By Jim Miller
At the national level, there are signs that 2014 might be a hopeful one for progressives. In New York City Bill De Blasio was sworn in as mayor pledging to fight the “inequality crisis” with a bold progressive agenda addressing housing, education, and economic opportunity at all levels: “When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. We will succeed as one city.”
Many in the national press are pointing to De Blasio’s victory along with the momentum the living wage movement is gaining in cities like Seattle, and buzz around the effort to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for President as evidence of a shift in the national narrative about the question of inequality that bodes well for progressive populism and the country as a whole.
In a column that has been widely distributed across social media E.J. Dionne makes the case that even moderates should be cheered by this because, “For a long time, the American conversation has been terribly distorted because an active, uncompromising political right has not had to face a comparably influential left. As a result, our entire debate has been dragged in a conservative direction, meaning that the center has been pulled that way, too.”
The result of this is that all of our most recent political battles have been fought on the right’s turf, which explains why so little has been done to address the needs of the majority of working and middle class Americans. As Dionne puts it, “When politicians can ignore the questions posed by the left and are pushed to focus almost exclusively on the right’s concerns about ‘big government’ and its unquestioning faith in deregulated markets, the result is immoderate and ultimately impractical policy.”
But just when you want get happy about this welcome change in the national dialogue, enter the UT-San Diego to dismiss this all as “simplistic clichés that ignore broad historical developments in favor of Occupy-style bashing of the allegedly evil ‘1 percent.’” We may have the “perception that the economy is rigged to favor the haves” but “The reality is we can’t change this dynamic.” What we can do to make this inevitable fact of life “more bearable,” however, is address the skills gap by offering more computer science courses in our schools so the toiling masses have better “21st century job skills.”
One is tempted to compare this kind of social Darwinist reasoning to Andrew Carnegie’s 19th century version in the “Gospel of Wealth” where he too makes the case for the inevitability of inequality and posits that rather than bemoaning it we should see it as evidence of our progress as a civilization.
But that would be too kind. While Carnegie did argue for the inevitability of economic inequality he still suggested that it was the obligation of the rich to provide “ladders” upon which the worthy could rise. He favored redistributive investment in the community, taxes on inheritance, and even made a stab at advocating for the rights of labor.
As opposed to the philanthropic gospel of the Robber Baron of old, the libertarian utopia of the local right is far less generous. Indeed in “Fixing California,” a propaganda packet “presented by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce” and distributed by the UT the Sunday before the New Year we were served up a healthy dose of wisdom according to the crowd who would like to bring you Kevin Faulconer as your next mayor.
And what, you may ask “will help change the direction of California before the Golden State becomes a failed state”? Not shockingly, the litany of solutions that would deliver us from the evil that now afflicts us includes the prohibition of public pensions, the end of the income tax, lowering corporate taxes, gutting environmental regulations, promoting fracking, busting unions, and privatizing education. In sum, according to those bent on “fixing California,” we need to fully embrace all the major trends that have helped create the historic level of inequality we are now facing and up the ante for good measure by adding in a little more environmental devastation.
Amusingly, “Fixing California” proudly ends with a reprint of the UT’s absurd call for the secession of lower California from the rest of the state where we could enact our own little version of Atlas Shrugged. Yes, my fellow San Diegans, this is your city’s daily newspaper.
And if you want to know what this UTopia would look like for ordinary San Diegans, just ask the employees of the House of Manchester, where the word on the street is that the UT has just ended their 3% 401K employee match, citing Obamacare costs as the reason. Apparently it’s high time the UT’s beleaguered employees register in some computer science courses to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of the rough and ready world of 21st century capitalism. It’s sure a good thing they no longer have their union to get in the way. If the near total breakdown of the wall between editorial and news content was not bad enough, this shabby treatment of their own workers is a new low in human terms for Papa Doug and John Lynch.
Though none of this should be surprising to anyone who has witnessed the transformation of the UT-SD into a cruel joke in recent years, it does matter a lot. Particularly when you keep in mind that Kevin Faulconer, despite his efforts to sell himself as a moderate “for all of us,” was literally chosen in a backroom session where Doug Manchester and Jerry Sanders and friends squabbled about who would do their bidding once they took their city back. Their choice: the company man, Kevin Faulconer.
So when you hear the attacks on David Alvarez coming from the UT-SD, the Lincoln Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Republican Party, and friends, just keep in mind the kind of city they are hoping for—one that does nothing to address inequality, affordable housing, quality public education, living wage jobs, or real neighborhood concerns. Why no genuine action? Because in their minds “the reality is we can’t change this dynamic.” The only things they will do are blame the afflicted and comfort the affluent.
If you don’t want to live in that kind of city, do everything you can to help elect David Alvarez so we can succeed as one city rather than resign ourselves to living in two cities, separate and unequal.