FIGHT FOR POLICIES THAT UNITE US
Dispatching Trump and flipping the Senate are perquisites for implementing the crucial policy proposals offered by Democratic candidates.
That calls for balancing our Party’s progressive vision against the concerns of many citizens over sweeping changes with hard-to-determine costs—while disabling Republicans’ ability to demonize proposals that envision rapid transformative change.
That said, we should focus on policies supported by a solid majority of Americans:
- Reverse the Widening Wealth Gap: Our political polarization is directly linked to the reality that:
- wages for all but the top 10% have stagnated since 1979.
- children in most American families must now anticipate life-long earnings far less than that of their parents, while the wealth of the top 10% rises steadily.
- the life span of the 25% of lowest wage earners is ten years shorter than that of the top 25%.
Saving capitalism and saving our democracy require reversing those trends, in the form of a wealth tax on billionaires, a value added tax on luxury goods and corporate transactions, and other approaches that will preserve capitalism while restoring the path toward prosperity for all.
- Health Care: Improve and extend the Affordable Care Act. Introduce a self-sustaining government insurance plan (the “public option”). Raise the qualifying household income level in order to expand Medicaid, and lower the qualifying age for Medicare in a step-by-step approach–rather than an imposed rapid transformation—from the profit-driven private insurance industry toward greater public financing.
- Gun Violence: The minimal goal of universal background checks will save lives, but won’t fundamentally reduce the scourge of gun violence. We need a more far-reaching step that matches rights to responsibilities, by applying the same standard to gun ownership that we apply to driving a car: training, licensing, registration, taxes, and insurance. Taxes should be used to fund gun safety training, compensate victims of gun violence, and buy back guns designed for war-fighting.
- Climate Change: Pragmatism demands initial attention to high-impact measures that defeat efforts by the fossil-fuel industry to derail vital progress by depicting it as radical big-government socialism. One promising path: passing the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). It’s a revenue-neutral carbon tax—exempting farmers—that raises costs for greenhouse-gas polluters and distributes the money in the form of equal paychecks to all American citizens.
- Increase resources for K-12 education, while recognizing that no level of investment in schools will enable disadvantaged students to match the achievement of middle class and more affluent students. Student achievement is directly linked to family income, because high-quality housing, health care, and other attributes of middle-class life are as vital to educational success as qualified teachers and up-to-date textbooks. Bottom line: high quality public school education requires combining greater resources for schools with policies based on achieving inclusive prosperity.
- Make psychological counseling available to every student in every school. Loneliness, depression and suicide among children have reached epidemic proportions. Schools alone cannot address the societal changes responsible for those problems, but we can enable our children to cope with the rising level of national stress.
- Enable post-secondary education without burdening students with crippling debt.
- Begin a long-term shift toward Finland’s education model, in which teachers must meet the same educational standards as doctors, and earn the salaries–and prestige–to match that achievement. That approach reflects the actual societal value of teaching, and helped to make Finland the world leader in student achievement.
- Rebuilding our Crumbling Infrastructure: a policy which nearly all support in principle, but which Congressional Republicans sacrificed in favor of massive tax cuts for the wealthy. An obvious goal: a national network of high-speed rail transport.
- Veterans: The fewer than ½ of 1% of Americans who serve in the armed forces provide 100% of our national security. That dictates a national commitment to implement veterans’ rights to secure lives, including homes, good jobs, and physical and mental health care. If one wished to test Andrew Yang’s innovative proposal for a “freedom dividend” (universal basic income of $1000/month), veterans would be an ideal group for assessing that concept’s social and economic benefits.
- Homelessness: More than half a million Americans are homeless. Experts agree that the only answer is providing permanent housing (not just temporary beds), coupled to assistance programs matched to the particular sources of homelessness. While diverse state and local approaches provide laboratories for identifying best practices for types of housing, and for linking housing to assistance programs, the scale of the problem demands national leadership and greatly increased federal funding.
- Immigration: The first step is to end the unspeakably cruel treatment of those reaching our border in flight from desperate conditions, from the unsafe and inhumane detention centers to the “assembly-line justice” that fails to represent detainees as individual cases. The highest foreign aid priority should be a Marshall Plan for restoring security and inclusive economic development in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Freeing families from poverty and violence is the only practical and moral answer to their desperate journey northward.
- Ensure basic immigrant protections in the workplace.
- Ensure school enrollment and educational services for immigrant children.
- End illegal harassment and arrests by ICE officers.
- Reverse the racist “big lie” propaganda campaign directed by the Trump Administration at immigrants of color—by removing Trump from office.
- Revive the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan Senate bill—rejected by nearly all Republicans and President Trump—that advanced immigrant rights and recognized the centrality of immigration to American success, while simultaneously addressing concerns over border security. It’s called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.
- Border Security: Every sovereign state has a right to secure borders. There is a consensus among homeland security experts that focusing on “walls” redirects vital resources from serious efforts either to secure the Mexican border or to address the threats of crime, drugs, and terrorism. Trump’s big lie about an immigrant “invasion” is a distraction from his welcoming of the real foreign invasion: Russian cyberattacks aimed at destroying our democracy and keeping him in power.
- The War on Drugs: Substitute the failed “war on drugs” with: a) decriminalize all drug use; b) criminalize corporate executive opioid pushing; c) redirect funds from the futile war on drugs to the rehabilitation of drug addicts, plus educational and counseling programs to combat use of all addictive drugs. The reality that demand always produces supply dictates a focus on radically reducing demand.
- Prison Reform: The incarceration system, in which African-American male high school dropouts are more likely to be behind bars than employed, is broken. We must build on the “First Step Act,” which shortens mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses and improves prison conditions. While Republican support for prison reform is welcome, that Party’s abandonment of the war on the roots of the problem—racism and poverty—means that enduring prison reform requires election of Democratic majorities.
- LGBTQ Rights: Support legislation, legal support, and nationwide enforcement to ensure full equality for LGBTQ people. Use Department of Education funding toward ensuring that all schools teach tolerance and end bullying.
That list of policies, most able to gain super-majority support—can be extended. The point is to focus first on policies that unite the 75% of Americans who consider themselves Democrats (29%) or Independents (46%), and that can draw in moderate Republicans as well. Such policies will address vital issues, while setting the stage for national healing—a necessary step toward more far-reaching and sustainable progress.