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Sat Dec 30, 2017, 09:53 PM

New Language for the New Year

Instead of the duality "socialism vs capitalism" can we start pitching "infrastructure for a people's economy"?

A healthy infrastructure of trains, bridges, education, social services and representative government – with the US Constitution at its core – presents a bullseye image where one supports the other. Democrats have understood this intuitively and the economy – the outermost ring – has thrived under Democratic presidents. By reframing the debate we can own the concept that Democrats are better at managing the economy. Keynesian stimulus spending on the infrastructure during the Great Depression and the recent Great Recession lead to significant recoveries. The formula is as old as the hills and is even in the Old Testament (raise taxes during good times, increase spending during hard times).

The tiresome oppositional approach – which Republicans goad us into taking – is a rhetorical trap leading to futility. As my father, an economist, used to say: "Humans wear many hats." We're both cooperative and competitive, builders and reformers, property owners and people sharing a commons. So for the New Year ahead, can we establish an image of nested systems –with the US Constitution as the central operating system? It suggests something positive, anchoring and functional.

The knee jerk Republican effort to destroy the social, physical and institutional supports at the center of our system can then be more easily seen as an attempt to throw us back to the middle ages. Feudalism anyone?

In the sense that I'm using it, infrastructure includes both hard and soft systems: trains, bridges, court houses, education and bank regulations alike.

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