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A People's Democratic Platform | The Nation

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A People's Democratic Platform

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The Democratic Party platform to be presented at the upcoming convention has been tailored to suit the positions of the presidential nominee and to raise as few contentious issues as possible. That may be good strategy as defined by political pollsters and strategists, but to our mind it represents a missed opportunity to put forward and debate some fresh, possibly unconventional ideas. So we've asked a disparate group of people--ranging from retired newsman Walter Cronkite to hip-hop activist Bakari Kitwana--what plank each of them would like to propose. Their answers were by turns provocative, quirky and unexpected. We offer them in the hope that voters will be stirred to come up with their own "planks" and then try to turn them into reality.    --The Editors

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“We are in the classic fog of war,” says Stephen Cohen.


Howard Dean


Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont, is the founder and honorary chair of Democracy for America.

The Democrats need to stand up for universal healthcare and get it passed. We are the last industrialized country in the world that doesn't have it. It's inexcusable. It will make a big difference not just for people who are struggling but also for the business community. The difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is the argument about how much collective responsibility we have for each other. The Republicans essentially don't believe we have any, and I think we do. Universal healthcare could be paid for by getting rid of the President's tax cuts, which have simply been a huge wealth transfer from poor and modest-income people to big corporations and the top 1 percent. Those tax cuts have done nothing but harm America by creating an enormous deficit. By eliminating them we can pay for health insurance for every American--that's how expensive they are.


George McGovern


George McGovern, a former US senator from South Dakota, was the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.

Since we were promised a peace dividend once the cold war ended, since no country is now threatening us and since the terrorist threat is not a military one, the present $400 billion military budget should be cut in half, to be achieved with 5 percent annual reductions over the next ten years.


Walter Cronkite


Walter Cronkite is a former CBS news anchor.

The Democrats should pledge to restore the environment to the status of a major concern, putting a new Department of the Environment on a par with State and Defense. At its heart will be a blue-ribbon panel of distinguished scientists who will identify the most pressing environmental problems and prioritize the department's attacks upon them.

The Secretary of the Environment will be an individual with a national reputation as one long dedicated to the cause, fearless in condemning the special interests and their political lackeys. (The platform could promise that Ralph Nader would be offered the post, which would serve to deflate Nader's third-party campaign.)

The Department of the Environment will, during inaugural week, begin the complete reversal of most, if not all, of the outgoing Republican Administration's actions involving the environment, putting into effect stringent air and water regulations and eliminating favored treatment for polluters who are regarded as special interests. The Administration will recognize the Kyoto Protocol and become a leader in reversing global warming, including working to end the world's dependence on fossil fuels.

In addition, the Administration will protect our forests, marshes, lakes, rivers, coasts and wildlife from industrial and commercial development and oil exploration, while recognizing the value of every living thing placed in our care.


Ellen Chesler


Ellen Chesler, a senior fellow at the Open Society Institute, has an essay on women's rights in What We Stand For: A Program for Progressive Patriotism, edited by Mark Green.

The platform should call for immediate US ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UN's visionary global treaty for advancing women's rights and opportunities in all aspects of life. One hundred seventy-seven countries around the world have ratified CEDAW, leaving the United States among a handful of "rogue" states, including Sudan, Somalia and Iran, in failing to do so, because intransigent conservatives, opposing both international obligations and women's rights, have exercised a veto.

Adopted in 1979, CEDAW acknowledges the importance of women's traditional obligations as mothers responsible for the raising of children and the preservation of families, but it also establishes new norms. It catalogues a broad range of rights for women in marriage, including property, inheritance and access to healthcare, with an explicit mention of family planning, though not of abortion. It demands equality for women as citizens with full access to suffrage, political representation and other legal benefits, including the right to education free of gender stereotypes and segregation. It establishes their rights as workers deserving equal remuneration and protection from sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

In a number of countries, ironically now including Afghanistan and Iraq, treaty provisions have been incorporated into democratic constitutions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently cited CEDAW as an argument for increasing our own government's obligation to promote women's full work-force participation and to protect parenting through paid family leave and subsidized childcare.

We owe CEDAW to ourselves and to women around the world.


Margaret Cho


Margaret Cho is a comedian.

Upholding and expanding the ideology of democracy is a mission far more worthy of our devotion than serving the theology of prejudice. The Democratic platform should state that we believe that a democratic nation does not seek to unite church and state. Our court system must not be the battleground for a holy war. Our current system has led to unbalanced treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals. It has also proved unfair to women, leaving out choice in the matter of reproductive rights. When we base our laws on tolerance, not contrition, repentance or faith, we work to achieve a higher ground.


George Lakoff


George Lakoff is the author of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think.

At a time when terrorist threats come from groups of individuals rather than states, when wars occur within nations, when "free markets" exist without freedom, when overpopulation threatens stability, when intolerant cultures limit freedom and promote violence, when transnational corporations act like oppressive governments and when the oil economy threatens the planet's future, the central problems in today's world cannot be solved by state-level approaches.

Part of the answer is to recognize interdependence and focus foreign policy on diplomacy, alliances, international institutions and strong defensive and peacekeeping forces, with war as a last resort.

But what is needed even more is a new kind of moral foreign policy, one that realizes that America can only be a better America if the world is a better world. America must become a moral leader using fundamental human values--caring and responsibility carried out with strength--to respond to the world's problems.

In a values-based foreign policy, issues that were not previously seen as part of foreign policy become central. Women's education is the best way to alleviate overpopulation and promote development. Renewable energy could make the world oil-independent. Food, water, health, ecology and corporate reform are foreign policy issues, as are rights--rights of women, children, workers, prisoners, refugees and political minorities.

Moral values not only define world problems but direct us to their root causes.


Bakari Kitwana


Bakari Kitwana is the author of The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture and co-founder of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention.

The Democratic Party should call for an end to draconian mandatory minimum sentencing for those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, and establish a reasonable and fair sentencing system that doesn't rob citizens of decades of their lives.

The war on drugs has failed to end illegal drug sales or consumption, while mandatory sentencing has played a primary role in the rise of US incarceration in the past thirty years, from 330,000 to more than 2 million--nearly one-fourth of whom are drug offenders.

Paramilitary policing as part of the war on drugs is concentrated in poor communities and results in high arrest rates, racial profiling and police brutality, as well as the devastation of thousands of families and neighborhoods.

Mandatory minimums disproportionately affect African-Americans and other people of color (African-Americans represent 45 percent of the US prison population). They are also unfair: A five-year mandatory minimum exists for possession of more than five grams of crack cocaine, whereas possession of the same amount of powder cocaine remains a misdemeanor, with mandatory minimums of fifteen days for the second offense.

The Democratic Party should advocate the repeal of mandatory-minimum sentencing laws at the state level as well as those provisions under the federal 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act, the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act and the 1994 Crime Act.


John Brademas


John Brademas, president emeritus of New York University, was for twenty-two years (1959-81) a Democratic Representative from Indiana in Congress, where he helped write all the measures enacted to support schools, colleges and universities; the arts and the humanities; libraries and museums; and to provide services for children, the elderly and the disabled.

"Education," said President John F. Kennedy, "is the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress." Adequate investment in education is indispensable to our national security, the conduct of our foreign policy, our economic strength and the quality of our individual lives. A Democratic President and Congress will take the following actions:

§ Finance the No Child Left Behind Act at authorized levels, while providing states both the funds and administrative clarity necessary to implement the statute effectively.

§ Create universal preschool programs, particularly for children from low-income families.

§ Double the amount of the Pell Grant for college students from low and middle-income families.

§ Provide funds for research in how to improve teaching and learning.

§ Increase funds for study of foreign languages and of countries and cultures other than our own, including funds for international exchanges.

§ Increase funds for the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

§ Provide funds and incentives (for example, loan-forgiveness programs) for educating, mentoring and retaining qualified pre-school, elementary and secondary schoolteachers, especially in high-need areas.

§ Revive and expand investment in research in science and technology, with particular attention to national security, health and economic innovation.

§ Finance the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at authorized levels.


Arthur Miller


Arthur Miller's new play, Finishing the Picture, will open this fall at Chicago's Goodman Theater.

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.


Doris "Granny D" Haddock


Doris Haddock, 94, who walked across America to promote campaign finance reform, is a Democratic candidate for the US Senate in New Hampshire.

One key election reform is adoption of instant-runoff voting. A way to prevent potential serious splits in the political left, IRV allows each voter to rank his or her choices. If the first choice does not gain a majority, the next-ranked choice then applies. That way, everyone can vote their heart without spoiling their vote, and third parties can rise in influence.

A second key reform is public funding of elections. We need to get special interest money out of our elections, and we must take a strong position to promote and defend the Clean Elections system of full public financing now used in Maine and Arizona. We must particularly urge Arizona Democrats to vote No on the Clean Elections repeal put on Arizona's November ballot by right-wing business groups.

A third is a return to paper ballots, owing to a lack of public trust in computerized voting; we must return to such ballots, counted at the precinct with citizens watching.


Jamin Raskin

Jamin Raskin, a professor of constitutional law at American University's Washington College of Law and a Kerry delegate to the Democratic convention, is the author of Overruling Democracy.

The Democratic Party should be the democracy party. Our platform should begin with a call for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing every American citizen the right to vote, to have the vote counted, to have the popular vote decide the election and to be represented in government.

In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court declared that "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States," and that even when a state allows its residents to vote for President, state legislators can always "take back the power to appoint electors."

Moreover, we have more than 8 million disenfranchised and unrepresented citizens. In Washington, DC, 570,898 people have no voting representation in the Senate or House of Representatives, while 4,230,727 US citizens in the territories--Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands--have no voting representation in Congress and no vote in presidential elections. Nearly 5 million citizens have been disenfranchised because of a criminal conviction.

And with more than 11,000 electoral jurisdictions designing their own ballots and voting systems, all of our votes are in danger.


Nell Minow


Nell Minow, editor of The Corporate Library, an independent research firm, is the author, most recently, with Robert Monks, of Corporate Governance.

Genuine corporate democracy will restore crucial checks and balances to our system of corporate governance. To achieve this end, the Democratic Party should endorse a meaningful proxy access rule--such as one that's being considered by the SEC but that is being fought by the business community.

As things stand now, incumbent directors of corporate boards select board candidates, and more than 99 percent of the time no one runs against them. The incumbents often know how the voters mark their ballots, and they don't hesitate to apply pressure on voters to change their mind if they don't like what they see. Oh, and the incumbents count the votes.

So it's no wonder--even though most directors are capable and honest--that they do such a bad job. Many of the post-Enron corporate reforms put a great deal of weight on "independent" directors, meaning no ties to the company. But the fact is that as long as the directors are nominated and elected through this self-perpetuating closed-loop process they will always be beholden to the CEO, and that will always make it difficult for them to provide the kind of oversight necessary to stop excessive pay, misleading financial reporting and other abuses.


Lani Guinier


Lani Guinier is Bennett Boskey Professor, Harvard Law School. She is co-author, with Gerald Torres, of The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy.

Never has it been clearer that Democrats must promote a national conversation about what it means to be a multiracial democracy. Republicans' right-wing turn, Democrats' ongoing tendency to take their base for granted and the sharp decline in competitive Congressional districts create an urgent need to rebuild democracy at home. The United States maintains a whole host of antidemocratic practices, from disenfranchising nearly 5 million citizens because of felony convictions to voter registration procedures that leave a third of adults unregistered. But winner-take-all elections play a particular role in the steady decline in voter participation among core Democratic constituencies, underrepresentation of women and people of color and the general failure of politics to mobilize, inform and inspire.

Anti-Bush forces have raised tens of millions to mobilize voters--but only for competitive states. People of color are poised for a historically high vote against the President--but mostly where a white conservative majority will trump their votes. With a battle for the House occurring in a couple dozen white-majority, mostly suburban districts, the Congressional Black Caucus is largely a spectator in any effort to gain real Congressional clout. Voter turnout rates once again will be wildly unequal between low-income and high-income voters. It will be a struggle for women to win even 15 percent of House seats. Third-party options will remain constricted because of "spoiler" dynamics.

A real democracy cannot look this way--certainly not a multiracial one. Nearly all significant democracies have adopted systems of proportional representation or debate it seriously--even Iraq and Afghanistan have rejected winner-take-all. In South Africa, for example, voters cast their ballots for the political party they feel most represents their interests, and the party gets seats in the legislature in proportion to their number of votes. Each vote counts to enhance the political power of the party of the voters' choice.

Because voters in South Africa essentially "district" themselves by how they mark their ballots, proportional representation eliminates the problem of political gerrymandering--in a much more sweeping, empowering way than so-called neutral districting commissions or other modest reforms to control the power of incumbents to cherry-pick their voters. Proportional representation creates new incentives for local multiparty organizing to generate citizen engagement and meaningful participation, not merely on Election Day but between elections. Coalitions that start with narrowly focused issues can grow and use their aggregated power again and again at the intersection of race, class and geography--getting organized labor to join fights that help Latino immigrants and poor urban blacks to partner with rural whites who are also living in isolated pockets of distress, and so forth. These coalitions can aspire to an electoral strategy while nurturing leaders and innovative ideas to help us think creatively and act collectively.

Nothing in the Constitution says that we have to use winner-take-all, single-member districts. Indeed, Black Caucus members like Jim Clyburn and Mel Watt have repeatedly introduced legislation allowing states to choose proportional representation. It's a goal that should have great appeal not just for African-Americans but also for every group that has ever felt disenfranchised--and today that covers most of us.


Studs Terkel


Studs Terkel is the author, most recently, of Hope Dies Last.

Necrophilia should be the subtext of all the issues discussed at the forthcoming Democratic convention. Are we a life-affirming society or one that perversely courts death? We are the only industrialized country that does not have national health insurance (my small bottle of prescription tablets and my tube of nasal spray set me back $114.35), as well as the only such nation that insists on the death penalty.

Of course, the matters of our loony Iraq maladventure, environmental rape, outsourcing and mass firings, the USA Patriot Act and the Enronism of Dubya's buddy boys should be brought forth. However, what must be made most clear is the overarching assault upon our native intelligence and our innate sense of decency, all adding up to an unprecedented menace to our general well-being.

Oh, one more thing: the perversion of the American language. The word "liberal" has assumed a dark meaning, thanks in no small part to the kept boys and girls of the mainstream media. I suggest that the chair of the gathering should immediately read to the delegates the dictionary definition of "liberal": (1) expressing social and political policies that favor progress and reform; (2) following policies that favor the freedom of individuals to act or express themselves in a manner of their own choosing--in short, a reaffirmation of FDR's New Deal.

The assemblage should impel the presumptive nominee for the presidency to abandon his mummyesque role and, instead of denying that he is a liberal, proudly affirm it.


Sherrod Brown


Sherrod Brown, a six-term Democratic Congressman from Ohio, is the author of Myths of Free Trade, to be published in August.

Democrats must insist on labor rights and environmental standards in every trade agreement. If workers at the bottom cannot win the right to organize and bargain collectively for livable wages, safer workplaces and economic and political freedoms, then wages and living standards in rich and poor nations alike will continue to be pulled downward.

About half our imports now come from developing nations, most with repressive, autocratic governments. These governments are a magnet for US corporations seeking low wages, docile work forces and weak enforcement of environmental and labor standards. Only free trade unions with the legal power to bargain collectively can force multinational employers to share the wealth that the workers create for their companies. That is what labor unions did in the West. With the assistance of US trade negotiators, that is what they can do in the developing world.

When the world's poorest people can buy American products rather than just make them, then we will know that our trade policies are finally working.


Eric Schlosser


Eric Schlosser is the author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness.

The United States must declare an end to the war on drugs. This war has filled the nation's prisons with poor drug addicts and small-time drug dealers. It has created a multibillion-dollar black market, enriched organized-crime groups and promoted the corruption of government officials throughout the world. And it has not stemmed the widespread use of illegal drugs. By any rational measure, this war has been a total failure.

We must develop public policies on substance abuse that are guided not by moral righteousness or political expediency but by common sense. The United States should immediately decriminalize the cultivation and possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Marijuana should no longer be classified as a Schedule I narcotic, and those who seek to use marijuana as medicine should no longer face criminal sanctions. We must shift our entire approach to drug abuse from the criminal justice system to the public health system. Congress should appoint an independent commission to study the harm-reduction policies that have been adopted in Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. The commission should recommend policies for the United States based on one important criterion: what works.

In a nation where pharmaceutical companies advertise powerful antidepressants on public billboards and where alcohol companies run amusing beer ads during the Super Bowl, the idea of a "drug-free society" is absurd. Like the rest of American society, our drug policy would greatly benefit from less punishment and more compassion.


James K. Galbraith


James K. Galbraith is chair of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction, www.ecaar.org.

Bush and Cheney inherited peace and prosperity--and squandered them. Today, war is part of our economic problem. War costs money and lives. It wastes resources, pushes up prices, depresses business investment. And it distracts public attention from pressing problems at home, most of all the need to create 5 million new jobs urgently and 5 million more within a few years.

Democrats pledge to use the tools necessary to return to full employment, including public spending, revenue sharing, progressive taxation, low interest rates and global strategies that respect workers' rights, foster exports and regulate finance. Achieving this will require a new dedication to realistic, affordable, collective security. We must strengthen our alliances and the United Nations. We must cut useless programs such as missile defense. Most of all, we must seek to disengage from Iraq--an occupation for which no justification now exists.

As we do so, the challenge and opportunity of energy security must be faced. America must invest in conservation, renewable energy, hybrid vehicles and in a comprehensive reconstruction of our transport and housing patterns over time, to face the present instabilities of our energy supply and the eventual future of an oil-short world. We can build an America that is prosperous and secure, and we can create millions of new jobs and renew the middle class. Democrats place this great public-private project before the American people, and we promise action.

Our other great human challenge is to care decently for the rising tide of elderly Americans in the decades ahead. Democrats recognize that Social Security and Medicare are the great bulwarks against poverty for all older Americans. We pledge to protect, preserve and never to privatize those programs. Finally, we pledge to provide comprehensive health insurance and decent drug coverage to all Americans at long last.


Gary Indiana


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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