Sunday, July 22, 2018

The not-so-new age of Ocasio-Cortez. Is she too 'radical' for economic justice in America?

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is running for Congress to create an America that works for all of us, not just a wealthy few” quoted from her website. As you likely know, she beat her opponent, an entrenched incumbent, in the Bronx Democratic primary. CNN reported on The age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In an aside, I propose a theme song for The Age of Ocasio.

There she was, on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” just a couple of days after the vote, explaining to the host, to a country, what democratic socialism – “not an easy term for a lot of Americans,” he noted — meant to her.

“I believe,” she said, “that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live.”

Asked if she thought the party was moving too far left ahead of the midterms and 2020 presidential campaign, Duckworth said: “Well, I think that you can’t win the White House without the Midwest. And I don’t think that you can go too far to the left and still win the Midwest. Coming from a Midwestern state, I think you need to be able to talk to the industrial Midwest. You need to listen to the people there in order to win an election nationwide.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded to the headlines that followed in a tweet.

“With respect to the Senator, strong, clear advocacy for working class Americans isn’t just for the Bronx,” she wrote, listing states Sanders won in the 2016 primaries and asking: “We then lost several of those states in the general. What’s the plan to prevent a repeat?”

Ocasio-Cortez … is settling in to a remarkable new normal. Apart from [Sen. Bernie] Sanders, with whom she campaigned in Kansas on Friday for primary hopefuls James Thompson and Brett Welder ahead of the state’s August 7 vote, there might not be a more in-demand ally for this year’s slate of insurgent progressive Democrats.

“Rayne” posted this perspective at emptywheel.net, RADICAL SOCIALISM OR CLEAR-EYED REALISM?

A new commenter wrote that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ “rhetoric is pretty radical.” Ocasio’s the recent Democratic Party primary winner for House seat NY–14, unseating long-time incumbent Joe Crowley in the Bronx-Queens district.

But is Ocasio really radical? Is her Democratic Socialist platform all that far left? Looking at Ted Kennedy’s concession speech from 1980 and the points around which he’d wish to rally Democratic voters 38 years ago, probably not given the changes to our society and economy. Unlike 1980, before Ronald Reagan broke down PATCO — the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union which went on strike in 1981 — we no longer have a thriving middle class based on employment with adequate job security and living wages. We have instead handfuls of billionaires who have amassed their record-breaking fortunes rapidly on the backs of half the country which can’t scrape together $400 cash for an emergency, whose real wages haven’t budged since the 1980s.

Two points that seem to be of particular concern to our new commenter in Ocasio-Cortez’ platform are the Universal Jobs Guarantee and Housing as a Human Right.

Is a Universal Jobs Guarantee more or less radical than Universal Basic Income? How are we going to deal with an economy in which tens of millions of jobs have been completely displaced by automation — like autonomous transportation, expected over time to replace millions of truck, hired cars, train drivers and ships’ pilots?

You might want to catch up, then. Save the “But capitalism!” and “But taxes!” rebuttal because

1) we live in a mixed economy already;
2) the socialist portions have been cut too far back and proven capitalism to be grossly inefficient in wealth distribution; and
3) leaders, particularly Democratic ones, already grasp the problem.

Housing as a Human Right is already embedded in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the U.S. voted in 1948. Yet in the U.S. there is no place a full-time minimum wage worker can afford basic housing (as if there are full-time minimum wage jobs since nearly all are structured as part-time to avoid unemployment tax). How can we expect to deal with this on a long-term basis when the Federal Reserve and other entities continue the decades-long suppression of wages?

Again, leaders (particularly Democratic/liberal ones) have already recognized this problem and encourage solutions. It may be far more radical to stick one’s head in the sand and ignore the mounting housing crisis.

Perhaps the real problem isn’t that a platform like the one Ocasio-Cortez has built her campaign upon is labeled Democratic Socialist.

Perhaps the real problem is the decades-long right-wing propaganda which denigrates reasonable, achievable political solutions to real problems average Americans face as radical and socialism as something we haven’t already accepted and relied upon within our existing social safety nets like Social Security and Medicare.

Perhaps the real problem is the same absolutist propaganda which has uniformly characterized any and all Democrats, even moderates, as “hippies”, “liberal bigots” and worse rather than see them as fellow Americans who believe in the Constitution and also believe the U.S. can do more for the common man through reasonable and distributive economic justice.

Is it really all that radical to want to form a more perfect union by establishing economic and social justice, insure domestic tranquility by ensuring every American has food and shelter, provide for the country’s common defense by promoting American’s general welfare?

Here are the planks from Ocasio’s platform.

Medicare For All
Housing As a Human Right
A Peace Economy
A Federal Jobs Guarantee
Gun Control / Assault Weapons Ban
Criminal Justice Reform, End Private Prisons
Immigration Justice / Abolish ICE
Solidarity with Puerto Rico
Mobilizing Against Climate Change
Clean Campaign Finance
Higher Education / Trade School for All
Women’s Rights
Support LGBTQIA+
Support Seniors
Curb Wall Street Gambling: Restore Glass Steagall

Which of these things do you think are too “radical” for liberal Dems?

Reflect, for a moment, on FDR’s four freedoms.

In an address known as the Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address), [President Franklin D. Roosevelt] proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:

Freedom of speech
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear

… In the second half of the speech, he lists the benefits of democracy, which include economic opportunity, employment, social security, and the promise of “adequate health care”. The first two freedoms, of speech and religion, are protected by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional Constitutional values protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights. Roosevelt endorsed a broader human right to economic security and anticipated what would become known decades later as the “human security” paradigm in social science and economic development. He also included the “freedom from fear” against national aggression …

Are not Ocasio’s planks deducible from FDR’s four freedoms?

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