A People's Democratic Platform | The Nation


A People's Democratic Platform

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Arthur Miller

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Clearly the absence of a national healthcare system needs to be brought to the fore. Maybe the national pride can be touched if people are made aware that Americans do not enjoy the world's best medicine but are among the worst served of all the major nations. And that this miserable record applies not just to the poor but to the middle class as a whole.

John Sayles

John Sayles is the author of two forthcoming books, Silver City and Other Screenplays and Dillinger in Hollywood.

The Democratic platform should call for an end to the hypocrisy of our immigration policy. Our current policy, an enormously expensive cat-and-mouse game, most notably on our southern border, calls on the INS to enforce immigration laws that are openly expected to be ignored by countless US industries and private employers. Some sort of regulated guest-worker program is needed.

Once it is in place, if immigrants continue to enter the country illegally and can't find work, word will filter back and the numbers will decrease dramatically. While in our country, however, those guest workers need to be protected from exploitation--to be assured they will be paid for their work, that their working conditions will meet state and federal safety standards and that they will receive no less than the federally mandated minimum wage (which needs to be raised).

Employers would be required to withhold some percentage (perhaps the equivalent of federal taxes and Social Security) from wages to help defray the costs of the program. Penalties for hiring foreign workers outside of the program would be high enough (and sufficiently enforced) to end the black market in labor that is thriving now.

Protecting all workers in this country is an important first step toward the amendment or abolition of NAFTA and the protection of workers throughout the world.

Chuck Close

Chuck Close is an artist.

I would like some sort of renewed commitment to free expression, free speech and personal freedom that acknowledges the fact that what has made our system better than most others is our ability, as individuals, to tolerate ideas other than our own. This entails a willingness to be offended, to hear things you don't want to hear, to see things you don't want to see. The greater good of our free and open society is worth the risk of being offended or even outraged.

What is happening today is the wholesale abandonment of the protections of free expression and free speech. It makes you wonder what we're fighting for in the "War against Terror." Ultimately, are we going to have to be like "them" to defeat "them"? What do we have when we're done--if we can put someone in prison with no right to trial and with no proof, while we abuse prisoners? This has had a chilling effect on speech--in fact, you don't even have to speak; all you have to do is look like the "enemy," and that's enough.

I'm very worried about how easily the public has tolerated this and how readily we've given up these protections and our freedoms.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman

Andrew Jay Schwartzman is president and CEO of the Media Access Project.

Congress, the courts and the American public have resoundingly repudiated the Bush media deregulation policies. The Democratic Party should acknowledge the growth of this grassroots rebellion, starting with a pledge that upon taking office, President Kerry will obtain prompt confirmation of a Democratic FCC chair.

The party should also pledge to repeal the 1996 law allowing unlimited radio-station ownership, establish stronger limits on broadcast ownership, extend the prohibition on newspapers owning local TV stations to cable companies and implement an existing but unenforced law capping national cable ownership.

To assure that the public benefits from its ownership of the airwaves, the party should pledge to restore the fairness doctrine; make "issue" ad sponsors more accountable; require licensees to carry news and public affairs programming, provide free airtime to candidates and promote music-format diversity by ending payola loopholes and concert-promoter tie-ins; expand federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and protect it more strongly from political intrusion; reject schemes to convert spectrum into private property; adopt the "Berlin Plan," which accelerates transition to high-definition TV by using revenues from "old" TV spectrum to provide consumers with digital tuners.

Additionally, it should encourage localism by supporting bipartisan legislation that authorizes up to three times more low-power community FM stations and protect the future of civic discourse by guaranteeing all citizens a choice of Internet provider and access to all content.

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