Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A New, Progressive Agenda for Democrats to Pursue Fearlessly

During my childhood, which centered around the 50s and early 60s, the U.S. was mired in the Cold War, that is, I played baseball, pretend war, pretend cowboys and Indians, dug forts, loved fireworks, listened to rock 'n' roll on the playground on my transistor radio, went to school, played marbles, had "girlfriends" (girls that didn't mind me hanging around longer than 15 minutes), and generally assumed my parents would keep me clothed, fed, housed, safe, and with enough Christmas presents under the tree to not feel poor, or at least not horribly outclassed by the families with the two-car garages and split-level homes -- meaning we had nuclear war drills, were amused and confused at the notion of bomb shelters and then went back to playing baseball and cowboys and Indians.

In other words, Ike was president, the playgrounds and pastures of Colorado seemed endless and sufficient, and the U.S. was huge and inviolate. We went to the doctor and dentist when we needed to and most people I knew lived middle-class lives without really thinking about the poor or the rich, which seemed distant and trivial distinctions.

Why do I introduce this vision as a prelude to a hearty, fearless progressive agenda? For a serious reason: Dwight Eisenhower, hero of WWII, was practically a socialist when compared to the Very Serious People of our political classes, which explains, partly, why our current crop of liberals are so silent and limp when it comes to standing up to the Republicans and the moneyed elite.

The other reason is many Democrats are in thrall to the moneyed elite, as well. But they needn't be. They all remember having fresh milk waiting in the milk door in the kitchen, three square meals a day, good schools to attend, and that general feeling that they'd all have that when they grew up. And, generally, they did. They -- both progressives and conservatives -- know what a good, reliable, stable society felt like.

That was then, and this is now. Progressives still remember, and conservatives have either forgotten or switched to the dark side, by which I mean they've bought into the libertarian line or sold out to the moneyed elite by basing their agenda around making the rich richer in hopes of moving up to the upper classes themselves, something which most of them have accomplished. Okay, some of the progressives have, too, but they at least provide lip service to the needs of the middle and lower classes.

So, here we are. Why would Democrats pursue a fearless progressive agenda all of a sudden? Because it's tremendously popular across an extraordinary collection of groups, that's why! And it has a fabulous, very compelling likelihood of being extremely successful politically while being extraordinarily good for the country.

What would that agenda be? Simple:
  1. Embrace entitlements, more properly known as social support programs, social insurance, or the safely net. Who should benefit by these social programs? Everybody. Therefore, we should:
  2. Expand Social Security. Make its COLAs larger, not smaller. Make it solvent by gradually increasing the cap in payroll taxes from the current $113,500 over time until the system is stable for at least 75 years. Expand the Social Security Disability program until it is easier to qualify for, not increasingly difficult for anyone to qualify for. Let's take good care of our most vulnerable citizens.
  3. Expand Medicare, slowly over time, until it covers everyone, even our undocumented workers. A health workforce is a productive workforce and is excellent for business. (The possibility of more contented people is not shabby, either.)
  4. Expand public education to include universal preschool and daycare with licensed, educated teachers and practitioners. Healthy, well-educated, well-fed children don't suffer the stress and malnutrition that guarantees an underperforming bottom quintile or so forever.
  5. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage, say, $15. Why should minimum-wage workers need welfare to get by when that's at the taxpayers' expense and only guarantees corporations higher profits? Where's the sense in that?
  6. Guarantee human rights to all classes of people in the United States. Tell me, who do you wish to discriminate against? Who? Blacks? Hispanics? Women? Gays? Poor people? People in bad health? Veterans? Christians? Muslims? Jews? Who? Right. Then don't, simply don't allow discrimination against anybody.
  7. Secure our borders. Fine, but don't shoot anybody to do it (unless there are clearly armed interlopers or confirmed terrorists with bombs, etc.). How about this as a working philosophy: Americans don't shoot anybody unless they absolutely can't make people safe without doing it. By that I mean police in our cities, towns, and rural areas, too.
  8. Favor gun control and greatly reducing access to assault weaponry. Don't run from this issue. Be fearless. Guns make us less safe, and every study shows this. Large majorities favor sensible gun control, and that includes registration, databases, and whatnot. People want guns controlled and off the streets.
  9. End or massively reduce the War on Drugs by changing it from a legal problem requiring imprisonment into a public-health problem requiring treatment. We have not just lost this war, it's killing us. And it's hasn't helped our Latin-American friends either (to wit, Mexico and Colombia, to name two).
  10. Reforming congressional rules and practices until the legislative process makes sense to people and has a chance of being productive once again. Americans want this. They want to trust their governmental processes again. They want to believe that government by the people for the people is not just possible but the way we do business in government.
There you have it. I could have forgotten something or could have tailored the explication in a more concise way. But this is a start, and we progressives should be shouting it from the rooftops, getting shrill about it in our blogs, newspapers, and magazines, and emailing our politicians about it non-stop. Our United States will be better off, substantially better off if we did.

More later, much more.

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