Mariner has noticed that conservatives have begun to cast pejorative meaning onto the word populism. It is claimed by conservatives and authoritarians that capitalism and populism cannot coexist. In the same sentence, socialism virtually is a curse word. Sadly, the term communism is used to bludgeon socialism, populism and progressivism; have we not learned from Senator Joe McCarthy that beliefs, especially in the Western nations, are a composite of ideas and not segregated as to become absolute? A nation functions better and has more success when ideas are a mix that draws the best from many beliefs.
Unfortunately for the conservatives, they must abide within their own ranks tea party and libertarian movements, both of which are populist. Populism is not conservative; it is not liberal. Populism means the will of common citizens is the source of judgment and morality. Populism becomes the mood of the citizenry when they become aggravated because of abuse by society’s institutions – public and private.
Some states, notably California, use the referendum (also called an initiative) as a means by which the people can legislate from the voting booth, bypassing the formal branches of government. Populism is unwieldy as a government process because it usually reflects an emotional reaction by the masses, which may not be the best source for reason or fairness. A benchmark example of populism run amok occurred in California in 1978. The reader may remember that inflation was high in the 1970’s. Inflation had been climbing for several years, reaching a peak of 14% annually.
The combination of inflation, growing population and ever increasing property taxes began to force many California homeowners to sell their homes because they could not afford to pay property taxes. Finally, there was enough pain inflicted that an initiative was drawn up; it received enough signatures on the petition that it qualified to be on the ballot. In a word, the initiative said that property taxes could be raised only 1%. From that day to today, California has been paying a price. What was once one of the top public school systems disintegrated due to lack of funds. California is in debt. Public services still are reduced. Walkouts and strikes ensued. In other words, an honest and severe experience in the lives of many citizens led to active populism. Short-sighted relief collapsed the seventh largest economy in the world. The change made to the California Constitution remains today.
The United States has provoked a similar stress point today because of an unfair distribution of profit. Bernie Sanders defines the problem well. In another post, the mariner cited the statistic that since 1940, inflation has risen 2,273% while average income has risen only 455%. Certainly, the stretched rubber band approaches the chaotic point where it will snap. Another statistic says that if one does not receive income of some sort equal to $150,000.00 per year, one is slowly falling behind in purchasing power.
We know some of the causes: plutocrats manage the governments – the common citizen’s vote is virtually useless. The ploys of control are politically managed by gerrymandering voting districts and using restrictive racist policies; elected officials are knee deep in bribes and protected from prosecution for many illicit financial practices; the cash dam broke when the Supreme Court said money was free speech and approved Citizens United; since the 1980’s, corporations were authorized to raid retirement funds for corporate reinvestment; union busting was common using bankruptcy law and restructuring of corporations; Social Security funds have been reallocated to other uses since World War II; lax attitudes about entitlements and workers rights allowed businesses to stifle minimum wage and wages in general; insurance, health and bank profits are uncontrolled, rising far ahead of inflation. And the issue everyone hears is the existence of a brutal oligarchy where 1% possesses 90% of the nation’s wealth.
Chicken Little is saying “There is chaos! The sky is falling!” Amos says The US is paying for its sinfulness. God will strike down the nation!”
The most critical vote in many decades is before us next year. Vote. Vote thoughtfully.