You all know what I’m talking about. Pundits of every political stripe use the Left-to-Right frame every day or, equally vaguely and inaccurately, the liberal-moderate=conservative frame. These categories have definitions that vary from one commentator to the next, and can even be changed in mid-sentence by the same person. The framing also causes a lot of confusion and angst. For example, a few months back some FDLers’ heads were exploding at the dilemma created by one congresswoman.
Marcy Kaptur of Toledo had consistently championed the interests of working and middle class people for a long time. She even went so far as to urge homeowners facing foreclosure to defy the authorities and the banks and remain in their homes because no one really knew who “owned” what portion of their loan. She pilloried Wall Street and the investment class. Yet, she is also pro-life.
Horrors! What is a self-styled liberal or progressive to do?
I submit that the confusion stems from the inadequacies of the left-to-right frame. I was going to propose the pyramid of income and power as an alternative, but our society may have gone beyond that model as well. I came across the L-Curve model, and it’s even more accurate than the pyramid. My apologies for being unable to make the little blue link, but if you highlight it and right-click it, it will work:
As you can see, the curve is pretty damned flat until it reaches the 95th percentile, or 100K per year, and then it shoots up astronomically. A model set up like the Great Pyramid of Giza just doesn’t do our concentration of wealth and power justice, and the left-center-right model doesn’t even apply at all.
For at least the last 20 years, the Democratic Party has preached that it is the party of the “middle class.” During the last few election cycles, judging by both rhetoric and TV commercials, they are talking about people making at least 100 grand a year. The Grotesquely Ostentatious Propertarian, er, Republican Party, on the other hand, stands for the mythical “job creators,” who make a lot more than that, precisely how much is a little vague, but it’s pretty clear those people make at least 250 grand a year.
If we keep discussing the politics of power in the left-center-right framework, we completely miss that point, which is exactly why the corporate media and the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans insist on doing just that. They focus instead on things like illegal immigration, women’s or LGBT or gun or pick your minority group’s rights, or Horatio Alger-style myths or American exceptionalism or evil terrorists or “Freedom.” They never, ever, focus on anything that might remotely imply that there needs to be either a radical redistribution of wealth or a cap placed on how much wealth and power any member of society should be allowed to have(on that last, I tip my hat to Welsh Terrier 2).
So, returning to my example of Marcy Kaptur, this L-Curve model makes her stance on legalized abortion irrelevant. If we had a truly representative democracy it would be a non-issue anyway, since most Americans are in favor of a woman’s right to choose. What’s relevant about Kaptur is her willingness to challenge the power of the top 5%.
Perhaps the left-right model has its place on certain social issues, but it should never be allowed to define the biggest problem this country now faces, which is the extreme and increasing inequality of wealth and which now resembles the situation in mid-1780′s France.
That model ignores the 800 pound guillotine in the room. We all ignore that at our peril.