Why Cutting Social Security is Progressive

By Mark E. Smith

In an Alternet article entitled, “Is Obama Throwing Seniors off a Cliff?” (http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/obama-throwing-seniors-cliff), the author, Kathleen Geier, concludes, “Let’s hope progressives put up a real fight on this one and force the White House to hold out for something better.”

Well, sure! Since there’s nothing that we can say or do, we might as well hope that progressives do something. And while we’re at it, perhaps we can also hope that Santa decides we’ve been good little girls and boys and brings us lots of toys for Christmas. Good old hopey changey, still hopey that Obama might changey, or that those who voted for him might changey.

First of all, progressives can’t put up a “real fight,” in any literal sense of the phrase, because progressives are nonviolent. They’re so nonviolent that they always do their civic duty to vote to help elect a war criminal and authorize him to beat their heads in, before they engage in civil disobedience to protest the results of their votes.

Secondly, progressives aren’t going to do anything that might hurt the Democrats, no matter how much the Democrats hurt them, because that might help the Republicans. As Winifred Tate wrote in an appendix to the book, Throwing Stones at the Moon: Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence:

“For much of the past century, two parties–Liberals and Conservatives–have dominated Colombian political life. While in many ways the parties have been indistinguishable, with little difference between their economic and political platforms, they inspired intense allegiances that some scholars compared to a religious identity….By alternating power between the two traditional parties….no third-party participation was allowed, nor any electoral choice offered among candidates.”

Sound familiar?

And thirdly, by “something better,” progressives mean “something worse that we consider to be something better, or at least something less evil, because our guy is doing it instead of the other guy.” So no matter what Obama does, progressives will consider it to be better than the evil they believe, and believe is the appropriate word for such religious faith, a Republican would do. Bush started two wars of aggression, Obama started at least five more, so that makes Obama “less evil” and therefore “better” than Bush. Bush gave smaller bailouts to the banksters than Obama did, so that makes Obama “less evil” and therefore “better” than Bush. Bush merely shredded the Constitution, whereas Obama shredded the Magna Carta, so that makes Obama “less evil” and therefore “better” than Bush. Progressives believe that more evil is less evil if their guy does it, so if Obama cuts Social Security they won’t be able to fight it because they believe it is less evil for a Democrat to cut Social Security than for a Republican not to. You can’t argue with religious beliefs.

Here’s a little talk I gave to the Board of Directors of my local organic food co-op yesterday. Since they had all voted, they all sat there stony-faced. But there was also a woman present who is not on the board, a worker/owner who gave me a dazzling smile when I finished, so my presentation wasn’t entirely unappreciated:

     Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today. My name is Mark Smith and I’m an election boycott activist, so when the November issue of our Co-op News carried the top headline, “If You’re Not Voting, Who Are You Electing?” it really hurt me. Would you ask, “If you don’t shop on Black Friday, what are you buying?”— of course not. If you don’t shop, you’re not buying anything. And if you don’t vote, you’re not electing anyone.

     A better question is, “If you do vote, who are you electing?” We have a winner-take-all electoral system, and what that means is that when people vote, they are not electing the person or issue they vote for they are electing the person who wins. The winner claims the entire election turnout, including votes for their opponent, votes for third parties, write-in votes for Mickey Mouse, Nobody, or End War Now, and votes cast by voters who voted only for local issues or candidates and left the line for President blank. Whoever signs their name at the polls or on the back of a mail-in ballot envelope, is granting their personal consent of the governed to whoever wins and delegating to whoever wins the power to do whatever they wish in that voter’s name.

     Even if you only voted for Proposition 37 and left the rest of the ballot blank, your vote still counted as the consent of the governed in a Presidential election where the only two candidates with any chance of becoming President were both dedicated to war and to environmental destruction.

    The fact is that if you voted, you were part of the total voter turnout that elected the winner of the Presidential race, who you knew would be either Obama or Romney, who you knew would appoint Monsanto executives to government agency positions, who you knew would continue the nuclear and environmental pollution that is driving climate change, who you knew would continue to protect and bailout corrupt banksters and cut social programs to reward them for their crimes, and who you knew would continue the wars of aggression based on lies—the worst crimes against humanity known. If you voted, you elected the winner. Is it right to use Co-op resources to falsely allege that nonvoters were doing what voters actually did?

     Governments derive their just powers, as the Declaration of Independence states, from the consent of the governed. They demonstrate that they have the consent of the governed by holding elections. Your vote is your consent. If a substantial percentage of the electorate votes, the government can claim to have been democratically elected, to have the consent of the governed, and therefore to represent the will of the people. If people don’t vote, the government cannot claim to have been democratically elected, cannot claim to have the consent of the governed, and cannot claim to represent the will of the people. That’s why I don’t vote and that’s why I urge others to boycott our elections.

     I’m not withholding my consent because I’m apathetic. I was a conscientious voter for decades and then, as Nancy and Derek [the co-op’s general manager and her husband—my local election integrity group used to meet at their home in La Jolla] can tell you, I was an election integrity activist, trying to find some way to ensure that our votes would be counted. It took me six years of monitoring elections, doing research, filing Public Records Requests, and bringing litigation to understand that the Supreme Court was correct in 2000, that due to the way our Constitution was written, our votes do not have to be counted, and that not even a Constitutional Amendment could change that. That’s when I stopped voting. I care. I am morally and ethically opposed to crimes against humanity and environmental destruction, so I won’t vote in any election where the known and only possible result of the election will be continuing genocide and environmental destruction. There is no right, privilege, or benefit so precious to me that I will knowingly sacrifice the lives of innocent people and the survival of the planet to get it. There are moral and ethical reasons for my refusal to vote and I don’t think co-op resources should be used to criticize owners for having values and principles, or to help get out the vote for an amoral, unethical, and undemocratic form of government.

     I understand that the co-op was trying to encourage better nutrition through legislative reform. In the essay entitled, “Legislative Reform School” that I’ve passed around to the board, I explain why that isn’t really a good idea. I also have a proposal I’ve passed around to the board members, suggesting that we no longer use co-op resources to promote genocide and environmental destruction, or to disparage owners opposed to genocide and environmental destruction, and I ask that the Board please consider it.

     Thank you.


Everyone on that board is a progressive. Everyone on that board claims to oppose genocide and environmental destruction. And everyone on that board voted in an election where they knew continuing genocide and environmental destruction would be the only possible result — thus, the stony faces. My proposal will go to a committee, it will be studied, and then they will announce that since the co-op is already opposed to genocide and environmental destruction and does not endorse specific candidates, only causes which they know will help get out the vote for specific candidates, there’s nothing that they need to do. They’re already doing what they believe is right, so why should they do anything differently? They’re the progressive elite in these parts, so they kept their faces expressionless, and only the lone worker/owner present rewarded me with a big smile for having confronted the hypocrites on their own hypocrisy — class warfare within a supposedly egalitarian cooperative. The managerial class in that multi-million dollar business consists of smug progressives voting their own class interests, but among the workers there are some radicals who don’t vote because they know it would be against THEIR class interests.

Hoping that progressives who refuse to even withhold their consent from everything they claim to oppose, might actually “put up a real fight” against anything they supposedly oppose, is hoping for too much. If they can’t withhold their consent from something, they’re not going to fight what they already consented to. They might stage some impotent protests and some with bail money might even risk arrest, but they won’t fight the power they voted to authorize. They can’t. What’s cutting social programs, a few more wars, and the destruction of the planet through climate change, compared to really important things like GMO labeling, marriage equality, and legal pot?

I’m sure they think I’m crazy because I have my values upside down and don’t understand that for people who self-identify as civilized and progressive, the civilized progress that is destroying the planet is much more important than the planet. They probably feel sorry for me for thinking that voting for war is the same thing as supporting war, but they were polite to me in spite of my apparent delusions. And that’s the most that anyone can expect from progressives.


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