Like Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley, I believe America needs urgent and important reform: it needs a minimum wage that is a living wage, it needs climate change legislation, it needs to respect the equality of citizens and end—finally—the second class status that too many Americans know. It needs a health care system that Americans can afford. It needs to stop subsidizing oil companies, and stop tolerating their pollution. It needs the courage to stand up to the banks, it needs to restore safety to the financial system, it needs an immigration policy that promises some of the hardest working Americans that they can become citizens and it needs sane gun laws that keep machine guns away from the sorts who would massacre school children.
But unlike Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley, I’m willing to tell America the truth about these urgent and important needs.
That truth is this: The policies that these politicians are pushing are fantasies. Not because, as the Wall Street Journal might argue, we can’t afford them. Of course we can afford them. If we can afford a trillion dollar war that has only made America less safe, we can afford a real social security system, or a health care system that doesn’t sell out to pharmaceutical companies.
The reason these policies are fantasies is because of the corruption that we have allowed to evolve inside Washington, D.C. One NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, has written that the biggest obstacle to climate change legislation is money in politics. That’s certainly true, but it’s not just true about climate change. Every important issue that Washington faces is affected by this corruption. And what America needs right now is candidates willing to explain this truth, to describe a plan to fix it, and to commit to fixing it not someday, but on Day One.
A “democracy” in which 400 families give 50 percent of the money in campaigns is not American democracy. It is a banana republic democracy. A “democracy” in which candidates for Congress spend 30 percent to 70 percent of their time raising money from the tiniest fraction of the 1 percent is not a democracy that could be responsive to the people. It is a democracy that will be responsive to those funders only. What America needs right now is to recognize—all of America, not just the Democrats—that until we fix this democracy, none of the urgent and important policies pushed by these politicians is possible.