The Republican Party claims to be many things, but redistributionist is not one of them. If you listen to their spokespeople, redistributing wealth is anathema; it's un-American! Worst still, it reeks of class warfare!
Regularly they decry even the most modest measures proposed by Democrats and their allies that would shift the wealth even a tad from the rich to working and poor people.
But in fact, the Republicans' policies are redistributionist to the extreme.
Successive Republican administrations over the past three decades have turned the government into a mechanism to ruthlessly redistribute wealth to the upper crust at the expense of nearly every other section of the population.
The current crop of Republicans is no different, except that their policies at the federal and state level are, if you can believe it, more uniformly and ruthlessly redistributionist.
While insisting, in the name of fiscal austerity, that funding for people's needs be slashed to the bone or eliminated, they are at the same time falling over themselves to cut taxes on the richest families and corporations, weaken business regulations, throw money at the military and energy industries, protect big banks and bondholders, eliminate collective bargaining for workers, and hand every social institution - from educating the young to retirement security for the old - over to private profiteers.
To rationalize this class war from above - and that is what it is - the GOP elders drag out some discredited economists to argue in solemn tones that channeling billions of unearned income to the few while everybody else tightens their belts is the only surefire way to grow a stagnant economy and create jobs.
But the evidence for that is thin to none. Even as the richest 1 percent have increased their wealth hand over fist due to the Republican redistributionist policies, albeit with an assist from Democrats, economic growth is anemic, about one in six Americans remains jobless, foreclosures continue to rise, and wages are stagnant. Other countries that are enacting similar policies - Ireland, Britain, Portugal, Spain, Greece - are in the same mess.
The way out of this mess won't be easy, but one thing we know for sure. It won't happen without redistributing income in a downward direction, that is, into the paychecks and pocketbooks of working people. And there are some easy ways to do it:
- Extend unemployment benefits to the jobless from the date they become unemployed until the date they are rehired.
- Provide unemployment benefits to first-time job seekers.
- Increase the minimum wage.
- Launch a public works jobs and infrastructure program complete with union wages and benefits.
- Create jobs in the hardest hit cities and neighborhoods.
- Pass the Employee Free Choice Act thereby making it easier for workers to join unions.
- Increase Social Security benefits.
- Declare a national moratorium on home foreclosures and provide emergency relief to homeowners.
- Pay for the above by shifting the tax burden to the wealthiest families and corporations and closing all tax loopholes, and by cutting the military budget and redirecting the money to peacetime uses.
I could list other measures, but even the enactment of these would go a long way to redistribute income in a progressive direction.
Such measures would be not only good for working people, but also good for government finances and the overall economy.
The political mood in the nation's capital for the moment isn't conducive to these progressive changes that are needed for real solutions to our economic woes. But the elections next year offer an opportunity to decisively defeat the right - and in so doing weaken the capitalist class as a whole and create the political space for the labor-led people's movement to go on the offensive, to enact a people's redistributionist program of this kind.
Thus, it is not too early to begin to lay the groundwork for a people's landslide victory in 2012.
Photo: Rally to Save the American Dream at US Bank Plaza, Minneapolis, March 15, 2011. Fibonacci Blue CC 2.0