Originally published in Truthout on January 14, 2015.
Quite apart from the political challenges it represents, the current New York City police slowdown illuminates a classic general issue that must be faced by those concerned with how to structure a next system that moves us beyond the problems of both traditional corporate capitalism and traditional state socialism.
While we may enjoy some satisfaction in the NYPD’s attempt to enrage its critics by giving them exactly what they’ve been asking for – i.e. a drastic reduction in the criminalization of the lives of poor communities of color – it’s important to confront the additional question of who should be able to make these kind of decisions and how, both now and in serious system-changing discussions. (If every decision about how the NYPD operates were left up to its workers, that would certainly not further the goal of real justice.)
A common position among some theorists is that the answer to the failures of state socialism, for instance, is simply to encourage worker-ownership and self-management of virtually all industry, instance by instance, case by case. Historically, this position was commonly termed “syndicalism.”
Originally published in Aljazeera America on January 12, 2015.
Whether or not one agrees with the decisions taken by our political leaders who sent them off to war, it’s undeniable that the veterans of the various post-9/11 wars are suffering. The nearly three million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have returned to civilian life are afflicted with an official unemployment rate of around 9 percent — substantially higher than the overall rate of 5.6 percent. Another half million have the left the labor force entirely. Many struggle with poverty, foreclosure and homelessness brought on by an anemic and uneven recovery and compounded by the mental and physical scars of war.
The plight of veterans of recent wars who continue to fall through the social safety net offers a unique opportunity to reimagine the way government provides for the welfare of its citizens. Too often discussions concerning the provision of basic needs for Americans get tied up in questions of desert: The “undeserving” poor see their lifeline slashed to incentivize them to pull harder on their own bootstraps. But only the most callous among us would find it easy to disown the obligation we owe to those who have demonstrated willingness to put their bodies in the line of fire on our behalf. Veterans offer a chance to think clearly about how best we can help those in need — and if the primary problem we must solve is that far too many veterans lack an income to support themselves, why don’t we just provide it to them?
Originally published in TruthOut on November 9, 2014.
There have been endless post-mortems on the 2014 midterm elections, complete with explanations proffered as to why Democrats and their allies failed so spectacularly, and projections of doom and gloom lasting until the next election cycle. However, in a profound sense this election changes very little. The dominant reality we face is one of substantial ongoing political stalemate and decay, and this sets the terms of reference for those serious about long term, more fundamental change.
First things first: There is little indication that, even when elected, Democrats employing traditional liberal strategies will have the capacity to change most of the deteriorating or stagnating economic, social, and environmental trends – including, among others: rising inequality, high levels of poverty and child poverty, continued discrimination against women and minorities, declining corporate taxation, staggering levels of incarceration, increasing corruption of the political system and a rapidly changing climate.
Originally published in Al Jazeera America on November 10, 2014.
“Even if the United States deals with its carbon emission problem, the Chinese won’t. So what’s the point?”
“You can’t condemn the entire global South to abandon energy development, and you can’t provide enough with solar and wind. So what’s the point?”
“Besides, the whole enterprise of trying to achieve a future sufficiently carbon-free to deal with the most important problems is politically hopeless.”
These challenges are sometimes spoken, sometimes not, but they commonly and powerfully weaken efforts to deal with the climate crisis. Despite the well-funded bluster of disingenuous or, at best, delusional skeptics and deniers, a majority of Americans believe the climate is changing in worrying ways, and many (PDF) also believe that these changes pose a threat to current and future generations. But this belief has not yet translated into action at a scale adequate to the problem we face.