What’s Left 5: Let’s Declare War on Economic Insecurity

            Wages high enough to cover basic expenses are only the beginning of the Left’s struggle to eliminate economic insecurity.             We must also fight for workers’ rights on the job as well as a robust and sturdy social safety net to protect people when they find themselves out of work. Americans suffer the worst worker benefits of major developed countries; we are tied with Botswana, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan. Our safety net also comes in dead last.             For as long as anyone can remember, the balance of power between labor and management has been radically tilted in favor of capital. While nine out of ten workers are not organized, employers not only form cartels to set prices for labor, they enjoy outsized influence in Washington and state capitals through campaign contributions to politicians.             Globalization has exacerbated this imbalance; an apparel company like Nike may manufacture goods in low-wage, anti-union countries like Vietnam or Indonesia and ship them to…
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What’s Left 4: We Need a Real Minimum Wage

            When Gallup pollsters ask Americans what causes them the most stress and worry, personal economic concerns—the cost of living, lack of money, the gap between rich and poor, difficulty finding a job or, if they’re employed, low wages—consistently come in first, so much so that they can’t imagine saving for the future. General economic issues like poverty, hunger and homelessness come in next. In a capitalist country with decades of rising income inequality and a modest safety net, these findings come as little surprise.             The rent is too damn high; buying a house gets more and more out of reach. We’re living paycheck to paycheck, expenses rise faster than salaries, and bosses, who can fire you at will even if you’ve been working hard and following the rules, have absolute power in a country where 10% of workers belong to a union. No wonder we’re worried sick.             Economic insecurity is America’s biggest political issue. Yet neither of…
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What’s Left 3: What If We Had $4.5 Trillion a Year to Spend on Ordinary People?

            The $1.6 trillion we waste each year on the Pentagon is an irresistible target for leftists looking for funds to appropriate to the human wants and needs that are currently going un- and under-addressed. Let’s redirect those funds to something more worthwhile than slaughtering innocent people around the planet—i.e., anything else. But why stop there?             The U.S. federal budget is full of poor spending choices and waste caused by bureaucratic inefficiency.             One item you might not immediately think of as flexible or fungible is interest on the national debt, which came to $659 billion in the 2023 fiscal year. That derives from past spending. We don’t have a time machine, so what can be done about that?             Quite a lot, actually. That figure reflects an increase of $184 billion, or 39%, from the previous year and is nearly double that for fiscal year 2020. The culprit for that massive spending spike is the Federal Reserve Bank’s…
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What’s Left 2: We’re a Rich Country. Let’s Act Like It.

            Lyndon Johnson, cautioned that his support of the Civil Rights Act was too bold and politically risky, famously responded: “What else is the presidency for?”             The United States of America is one of the richest, if not the richest, nation-state in the history of the world. It also is the most unequal. So its people live in misery and squalor. What else is a country’s spectacular wealth for, other than to provide a high standard of living for its citizens?             A Leftist economic programme should begin with the government’s budget. How should revenues be collected, and from whom? How should the money be spent? The Left must articulate a holistic approach to the federal budget.             According to the U.S. Treasury’s website: “The federal government collects revenue from a variety of sources, including individual income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, and excise taxes. It also collects revenue from services like admission to national parks and customs…
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What’s Left

           We Americans are repeatedly told that the United States is a conservative country in which the 50-yard line of ideology is situated significantly to the right of the Western European representative democracies from which our political culture derives and to which we are most often compared. But there is a gaping chasm between the policy orientation of the two major parties that receive mainstream-media coverage and the leanings of the American people they purport to represent.             Gallup’s decade-plus poll of basic opinions consistently finds that four of ten Americans have a positive view of socialism. (Half of these are also favorably predisposed toward capitalism.) When given a chance to demonstrate that, they do. Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” received 43% of the Democratic primary popular vote in 2016 and 26% in 2020. Four members of the Democratic Socialists of America are currently serving in Congress. Despite a century of Cold War reactionary Cold War suppression and…
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Death to the Credentialocracy

The summer after junior year, my college expelled me. Six years later I returned and graduated with honors. During the interregnum, I worked. But finding a decent job was tough. No matter how easy or rote the gig, every prospective employer listed a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite to apply. I drifted from temp work to short-term project, barely scraping by. Then I came across a listing by a bank searching for an entry-level administrator. Amazingly, they didn’t say anything about having to have a college degree. I didn’t lie on my resume. “9/81-5/84 Columbia University” listed the dates I attended. I didn’t state that I’d graduated. Nor did I announce: “DROPPED OUT/LOSER.” Interviews went well and I was offered the job. It was 1986, my income rose from $10,000 to $17,000, and I felt grand. On my first day, though, after I’d quit my previous job, my new boss offhandedly asked: “You graduated, right?” “Yes,” I said. I needed…
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Ceasefire in Gaza, An Offer Israel Can’t Refuse—Yet It Is

            The Left is doing something right.             And it’s something that I initially disagreed with, even though I didn’t comment in a public space.             When Israel overreacted to Hamas’ October 7th attack on western Israel with a brutal saturation bombing campaign against the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip, defenders of human rights, antiwar activists and supporters of the Palestinian liberation movement demanded a ceasefire.             To me, that felt like yet another example of the Left settling for too little, negotiating against itself. Ask for the stars, I usually advise, and you might settle for the moon. Ask for the moon and you might wind up with nothing. A ceasefire isn’t an armistice, much less a peace agreement. It’s merely an interruption in a war. What kind of antiwar activist doesn’t ask for an end to a war? One of the most famous examples is the Christmas Truce of 1914, when German and British troops crawled…
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Victimhood or Vengeance? Israel Wants, But Cannot Have, Both

Victimhood or vengeance: choose one. You can’t have both. Israel is about to learn that. Supporters of Israel’s government (as opposed to Israel writ large, which includes millions of Israelis who distrust their government) ask: Why are so few people still talking about October 7th? “It is striking and in some ways shocking that the brutality of the slaughter has receded so quickly in the memories of so many,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked in early November. Hamas’ attack was vicious, claimed many victims and was so recent—how can it be that those pitiful “kidnapped” posters are falling so flat so soon? Blame Netanyahu and his co-conspirators. They chose vengeance over victimhood. They had a choice. Instead of gleefully indulging themselves in an unseemly orgy of destruction and murder after Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and took 240 as hostages, Israel’s far-right government might instead have embraced the role of victim: Weep. Express confusion. Witness the personal stories of…
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Afghanistan Offers Lessons In Regime Change To Israel In Gaza

            I talked to a lot of people in Afghanistan, where I reported about the fall 2001 U.S. invasion. Young or old, urban or rural, no matter their ethnicity, they all expected the victors to work miracles after the Taliban’s defeat.             “America will build roads, schools, buildings, everything.”             “Now Afghanistan will be beautiful.”             “We will have freedom! We will choose our new government.”             And after that? I asked. What will the U.S. do?             “They will leave,” people told me.             If only things were that simple, I remember thinking.             History is repeating itself in Gaza. A devastating surprise terrorist attack by Islamist extremists has again been followed by a ground invasion. Now the postwar scenario is being considered. It’ll either be the full-fledged ethnic cleansing centered around the expulsion of the Gazans, or regime change. Israel will have the victorious army, control over 2.3 million people (minus the 100,000 or 200,000 it will have…
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Selfish Biden Doesn’t Care If Trump Wins

President Biden doesn’t care about the country. He doesn’t care about his party. He doesn’t mind if Donald Trump wins back the presidency. The only thing he cares about is himself—his ego, to be exact. I’m not inside Joe’s head. But there’s only one other possible explanation for his stubborn continuing insistence on running for reelection—that he’s insane. Unless Trump dies or succumbs to a major health setback, there’s an 85% chance that the legally embattled former president will be the Republican nominee in 2024. True, a 15% chance is real. It’s not zero. But you shouldn’t, you can’t, not unless you’re a total moron, make an important decision that relies on 15% probability. Biden will almost certainly be running against Trump again. And he will probably lose. The polls are clear about that. True, the election is a year away. Things may change. Biden might eek out a victory. But Trump is in the lead, his lead is increasing,…
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