Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moving forward: From the Three R’s to the Four RE’s

In these troubled times, the Republican mantra is that we must make sacrifices. Shared sacrifice, they call it. Except they expect the sharing to begin at the bottom and move up just far enough to envelop all those who’ve sacrificed for the past 30 years, whenever right-wingers have been in charge.

Heaven forfend anyone in the upper economic classes would ever have to cut back on luxuries. In fact, the GOP policy is to take whatever is saved by cutting benefits and services to the poor and middle classes and reward their rich cronies with lower taxes and higher corporate salaries and profits.

Meanwhile, the economy is in the toilet and no one seems to know the way out. Worse, by cutting educational funding, among other services, the GOP is not only hurting society now but stunting future economic growth.

Danger signs have been obvious for years, even when Republicans claimed things were great. While they worked well for politicians and their rich buddies, policies that also seemed to benefit folks closer to the bottom contained hidden booby traps.
For instance, when the Bush administration claimed they’d led the nation into the greatest era of home ownership in history, banks were giving lower-income people complicated loans deliberately designed to collapse later on. At the same time, corporate leaders plotted to lay off hundreds of thousands of those new home owners and reward themselves for their crimes.

When the multitude of foreclosures struck, the ensuing costs of unemployment and poverty quickly destroyed the consumer market that their much-touted capitalist economy needs to function. Their greedy plot to grab as much gold as they could as quickly as possible was destined to destroy the economy, first in this country and finally throughout the world.

That’s just the tip of the problem, and it’ll continue as long as Republicans stubbornly impede change. Still, the solution is simple. The journey from this point to prosperity could be short. We just have to agree on the goals, plan the steps, and get to work. Consider this blueprint:

RE-TEACH: Education is the basic building block of a successful society, but too many young people are poorly trained in reading, math, science, and the entire range of skills necessary for 21st century jobs. Besides streamlining primary and secondary educational methods, we must establish a comprehensive public-private system to train people of all ages for today’s jobs.

RE-SOURCES: Plenty of jobs are waiting to be done, from rebuilding aging infrastructure to providing services to people and communities everywhere. All that’s missing is the resources to make it happen. Step One, above, would provide well-trained workers; governments from the local to federal levels, must plan and organize projects; and businesses, from small companies to multibillion-dollar corporations, should sign up to lead projects, even investing resources when and where they can realize eventual returns. Rather than treating this plan as a short-term stimulus, it should be viewed as a firm policy for the long term.

RE-TURN: This is the most controversial step, but if done correctly, it’ll be temporary. Taxes on high-income earners must return to 1990s levels to provide seed money to implement the plan. As I explain in Step Four, below, success would mean these funds would eventually be replaced by revenue from a newly active work force.

RE-WARD: The payoff is win-win-win for workers, governments, and companies. Well-trained, fully employed workers return wages in the form of taxes and payments for goods and services needed to enjoy a dignified lifestyle; tax revenues allow governments to provide necessary services; and sales ensure that companies thrive. This is truly vibrant capitalism--the direct opposite of the reward-the-rich-at-the-expense-of-the-lower-classes system that Republicans have touted for three decades.
This idea isn’t new. Even as the Bush administration claimed things were fine, I began writing articles explaining the plan in detail. I compiled 47 of those essays into The World I Imagine: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace. The book can be purchased from online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, as an e-book from Outskirts Press, and downloaded to Kindle.

As bad as things seem, planning and implementing simple positive steps could turn the economy completely around. All it would take is the political will to organize governments, companies, and citizens into a work force for the future, a future in which prosperity and peace are the norm, rather than the exception.

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