2012 is not a time for progressives to retreat
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, when 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 percent 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.
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 eliminating 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 0.08 percent. 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.
Cotoia is a paralegal with Holt Mynatt Martinez, P.C. in Las Cruces and a member of the Democratic Party State Central Committee from Doña Ana County. He previously sought the Democratic nomination for the District 7 seat on the Public Education Commission.
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