We have all heard the definition of insanity: expecting different results from an ill-conceived continued path. And yet, politically, we continue to believe that the paths that we followed in the prior century — free markets, trickle-down economics and individual freedoms — will lead us to prosperity.
As a person born prior to the baby boom period, I found this path did lead to prosperity for me and for many other Americans as the middle class expanded. Market competition worked for the most part, but as time went on the number of competitors in any given market began to shrink dramatically. As an example, up through the 1970s, there were still mom and pop grocery stores in each community. Gas stations were independently owned and strip malls with independent businesses were everywhere.
But because of science, technology, economies of scale and changing political power, our world is becoming smaller and much more connected. Gone are the mom and pops and independent stations, and now strip malls are no longer thriving. We buy our groceries from only a few conglomerate corporations, our gas only comes from a couple of major corporations, and we are now getting much of everything else from Amazon, Walmart or a handful of online corporations. Chances are, our employer is a major corporation.
The key word in all of this is “corporations,” and what comes with it are CEOs, super-wealthy stockholders and bankers. These are not necessarily bad things. They all are an outcome of our new world order. What is bad is that, because we have continued with what politically worked in the prior century and especially after World War II, it is no longer promoting the common good for the country.
Giving the power of citizenship to corporations, allowing the free flow of infinite money into our political system, has corrupted the system. Banks and other financial institutions go bankrupt and then get the taxpayer of the country to bail them out while millions lose their homes. We all have felt and seen the effects of this corruption of our government entities. We now have a president that has been extremely successful at exploiting our weak and vulnerable government to his political and financial gain. We have seen the effects of the Koch brothers’ political action money, and we now have a state governor who is following the president’s playbook by holding K-12 education hostage.
The world is much more different now and will require a different approach if the best outcome is to be achieved for most Americans. The survival-of-the-fittest approach used in the past will even doom the fittest if America loses its ability to compete with China, India and Brazil.
For those of you who are staunch independent Republicans, I would like you to please, honestly, consider where this path is now going. Do you really like what you see? And for you bleeding heart Democrats, has the path that you have been following, opposing any conservative ideas, worked in your favor?
Our country has been in this predicament before when the balance of wealth and power were entirely in the hands of the corporations and monopolistic barons (the Great Depression) and we found our way out. We did it with more collective government control. We strengthened unions, broke up monopolies, made public utilities where it made sense and put controls on banks and financial institutions. In other words, we used more regulation, not less. We expanded government power, and we protected the weak from exploitation. It wasn’t perfect but it did work for 50 years.
We need to change this destructive path and work together, and that is through a much stronger government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” That is what government is: people working together for the good of the majority. We need to do the following:
• Remove citizen rights from corporations.
• Remove unlimited money from our political system.
• Strengthen regulation oversight to protect citizen rights.
• Strengthen our ties to our allies throughout the Western hemisphere and Europe to combat China.
• Add more, not less, taxes on wealth through higher income brackets and inheritance taxes to support our new effective government.
• Stop gerrymandering by political parties when in power.
• And, for Alaskans, pay the full permanent fund dividend but reinstate the state income tax as a counterbalance.
I know that socialism is a nasty word for most, but not all socialistic ideas are bad ones, and many European countries are practicing socialistic ideas with great success. Socialistic ideas are people working together for the betterment of all.
Ed Linkous lives in Fairbanks.