AlyoshaKaramazov recently suggested that we talk about what progressives are for, not just what we're against. Well, for one thing, we're for a healthy economy. And contrary to what the GOP has worked hard to make seem like common knowledge, progressive economics is good for the economy.
In his movie "Inequality for All", I think Robert Reich shows us the economic "big picture". Meteor Blades reviewed this movie before, but I think many of us are progressives because it "just feels right," and understanding the economic argument for progressive politics is a very powerful tool that often eludes us, and an argument we fail to make or make effectively. I think Reich simplifies this for us with his economic "Virtuous Cycle," the reverse of which is shown in Meteor Blades' diary. ...
Going by memory, the cycle, which is predicated on the fact that the US economy is mostly driven by consumer spending, is:
Increasing wages -> Increased Economic Activity -> More Jobs -> More Tax Revenue -> More Investment in Education and Infrastructure -> Higher Quality Jobs -> [the cycle repeats].
These are all things that progressives work for, and the cycle shows us how they work together to create a better economy and better lives for all of us. So, what does that mean, policy-wise?
- We're for increasing the minimum wage, and we support unions.
- We're for progressive tax rates. (The rich don't spend most of their money)
- We're for public investment in education and infrastructure, and informed and wise, future-looking choices in how this money is spent
The film does not hit you over the head with "the solution," but it seeded a bunch of ideas that keep coming back to me. For example:
- Only 3% of the manufacturing cost of an iPhone goes to China. The US gets 6% Germany gets something like 31%. Germany, with union membership on every corporate board, "socialized health care", etc. Shouldn't we be able to do what they do? Could they have better investment in education and infrastructure?
- The guy making $1B a year points out he only needs to buy one pillow, and a pair or two of jeans. He's investing most of his money rather than spending it. The middle class are the real "job creators", the big "economic engine" of the US, and we've been steadily "defunding" the middle class.
- The graph of income inequality has very interesting correlations to economic cycles, drops in union membership and wages, tax cuts on the most wealthy, etc.
- The times when our economy did best were the times when we all worked together, had high tax rates on the most wealthy, invested in education and infrastructure, had strong unions and higher minimum wages. (And I'd just add that conservative politics has been essentially a frontal attack on all of these fronts.
Meteor Blades says that most of us already know this stuff, and he's right. But I think progressives are really bad at saying "our economic policies really are better for the economy". The GOP beats us up for being do-gooders, which arguably we are. But the ability to argue that our policies really lead to a healthier economy lets us undermine what they claim is their fundamental value. (I'm thinking particularly of the "social liberal but economic conservative" types as good targets for this argument.)
Incidentally, Reich is very humorous, and the film has a couple very touching moments. I highly recommend it.