MIDDLE-CLASS POLICIES TOWARD THE WEALTHY
As a preface to this section, the person who wrote the first draft of this "Middle Class Manifesto" would urge, exhort, plead with, and even beg (on bended knee, if that would help) Democrats to cleanly, clearly, and carefully avoid and stay completely away from the labels "socialism" and "socialist", and from terms and phrases (such as "income redistribution") which will be attacked, by Republicans, as socialist. Republicans have won voters, and votes, and elections, by latching onto and then using (against Democrats) a number of "catch phrases" which voters then begin to associate with whatever meanings the Republicans choose to load on top of those phrases.
A classic example, if one is needed, is provided by the way Republicans seized upon the phrase "critical race theory", and then twisted and distorted it into other meanings that the original creators and users never intended, and then used it effectively against Democrats, with at least one major victory (the Virginia Governor’s race, in 2021) which resulted, in substantial part, from how effectively the Republicans were able to use that phrase, as a weapon. This process is depicted fairly clearly in several candid statements from a far-right-wing Republican named Christopher Rufo, who first spotted that opportunity, and who has openly published each and all of the following statements:
"I am quite intentionally redefining what 'critical race theory' means in the public mind . . . "
"We have successfully frozen their brand - `critical race theory' - into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category."
"The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think `critical race theory.'"
The Wikipedia entry on Christopher Rufo also sheds light on who he is, and what level of honesty he feels compelled to abide by, in his public statements. It contains each of the following phrases:
"Rufo has misrepresented . . . "
"Rufo has also falsely claimed . . . "
"He also falsely claimed . . . "
Each of those phrases is followed by (i) a description of something Rufo publicly stated; and then, (ii) an explanation of why that statement, by Rufo, was false and misleading.
The point that needs to be recognized and understood, by any Democrats who might be interested in "The Two-Party Party" and/or "The Middle Class Manifesto", is this:
IN THE WORLD OF POLITICS, LIARS OFTEN BEAT PEOPLE WHO FEEL OBLIGED TO BE HONEST, AND HAVE INTEGRITY.
SO, DON'T MAKE IT EASY FOR THE LIARS TO WIN, BY GIVING THEM POORLY-CHOSEN PHRASES AND TERMS
THEY CAN USE TO BEAT YOU, AND TO TRICK AND SEDUCE VOTERS YOU WILL NEED, TO WIN ELECTIONS.
So . . . for now, I would ask any and all readers to drop, omit, and carefully avoid any and all references to socialism, `income re-distribution’, and any other vague and imprecise but value-laden term which actively invites attacks and criticism by anyone who is seeking some way to attack. Please try to focus, instead, on what is actually being proposed and suggested in this section, which is about a new approach which politicians and `the middle class’ (and, `The Middle Class Manifesto’) might be able to create and use, to create a new category of public-spirited projects, working with people who are truly wealthy.
I propose to use an analogy, taken from medicine and health sciences, to set the stage, before describing what might offer a promising and potentially effective approach for how government, voters, the middle class, and society should deal with the super-rich. This proposal arises from a medical term, which is EDEMA (pronounced as "uh-DEE-muh"). In medicine, edema refers to the unwanted accumulation of too much liquid (which, in animals, means blood or `lymph') in some part of the body. As a brief aside, "lymph" refers to the clear watery liquid that surrounds and bathes the cells, in any type of soft tissue. That watery fluid, outside the cells (and also outside of any blood vessels), helps oxygen and nutrients reach the cells, and it helps remove unwanted waste products (metabolites) that have been secreted by cells. In most types of soft tissues, lymph makes up about 1/6 of the volume of the tissue. It is created mainly by leakage of blood plasma out of the higher-pressure "upstream" zones in capillaries. After it leaves the circulating blood, it travels slowly between the cells, in any soft tissue, until it reaches a drainage channel, which will carry it more rapidly to a lymph node, where it will be processed. Eventually, it will re-enter the blood vessels that serve lymph nodes, and that blood will later pass it through the kidneys, which will add it to urine, and excrete it.
The medical problem called "edema" arises when something clogs up or otherwise hinders the flow of either type of circulating liquid (either blood, or lymph) through soft tissue. If more fluid keeps arriving, but cannot continue passing through and then readily leaving a limb, hand, foot, finger, or toe, it will directly cause swelling. In cases of severe clogging or other hindrance of fluid flow, the swelling caused by "edema" can rapidly become very painful, and the condition will be diagnosed as inflammation (which occurs when both pain and edema affect the same limb, extremity, etc.). In other cases, such as when the ankles and feet of an overweight and/or elderly person visibly swell up whenever that person is not lying down with his/her feet raised, the symptoms usually point to the condition called "congestive heart failure", and that type of condition – even though it is a serious medical problem that requires attention – often does not cause serious pain, beyond a (usually) tolerable burning or itching sensation.
The bottom line is, edema is a bad thing, whenever it occurs. Indeed, the medical definition of "edema" says that fluid accumulation, in any soft tissue, rises to a point where it should be diagnosed and classified as "edema", only when it crosses some boundary or threshold, and becomes severe enough to be painful, disruptive, or otherwise noticeable and unhealthy.
The reason edema is being raised as an analogous situation, in this discussion, is because the circulation of blood, in an animal, is directly analogous to the circulation of money, in a society. In complete seriousness, in the same way that blood's basic function is to deliver nutrients, and remove unwanted things, that is the same thing money does. On the supply side, money brings in "nutrients" (i.e., the things that people want and need, in much the same way that oxygen, glucose, amino acids, and other good and healthy biomolecules are what cells, inside an animal body, want and need). And, just as cells need – truly and seriously NEED – to have someone or something help them get rid of the waste products they create, money can also solve a human being's problems with "unwanted waste"; it can help people get rid of things they don't want; it can help get them out of a jam; it can pay off creditors, and others who are demanding things from them; and, it can help persuade a policeman, sheriff, court, or jury that some mistake was more of an unintended mistake, than an intentional crime (and, any lawyer who helps do that type of persuading also will have to be paid, usually in cash). There are good, valid, and even compelling reasons why the flow of money, through a society, is called "circulation", just as the flow of blood in an animal body is called "circulation".
And that circles back to the topic, and definition, of "edema". If too much blood ends up accumulating in the hand of some person, that affected hand will become painful, and it will lose its ability to function properly, which usually will include (but not be limited to) a loss of strength (which can arise, not as an innate and inherent loss, but as a result of an already-inflamed hand becoming even more painful, if someone tries to use it to grip something tightly). It also will reduce the mobility and "nimble-ness" of a hand (engorged fingers usually feel clumsy, stiff, and/or "fat", and they cannot be bent in normal ways). And, that person will have trouble doing anything that the hands normally help do (such as eating, writing, using a cellphone or computer, turning a television on or off, etc.).
In ways that are analogous (even if not directly similar), if too much money becomes concentrated in the hands (i.e., in the ownership and control) of just a small number of people, that condition can cause its own set of problems.
Some of those problems will directly affect the people experiencing (suffering?) that type of "engorgement". It's an old cliche to point out that money does not buy happiness; it might be more useful to point out that people who have middle-class lifestyles and houses (and, who live in middle-class neighborhoods) tend to have substantially better success rates in raising happy, sociable, and well-adjusted children . . . presumably because children who grow up in middle-class houses, and neighborhoods, get exposed to a wider and better variety of average, ordinary, typical children, thereby allowing middle-class children to play with, grow up with, get to know, and come to better understand the needs, wants, and problems, as well as the strengths, resources, and capabilities, of wider ranges and assortments of people.
Other problems arise from the fact that, if a substantial portion of the money supply, in a society, has been "sequestered" by a small number of people, then the rest of that society will suffer, because there simply isn't enough money left, to circulate among the other people who need it. As an example, if elite baseball players get paid hundreds of millions of dollars each year (any reader should be at least tempted to add, `just to play a game!!'), then it should not surprise anyone when: (i) a simple hot dog, or a regular-sized beer, at a major-league baseball stadium, cost more than $9 each; (ii) most middle-class parents cannot afford to take their kids to baseball games more than once or twice a year; (iii) large numbers of seats are empty at most major-league baseball games, in all but a few very large cities and a few unusually baseball-friendly cities. In addition, teams which must spend an over-large fraction of their salary on just one or two super-expensive players, tend to miss the playoffs (and, don’t go as deep into the playoffs) more often than better-balanced teams, and teams which have better team spirit and camaraderie (as opposed to jealousy and resentment, among lesser-paid players, toward the salary hogs who are taking far more than just a `fair’ share of the money). In addition, if elite athletes in all major sports get paid hundreds of millions of dollars each (should one add, `just to play a game!!'?), then don't be surprised when everyday products become more expensive, because of a financial system that includes "the costs of advertising" as a major and critical linkage point, in a financial system which does indeed include `player salaries,’ in the same interconnected network as, `products being sold at grocery stores, clothing stores, and every other kind of store’.
Returning to "edema" as a medical problem, it was a standard practice, for centuries (up until the mid-1800's, in many countries), for the early (pre-science) versions of surgeons and/or doctors, to create a cut, through the skin that covered some limb or "extremity" (such as a hand or foot), if that limb, hand or foot became severely inflamed and engorged to a point where the skin literally began to feel "tight". Their logic was simple: if there is too much blood in that limb, hand or foot, then you need to allow some of that blood to escape, and go elsewhere, since `going elsewhere' can directly relieve the pressure, and the swelling. The problem was, it combined two factors: (i) that type of "bleeding" treatment almost never succeeded, or benefitted the patient, in any way; and yet, (ii) that treatment sometimes appeared to work, because many patients got better, eventually, despite (rather than because of) a "bleeding" treatment.
Suggestions that America should use "income redistribution" (i.e., the classic socialist approach of simply taking money away from the wealthy, and giving it to the poor) is directly analogous to pre-scientific "bleeding" treatments, in attempts to "cure" inflammation and edema. The problem is, neither the "bleeding" approach, nor the socialist monetary approach, actually works (let alone works `effectively’).
Instead, a cooperative approach, with a substantially greater likelihood of success, can be crafted, if people approach it in more logical, scientific, experiment-oriented ways which can evaluate the utility of a new approach, by seeing what results it creates. Accordingly, the proposal below is a first draft of how such a "trial run experiment" might be arranged, and approached.
It would involve approaching a number of multi-billionaires who have succeeded by building great companies (as distinct from, say, hedge fund founders); the names Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, and Oprah Winfrey come to mind, as examples. A combination of financial specialists, angel investors, venture capitalists, retired executives, business and engineering professors, and representative of several government agencies – including the IRS, and the federal departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs – could jointly work up, and refine, an approach which is specifically designed to appeal to any one or more of those multi-billionaires (or, their executors, the people who run their not-for-profit foundations, etc.). Here is a first draft of an in-person pitch, to be supported by a PowerPoint deck:
"You, ____ [Mr. Gates, or Buffet, or Bezos, or Musk, etc.] have already proven that you have extraordinary and world-changing talent, capabilities, insights, diligence, and managerial skill. We would like to offer you a chance to join the pantheon of true, all-time, historical greats who are genuinely respected by nearly everyone in the world – the super-elite category which, today, is represented by only a very, very few people, such as Leonardo DaVinci, and Benjamin Franklin (some people also believe that Edison, Einstein, Disney, and a few others also belong in that pantheon). How might you be able to accomplish even more than you already have? By working with us, and with any other people you nominate to join us, to help select, plan, fund, and manage a major, major project, which can and will truly help and benefit all of humanity – both through the initial project we will ask you to help fund, and also, by helping create a working model, example, and lesson that we can follow and use in other projects, and that any other nation can follow, if they choose. We have ____ [some small number of] proposals, as examples of what we are thinking of, and we invite you to propose any others that you would like us to consider. We are not asking for your time, to manage it, because you already are doing so many other things. What we would like, instead, is for you to nominate perhaps ten or twenty of the best and most promising managers you have encountered, during the course of your career and life. If you will nominate anyone, we will talk to that person about possibly joining us, and helping manage whatever project you end up funding.
"Now, in exchange for us asking you, personally, to contribute what could become multiple billions of dollars, as seed money which will be supplemented by additional money from government, and hopefully, also from other private companies that applaud and approve of how we are jointly figuring out new ways for private enterprise and government to work together, we are willing to discuss whatever tax proposals you believe are reasonable, and realistic, which you would like those of us in government, to consider. And, so that we have at least a starting point to discuss and debate, we would propose to focus on "earned income tax credits", as one of the models, and options, we would like to consider, as we discuss any proposals, requests, or negotiating points you might want to suggest. So, please take a month or two, to confer with your advisors about this proposal, and get back to us.
"And now, as another potentially major issue we will want to discuss with you, in the future, we would like to find some sort of cooperative way in which some members of labor unions can be allowed, encouraged, and incentivized to work with at least some `non-union' people – or, perhaps we should call them `pre-union' or `starter union' people. One of our goals is to create job openings for several distinct groups of people who need jobs. These groups include, for example, young people who do not yet have work experience or histories; people who are taking a year or two off, either between high school and college, or after a year of college that didn't go well; people who have been released from prison; and, people who are at risk of being sent to prison, unless they can straighten their lives out and learn to hold a stable job. Without being either pro-union or anti-union, we are aware, and we want to share with others, that at crucial times in our country's history, such as after World War One, and again, during the Great Depression, trade unions played an absolutely crucial role in helping create a strong and stable middle class, in America, in ways that helped prevent socialist and communist organizers and propagandists from finding ways to pull in large numbers of Americans. That middle class became one of America's most important sources of strength and stability, and we have become severely afraid that America needs something like that, again, as several sets of major and potentially huge problems – including global warming and climate change, the out-of-control national debt, Congressional dysfunction, and threats to democracy as a form of government – all seem likely to become much more severe, in the near future, all at the same time, as a multi-whammy which might seriously threaten every person, and every company, in this country, and in numerous other countries as well. So, if you are willing to work with us, we would like to explore several possible options, for enabling union members, who we presume would be working for the government, at union wages, to take on the added assignment of teaching and training young workers, and at-risk workers, the lessons of how to do skilled work, how to work and get along with managers and co-workers, and things like that. We also will be talking with the trade unions, to explore various possibilities, such as creating a new type of union for people who have spent time in prison and who now want to join the work force, and perhaps one or more specialized unions for young people as trainees, apprentices, or whatever, who will learn to work with union members. We are not yet ready to make any decisions or commitments, on that front, but we do want to raise that issue, even at this early stage, because it could become an important part of what we are trying to do. Our goal is to begin talking with several different groups and interests, and find out whether there might be opportunities for agreements, and working arrangements, which can give young and/or at-risk people good training, while also getting the most work output, and the most useful and valuable results we can get, from whatever money you might supply, and any money that taxpayers and other companies might supply. This isn't a pro-union stance, or an anti-union stance. It is merely a realization, and a hope, that if we can get you and several other billionaires to help, we may be able to turn some kind of corner, and create some good, useful, innovative progress toward helping rebuild and re-stabilize the middle class in general, and middle-class workers in particular, in America.
"And now, having said all of that as a preface, here is our short list of projects we would like to propose, for your consideration. It is not an exhaustive list, but we hope these examples can help stimulate some thought, and some useful discussions and exchanges, between us."
To accompany and support that "opening statement", two examples are briefly summarized, below, of the types of projects that could be proposed, for funding by multi-billionaires who would be asked to become involved, such as by nominating skilled and trusted managers, who then could become involved with a major project, in some way.
1. One candidate major project could hire young, semi-skilled, at-risk, or other people, and train and employ them to install solar energy panels, on flat roofs (with options available for those who might enjoy the challenge of learning, later, to work on sloped roofs). This type of project could greatly speed up and increase: (i) the number of solar installation that can be used to reduce the burning of carbon-emitting fuel, especially in publicly-owned buildings; (ii) the number of "emergency charging stations" that can be available to the public, to let them recharge cellphones, laptops, emergency medical equipment, and similar electronic devices, if a disaster or emergency cuts off electricity in some area for more than just a day or two; and, (iii) the rate at which America will be able to reduce its carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
2. The second major proposal involves manufacturing, and then installing, railroad ties that are made, at least in part, from rubber that can be reclaimed from old discarded tires. This would help repair and upgrade America's railroad system, in ways that would be helpful and beneficial for a number of reasons, including:
a. it is much more efficient (in terms of lower fuel costs, and lower carbon emissions) to haul freight or passengers via railroads, than on rubber-wheeled trucks or cars. I cannot say with certainty that this number is true, but if memory serves, this is the number I heard, on the episode of the Modern Marvels television show about how locomotives are made: it takes about 17 times more fuel to haul a ton of freight a fixed distance, in a diesel-powered 18-wheeler truck, compared to hauling that same ton of freight the same distance, on a train;
b. if railroad ties are made of rubber (presumably mixed with either an adhesive, or an extruding agent, or when used to create a water-tight coating around a wooden core), that rubber material can flex and yield, enough to keep rubber (or rubber-coated) railroad ties from cracking, even after they have been exposed repeatedly (and, for years and years) to freezing-and-thawing cycles (winter/summer, day/night) which cause severe cracking of railroad ties made of wood;
c. if railroad ties are made of rubber, they can both: (i) reduce the number of trees that need to be cut down, to provide railroad ties; and, (ii) create good uses for the piles (mountains, in some locations) of discarded tires that are scattered across America, and elsewhere. Because discarded tires can hold small puddles of stagnant water in quiet and protected locations, they create excellent places for mosquitos to lay their eggs, and that creates huge numbers of more mosquitos; and,
d. this effort could also help lay the groundwork for – if not "bullet trains" that travel at more than 150 miles/hour – then, at least, "express trains" that will travel at 80-100 miles/hour, and make only small numbers of stops between large cities, thereby providing fast and efficient service between large cities, and helping to reduce carbon emissions from airline travel.
The two projects mentioned above – i.e., asking multi-billionaires to help plan, assign skilled managers to help manage, and then help subsidize and fund: (i) teams of people who will install solar panel on government buildings; and, (ii) better railroads, with better and longer-lasting railroad ties – are just two examples that can be described. Numerous other candidate projects will occur to anyone who works with, or around, the "infra-structure" components that help support and enable everything our society does and needs, including travel, business, recreation and tourism, agriculture, etc.
The bottom line is this: if we look for them, and if we are willing to stay open to suggestions and input as we try to design and structure them, there are numerous highly promising ways that our government can, indeed, work with truly wealthy (and extraordinarily talented and successful) people, in ways which might be able to start good things (including useful teaching moments) moving in both directions, back and forth, between government, and private enterprise.