Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why I Will Vote for Elizabeth Warren

The United States of America emerged from The Great Depression and World War II with a period of some of the fastest and most egalitarian economic growth the world had ever seen. We were still a long way from being a more perfect union, with huge sections of population considered second class citizens, but in terms of the economy, especially when you think about it in the context of human history, post-war America was a miracle. That American ideal of home and car ownership was created during this period, as was the idea that would, in one generation, became an American assumption; that your children will have more wealth than you did. How did we go from The Great Depression to the Great Expansion? It wasn't tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of markets.

Our path to prosperity from the Great Depression, isn't really up for debate. It is historical fact. Federal spending, whether in the form of New Deal programs or World War II kept society from completely collapsing while the economy recovered from reckless financial practices and historic drought. Some of those programs, like those run by the Public Works Administration, the Rural Electrification Administration, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, not only put people to work in the moment of crisis, but also produced infrastructure vital to our future productivity and leisure. Imagine how long it would've taken to have a consumer electronics market without the electrification of rural America. After WWII, three policies in particular built on the products of New Deal spending, and established the key resources for the explosion of growth. The GI Bill did two things, one short term and one long term. In the short term, it gave all the returning soldiers something to do while the economy readjusted itself to peace time. Instead of flooding the market with millions of new workers, returning soldiers went to college. In the long term, it produced the most highly educated work force in the world. The Eisenhower highway system, originally intended to make it easier for American troops to move from place to place, also allowed for the cheap transportation of goods from place to place. To put this another way, McDonalds would not be nearly as successful without this investment in national infrastructure. Finally, the Marshall Plan ensured there would be other economies for the United States to trade with. Government spending in Europe allowed American manufacturing to thrive.

The spending programs were coupled with regulations of the financial industry, including banking and the stock market. Regulations like The Banking Act of 1933, which included the Glass-Steagall Act and FDIC, ensured there was an inherent level of stability in finance even while the risks of investment were taken.

The result of these federal spending programs coupled with prudent regulations: from 1948-1980 we had six recessions and stock market crashes. From 1980-2010, when we began to roll back regulation, lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans and cut spending on infrastructure, we had 11 recessions and stock market crashes, with 2008 only being the most recent and most drastic. (That's actually being a little generous, as I'm not counting the recessions with primarily foreign sources, like the Asian market crisis.) We now work more hours for less wealth. American families, with two full-time adult wage earners, can no longer afford that house and car that was, less than a generation before, practically a birthright. And the gap between the rich and everyone else has exploded.

Republicans and Democrats have been talking about the middle class for months, but you don't have to do anything more than open a history book to know which side is correct. Federal investment in infrastructure coupled with prudent regulation created the American middle class as we know it. Elizabeth Warren supports policies that worked. It's that simple. Though the specifics will of course be different, the strategies of The Great Depression are applicable to The Great Recession. Elizabeth Warren will work to implement those strategies.

Furthermore, the arc of American history has always been towards a more inclusive society. When our Founders put pen to paper, their idea of freedom was limited to white men who owned property and since then we have been struggling to extend the benefits of a free society to more and more members of our community. That struggle for inclusion isn't just about voting rights, though if it was contemporary Republicans would still be on the wrong side, but about an economy where all people are paid the same wages for the same work, where families are able to plan their interaction with the economy, where workers are valued as human beings through fair pay, safe working conditions, retirement security, and leisure time, where immigrants who want to contribute to our society are given the opportunity to do so, and where domestic partnerships are not restricted to a certain arrangement of genitals.

Elizabeth Warren's policies are not just moral, historically proven, and good for the economy, they are moral, historically proven, and good for American. Oh, and I'd rather not need a lawyer to understand my credit card bill, so let's thank Elizabeth Warren for that too.

Scott Brown has done his best to keep his head down in the two years he has been in office and it's not hard to see why. He wouldn't stand a chance for re-election if he adopted the policies that define his party at the moment. But while he tries to distinguish himself from his own party, he has to distinguish himself from Elizabeth Warren, and his major legislative attempt to do so resulted in what I consider the strongest argument against his abilities as a legislator.

The Blunt Amendment was offered during the fabricated conflict over contraceptive coverage, in response to the Obama administration slightly changing existing contraception policy. Scott Brown did not just vote with his party in favor of the amendment; he co-sponsored it. The problem is, regardless of how you feel about contraception, the amendment was poorly planned and poorly thought out. It's goals aside, it was bad legislation. Essentially, the Blunt Amendment would allow employers to not contribute to health care policies that include, or health insurance companies to not cover, "specific items or services...contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan.” Scott Brown will tell you his co-sponsorship of this amendment was about religious freedom, but even if that were true, it's still bad legislation.

What if my employer were a Christian Scientist? If so pretty much all health care would be contrary to its religious beliefs. And who would get to decide whether an employer/health insurance provider has an actual “moral conviction” against a specific service or procedure? What's to stop a health insurance company claiming that chemotherapy is against their “moral convictions?” Who will arbitrate between the providers and the provided and between the employers and the employed? There are three ways to answer this question; additional federal legislation that specifically outlines exceptions which means a massive intrusion of the federal government in the economy; ceding that authority to an existing federal agency which means a massive intrusion of the federal government in the economy; let the courts figure it out, which could mean millions of tax payer dollars spent on litigating particular moral convictions and particular services or procedures. Rather than rolling back Federal involvement in religious beliefs, the Blunt Amendment would have required either massive Federal management efforts or an endless stream of tax payer funded litigation.

The Blunt Amendment was a poorly thought out, poorly written piece of legislation smashed onto a bill about transportation, designed to fabricate some kind of statement about religious freedom. It would have been an expensive, legislative disaster if it had been adopted. And Scott Brown didn't just vote for it, he co-sponsored it. Oh, and he bought his pick up truck for his daughter's horse trailer. I've got no problem with that, but don't throw on a Carhartt jacket and sit in a pickup truck, pretending you're an average American dude, when you own horses. Run on your policies, not your totally fabricated, totally disingenuous brand.

In short, Elizabeth Warren supports policies that solved our nation's past crises and laid the ground work for a more prosperous society, while Scott Brown supports the policies that caused the current crisis and could continue our course towards a divided society. In some ways, we are lucky in Massachusetts to have an election like this. This isn't about ideology or politics, this is about history, and history tells us the right choice is Elizabeth Warren.

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