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A Progressive Program

Over at Naked Capitalism, Eureka Springs asked what a progressive program would look like, something that Americans could rally around, and I posted the following:

1. Right to a good job paying a living wage
2. Right to good housing
3. Right to good education
4. Right to good healthcare
5. Right to good retirement
6. Right to privacy
7. End the wars
8. Public campaign funding
9. Real regulation of Wall Street
10. Tax the rich

I chose to limit myself to 10. Too many items, and of course more could be added, and we get lost. The program fails to convey a vision and becomes a laundry list. Too few, and the make and break issues that people care about are left out.

This program has two parts. The first 5 items are what we are for. They are what most Americans would agree are the basic building blocks for a meaningful and decent life. They are expressed as rights. They don't tell you what you should do with your life. They just give you the tools for a life, a real life. These are the things that we wish for others because we wish them also for ourselves and those we love.

The second 5 take on a part of the current system. The right to privacy is a rejection of the surveillance state. It is also the restoration of our rights and protections in the Bill of Rights.

Ending the wars is directed against the military industrial complex, the oversized military it engenders and the unnecessary wars it spawns. It does not make us safer even as it steals needed resources from the rest of us.

Public campaign funding is an important first step in removing the pervasive political corruption and cronyism we have now. There are other things that need to be done like reducing lobbying by the rich and corporations and ending the innumerable revolving, and highly corrupt, doors between government and industry.

Real regulation of Wall Street is directed against the banksters who crash the economy and then demand, and receive, bailouts. It isn't just about reining in the Street, but transforming it, and more importantly reducing its size, complexity, and importance.

Finally, there is taxing the rich. I firmly believe that hard work should be rewarded. That is why the rich should be taxed at very high rates. They do not work. They have people who work for them. They do not produce. Certainly, they do not add value to society at anything like the level they extract from it.

Bill Gates may have amassed a fortune of $60 billion, but he never contributed anything like that much to society. He had a few good ideas, but it was his workers and the predatory practices of his company that made him a gazillionaire. So let Gates be rewarded, but it is hard to see how he ever should have been worth more than 0.1% of his current fortune, or about $60 million. I mean how much more money, that is how much more of our resources, does he need, is he worth. If we wish to reward those who build our society, fine, but if they can not live well on $20, $40, 60 million, then they are fools or predators. Today we see the costs of their hyperbolic wealth in all that we and our country lack in the first 5 rights of this progressive program.

This then is my stab at what a progressive program should look like. Consider it a first draft. We need a program with both a positive and negative aspects. We must take care of the wrongs and injustices of the current system, but we must not be consumed by this agenda. Justice yes, revenge no. We need to keep our eyes on the Prize, the society we are building for ourselves and each other.

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Submitted by YesMaybe on

These are desirable in my book, and maybe Americans would rally around it. But what about reality? As I see it, when one advocates a program, it should (a) present a picture of what we want, (b) speak clearly about the biggest challenges we face, (c) elucidate how we can reconcile the two.

The main things I see missing in your list are: (a) any mention of peak oil or net energy issues, (b) any mention of the environment or global warming. As I see it, these are the two main challenges humanity is and will be facing this century, so it's not a small omission. Now, I realize the vast majority of people have no idea what peak oil is, and are more interested in having and keeping a job than in global warming. But I would suggest that it will remain that way unless these two are put front and center. And I don't for one second believe in a rosy 10 or even 30 year transition away from fossil fuels leading to where the American way of life is essentially unchanged, except everyone has a living wage, a decent house, a chance for a good education. That it's even possible (even if you could elect Stein or whoever you wanted) is simply an unwarranted assumption. I think if you look into the subject it will become clear that what we should really be aiming at is making the energy descent as bearable as possible. Needless to say, that's not something voters want to hear.

Maybe to clarify why I feel this way, here are a couple of questions:

1. Do you expect economic growth over the next 50 years? At what rate would be a reasonable target/expectation?
2. At 2% (which is what we have now and is considered stagnant), that would mean increasing to 270% of what it is now in 50 years. Would this be possible at current energy consumption levels? What about at half the current energy consumption levels?

The point is that there are real physical constraints we are facing, and we shouldn't ignore, even if the Republicrats want us to.

Heinberg on the debate

Submitted by lambert on

As I said over at NC, I think the 12 word platform is fine from both a formal and a policy perspective. Each of the items is a concrete material benefit, and that's a good thing ("Peace! Land! Bread!"!)

Items 7 - 10 are material benefits. But items 1 - 6 are rights based, and about values, not benefits.

So the list is too long, not only because it is ;-) but because it's really two lists at different levels of abstraction jammed into one, as if AA had "24 Steps" instead of 12 Steps and and 12 principles.

My recommendation -- and for now the work I will do will be limited to the temporary donning of my editor's hat! -- would be to let 7 -10 go for now, and rework 1 - 6. Use the "12 word formula" as a discipline to craft the tightest possible message. My first thought is that all the rights could probably be collapsed perhaps even into one: Human rights to ____." I would also add in rule of law/transparent decision making in there somewhere. Since we definitely lost the rule of law under Obama in the mortgage settlement.

Even if the 12 word platfrom (counting the articles ;-) did grow to 16!

Submitted by Hugh on

I disagree. This is about as bare bones as it gets. We need to convey a coherent vision: what we want and what we need to do, and do it in a way that people can relate to. People don't have to memorize it. They just need to hold it long enough in their mind to know that they agree with it. They can look it up later if they need to and get further into the details.

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Submitted by nihil obstet on

is still the best progressive American program I know of. It's coherent and hits the right level of specificity and generalization.

My attempt would focus on the right of every American to live in a safe physical, social, and economic environment, and to have the resources to participate fully in his/her society.

wuming's picture
Submitted by wuming on

worker control and ownership of significant sectors of the economy.

RedQueen's picture
Submitted by RedQueen on

the right to sovereignty over one's own body, which covers all manners of oppression from the prison industrial complex's love for jailing drug users to all the damn fronts in the war on women.

Submitted by lambert on

and that one view of the list above (not to say it's a bad list) is that it's inverted, and expresses the least important first.

One might view RQ as expressing an axiom, and the rest as expressing theorems.

Note that in a world where people are "human resources" (animals) the first and most basic right isn't really a right at all, but a privilege (based on "private law"). I have this privilege (mostly....). But others do not.

NWLuna's picture
Submitted by NWLuna on

with far more clarity, brevity, and agreement than I've heard or seen at any Dem caucus meeting.