Monday, October 03, 2011
Guest Blog: 2012 Presents A Real Opportunity for Democrats To Propose Plausible, Progressive Economic Alternatives
This is a guest blog by Alexander J. Cotoia, a paralegal with Holt Mynatt Martinez, P.C. in Las Cruces and a member of the Democratic Party State Central Committee from Dona Ana County. He previously sought the Democratic nomination for the District 7 seat on the Public Education Commission.
As a member of the Democratic Party State Central Committee, I’m often asked to defend the actions, or increasingly, inactions of my Democratic compatriots. My answer to critics is that I’m a progressive first and a Democrat second.
This distinction highlights an important problem with the current crop of Democratic politicians in Washington, with a few notable exceptions. Progressives are tired of the liberal lethargy that seemed to characterize the first few years of this presidential administration where the thirst for legislative victory too often meant sacrificed principles and lost opportunities. Neither the President nor his Democratic allies in Congress can afford to perpetuate this trend.
As Democrats we shouldn’t and can’t be afraid to illustrate what’s at stake. An increasing concentration of wealth at the top and diminishing incomes for the rest of us mean economic stagnation. It doesn’t take a Nobel laureate to know that more tax relief for those at the top of the socioeconomic strata won’t remediate the real problem—a failure of consumer confidence and aggregate demand. In an economy driven by consumption, accounting for nearly 60% of all economic activity, it’s a fool’s errand to believe that corporate profits can soar as consumer confidences collapses.
Nothing short of a radical reorientation of our economic paradigm is required. The fixation with less government and lower taxes, while a popular political refrain, ignores the reality that trickle-down tactics simply haven’t worked. If anything, the Bush-era policies have contributed to widening inequality and exacerbated a seemingly intractable deficit debacle. Rather than stimulate economic growth, these generous giveaways have widened the chasm between the poor and the rich. They have also robbed the American people of the ability to redress our budgetary woes with a balanced approach to both revenue and expenditures.
No Retreat From Sensible Solutions
2012 presents Democrats with a real opportunity to address these and other problems with plausible, progressive alternatives. The timidity of the Tea Party and the GOP’s draconian dogma simply aren’t real replacements for sensible solutions; solutions like expanding the earned income tax credit for middle class workers, or as former Labor Secretary Bob Reich has proposed, imposing higher marginal rates on the wealthy and eliminating the distinction between capital gains and ordinary income to partially fund wage supplements for cash-strapped workers. These proposals and others would have the effect of reconstituting a ragged middle class and eliminate a perversity of our tax system that unfairly penalizes the poor and rewards the rich.
Progressives must also stand against calls to dramatically reduce or scale back our investment in public infrastructure. While conservatives love to rail against profligate spending and a burgeoning bureaucracy, non-defense discretionary spending is at a historic low, and the government’s contribution to research and development as a percentage of GDP in 2009 stood at a meager .08%. These are hardly positive attributes in our current economic climate, when history shows that public investment is an indispensable ingredient in fostering a full and robust recovery.
2012 is not a time for progressives to retreat from their principles. It’s a time for Democratic politicians to give Americans a real alternative. As a Democrat, I’ll continue to support principled progressives who share my belief that a return to President Clinton’s philosophy of “opportunity for all, responsibility from all, in a community of all Americans,” is the best recipe for national unity and shared prosperity.
This is a guest blog by Alexander J. Cotoia. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.
Your ideas would carry more impact if you stop referring to "the poor". The poor have been demonized effectively by the Right like it or not. The moment you mention "the poor", most people stop listening. It would be more true and accurate to refer to the working people. People who work. Workers, producers, people that make stuff and make stuff happen. This is the essential population that keeps our civilization afloat. Workers and unemployed workers are the ones not making it in this top heavy economy. They are not "the poor", they are us, the 99% er's. They are actually educated and skilled living on the edge and fearful for their children. They are the actual producers that sustain our civilization that deserve a dignified living wage that covers hope for the future. It is the middle class that is suffering now.
The poor will always be with us and we have to take care of them, but our economy has really gone haywired. We cannot sustain this crazy living on the edge and hopeless.
Posted by: qofdisks | Oct 3, 2011 11:06:01 AM
I disagree. I think we need to take back the phrase "the poor" and also the word "poverty." Like the word "liberal", these have been used and abused by the right wingers so much that we seem afraid to use them. Big mistake. Poverty rates have skyrocketed in the last 10 years while support networks have weakened. Of course workers and the middle classes have also been suffering but those living in poverty are in risk of dying every day. Don't be afraid to speak the truth!
Posted by: jelson | Oct 3, 2011 1:02:55 PM
Mr. Cotoia had me until the end, when he claims we need more of a Clintonian approach, which is pegged as a progressive one. Just the opposite in fact. We have Clinton to thank for getting rid of Glass-Steagall, which unleashed the deregulated greedy ways of financial giants and banks. He was all gung ho about the telecommunications bill that gave away the store to corporate media interests. He knowlngly helped create the bulging dot com bubble economy that soon burst and helped give us the mess we have now. Clinton was also chief cheerleader for NAFTA and "free" trade that would create millions of jobs in the US. A little problem with how that worked out!
Posted by: Clinton Not | Oct 3, 2011 2:19:17 PM
I was really glad to see Mr. Cotoia offering to contribute to the dialogue here. I think the quote that was attributed to Clinton is really more of a popular T Shirt slogan.
It certainly stands against the profound selfishness that the Republicans are promoting.
Posted by: Stuart Heady | Oct 4, 2011 8:36:31 PM