With the rise of Bernie Sanders the face of modern American politics has shifted drastically. He has inspired a mass movement across demographic lines most notably with the youth, independents and disenfranchised voters. This has given rise to a movement that has been termed the Progressives.
However in the span of American politics, this is nothing new. Progressives tend to draw influence from figures such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR started a massive number of social programs to pull the US from the economic ruin of The Great Depression. To pay for them he instituted higher tax rates than the country had ever seen. When failing to impose a 100% marginal tax for incomes over $25,000 (roughly $357,000 now) FDR implemented a 92% marginal tax rate for the highest income bracket. This not only staved off economic collapse but spurred the biggest economic growth period in the US.
The modern progressive platform is similar. Higher marginal tax rates and implement a number of economically stimulating policies such as Medicare for all, free college programs, student debt forgiveness, and the Green New Deal named after FDR’s New Deal.
All the old crap
This all sounds great on the surface and I am the first to say I support not only Bernie Sanders but a lot of the similar progressive politicians he has inspired such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. However it should be clear to everyone, WE’VE ALREADY DONE THIS. The reforms FDR implemented were the result of long coordinated efforts by many different labor oriented organizations including the IWW, CIO, and CPUS. It took massive amounts of political willpower to get to that point. Fast forward to today infrastructure is crumbling, union membership is down to about 10%, social programs have been gutted, the marginal tax rate is down to 37% and now, for added flavor, we have climate change to deal with.
Why do we have to go through all of this again?
Many of the members of the progressive movement like to call themselves Socialists as it has become somewhat fashionable to do. But what does it actually mean to be a Socialist? These answer will vary radically from person to person but for the sake of this article lets stick to Socialism in the most basic sense of worker ownership of the means of production.
The reasoning behind worker ownership of the means of production is that if workers don’t own their workplaces their labor will be exploited. For example, if you create a table that sells for 50 dollars, the inputs are 10 dollars, and you get paid 20 for your labor there is an additional 20 dollars that the owner does with as they will. Whether that 20 dollars is reinvested in the firm or goes directly to the owner the worker is losing 20 dollars worth of their labor.
A defense of this reasoning is beyond the scope of this article and Leftist theory is much more complex than this however there is a more practical economic reasoning for organizing workplaces like this.
Under a Capitalist system, wealth will continue centralizing to the point of Neo-Feudalism due to the exploitation of labor that I elaborated on earlier. This is especially the case in Liberal Democracies where political influence can be so easily bought. In short, if worker ownership of workplaces is not instituted social programs will be gutted and tax rates will be slashed OVER AND OVER.
To the credit of Bernie Sanders, he has been talking about cooperatives since the 70s and has propsed a number of polices to transfer workplaces to workers via buyouts or starting new cooperatives. I wrote about these polices in Democracy: A Roadmap. However if this movement is going to outlast Sanders this has to become a fundamental tenant of the progressive movement. The austerity currently being imposed on the United Kingdom is ample proof of this assertion.
The Progressive movement is very young and the platform is relatively under developed outside of the polices I laid out earlier in this article. The time to start interjecting polices oriented towards worker control is NOW. If we do not every other policy of this movement will be torn down brick by brick, assuming of course, we can even survive climate change without a Green New Deal.
If we do not change the underlying economic system that we live under we will be stuck in a continuous cycle of reform and repeal. For those caught in the cross fire of this cycle the consequences will be life and death. Turning a blind eye to this fact in the modern day is nothing short of delusion and denial.
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