Taking Stands

By David Swanson

Recently someone Emailed me a brief policy statement on four major issues. They’d received it from a political activist group, they said, and were passing it along with praise. I think it’s worth commenting on, because the positions are those many progressive groups take, but – far from being “stands” on the issues, as my correspondent described them, they are closer to being methods of rolling over.

Here’s the first:

“The War in Iraq
“We were misled by President Bush and his administration into going to war in Iraq. Squandering lives and treasure by launching a preemptive and unprovoked war was a mistake. Further, the administration doesn’t have a strategy for ending this quagmire. Diplomatic means should be fully exhausted before committing our country and its people to waging war.”

Well, where does this group stand? Is it for ending the war now, continuing the war forever, or partially ending the war on some mushy flexible time table? Who knows? The war was not a mistake. It was and is an ongoing crime. We need positions on what to do about it, not labeling it “a mistake.” That’s not courage. That’s complicity. And what does exhausting diplomatic means signify? We need much more diplomacy, but diplomacy was never going to persuade Iraq to produce its nonexistent weapons. We need opposition to illegal wars, not illegal wars as a “last resort.”

Here’s “stand” number 2:

“Health Care
“Access to affordable health care should be a right of every American, not just a privilege of the wealthy or those with employer-subsidized insurance. Corporations should pay their fair share of health care costs. Profitable corporations should not be allowed to cut health coverage and expect taxpayers to foot the bill instead.”

If it’s going to be a right, put it in the Constitution. That would be a concrete step, but it would place a duty on our government to provide coverage, not on corporations. Corporations are not accountable to the American public. They have no responsibility to provide health care, cannot be counted on to do so, will never do so for the unemployed or those switching jobs, and in the case of small businesses cannot afford to do so, whether they’re profitable or not. There is a less expensive way to provide private health care, allowing free choice of doctors and pharmacies. It works in every other wealthy country on the planet. It costs less money and covers everyone totally. It’s called single-payer health care. If you oppose single-payer, you support HMOs and other health insurance companies and their system, which will never work and which will continue to go from bad to worse. Take a stand. Which is it going to be? A real solution or band-aids on an enormous corporate scam?

Here’s tough stand number 3:

“Fiscal Responsibility
“Fiscal responsibility was once the core of our nation’s strength. Our government and elected officials should balance the budget and reduce the deficit. What’s more, it is possible to be fiscally responsible and support vital social programs. To that end, real tax reform is essential—not just tax cuts for the rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of us.”

Fiscal responsibility has never been the core of anybody’s “strength.” It’s a sensible position, but not one of the top four issues facing our nation unless your focus is on defending yourself against charges of spending too much money. Yes, of course, we need tax reform. We need progressive taxation of the rich. We need taxation of corporations. And, more importantly, we need to cut spending in the places where we are wasting the most money: wars and the Pentagon. Until you have the nerve to talk about cutting the Pentagon’s budget, all talk of fiscal responsibility is empty rhetoric – and boring rhetoric at that. Nobody cares.

And, finally:

“Elect a New Generation of Leaders
“Change only happens through grassroots activism. We must rebuild our nation’s leadership from the ground up by supporting fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates at all levels of government—in every county across the U.S., no matter how ‘red’ the state or difficult the contest.”

Electing fiscally responsible politicians is as helpful as fiscal responsibility (see above).

OK, so it’s easy to criticize. What would I propose as four stands worth taking? These:

1.-U.S. out of Iraq immediately and entirely, and disavowing “preemptive” and all aggressive wars.

2.-Single-payer health care.

3.-Supporting the Kyoto treaty and taking further aggressive steps to reduce global warming.

4.-An economy for the rest of us: (a) restore the minimum wage to its 1968 level; (b) pass the Employee Free Choice Act to allow the legal organizing of unions; (c) pull out of NAFTA and the WTO, and engage in no more corporate trade pacts

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