Obama, Palin and Economic Justice
August 26, 2008
by William P. Meyers

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Citizens of the United States can't lose in the next election. Either we will have a non-white President, Barack Obama, or we will have a female Vice-President. Either would stand in contrast with centuries of white male dominance of American politics.

On the other hand, citizens of the United States can't win the next election. Unless they are already among the economic winners. Despite being a working-class woman who became Governor of Alaska almost by accident, Sarah Palin, even if she become President, belongs in the Chicago School of economics (free-market capitalist). Barack Obama, despite being a super-educated product of super-educated parents, one of African ancestry, actually taught law at that very Chicago School.

For those sophisticated enough to see beyond Presidential election cycle dog-and-pony shows, this is going to reinforce the most basic lesson in the politics of change in the United States of America. Winning civil rights for groups of people denied civil rights is simply not on a level playing field with economic justice. In the later half of the 2oth century a variety of groups had their rights recognized: African-Americans, Native Americans and other citizens not of European descent, women, the disabled, and homosexuals. That is a good thing. It was not easy. People struggled and quite a few people died getting these reforms.

But in 2008 we have less economic equality of opportunity, much less economic equality, than we did in 1950. There are women and minority CEOs; there is a black middle class. The new discrimination is economic. It is harder today to get out of poverty than it was in the 1950's, regardless of your sex or race. Schools are worse. Destructive cultural habits - drugs, alcohol, negative attitudes towards education and work - are more prevalent among the poor and working class.

The class system has ossified. Requirements for entering professions have been elevated. A college degree is not nothing, it creates opportunities that a high school degree does not, but in most cases to get a chance at a good job you need a graduate degree. The economics of staying in college and then graduate school are daunting even for students from highly-educated families; they are nearly impossible for those who have working class parents and received their early education in public schools.

Tax codes are fiddled with, but in the end the rich must be taxed in the United States. They are the only people with money. Here I do not mean just the super-wealthy, I mean the people who have professional and management jobs as well.

The ruling class has not stopped ruling. They have just admitted blacks, women and gays to the club. Given that, it is funny to see the partisan froth being whipped up. On the right Barack Obama, a man whose economics are nearly identical to Ronald Reagan's, is blasted as a Communist. On the left Sarah Palin is being called a Neanderthal for her views on abortion, even though she is the first working class person I know of ever to be nominated for the Presidency or Vice-Presidency.

As people go, thinking within the two-party, one ruling class system, I think all four candidates are decent people who would try hard to do a good job. Of the four I like Joe Biden the least because of his ties to credit card companies, but then someone has to pay for people to buy their political offices.

Just don't expect anything beyond the usual posturing once the election is over. The basic economic structure and tax structure will not change. Your status in life will depend mostly on the status you were born with. With great effort, you can prevent yourself from sinking further still.

The vast majority of incumbents will be elected to Congress, as always. Democrats who supported the Republican agenda when that buttered their bread, like Congressman Mike Thompson of California, will still want to eat buttered bread. The Democrats (presuming Barack Obama wins) will throw breadcrumbs to their constituencies. Environmentalists will get some tighter regulations. Women will get a few cabinet posts. Gun control freaks will see a few types of guns added to the banned list.

But the basic attitude of Barack Obama and crew will be: Don't ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. Don't expect Barack Obama or John McCain either to do anything about excessive CEO pay, the fact that capital gains can go untaxed for decades, the lack of sufficient federal dollars to include locally produced, healthy, organic foods in the free and reduced lunch program for public schools, or any other issue that will actually help those at the bottom get a chance at the having the economic privileges of those in the middle; or that would allow those in the middle the same economic privileges as those at the top.


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