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De Blasio's pathetically inadequate "Progressive Agenda" vs. The 12-Point Platform

Bill de Blasio, sensing, in his muddled way, some opportunity for influence or office -- presumably in a Clinton administration -- has rolled out a "Progressive" "Agenda."

Even though de Blasio's (shallow, mobile-friendly) web site qualifies the phrase "Progressive Agenda" with "to combat income inequality," media coverage frames it as a "progressive agenda," period, and since coverage was presumably driven by de Blasio's public relations effort, I'll assume de Blasio is putting forward a universal agenda he'd like all "progressives" to adopt.

If progressives do, they'll be selling working people down the river. But then you knew that. To show why, I'll compare the "agenda" to the 12-Point Platform in the form of a handy table, after first briefly describing the rollout.

Here's how Politico describes de Blasio's day on the Hill:

Bill de Blasio’s roadshow stopped in Washington on Tuesday, as the New York mayor unveiled a “Progressive Agenda” designed to guide Democratic candidates and lawmakers — but which many have read as a road map for Hillary Clinton.

Of course, since de Blasio is a "progressive" Democrat, the "agenda" is sloppy, unsystematic, and full of holes. In fact, a hack job, as even de Blasio's colleagues were not shy about pointing out:

De Blasio said the agenda was drafted by progressives who met at Gracie Mansion on April 2, and admitted it was still a work in progress, as some speakers pointed out omissions, such as public education and police accountability.

("Public education" is covered in the 12-Point Platform by point #7: "Free Public Education, pre-K-16." And "police accountability" is covered by #10: "End the Wars," which includes ending police militarization, and #9: "Enforce the Bill of Rights.")

Anyhow, some Democrats "stood with" de Blasio:

More than a dozen progressive leaders spoke at the press conference beside de Blasio and signed the billboard next to the podium outlining the 13 progressive principles[1]. Among the attendees were former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, activist Al Sharpton, and Oakland California Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Al Sharpton, corrupt exemplar of the Black Misleadership Class. That tells you all you need to know, doesn't it? (Hoho, how could you?)

Oddly, none of the reporting seemed to list the actual 13 points (none of the sources above, and not CBS, not the Times, not HuffPo ), probably because -- as I found on the site -- the individual points aren't numbered, and they're poorly written. (Clearly, Correntians working together over many months are superior to progressives meeting at Gracie Mansion for a day. Shocker, huh?) For example, take the second bullet point in the group numbered (1) -- please:

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

This item combines a vague policy proposal ("Reform the National Labor Relations Act") with an even vaguer benefit ("to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class." See here for what Democrats mean when they say "middle class." ) Compare #4: "Job and Income Guarantee," which states the policy so crisply as to imply the concrete material benefit. You'll also notice that the 12-Point Platform benefits all workers, which reforming the National Labor Relations Act, laudable as that may be, does not.

Anyhow, enough background and parsing of words. Here's a table that outlines the differences between the hasty output of de Blasios's "progressives" at Gracie Mansion, and the 12-Point Platform:

Table I: What a truly progressive agenda looks like
12-Point Platform "Progressive" Agenda Comparison and Contrast
1. A Living Wage Wages: Raise the federal minimum wage, so that it reaches $15/hour, while indexing it to inflation. Equivalent to the 12-Point Platform, which supports $15/hour and indexation.
2. Medicare for All -- The 12-Point platform supports universal Canadian-style single payer. De Blasio and his Gracie Manion "progressives" don't believe that health care should be universal, and leave at least $400 billion dollars a year in excess costs on the table.
3. Tax the Rich Taxes: Close the carried interest loophole, end tax breaks for companies, implement the “Buffett Rule,” close the CEO tax loophole The 12-Point Platform supports "an extremely high and progressive 'effective rate' of taxation," as opposed the grab bag of proposals from de Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives."
4. Job and Income Guarantee Labor: Reform the National Labor Relations Act, Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, national paid sick leave The 12-Point Platform provides "a job for everyone who wants one," empowering workers by putting baseline wages and working conditions under democratic control. De Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" propose tweaks.
5. Debt Jubilee Allow students to refinance student loan debt. The 12-Point Platform provides a debt jubilee (see Steve Keen). De Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" proffer a palliative.
6. Retirement Security -- The 12-Point Platform explicitly rules out a "Grand Bargain," demands age-neutral benefits (no more screwing the young), and eligibility that starts at 60. De Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" demand nothing.
7. Free Public Education, pre-K-16 Make Pre-K, after-school programs and childcare universal If Germany can fund free university tuition, we can too. But de Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" think not.
8. Post Office Bank -- 68 million Americans are "financially underserved," especially blacks, poor, and women. The 12-Point Platform gives them a bank account, and protects them from the speculation and crashes in the private banking system. De Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" offer nothing.
9. Enforce the Bill of Rights -- The 12-Point Platform demands a return to freedom of speech and assembly (First Amendment), and the right to be secure in our personal digital effects (Fourth Amendment), as a minimum. De Blasio, who appointed Bill "Broken Windows" Bratton as NYPD chief in his first days in office, offers nothing.
10. End the Wars -- The 12-Point Platform demands an end to wars both foreign and domestic. Foreign: The last two administration lost both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and blew through a trillion dollars doing it; the current administration seems determined to foment blowback wherever it can. The money and the real resources must be put to better user. Domestic: Police militarization must be rolled back, and the so-called "war on drugs" ended. All de Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" offer is a permanent state of war abroad and at home.
11. Clean Air, Water, Soil, and Food -- Stunningly, de Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" have nothing to say about a clean environment, despite the effects of environmental toxins and terrible food in poor and working class communities.
12. Carbon Negative Economy -- Equally stunningly, de Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" have no problem with climate change.
-- Oppose trade deals (See Addendum.)
Comprehensive immigration reform (See Addendum.)

LEGEND: As noted above, de Blasio's bullet points are poorly written and muddle policies and benefits. The bullet points also seem randomly distributed under the numbered groups. So I have, for example, reduced "Reform the National Labor Relations Act, to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class" to the policy proposal to "Reform the National Labor Relations Act," and grouped it with other labor policies, comparing and contrasting it to the 12-Point Platform's "labor" point, #4: "Job and Income Guarantee."

* * *

The 12-Point Platform uses the power of democratic government to deliver real benefits to all working people in every aspect of their lives: At work, at home, in school, at the doctor's, and even at the bank, as well as in breathing, eating, and drinking. By contrast, de Blasio and his Gracie Mansion "progressives" propose a random series of bullet points.


[1] There's no such thing as an agenda of "principles"; an agenda is composed of action items. That's why the 12-Point Platform lists policy proposals; actions. Granted, "principles" is the reporter's word, but all that means is that de Blasio's PR was sloppy, besides his agenda.

NOTE The 12-Point Platform also proposes 12 Reforms to the political system that will consolidate and protect the policy gains of the 12 Points.


De Blasio's agenda includes two policy proposals with no direct equivalent in the 12-Point Platform:

  1. Oppose trade deals that hand more power to corporations at the expense of American jobs, workers’ rights, and the environment.
  2. Pass comprehensive immigration reform to grow the economy and protect against exploitation of low-wage workers.

Trade deals: Although I personally (along with, I am sure, most Correntians) oppose trade deals like the TPP and TTIP, the 12-Point Platform is envisaged as a long-term program of radical reform to greatly improve the lives of working people, and as a wedge to reform (or replace) the Democratic Party; fully implementing it will take a decade or more, especially if #12: "Carbon-Negative Economy" taken into account. In a decade's time, the trade deal battle will have been won or lost, and hopefully won; but if that battle is lost, and the 12-Points were won, how bad would that outcome be for American workers? In addition, #3: "Tax the rich," is designed to reduce the political power of capital through steeply progressive taxation; and capital is what's pushing the deals. One might also note the curiously, or not so curiously, flaccid "oppose." Is not the point to win, not merely "oppose"?

Immigration reform: "Comprehensive immigration reform" is too vague to support or oppose. The philosophy of the 12-Point platform is universalist and "horizontal" (wage workers vs. capital) as opposed to particularist and "vertical" (demographic slices based on identity politics). To the extent that immigration reform is universalist and horizontal, the 12-Point Platform would support it. For example, it might be sensible to extend "Medicare for All" to residents, since the health of some affects all, especially when epidemics are considered.

UPDATE Note the list of signers. De Blasio's agenda seems to represent a consensus in the "progressive faction" of the political class that "this is the best we can do." Well, fuck that.

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Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

It's hard to say much about that article's relationship to the de Blasio agenda besides "Yes, I agree. They don't appear to be related." Since, as you note, the "Progressive Agenda ..." doesn't even mention schools, I don't see where she gets that bit about rebuilding schools.

I like Morrison's thoughts on the difference between considering ourselves citizens and taxpayers/consumers, whatever, but once again, I don't see why she sees that in the "PA...", either. But then, she's a novelist, someone who can take an idea and turn it into a 500-page piece of fiction.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm not into kicking puppies, and doing a massive takedown on Toni Morrison seems to fall into that category, but I read it, and it seemed to be to be impossible that Morrison had actually read what de Blasio proposed.

All that stuff about citizenship. Ya know, there's one really obvious hash tag being propagated by exemplary citizens.... And it doesn't seem to appear in Morrison's piece....