We need transcendent, transformative politics in this country and the world, but the mainstream paradigm remains a struggle between established power bases - one, a social democrat model as epitomized in Scandinavian models and the other, a Thatcher/Reagan model of social darwinism wearing a mantle of trickle down, supply-side economics. There is no question that I prefer the social democrat model, but I think neither model is particularly well-suited to the challenges that the planet is cranking up to deal with a species that is out of control.
Greece's experiment with austerity politics in a time of economic stagnation proves once again that pulling more money out of a economic system that has a crashing demand side will cause the economic system to slip to a lower state. It doesn't seem to matter if all of the most photogenic politicians that money can buy are spouting platitudes about "growing the economy" by reducing debt, austerity politics just don't turn stagnating economies around. You do austerity politics in good economic times, you do keynsian economics in economic downturns if you want somewhat stable economies. You also need a stable and consistent tax policy that generates the revenue needed for public services. You don't flatten taxes in boom times because you will need the accumulated revenue when the boom times go... well... boom!
The brightest moment in the Jan 3rd meeting with Senator Fraser, Representative Hunt and Representative Reykdal came when Chris Reykdal took the opportunity to talk about the impasse that exists with generating revenue for the State. Reykdal had campaigned for election to the legislature on tax fairness and he appears to be willing to make efforts on that question. Chris described the revenue proposal that he and freshman Senator David Frockt will be putting on the table.
Reykdal and Frockt's proposal will eliminate the State business and occupation tax (B&0). This element of the proposal is expected to be attractive to the republicans. According to Reykdal, republicans really hate the B&O tax. I will take him at his word on that, but I haven't been able to identify any tax that our current generation of republicans don't hate. I guess there is some reason to believe that republicans prefer regressive taxes like sales tax that are paid disproportionately by middle and low income citizens.
Senator Fraser, Representative Hunt and Representative Reykdal all spoke on January 3rd about the "big achievement" of the recent Special Session that was able to cut 480 million dollars to reduce the budget deficit, about 25% of the amount that it is assumed will need to be cut. There was some sense of dread about the next step - the process of cutting another 1.5 billion from the State budget - that is going to be front and center in the Regular Session that starts on January 8th. And there should be some dread about that.
This group of legislators does seem to have gotten and absorbed the message that this next round of cuts will contribute to the death of some folks in the most needy, most disabled segments of the State population and they appeared to be rightfully horrified about moving from legislative death of a thousand cuts to an actual headcount of citizens who will need to be buried in the coming biennium as a result of legislative action.
I attended a meeting with the Thurston County legislators on Jan 3rd. The three legislators are not firebrands, but as a group, representing a community, they (Reykdal, Hunt, Fraser) are probably about as liberal a group as any one community could send to Olympia to develop Washington State public policy, but there is the problem: they don't seem to see how they can really develop public policy at the legislature. The meeting was organized and facilitated by Molly Gibbs, friend and organizer in the Move to Amend organization. Molly's energy is a local treasure.
This is my second meeting with this legislative group. We (a bunch of leftist activists of various stripes) met with them (minus Reykdal for that meeting) in November 2011 to discuss the Special Session. It was clear in that meeting that Senator Karen Fraser and Representative Sam Hunt are really fine people, with all of the right intentions, but without any of the street-brawler tools or impulses that are required to enact public policy in Olympia today. I did what I could in the November meeting and again yesterday to move this group off of their "poor me, poor us" frame of reference and to motivate them to enact progressive public policy, but frankly, I don't know if these folks can imagine throwing down the gauntlet and taking the fight to the other side.
"[The founding fathers] conferred, as against the Government, the right to be left alone -- the right most valued by civilized men." -- Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) US Supreme Court Justice, 1928Indeed, the right to be left alone.
I have a dream! It's not a dream on the scale of ML King Jr.'s dream and if I try to express my dream in a speech, it won't bring a lump to your throat the way that Martin's dream speech will, but if you have a full bladder in downtown Olympia after hours some day, you may share my dream of increased public access to bathrooms.
Here is the letter I sent to the Olympia City Council and to Thomas Henderson and Joyce Turner at General Administration earlier today:
Dear All: I am active with the Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget. I have been communicating with the City of Olympia for several weeks about the need to increase access to public bathrooms in downtown Olympia. In the past few weeks, I also starting communicating with GA regarding the problem of limited bathroom access in downtown Olympia. I spoke to the City Council about this problem on October 4th. The City has expressed support for the idea of increased public access, but also expressed concerns about vandalism, drug use and other inappropriate activities that arise with public bathroom access after hours and I share the City Council's concern about the challenge of having bathrooms open 24 hours per day.
We are underway in the WA State capitol city with an occupation that started back in the spring when we had a week of action to challenge the legislature to close loopholes and raise revenue instead of cutting essential services. The state has so far been unable and/or unwilling to challenge initiative-based mandates that hamstring revenue generation, but I think the occupation in Wisconsin inspired the WA activists to seize the rotunda for a day or two.
A lot has happened this year. The occupy Wall Street movement was planned from mid summer as fas as I can recall and appears to have picked up momentum. I would like to think that the oligarchs have overplayed their hand, that we have reached a national critical mass that is committed to leveling the playing field. If so, it's bad news for the millionaires, your taxes are going up, business as usual is over. We understand that the United States has the best government that money can buy, but when the people show up in the street and start practicing democracy independent of the established political parties (dumb and dumber anyone?) maybe the game has changed. God, I hope so.
A couple of quotes for the day: