Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma) Defines Today's Progressivism
Warren reviewed eleven tenets of contemporary progressivism in a July 18 speech before Netroots Nation . She should be commended. Very often progressive politicians prefer to talk about “hope and change” rather than what they really stand for. Her list is not free of exaggerated rhetoric, such as claiming the mantle of “science” for herself. When she talks about supporting fast food workers on picket lines, she doesn’t mention the millions she is collecting from labor unions. But, even so, her account contains some honest and useful information.
1. “We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.”
2. “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.”
3. “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.”
4. “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”
5. “We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”
6. “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”
7. “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.”
8. “We believe—I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work.”
9. “We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America.”
10. “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.”
11. “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!”
Here are a few questions for Warren.
1. Since you are willing to fight for stronger rules and tougher enforcement for Wall Street, are you willing to fight for an end to government bail-outs? How will you end them if Wall Street is operated as a subsidiary of Washington? How will you end them if Washington needs big Wall Street firms to buy its bonds with money created by Washington, since Washington is barred from buying its own bonds directly but can do so indirectly through Wall Street? In general, how will you keep government control from wrecking the internal disciplines of the market, which include loss and bankruptcy as well as profit?
2. How will an increase in the minimum wage help those who can’t get any job because of the minimum wage? How will this help teenagers or other young people get their first job?
One of your favorite presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, intervened to keep wages high during the Great Depression. The result was that those who succeeded in keeping their jobs were even better off than before while millions of others were thrown out of work and had nothing.
3. Hasn’t the federal student loan program driven up the cost of a college education, leaving many students worse off than before it existed?
And why is the federal government borrowing at a low interest rate and then charging the students a much higher rate? How can it be right to make a profit off the students and then apply it to the federal budget under a line called “ deficit reduction.”
4. Since you hold that “equal means equal… in all of America,” why do federal programs discriminate in favor of one group over another? Why, to choose just one of many examples, are non-unionized companies barred from federal construction contracts?
5. If corporations are not people, does that mean the government can not only tell them what to do, but even gag them or tell them what to say?
Having reviewed what Warren believes to be the eleven tenets of contemporary progressivism, what does she think that conservatives and libertarians believe? Here it is: “I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.”
Is this what either conservatives or libertarians teach? Is this what markets teach? They teach us to be selfish? Or do they teach us that we had better put our selfishness aside and tend to the needs of customers and employees first if we want to be successful?
People who run businesses are serving the needs of others. And people who work for the government may be just as selfish as anybody else.
Did Senator Warren describe all the tenets of contemporary progressivism? No, she described the ones she wanted to describe. But it’s helpful to have her eleven.