the wealth. That leaves the rest of us with less. And now, since the super-rich are hoarding half the wealth, they want all the rest of us to settle for less. We should pay more for for-profit health insurance companies' products and end up with less care. We should pay more for college and go deeper into debt. We should go without pensions and work longer into our 60s, 70s and 80s. And we should pay higher taxes, because we can not ever raise taxes on the wealthy.

Michael Moore visited Madison, Wisconsin where, because of 14 Democratic State Senators who refused to participate in the Republicans' attempt to steamroll their anti-middle-class agenda through the legislature, the people have ground their legislative process to a halt. He gave a great speech to tens of thousands of ordinary citizens who have demanded that we grow the middle class, and we shoot down the lie that our country is broke. The truth is that our country is wealthy. We just won't demand that the super-rich who have all the wealth spend it on all the rest of us. Fortunately, that is changing.

Here it is:

Friday, March 04, 2011

This is what politics is about: teachers versus bankers.

Jon Stewart nails it.

Remember, politics is ultimately about money, and we are living in the era of the Robber Barons where income inequality is at its most severe since the 1920s.

Why are our governments broke? Largely because we don't tax wealthy people enough. And now, because we won't tax millionaires enough, we are firing tens of thousands of teachers, social service providers, cops and firefighters.

You have to pick a side. Either you vote to make the bankers wealthier or you vote to hire more teachers. Either you vote to make the middle class even poorer, by making unions weaker, or you vote to tax rich people more.

Embrace it: we want to raise taxes on rich people. Because then we have the money to spend on things that make the rest of us better off. Things like health insurance. And college tuition. And in the process of taxing rich people more, taking their money and spending it on everyone else, we make our economy stronger. That's why Democratic policies are better for the economy than Republican policies. Turns out, taxing the rich more and spending that money on everybody else means more people have money to spend -- which makes our economy strong. And when we don't tax the rich more and most people have to pay more for health insurance or college tuition or transportation, then we have all have less money to spend and the economy suffers. Makes sense, right?

You want to balance the state budgets? Repeal the federal tax cuts on rich people that the Republicans absolutely insisted on, and put all that money into state budgets.

Or we can continue to let the rich grow even richer while the rest of us get poorer. The way to finance a middle class is with higher taxes on the wealthy. No other way around it.

Here's the segment.