A People's Platform for the Democratic Party
Political conventions have two purposes: to nominate candidates and to shape agendas through party platforms. There will be no mystery this summer regarding the nomination of candidates. And the agendas of both parties are reasonably well defined. While the degeneration of the Republican brand will be confirmed in Tampa, the Democrats will evolve in Charlotte with the addition of a marriage equality plank to the party platform. The full embrace of LGBT rights by a major party comes as the culmination of a long struggle to bend the arc of history toward justice. In the same spirit, we propose six more planks for a People’s Platform—one grounded in current activism and animated by the belief that the party must define itself in a more boldly progressive direction.
§ A Robin Hood Tax. Michael Moore was right when he said, “America is not broke.” But America will act like it is as long as politicians of both parties fail to challenge the prevailing view that our resources are insufficient to maintain Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—let alone expand essential programs to meet pressing social needs.
Yes, of course it is necessary to rescind the Bush/Cheney tax cuts for the rich. But at a time when so much of our economy involves the rapid trading of financial instruments, it is also time to impose a financial transactions tax on the speculators who caused an economic meltdown that continues to inflict pain here and abroad. National Nurses United has linked with international allies to pressure G-20 countries to do just that. Key European leaders have supported a small tax on every trade to fund social services and rebuild communities. It’s time for Washington to get on board, backing these global initiatives as well as moving on the domestic level, as Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Peter DeFazio have proposed. As the NNU frames it: “Taxpayers bailed out Wall Street. It’s time they paid us back.” Democrats should make this common-sense levy central to their agenda, part of a long-term vision for moving America from a Wall Street–driven casino capitalism to a Main Street–focused caring, clean and green economics. For more information, go to robinhoodtax.org and nationalnursesunited.org.
§ Medicare for All. The Affordable Care Act has passed constitutional muster, to the relief of the Obama administration and the millions of Americans whose access to healthcare depends on it. But the ACA is merely a first step in the direction of fixing a system rendered dysfunctional by profiteering. The regulatory and oversight framework established by the ACA must be linked to an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, which already provide care for tens of millions. This will move us toward a system giving all Americans the care they need, at a cost the country can afford. Groups like Progressive Democrats of America and key unions have long advocated this approach, and they have a base in Congress led by Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman John Conyers. To learn more, go to sanders.senate.gov, pdamerica.org and laborforsinglepayer.org.
§ Regulation of the Banksters. We agree with Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren when she says the Dodd-Frank reform bill didn’t go far enough in addressing the challenges posed by “too big to fail” banks. Warren wants Congress to “put Wall Street reform back on the agenda” by enacting a new Glass-Steagall Act that “would separate high-risk investment banks from more traditional banking.” Yes! But as the mortgage crisis and the Libor-fixing scandal illustrate, Congress must do more. Representative Marcy Kaptur’s Return to Prudent Banking Act, which has seventy-eight co-sponsors, would crack down on the banksters and revive the New Deal boldness of the Democratic Party. For more, go to kaptur.house.gov and banksterusa.org.
§ A National Industrial/Economic Policy. Washington fails the national interest when it stands by as vulture capitalists acquire productive factories and service industry firms, dismantle them, offshore what remains and then collect tax credits. It is just as destructive to encourage states to compete with one another in economic Hunger Games that reward corporate raiding and race-to-the-bottom cuts in wages and benefits. The Obama administration has made some halting steps to support green-economy initiatives, but far more needs to be done.
Washington doesn’t need to embrace narrow protectionism to renew the country’s economy. But it must abandon Wall Street–dictated “free trade” agreements that destroy communities. We need a high-road strategy of economic renewal and growth, along the lines proposed by Economic Analysis and Research Network co-founder Joel Rogers. That approach would recognize the reality of climate change and emphasize planning and investment of the sort outlined by Van Jones and the Rebuild the Dream movement, the Campaign for America’s Future and the Laborers’ International Union of North America. For more, go to earn.org, rebuildthedream.com, ourfuture.org and liuna.org.
§ A New Internationalism. The Democratic Party should commit itself to a foreign policy rooted in the values of Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear). This new internationalism would reject military adventurism, drone warfare and secret counterterrorism programs in favor of the rule of law and global cooperation on today’s crucial issues: eliminating nuclear weapons, rolling back climate change, promoting sustainable growth, ending poverty, and advancing the health, education and human rights of all peoples. For more, go to peace-action.org and fcnl.org.
§ A Democratic Politics and Media. Most of what ails America can be traced to the money power that controls our politics, which was made even more dramatically powerful by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. Corporations should no longer control our discourse. It’s not enough merely to disclose who’s giving money to candidates and parties; genuine reform requires serious limits on the cash flow so that the Super PACs of the superrich cannot shout over the rest of America. Democrats should follow the call of six state legislatures and hundreds of communities for a constitutional amendment declaring that free speech is for people, not corporations.
Aggressive campaign finance reforms, including “clean money” efforts in various states, must be coupled with media reforms. Groups like Free Press have called for a number of changes, from stepped-up FCC oversight of who’s paying for political commercials, to increased funding of public and community broadcasting outlets, to preserving and strengthening Net neutrality so that a new era of journalism can flourish on the Web. For more, go to freepress.et, freespeechforpeople.org, movetoamend.org, democracyisforpeople.org and publicampaign.org.
The Nation has proposed six planks to be added to the Democratic Party platform at the DNC. But we want to know what you would add! Propose your plank here. We'll select the best ones and publish them on TheNation.com.