1/19/17

A Progressive Platform

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In recent posts I’ve outlined a possible Democratic Party makeover that shifts left and runs contrary to head-in-the-sand Democratic leaders who think the party needs to be more “mainstream,” a code word for “conservative.” Follow that hidebound advice and Progressives will take down the party faster than the GOP.

Let me make it stark: Progressives are done with the Democratic Guilt Trip. Every time an election comes around Democrats insist we “must” vote for them, or the country will be taken over by the Neanderthal Right. Then they get their butts kicked by the Neanderthals. Progressives are done taking the blame for liberal ineptitude. The time for guilt trips, fear-mongering, pandering, and shifting the blame is over.  Eugene Debs said it best: “I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want and get it.”

I get asked how Progressives are different from liberals. Here’s a 30-point Progressive agenda. Unrealistic? As opposed to what? All those things Democrats haven't enacted since LBJ? Democrats can either lead or get the hell out of the way. I am not optimistic about  the Democratic Party's willingness to change, but if Democrats want to keep Progressives, below are some of the directions they should be heading.

1. Free trade and free labor, or neither. It’s insane that goods move across the globe without restriction but workers can’t. What would Chinese steel factories look like with an influx of American-born workers? Can’t imagine this could ever happen? It was the way of the 19th century industrial world and the practice didn't end at the behest of wage earners.

2. Passage of a Workers’ Bill of Rights whose codes are prerequisites to most favored nation trade status. The current Hobbesian “race to the bottom” must end.

3. Forbid the export of new technology for 20 years. We’ve had four major recessions since 1980. Among the reasons is the export of the very sector that was supposed to take up the postindustrial slack: the high tech sector. We invented the computer revolution—and allowed investors to send it to Asia. Medical technology and green energy advances loom. Keep them here.
4. Strong anti-offshoring laws that penalize companies that close American plants and send them out of the country. Tax loopholes encouraging this should be closed. Slap a pre-tax import on the percentage of offshore production of U.S. firms. That is, if Ford makes 30% of its vehicles abroad, 30% of Ford’s total fleet is subject to an import tariff. By the way, know who sells the most American-made cars in the USA? Toyota!

5. Anti-raiding laws that prevent states from stealing jobs from other states. A first step would be enacting prevailing wage laws that mandate, for instance, that Tennessee auto workers must be paid the industry standard for all autoworkers.

6.  Living wage laws instead of a minimum wage. It’s morally unacceptable when full-time workers cannot survive on their compensation.

7. Repeal of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act and all right-to-work legislation. Workers will never have dignity until there are countervailing forces to what is currently unchecked corporate power. Unions should be automatically certified when a majority of workers sign cards in favor. RICO laws should be applied to union-breaking consultants and tactics.

8. Enact minimum corporate and wealth taxes. These should be based on net worth, not current- year “earnings.” The latter have become little more than accountant tricks. There is no justice to allowing figures such as Donald Trump to avoid paying taxes. How about mandatory audits for all rich individuals and companies posting losses? Make them open the books.

9. Enact carbon taxes and end all tax write-offs for coal, gas, and oil exploration. Invest the tax revenues in green energy research and development.

10. Enact a national infrastructure improvement bill. Establish oversight committees to monitor cost control. Progressives are sick of hearing that there’s no money, given that much of the current national infrastructure was built during the Great Depression!  

11. Enact a Value Added Tax (VAT) to generate more revenue for social services and infrastructure improvement. Also slap heavier taxes on unimproved property—an old Henry George idea that would encourage development and penalize speculation.

12. Eliminate most tax deductions and return to a for-real graduated income tax scale.

13. End tax-exempt status for churches, colleges, and all other agencies not involved in direct services to disadvantaged people.

14. Eliminate most social/welfare services by enacting a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) for all Americans that is pegged to the cost of living. This income should be tax-free, as should be all income that replicates that amount. Taxes kick in when that level is exceeded. For instance, if the GAI is $40,000, individuals can earn another $40k above it, thereby exempting $80,000 from income taxes.

 15. Free universal health care for all Americans. No one should profit from human illness, nor should health care be subject to market forces.

16. Repeal the current cap on Social Security taxes. This would make the system solvent into the 23rd century. It would also fund an expansion of Medicare to all Americans.

17. Hard-fast separation of church and state. Limit public displays of religion. Treat all religious public advocacy as political advocacy.

18 Pass a National Hate Crimes Act that removes such acts from state and local control and prosecutes allegations in federal courts.

19. Repeal the 1994 Communications Act and forbid media moguls or conglomerates from operating more than one media outlet within a given region. Open competition to all comers, including competitive cable and telecommunications carriers within the same market.

20. Pass an Accuracy in Media Act that authorizes the FCC to suspend the license of media that do not engage in fair and balanced coverage. Establish truth panels to insure accurate coverage.

21. Pass a new Glass-Steagall Act to re-regulate the banking industry and end reckless speculation in mortgages and questionable investment instruments. Cap interest rates on student loans.

22. Pass an Equal Rights Amendment to make gender discrimination actionable.

23. Establish age 75 as the mandatory upper-range retirement age for all federal employees, including members of Congress and Supreme Court justices.

24. Overturn the Citizens United decision. Corporations are not people and big money democracy is an oxymoron.

25. Enact a National Privacy Act that protects reproductive rights, sexual freedom, marriage rights, and other personal freedoms that do not endanger the public.

26. Require all lobbyists to appear before an ethics panel before they are authorized to approach members of Congress. All lobbyist pitches should be subject to public sunshine legislation and severe penalties should be put in place for secret lobbying.

27. Enact a national educational curriculum and mandate a per pupil spending floor. All districts within a state must rise to that floor before any district can go above it.

28. Consumer laws should be strengthened, including laws forbidding animal testing and inhumane treatment of animals.

29. Reform the War Power Act and require Congressional approval before the president can take military action for any reason other than a direct attack on the United States that threatens national survival.

30. Dramatically decrease defense spending by shifting the emphasis to homeland security and ending unilateral military ventures abroad. Cancel expensive military weapons systems and focus only on those necessary for defense. Redeploy military personnel to American cities by creating a U.S. version of the Carabinieri. Place urban police departments under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security and require joint military/police patrols and crime investigation. The constant recycling of military personnel would greatly reduce police corruption and military involvement would beef up law enforcement in high-crime and gang-ridden areas.


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