Hope For A Third Party?
Leave it to the political pundits of the corporate media to suddenly discover the virtues of a "third party." They have concluded that Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party are "too far left," that Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority in Congress are "too far right" and that what this country needs is a "centrist" party. Will it be Ross Perot who leads this party, or Bill Bradley, or the man of "character," Gen. Colin Powell? As the only Independent in Congress, I concur with our media pundits that this country does need a third party -- but not the kind of third party they're talking about. In fact, the last thing we need is a third party that represents exactly the same interests as the Democrats and Republicans. Any serious third party must seek to do what the two-party system is not doing: represent the needs of working people and the poor against a wealthy and powerful corporate elite who increasingly dominate our economic and political life. And that, my friends, is not the agenda of Ross Perot, Bill Bradley or Colin Powell. Although the corporate-owned radio and television are virtually not allowed to discuss it, the major crisis facing this country is the class issue. The United States today has the most unfair distribution of wealth and income in the industrialized world. Twenty years ago we led the world in terms of wages and benefits; today we are thirteenth. While the richest 1 percent are growing much richer, corporate profits are soaring and the stock market is at an all-time high, the real wages of the average American continue to decline. Since 1973, 80 percent of American workers have seen either a lowering in their real wages or economic stagnation. Real wages have declined by 16 percent in that period. Most frightening, the new jobs that are being created are often part)time, low-wage or temporary and carry limited or no benefits. Any serious grass-roots third party must make the increased impoverishment of the majority of our people its central focus. Briefly, some of the planks of a real third-party platform would be: progressive tax reform (taxes are not the main issue, but who pays them is); an end to corporate welfare and a cut in military spending (wealthy special interests currently receive $125 billion a year in tax breaks and subsidies); a minimum wage of $5.50 an hour plus a jobs program; a single-payer national health care system (more than 40 million Americans are uninsured); establishment of fair trade, not free trade, as our trade position (this year our trade policy will run up a $160 billion trade deficit and cause the loss of 3 million decent-paying jobs); and reform of campaign and election finance. There is no sense in having a third party dominated by the same top-down interests that control the two major parties. A real third party must excite workers and the middle class, significantly increase voter turnout and fight for an agenda that will improve the lot of ordinary Americans.