Well the Americans had their mid-term elections a few days ago and the Republicans have won control of both Congress and the Senate. What is this going to mean for the rest of us? I have a few thoughts — and predictions — for you to consider.
They're fed up of Obama
Americans were promised hope and change by their president and he failed to deliver. Some of the issues that arose were not his fault; ISIS/ISIL or whatever they're calling themselves this week were born of US foreign policies and clandestine operations going way back to... well, since oil was discovered in the Middle East. They wouldn't get so deeply involved if it wasn't all about keeping their cars on the road. The Ebola crisis is not of Barry's making, however, the existence of patents on drugs, the evergreening that goes with it, and the tight grip of the pharmaceutical industries over IPR, domestic healthcare, and FTA policy means that there's little he can do about it. There are, however, some pretty big things we can blame him for and here they are:
- Unrestricted global surveillance
- Increased copyright terms
- Secret FTAs
- Revolving doors
The Republicans are changing (a bit)
For the last six years I've seen nothing but madness from the US Republican party, mostly because the Tea Party has been pushing out incumbents such as Eric Cantor with the help of endorsements from right-wing and Tea Party supporters. Dave Brat is a case in point. A brief look through his Wikipedia entry sent my eyebrows shooting up; you really have to read it to get a sense of the WTF-ery of current right-wing thought. Mention any big name Republican and I'll show you stupidity. Here, see for yourselves why Obama won the last election — for a second time.
No, it's not because the Tea Party got slagged off on the telly. It's because their members actually behave that way. They actually say those things. That's why the Republican party is working so damn hard to distance themselves from them. It was one of only two ways they could go; even further to the right — and the wing-nuttery that goes with it — or turn left to the middle, leaving the Democrats swinging in the wind.
Now read the comments on that Atlantic article I linked. If the Republicans are to win the next election, they've got a tricky choice to make; abandon the wingnuts who form their current base and aim for the middle ground where the sensible people are or pretend to be centrist while pursuing the right-wing policies that are already causing devastation where they've been enacted.
Erm, about that...
They're not going to change their ways at all. Not really. They'll soften their stance a bit to keep voters sweet in the hope of winning in 2016 but their anti-environment, anti-regulation, and tax-cutting policies will remain in place. They will also try to "reform" the Affordable Care Act, a disastrous compulsory health insurance plan because they don't have an NHS over there as such. They've made a big show of wanting to co-operate with the President but they're not actually obliged to do anything; Obama's current unpopularity is partly the result of Republican obstructionism. If it worked so well thus far, why not continue the games and continue to paint him as the bad guy? If it worked so well before, it will again. Besides, if they don't wreck the economy by 2016 they've got a realistic chance of winning if they choose a smarter candidate for the presidency than the last rogues gallery they put up. What a joke that was. I mean, seriously, they make it so damn hard for 3rd parties to even get a look in.
It's the economy, stupid!
Despite the hype, the truth is you can't pave the road to prosperity with tax cuts because that decreases the revenues required to provide state services. Conversely, you can't pave it with tax hikes either. You can, however, arrive at Prosperity Wells via the Middle-out gravy train, which runs on wage hikes that put more money into people's pockets in the first place, thereby raising the amount of tax revenues because 20% of £200 is £50. Raise the wage by a quarter and you'll find that 20% of £250 is £62.50. Now multiply that by the number of working people. That extra dosh adds up over the weeks, and all without actually raising taxes. The best part is, if those who were formerly in receipt of benefits are now earning enough to live on, they no longer need subsidies so they're costing the rest of us less to support = more money in the state kitty for tax-funded services.
Libertarian-leaning Republicans argue that by cutting taxes they're giving you back your own money, taking less of what you worked hard to earn, you trooper. Yeah, but tax-funded services have to be cut or charged for, increasing the burden on the hard-working families they claim to be helping. The argument against subsidizing the other guy starts to wear thin at that point; the trade-off is that, yeah, you're paying for services you don't use but the other guy does, while he is paying for those services you use that he doesn't, so it sort of evens out. The point is, we actually need public services, and leaving it to philanthropists and private enterprise to provide them only goes to show why they were created in the first place.
It's impossible to be completely self-sufficient in the modern world. We all depend on one another to a certain extent whether we're aware of it or not. That's why I can't be dealing with selfishness on the left or the right. While the world doesn't owe us a living, we do in fact rely on it to provide us with one in some way, shape, or form. Current conservative thought doesn't accept this truth, which is why I don't get along with the Tories, American Republicans, or Libertarians. They actually believe the nonsense they spew. And they're running the show now.
The trouble with American politics is that politicians over here tend to copy what they do over there. That's why I'm commenting on it; what they do directly and indirectly affects me sooner or later. At the moment, it's led to a 20 year increase in copyright terms. Before the increase I could have helped myself to public domain works to quote or otherwise use. Now I have to find out who the rightsholder is and pay a fee. It's not always easy to do; sometimes they can't be found. That's why orphan works should go straight to the public domain after 5 years and registration ought to be compulsory. You snooze, you lose. It'd put an end to such nonsense. Well here's what I predict for the next 5 - 10 years:
The nutters win
The Republican Party will be energised for the next six months or until such time as the radical right starts demanding payment for their support, and by "payment" I mean "repeal of the Affordable Care Act." When people start to realise that the benefits (if any) they're receiving now are being repealed along with it, there will be an outcry. Result: humiliating climbdown, internal civil war between moderates and loons, utter defeat in the next election, or all three. And they won't be able to blame Obama for it. He needs to let this happen. Hand them the rope and they'll hang themselves.
The nutters lose
The Republican Party will realise that the nutters are more of a hindrance than a help. Business leaders will begin to see the benefits of Middle-Out as Seattle enacts more policies based on its wisdom and will stop funding nutters, the exception being the Koch brothers and other radicals who will continue to pay for campaign adverts for their favoured candidates, and by "favoured candidates" I mean "glove puppets with five working digits, able to hold a pen." This will push the nutters to the fringe where they belong. This will result in the deepening of the current schism in the party in which the most passionate members are more interested in principles than empiricism. In this scenario, business favours the people because they understand that they need customers who can afford their products. Result: more prosperity in a sustainable economy.
Big business moves to front and centre
This is the most likely scenario. Republicans become convinced by their backers that only a free market economy can save America in the teeth of the evidence that there is no such thing as a free market and that they themselves are responsible for tying it up by promoting IPR and refusing to break up cartels, monopolies, and other anti-competitive setups. They have already started talking seriously about granting the President fast-track authority to pass TPP and other FTAs, characterising anyone who questions them as anti-trade despite the fact that the ISDS terms in these secret FTAs are anti-democratic and undermine national sovereignty. Pushing a business-first corporate agenda, they continue to plunder the state (but they're creating jobs in technology and stuff!) by promoting policies based on FUD to sell surveillance as security and increase the incarcerated population, continue the revolving door practices that are turning the country into a kleptocracy, and continue to erode public safety via deregulation in the name of the free market. Corporate taxes will drop and personal taxes will rise; pay rates will either freeze or drop. Result: a new global depression, worse than 2008. God help us all.
What now? What then?
Okay, I've been all negative so far. What can we do? Well we can continue to promote the Pirate Party, Middle-out economics, personal freedom, and decentralised government. Remember, there's a Pirate Party in America (they tend to be the kind of small L libertarians I get along with) so we need to be raising awareness of it and persuading people to vote for it. Americans need to feel the burn if anything is going to change. While they often rant about getting out their metal comfort blankets and having a full-blown revolution they know damn well what would happen if they actually did.
We need to remind them that there is a simpler, cleaner option that requires no violence: simply persuade enough people to vote third party to get that candidate into office. We'd need at least two thousand here in the bigger Manchester wards to get a Pirate into office. If you can find out how many votes the last election winner received in the last election you will know how many votes are required to beat that person. Now try to persuade that number of people that your candidate is the right one. We've got to let go of the authoritarian it's-for-your-own-good approach favoured by some. If we're going to get people on board we've got to be able to convince them we're right. That means promoting policies that appeal to them and discussing them rationally, bringing as many people into the debate as possible so we can knock the rough edges off and craft policies that actually work in practice.
Damn it, people, if they can elect a Socialist to public office in a country that thinks "Socialist" means "boogeyman!" they can elect a Pirate. Am I right?