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Thursday, 27 January 2011 23:52

The Democratic Party's "Far Left" Used to be Considered Just Common Sense

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STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Political commentators ranging from those of the Propaganda Channel (otherwise known as the Fox"News"Channel) to Chris Matthews are enamored of referring to the "Far Left" of the Democratic Party. It is also known among that ilk as the "Pelosi Wing" of the Party (although one wonders what the wealthy lady from San Francisco ever actually did other than shepherd the Health Insurance Industry Subsidy Act of 2010 through the House of Representatives, strongly support repeal of DADT, and bring to the floor much mainstream Democratic legislation that was never even taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate).

It is common, even among his critics other than the Tea Party folk, to separate President Obama from that "Far Left." Indeed the President has been receiving much applause over the last six weeks from the self-styled Republican morning TV talk show host Joe Scarborough for his "move to the Center" since the election. I guess that Joe didn't notice that for the most part, rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, Obama has pretty much been there since his election (http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/199).

As if to emphasize where Obama surely is now, whether he was there then or not, Charles Krauthammer, a hard rightist if there ever was one, characterized Obama's Tucson speech as a really good one. (I was out of the country when it was delivered. But I quickly came to the conclusion that if Krauthammer had that to say of it, it must have been pretty bad.) Then on Jan. 26, 2011, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Pat Buchanan, who used to be a Right-wing Republican before his party left him in its march to the drummers of the Right-Wing Imperative (http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/200), in commenting on Obama's "State of the Union Message" (which was nothing of the sort but rather his "what I'm going to campaign on for 2012" message) characterized Obama as a "moderate Republican." That of course actually is equivalent to a classic DLC-er which Obama has been all along (http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/12012). And Pat ought to know.

So anyway, there's Obama, a "moderate Republican" (but to the left of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a big public works guy, and of even the domestic-policy Dick Nixon, who was big on environmental regulation and would have pushed through a real national health insurance program had it not been for Watergate). In that context, just what is the Democratic "Far Left?" Well let's start off by looking at what the one-term Rep. (he has that, and more, in common with Abraham Lincoln) Alan Grayson had to say about what he thought should be in Obama's State of the Union Message (from his email alert dated January 24, 2011 fromThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

He would have begun with a quick characterization of what the GOP is really all about: "The Republican House Leadership demonstrated last week that its highest legislative priority is to prevent 30 million Americans from seeing a doctor when they are sick. We can let Republican control of the House of Representatives doom us to no progress, no change, for the next two years." He would have been kind enough not to mention Mitch McConnell's frequently stated number one priority for the current Congress; Insure Obama's defeat in 2012. Of course, Obama would have had none of that. Grayson then went on to list a series of steps that Obama could take using the Executive Authority:

1. Accelerate the obligation of federal contracts and grants.

2. Declare China a 'currency manipulator,' and end the forced currency union with China (that we never asked for and we don't want, which has cost us 5 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade) and institute 'anti-dumping' actions to protect American jobs.

3. Direct Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA and the VA to include in every home loan, that they issue or finance, a provision that requires mandatory mediation, at the bank's expense, before foreclosure.

4. Direct both the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department to break up any financial institution that is considered 'too big to fail.' Too big to fail should mean too big to exist (in other words institute the "Volcker Rule," named after the recently discharged former right-wing economic policy-maker). No more bailouts, no more Wall Street welfare.

5. Ask the FBI to investigate and the DOJ to prosecute anyone who committed criminal misconduct in connection with the collapse of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Bear Stearns, Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, and all the rest. In the 18 months before the President took office, twenty percent of U.S. national wealth was wiped out, and no one has been punished for that.

6. Because corporate income tax revenues have dropped by half in the past decade, while Big Business is enjoying record profits, I will ask the IRS to audit every one of the Fortune 500. This will ensure that they are paying the taxes that are due, rather than evading taxes through transfer pricing and offshore tax havens.

7. Direct the EPA to exercise its authority to treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

8. Ask [tell] the SEC to direct that shareholders in public companies must authorize all campaign expenditures in advance, and that public companies disclose all such expenditures within 48 hours. We cannot allow trillion-dollar multinational companies to dictate the outcome of our elections secretly.

9. Ask [tell] the NLRB to take all available steps to ensure that the right of employees to organize, which is rooted in the Constitution's 'freedom of association,' be defended - including the promulgation of 'card check' by regulation under the National Labor Relations Act.

10. As Commander-in-Chief, I will bring all of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of this year, if not sooner.

So that's "far left," according to a former trial lawyer who, aside from the former socialist (in the US sense) Senator Bernie Sanders, was arguably the most left-wing member of the previous Congress. To that list of executive actions that the President might take, one might add the following list of major legislative proposals that a "left-wing" in the U.S. sense might make:

1. Medicare for all for paying for and running the U.S. health care system.

2. Putting Social Security on a firm financial basis until the year 2075 or so, as Paul Krugman has told us over and over again, primarily by raising the upper income limit for Social Security withholding.

3. Enacting gun control legislation that is simply within the "well-regulated" clause of the Second Amendment: licensing for gun owners and registration of their weapons, just like with cars.

4. A massive infra-structure reconstruction program akin to Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System but dealing as well with rail, air, and the internet.

5. Ending the tax and tariff programs that have so launched and maintained national de-industrialization.

6. Raise taxes on the wealthy and the large corporations back to some level (which do not approach what they were during the period of the nation's greatest economic growth, the Eisenhower Era) that would fund the necessary economy-stimulating government programs and deal with both the budget deficits and the national debt.

7. Develop a true national energy policy that would eventually significantly reduce our dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas as well as deal with global warming and the resulting climate change that is already affecting us, a policy like that of the hardly radical Jimmy Carter.

8. Doing so would enable us to begin to dismantle the very expensive chain of overseas military bases, many of which are there for the primary purpose of protecting our oil supply and the profits of those US companies that get it to us.

9. Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine for control of the publicly-owned air waves.

And so on, and so forth. Wow! How radical . . . . for the U.S., of course. A true national health service? No. Nationalization of key industries? No. A Humphrey-Hawkins type program guaranteeing work to everyone who wants it? No. A Scandinavian, even German/French, style of social insurance? No. A federally-funded community-based mental health system, as originally envisioned by JFK? No. An end to the drug war? No. A properly-funded public education system from K through post-doc? No.

Indeed the numbered lists above do indeed constitute the program of the "far left" as presently characterized even by commentators like Chris Mathews and certainly Joe Scarborough. It's funny, but many of the drafted Tea Party rank-and-file would support many of the elements of the first list at least if they hadn't been already so hate- and racism-filled by their leadership both on and off the airwaves. We really do have a long ways to go in this country if the positions on the numbered lists, much of which used to be considered mainstream Democratic ones especially in the days of the New Deal, the Fair Deal and the Great Society, and even Eisenhower Republicanism, can be widely characterized as "far left." Indeed, this country has no idea of what "far left," as envisioned by true leftists, really is.

This column constitutes Commentary No. 165 in my current series for BuzzFlash/Truthout.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post (http://www.greanvillepost.com/; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com (http://www.opednews.com/), a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.