IL-05: Way Outside The Box
As we await the carnage that the Axis of Nelson-Collins brought to the recovery bill, my thoughts turn to what could happen if some real progressives were in positions of power in Washington. We have an opportunity in Rahm Emanuel's old seat, IL-05, where I lived for a while a decade ago (and I believe my Congressman was one Rod Blagojevich).
Earlier this week I was able to attend an event with Thomas Geoghegan, a labor lawyer who has dedicated his life to helping working people, running for Congress as a first-time politician. He has a completely different conception of what's needed right now, a three-point plan that you'll almost never hear from anyone in the political arena. He describes it in this video:
1) Increase Social Security benefits so we have a livable public pension system comparable to the rest of the developed world. Businesses have all but eliminated their pensions, and Social Security is not enough to survive.
2) Single-payer national health care now. It is crucial we take over the non-wage labor costs from the private sector so they can increase their global competitiveness and stay in business. Insurance company overhead is a waste of money and single payer is the way to fund health care and hold down costs.
3) Reduce the interest rates on what the financial sector can take out of the economy, and in exchange for bailing out the banks (and taking them over temporarily), cancel consumer debt just like we're canceling the debt from toxic securities.
Geoghegan's overall goal is to increase the economic security of working people while making US businesses more competitive globally. The key point he said is that "people have no sense that they get anything back on their taxes" and that we'll never win the long-standing tax battle if we don't offer something tangible. In European nations the tax base is higher, but people are happy to pay it because they see a return. His smaller point was that the banks have become the real economy instead of the industrial sector, and this has taken all the creative energy of the economy away from entrepreneurship and into the financial sector.
This is a radical departure from how most politicians talk about the economy. Instead of placating an interest group or tailoring a message to the people who can fund a campaign, Geoghegan is really talking about the return of the social contract, where work is rewarded and government is on the side of the people. We're so unused to hearing these ideas, so ready to dismiss them as unworkable, that these avenues get permanently closed off. It's time to shift the debate.
If you believe in the progressive movement and in real, lasting change, you can get behind Tom Geoghegan's campaign. More here, here and here.