Liano Sharon has been a progressive activist since the 1980s. Liano currently serves as Chair of the City of Ypsilanti Human Relations Commission, and as a delegate to the Democratic National Committee representing Michigan. He is also a founding organizer at misolidarity.org.
The new details coming out of Washington on the reconciliation bill and surrounding theater are disappointing, but not unexpected.
Progressives knew corporate Democrats were going to fight against anything that put human needs ahead of the greed of their corporate donors. Now Manchin is floating leaving the Democratic Party (threatening to hand the Senate to Republicans) and Sinema still isn’t clear about what she wants, except no tax increases on the wealthy or corporations. While Manchin is gutting the substance of the reconciliation bill – eliminating the meat of the climate change provisions, insisting on means testing anything that might help the middle class and the poor – Sinema insists that if we’re going to do it at all, we have to borrow the money. From wealthy people.
We have two choices for financing this bill:
- We can tax the wealthy and their corporations their fair share of the cost of civil society.
- We can let them tax us by charging us interest for using the very money we would otherwise have taxed (deficit financing is just this: the government handing out free money to the 1%).
The American people support the substance of this bill by wide margins, and they support financing it by taxing the wealthy and their corporations, also by wide margins. If the bill gets cut down below $3.5 Trillion or its financing is re-jiggered to shovel money at the wealthy, progressives should vote it down and raise the stakes.
The wealthy have a tried and true strategy for killing progressive legislation. Chop it down at every bottleneck and then tell progressives, “At least you got something”. “At least we got something,” isn’t enough anymore.
We need to change the power dynamics of the situation.
We raise the stakes by putting the global economy on the chopping block.
The appropriate response to Manchin floating leaving the Party and Sinema insisting that we have to pay the wealthy a tithe for every dollar of public spending on human needs is to start ignoring them and talk directly to the people holding their leashes. We aren’t in a negotiation with Manchin and Sinema. We’re in a negotiation with their big donors and the rest of the 1%.
The problem is, their big donors have already gotten everything they really want from the government over the course of the pandemic, while the Democratic Party establishment – through Pelosi, Schumer, and the rest of “leadership” – repeatedly told progressives to sit down and shut up, don’t you dare disrupt our service to our paymasters, wait your turn. Waiting really meant giving up every scrap of serious leverage we had against the 1%. The wealthy got their Trillions upon Trillions in government handouts and are happily gambling with it on the stock market as we speak.
The “bipartisan” bill was supposed to be leverage enough, but the wealthy have already fed so well at the government trough they don’t feel any urgency about it. It’s just not that important to them, even though it was specifically designed to shovel money at them. If it doesn’t pass – especially if they can kill the reconciliation bill by letting the “bipartisan” bill die – they’ll take that deal every day of the week and twice on Sunday, but that’s only their second best scenario.
The best scenario for them is what Biden is reportedly serving up now: no structural changes and a low enough top line (not more than $2 Trillion) spread over too many policies to make enough of a difference to enough people to give progressives a lasting win – like plugging leaks in a dam with your fingers, eventually there are many more leaks than fingers. Bonus to the 1% if they can get it financed with government borrowing from them, like Sinema is insisting on. Then we’d borrow money from them and turn around and pay it right back to them (their corporations, the top 10% now own 89% of corporate stocks), while not making enough of a difference to change the political dynamics. That’s how the “bipartisan” bill is financed. That’s what they’re aiming for in the reconciliation bill.
Progressives should ignore the shills – Manchin and Sinema – and speak directly to the 1%. We should say, if we don’t get the $6 Trillion reconciliation bill and our voting rights, we’ll block the debt ceiling increase coming up in December. The climate catastrophe is an existential threat to life on earth, and voter suppression is an existential threat to our way of life. The 1% is trying to destroy the American dream for everyone in the 99% and especially for everyone of the 99% under 50. The younger you are, the more deeply you’re getting screwed by the wealthist (analogous to racist) elites. The global economy is the appropriate bargaining chip.
We should invite the rest of the Democratic Caucus to join us in our fight for human rights and voting rights. There’s at least a chance some of the less than progressive Democrats recognize Republican voter suppression as the existential threat to our way of life that it is, and some of them might break from their paymasters to address the climate crisis.
Wealthy donors have already shown their hand on this when they told McConnell to extend the debt ceiling until December, and he obeyed. They care about the global economy continuing to operate because it is the basis of their wealth. They recognize the US defaulting on our debt would crash it, hard.
This is the only thing big political donors might care enough about to call off their dogs.
Presuming progressives can pull together the numbers to actually threaten the debt ceiling, if they don’t use it they’re giving up their last piece of real leverage. They’re surrendering without a serious fight, just the lightweight stuff we’ve come to expect. The establishment will not take them seriously until they show real muscle when the stakes are high. So far, in every instance, when the question was something or nothing, progressives have taken something, however small. That’s no longer an option for progressive politicians. If they have the numbers to credibly threaten the debt ceiling, they have the tools to fight – it would have been easier if they’d shown strength earlier, but it’s not too late. If they can muster the will to play chicken for the highest stakes they can still do this.
And these are the highest stakes.
The climate crisis is a life and death issue for billions of people and threatens the planet itself as a viable habitat for humanity.
Tell the 1% to choose:
The $6 Trillion and voting rights – or the global economy.
Crashing the global economy is the vastly more expensive option.
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We win this fight together, or not at all.