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October 29, 2008

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Tom Civiletti, a guy who I often disagree with on Blue Oregon, said progressives want "systemic reform to enhance equality of opportunity", while liberals are "about social programs to compensate the losers." Furthermore, "Progressives understand that radical change is sometimes more effective, more efficient, and kinder to the human soul than are government handouts."

Of course, both words have been fouled by Democrats and Republicans, who use them merely for partisan advantage. ("Classical liberalism" is easily discriminated from the business-oriented militarism favored by "liberal" Democrats by anyone who cares about the meaning of words.)

I agree with you, Terry, about Merkley.

Theory and rhetoric aside, Harry, it's clear from simply observing the political scene that it all comes down to a willingness, or unwillingness, as the case may be, to pay for programs that promote equality of opportunity AND social justice.

Health care is one such program. So is universal public education.

Politicians whom I view as progressive, Xander Patterson, for example, generally support higher and fairer taxes for programs that benefit the vast majority of people.

Run of the mill Dems --Blue Oregon Dems, if you will-- don't.

I don't think we need more taxes, Terry (fairer taxes, yes). We could cut our military spending by 75% and still be spending more than $250 billion per year. It's interesting to examine the responses of ordinary people when they're asked how they would spend the federal budget: The Federal Budget: The Public’s Priorities.

Results were the reverse of the actual budget. The public was strongly opposed to increased military spending, including "supplementals" for Iraq and Afghanistan. It was very strongly in favor of increases in social spending.

Most people are progressive on the issues. Those to our right are not "centrists"; we are the centrists.

Oregon's Senator Ron Wyden, a staunch liberal, is pushing what he calls a "fair flat tax", the operative word being "flat", not progressive.

Obviously, this is a very late response to a long-ago discussion, but I just want to set the record straight.

Wyden's "fair flat tax" absolutely has a progressive rate structure. The "flat" part of it refers to the elimination of most tax deductions and credits. Not only that, but he would tax investment income at the same rate as income from labor - a long-time progressive goal.

In short, Wyden is trying to seize back the brand name "flat tax" from the anti-progressive righties and provide an alternative that's quite progressive.

There's more info on his website. (Full disclosure: I built that website for Senator Wyden, but I speak only for myself.)

Wyden's plan has been criticized by all the progressives I know, including Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).

Here are a couple out of several PNHP critiques:

Wyden's "Healthy Americans Act" is Wrong Model for Health Reform

Cost and Coverage Estimates for the “Healthy Americans Act”

"Wyden’s plan falls apart since it depends on price competition of health plans, which in turn depends on shifting more unaffordable costs directly to those who need care."

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