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Tracking the Progress of the Progressive Agenda


Tracking the Progress of the Progressive Agenda

Richard Eskow

We live in a political era dominated by corporate cash, billionaire “beauty pageants,” and a right-wing noise machine whose rhetorical phasers are permanently set to “stun.” It’s easy to lose track of ourselves when we’re distracted from moment to moment by Fox News pinwheels and celebrity-driven media circuses.

But out behind the tents, where the carnival lights aren’t as bright, a lot of people are fighting the good fight. How’s that fight going? One way to track its progress is by measuring recent developments against a populist or progressive agenda.


While it is certainly true that we need to invest in infrastructure, it is critical to invest in SUSTAINABLE infrastructure. More endless highway lanes for more Auto Addiction which is the first category is totally wrong. We are NOT going to have endless growth and after the endless Wars, Auto Addiction is the biggest waste we have of declining oil supplies and ever increasing greenhouse emissions. Here in New Jersey Koch funded Governor Christie has stolen so much money from Green Transit for billions for highway expansion that Auto Addiction is now the highest source of greenhouse emissions for New Jersey at 47%! We need MAJOR change to restore cut Rail frequencies (cut 40% to Hoboken since 2008), add connecting shuttles and buses to Rail hubs and then finish restoring Rail Lines planned for New Jersey since Republican Jeffrey Warsh was DOT Commissioner under Republican Gov Christie Whitman. The same needs to happen nationally…
For a glimpse of the crises which can be caused by our current addiction to oil can cause when the spigot runs dry check out Nigeria:



There is no progressive agenda today. This remains an era of middle class elitism. By definition, no progressive OR populist agenda can exclude a focus on our poverty crisis. Now we can see why Republicans since Reagan have worked so consistently to phase out education, especially about our own modern history. Each time in the past that the wealthy elite gained too much power, to the harm of the country, the masses – poor and middle class, workers and the jobless – united to push back, to everyone’s benefit. That can’t happen this time.

Consider the theme of the media marketed to liberals. The message is that our deregulated corporate state is now so perfect that everyone is able to work, there are jobs for all, therefore no need for poverty relief. By ignoring the consequences – deep poverty – they convince themselves that our current system works. It doesn’t. The overall quality of life in the US fell from #1 when Reagan was first elected, down to #43 by the time Obama was elected, and we can no longer adequately compete in the modern world market. If we had sense, we would look at the policies that took the US to its height of wealth and productivity, from FDR to Reagan, and examine what we did to cause such a rapid deterioration of the US itself.


What makes this a failure is that this is the ONLY idea this generation seems to have – creating good-paying jobs for some men. We’re dealing with the consequences of over 30 years of bad policies, and it would take a hell of a lot more to to save out butts. Yet it appears that people today can only consider one idea – as long as it remains consistent with our hyper-capitalist philosophy – at a time.

Breaking our dependence on privately-owned motor vehicles is a far more difficult issue because this is what defines the middle class. Poor people use buses, middle classers drive their own vehicles. The stigma against the poor today is very deep.


Memphis TN in 1980s chose to subsidize and organize van pools from suburbs to avoid needing to widen commuter highways. There is a lot of prejudice against the poor–even then, but Memphis found van pools to be a compromise upper middle class commuters would settle for. I hope for more electric vehicles with longer range and recharging stations at least as common as gas stations. For more or less local trips, one hour or 60 mile range will do, for longer trips, we need recharging stations.
For the able-bodied poor, I hope we can at least get lots of community service employment program jobs plus a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit.