A People's Democratic Platform | The Nation


A People's Democratic Platform

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Gary Indiana

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Gary Indiana's most recent novel, Do Everything in the Dark, has just been issued in paperback. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.

Ratify the Kyoto Protocol and withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO. Replace the World Bank and the IMF with a single Islamic structure that doesn't charge interest. Offer tax credits for the purchase of small, fuel-efficient automobiles. Cut taxes for individuals and couples who decide not to reproduce. Make abortions available and free at shopping malls, along with blood- pressure and glucose-tolerance tests.

Cut the military budget in half to fund healthcare, childcare, education and job training. Cut the remaining half by another half to rebuild urban infrastructures and expand public transportation. Cut the remaining half in half and give it to the families of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Restore full civil rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences in our gulags, the vast majority railroaded by the plea-bargaining process. Pay ex-convicts $100 an hour to meet their parole officers. Revise the grand jury system to allow defendants legal representation and the right to call their own witnesses. Simultaneously eliminate all plea bargaining so that every felony indictment results in a jury trial.

Restore the exclusive right of Congress to declare war, and declare any deployment of American troops "war," even if it's supposedly against abstractions like "drugs" or "terror." The only drug-related combat we need is a few years of intense forensic auditing of drug companies and punitive-damage awards to everyone they've overcharged. Make war profiteering and outsourcing of jobs federal crimes punishable by ten years of community service clearing litter from poor neighborhoods and seizure of corporate assets. Rescind the elements of the legal code that allow corporations to be considered "persons."

Make recreational drugs safer and available over the counter at pharmacies and liquor stores.

Jeremy Bernstein

Jeremy Bernstein, a professor of physics emeritus at the Stevens Institute of Technology and former member of the staff of The New Yorker, is the author, most recently, of Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma.

The wasteful and ineffective missile shield program, which began with a 1983 call by Ronald Reagan to erect such a shield over the United States, should be cut back to a modest research effort and the billions saved should be used for things that matter. The main effect of a shield program will be to encourage other nuclear powers to improve the offensive capabilities of their missiles--adding decoys and the like--which they could do at much less expense than we could construct a shield, which in any case could never offer any guarantees, since a realistic test is impossible. (A realistic test would be a nuclear war.) Nonetheless, the Republicans have never given up and in the Bush Administration have found a new champion.

At least the Reagan proposal addressed a situation where the terms of engagement made sense--two clearly opposed nuclear powers. In the present situation it makes no sense. The threat against us is terrorism. A perfect missile shield would have had no effect on September 11. Rogue states like North Korea understand that if it became clear they were real nuclear threats, they would be dealt with. Nonetheless, the Administration is spending $10 billion a year to deploy a system that even its proponents consider rudimentary. To construct a real missile shield, if this were possible, might cost a trillion. Meanwhile our ports, railways and urban transport infrastructures are vulnerable to terrorism, in part because of lack of funds.

David Bonior

David Bonior is the former House majority whip and chair, American Rights at Work.

The right to organize and collectively bargain is a human right that US law claims to protect. But the law is broken, and Democrats should pledge to fix it. Each year, more than 20,000 workers are fired or discriminated against for participating in union organizing activity.

Without the labor movement, we wouldn't have such critical policies and programs as Social Security, overtime protections, family and medical leave, the eight-hour workday, minimum- wage increases and the weekend. Unions, as much as any entity in American life, created the middle class. The Democratic Party has and should continue to embrace the values that the labor movement has brought to the workplace, and to society in general.

It's not just labor's job to stand up for the rights of workers, but all of ours. By supporting workers who choose to organize and collectively bargain, Democrats can guarantee that the true protection of workers' rights is not a thing of the past but a foundation we can build upon for the future.

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