A project of the Center for Community Change

Roger Toussaint on the Public Good

A healthy immigration system is a public good. No one in the open market will provide it for us. Rather, the government must provide for it as a third party. It is Congress’ job to make immigration workable again. I recently read Roger Toussaint’s remarks, reproduced below, and I feel that they capture an important spirit within our struggle.

From remarks by Transportation Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint at the 2nd Annual Sumner Rosen Memorial Lecture, May 8, 2007:
 
“We have had 25 years of denigration of the very idea that there is something called the public good. Government has to push it forward. Society has to pay for it.

The Republican presidential debate last week was at the Ronald Reagan library. It belonged there. Reagan unleashed the open assault on the public good. The candidates fell all over themselves trying to show who was the most Reagan-like — who would keep starving the public sphere and push all wealth into the marketplace.

I used to think that the only public good the right wing accepted was the military. But today they even send our children and neighbors and co-workers into battle without armor. And then de-fund the VA hospitals when they come home wounded.

We need a full scale cultural counter-attack on this front.

* The market can NOT provide health care for all.
* The market can NOT provide efficient, affordable,
   accessible mass transit.
* The market can NOT make the environment green.

There are things the market can do. It can provide 300 TV channels and a fancier cell phone every few months. And if progressive public policy decisions are ever made, the market can try to make a buck off of them.

The market won’t provide equality, or decency. It won’t ensure dignity in our old age, though it will try to profit if society goes that route. We need to change the culture that worships the market and rebuild a sense of the public good, the common good.”

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