Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich posted this on Facebook earlier today:
“If you want a single reason for why Democrats lost big Tuesday it’s this: Median family income continues to drop, the first “recovery” when this has occurred. Meanwhile, all the economic gains are going to the richest Americans. If the Republicans think they can reverse this through their supply-side, trickle-down, fiscal austerity policies, they’re profoundly mistaken. The public will soon discover this. But if the Democrats believe they can reverse it simply by raising taxes on the rich and redistributing to everyone else, they are mistaken, too.
We need to raise the minimum wage, invest in education and infrastructure, lift the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes, resurrect Glass-Steagall and limit the size of the banks, make it easier for low-wage workers to unionize, raise taxes on corporations with high ratios of CEO pay to average worker pay, and much more. In other words, we need an agenda for shared prosperity. Over the next two years the Democrats have an opportunity to advance one. If they fail to do so, we’ll need a new opposition party that represents the interests of the vast majority”
This, in my view is precisely what was behind the horrible outcome of last Tuesday’s debacle While other economic indicators are trending upward at a very favorable pace, including yesterday’s unemployment figures which are the lowest in six years, median household income not only continues to lag, but have actually declined precisely because the pigs have been at the trough with the snout and both front trotters. Other statistics have long born this out showing the top 1% making off with 95% of the economic gains since the economy bottomed out in 2009.
What is needed, clearly, is an agenda as the former Secretary has here stated. Our ancestors met a similar reality with exactly that, a “Progressive” agenda that included a graduated income tax, public works programs, strengthening and enforcing labor laws and, through the hard experience of trial and error, embracing a concept known as Kenysian economics.
It is worth noting as well that during the last decades of the 19th century and early decades of the last century forward thinking reformers formed their own third parties, first the Greenback party, then later the Progressive party which served to not only highlight the gross maldistribution of economic rewards for hard work, but siphoned off enough votes to make both major political parties embrace most, if not all, of the Progressive agenda. First the Republicans under Theodore Roosevelt, enforcing the anti-trust laws, and introducing modest changes in labor laws, followed by the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson and the introduction of the graduated federal income taxes and further more robust trust-busting, and finally with the administrations of FDR and LBJ which created and extended the social safety net. For well over half a century this country labored to institute the Progressive agenda with both parties, by degrees, adopting and implementing what turned out to be sound public policies. For the last 40 years the Swine have been about the business of making a complete pig’s breakfast of what we inherited and, instead of building upon this record of accomplishment have instead taken a wrecking ball to the edifice.
I’m afraid the time has come for right-thinking progressives to exercise sound judgement and, as the Secretary suggests, form a new political party. Perhaps an American Labor party if, for no other reason, to force the two dominant parties to take the middle class seriously.