Richard Eskow Asks: Which Side Are You On?

By Joe Firestone

Richard Eskow of the Center for the American Future, posted a very good one a couple of days ago. He used the old union meme “which side are you on” to beat up the President and Congress about Social Security being placed on the negotiating table. I thought his writing on it was striking. Here’s some of it:

“This is a moment of moral clarity. Right now there are only two sides in the Social Security debate: the side that says it’s acceptable to cut benefits – in a way that raises taxes for all income except the highest – and the side that says it isn’t.

“It’s time to ask our leaders – and ourselves – a simple question: Which side are you on?

“Nancy Pelosi says she can convince most Congressional Democrats to “stick with the President” as he pursues his gratuitous and callous plan to cut Social Security benefits as part of a deficit deal – even though Social Security does not contribute to the deficit.”

I certainly hope that Nancy Pelosi cannot convince most Democrats to risk their seats and prepare the way for a Republican sweep in 2014 by voting to cut SS. The Republicans will respond to this by casting themselves as the protectors of SS, and while this is ridiculous, the Democrats will not be credible in claiming that they are its protectors, and they will lose their identity as the protectors of the safety net, a very high price to pay for the sake of raising taxes on the rich by an amount that is insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Eskow goes on:

“Excuse me: Stick with the President? What about sticking with our seniors and our veterans? What about sticking with our disabled fellow Americans? What What about sticking with the more than 4,000 children on Social Security who lost a parent in the Iraq War?

“If you want to “stick with” Americans on Social Security, it’s time to call everybody who represents you in Washington – your Representative, your Senator, your President – and tell them that they’ll lose your support if they do this deal.

“It’s time for an end to the Orwellian doublespeak. Cutting benefits won’t “strengthen” Social Security, as Nancy Pelosi claims. Cuts of 6.5 percent for a 75 year old and 9.2 percent for a 95 year old aren’t so small that “folks won’t even notice ‘em,” as President Obama claimed. They’re not a “technical” adjustment, as his press secretary argued, nor do “most economists believe … this about getting a proper measure of inflation.

“The smart economists know that even today’s cost of living formula isn’t enough. It undercounts the things older and disabled people use the most, like health care and public transportation. Some other people know the formula’s inadequate, too: Seniors. They live with the costs every day.

“So let’s stop all the double-talk and get down to the real question at hand: Which side are you on?”

The framing is “which side are you on”? Will you stick with the President and the people, who will do a deal at any costs, or will you stick with seniors and the American people. This reminds me of the frame Randy Wray recently used in one of his posts on re-framing MMT. That framing came from Bruce Springsteen:

We take care of our own

We take care of our own

Wherever this flag’s flown

We take care of our own

And it’s amplified by Randy Wray this way:

 “. . . We don’t let old folks sleep on the street. We take care of our own. We don’t let children go hungry. We take care of our own. We don’t exclude the 47%. We take care of our own.

“We’re all stakeholders in this great nation. We take care of our own. White, black, brown, yellow and red, we take care of our own. Young or old, healthy or sick, we take care of our own. . . .

“We need a good government to help us take care of our own. We need good public services and infrastructure to keep our country strong so that we can take care of our own. Our government spends to keep our country strong so that we can take care of our own. . . .

“Sovereign government cannot be forced into involuntary insolvency. It can always afford to make all payments as they come due. It can always afford to buy anything that is for sale for its own currency. It can always financially afford any spending that is in the public interest. It can always afford to take care of its own.

“Anything that is technologically feasible is financially affordable for the sovereign issuer of the currency. It comes down to technology, resources, and political will. We’ve got the technology to take care of our own. We’ve got the resources to take care of our own. All that is missing is the political will.”

So, which side are you on? Are you on the side of most of us who want to take care of our own, wherever our flag’s flown; or are you on the side of people who believe that the US Government’s fiat money financial resources are necessarily constrained, so that we must choose between taking care of our own and making sure that our wealthy people and large corporations don’t have to risk any of their wealth by giving their due to our country?

Don’t get me wrong, I know the Federal Government doesn’t need tax revenue from the wealthy or anyone to fund anything, because it’s false that the Federal Government must spend only after it taxes or borrows. But there are still at least three good reasons to tax. First, the value of our fiat money is driven by the need to have enough to pay taxes. Second, taxing is needed to regulate and manage inflation. And third, taxing is needed to lessen economic inequality so that political inequality does not become so extreme that it poses a danger to democracy. All three reasons are ultimately about taking care of our own.

Eskow ends with:

“Tell the President you’re against the chained CPI. Tell your Senators and your Representative to declare their unequivocal opposition to it like Grijalva and Ellison and the others did, and to vote accordingly.

“And ask them that simple question: Which side are you on?”

I agree, and I’d also add:

Tell them that SS, Medicare, and Medicaid are litmus tests for them. Vote to cut them and you’re gone after the next election. It will be “Bye Bye Marjorie” or whatever your name happens to be, for you!

More and more of us know the dirty big secret that there is no debt/deficit crisis. That the Government isn’t constrained in the amount of fiat financial resources it can create.

So, we know that we can afford the cost of the social safety net, and even a lot more generous one than we have today. We also know that the Government has the financial capability to underwrite full employment, Medicare for All, a first class educational system, alternative energy development, infrastructure reinvention, programs to counter and reverse climate change, and whatever else we need to do to solve our problems.

So, don’t you go telling us any longer about the fiscal constraints that excuse your not doing your jobs. We know those don’t exist. We know you have no excuses.

So, get off it, and represent us! Help us take care of our own and each other, or resign from public office!

And that goes for the most junior Congressperson and also for the President of the United States! If you’re not on our side and you don’t want to help us take care of our own, then get out of our way and give somebody else a chance who’s patriotic enough to serve!

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