Implementing progressive agenda would do a lot to end inequality & grow the economy

My thanks go out to Rich Kelley, a marketing consultant for Jewish Currents, who has shown me where to find the 13-point progressive plan for America that New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio was promoting in Washington.

He sent me links to two places: 1) C-SPAN’s rebroadcast of the speech, at the end of which you can see a scroll down of a chart on core board with all 13 points; and 2) the Progressive Agenda website, which proposes 14 points and includes an online petition to sign. De Blasio’s speech was definitely related to the website, as both used the same headline and logo to introduce the agenda. Moreover, the 13 points De Blasio makes are all on the Progressive Agenda list.

As I pointed out the day after De Blasio’s speech in Washington, D.C., the mainstream news media covered only extraneous aspects of the very good Mayor’s proposals: Did it piss off people in NYC who would prefer he stayed at home? Would it affect his relationship with Hillary Clinton? Was he stealing the center of attention from Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders? Not one media outlet followed by Google News published the 13 points.

That doesn’t exonerate De Blasio and the organizers of the Progressive Agenda website for not placing a news release with all 13 points on a website somewhere and for not connecting De Blasio’s speech with the broader initiative on the website. Not having the same number of points is sloppy, to be sure, but worse yet, it shows uncoordinated activity and thus diminishes a broad-based movement into a series of disparate actors and actions. Let’s hope, however, that mere sloppiness led to the fact that we learn nothing about the organizers or major funders of the Progressive Agenda anywhere on the website. Just because recent court decisions makes it legal to hide contributions, doesn’t mean it’s right. Progressives must not only proffer a program to help the 99% that 35 years of economic and taxation policies has left behind. We must make certain the progressive program also be based on facts and presented with the openness that facilitates democracy.

Those quibbles aside, I heartily endorse the Progressive Agenda, and urge OpEdge readers to sign its online petition.

Whoever created the agenda divides it into three sections, as follows:

Lift the Floor for Working People

1. Raise the federal minimum wage, so that it reaches $15/hour, while indexing it to inflation.

2. Reform the National Labor Relations Act, to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class.

3. Pass comprehensive immigration reform to grow the economy and protect against exploitation of low-wage workers.

4. Oppose trade deals that hand more power to corporations at the expense of American jobs, workers’ rights, and the environment.

5. Invest in schools, not jails — and give a second chance to those coming home from prison. This point is the one not on De Blasio’s list.

Support Working Families

6. Pass national paid sick leave.

7. Pass national paid family leave.

8. Make Pre-K, after-school programs and childcare

9. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and protect and expand Social Security.

10. Allow students to refinance student loan debt to take advantage of lower interest rates, and support debt-free college.

Tax Fairness

11. Close the carried interest loophole.

12. End tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

13. Implement the “Buffett Rule” so millionaires pay their fair share.

14. Close the CEO tax loophole that allows corporations to take advantage of “performance pay” write-offs.

The agenda is a good start, but it’s missing a few items:

  • Remove the ceiling on income assessed for the Social Security tax and make all income and bonuses subject to the tax.
  • Increase direct support of public schools and universities to decrease class size in elementary schools, increase resources for middle and senior high schools and lower the cost to attend college.
  • Expand cheap and free public vocational training.
  • Close down all charter schools that do not pay their teachers the same salary as the prevailing public school wage and whose employees are not represented by the same union representing the teachers in the public school.
  • Place a tariff on all goods and services from other countries equal to the difference in the cost of labor and environmental and safety costs between the United States and the exporter.
  • Fund a massive infrastructure program that repairs our existing roads, bridges and inter-city trains and expands mass transit within and between cities using the latest advances in alternative fuel technologies.

The organizers could also add a section on actions that would make our political system more small-d democratic and inclusive, including rolling back all the restrictive voting laws recently passed whenever Republicans have controlled both houses of a state legislature; passing laws that would lessen the importance of money and mitigate the impact of the Citizens United decision; and limiting the number of media outlets any company can own in any region and in total and making companies divest themselves of media properties to meet the new restriction.

But that doesn’t mean the Progressive Agenda is not a good plan. It’s a very good plan that we should all support by signing the petition and telling all candidates in writing that we won’t vote for them unless they support the Progressive Agenda.

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