“The old economy is not coming back. We’ve got to build a new one.” That’s what Bill Clinton told the Democratic National Convention last month. But Clinton, with his signing of NAFTA and repeal of Glass-Steagall, bears much responsibility for speeding that economy’s dive off a deregulated cliff.
Indeed, Clinton is a good argument for not leaving the building of any “new economy” to American presidents. Still, those who are experimenting right now with new models for production based on new relationships to labor, communities and the planet won’t be able to change the economic playing-field without meaningful help from government.
Instead of looking to the same old economic strategies and players—very large corporations—to get us out of the mess they helped create, government needs to “act different,” David Levine of the American Sustainable Business Council told me this summer: “What we need now is not just more talk about supporting small businesses, but new principles and new, transparent rules applied to big and small alike.”
The American Sustainable Business Council is a partnership of more than fifty business associations that claim to represent hundreds of thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs pushing for a new direction.
To move things along, they’ve drawn up this short list of questions that need to be asked—and answered—by the men now running for president.
1. What role can government play to help support an economy, which builds business, grows jobs and reduce the impact and costs of short profit that creates untold economic, social and environmental costs to our economy and society?
2. What specific actions will you take and what specific policies will you push that would support innovative business approaches which can revive the American economy and make us a world leader from safer chemicals, and products to clean technologies and energy production?
3. Right now, there are many subsidies and loopholes in place that encourage business practices that damage our economic, environmental and our social fabric. What can be done to allow for a fair and truly competitive market?
4. Tax cuts reduce funding for government and increase the deficit. Make your case on the tax cuts for the wealthy, which started in 2001. If you want to keep them, what evidence is there that they have created jobs or grown the economy? If you want to let them expire, what’s your evidence that that will help the economy or employment?
5. American government has a strong history of supporting innovation in business. In your view what are the opportunities to support the overall growth of cleaner, healthier technogies and products, which the American public/consumer is demanding?
6. Many people believe that giant corporations and the wealthy own Washington, with lobbyists and campaign assistance. Explain what you will do to improve the present campaign finance system and level the playing field for policy-making so that all voices especially the small and medium-sized businesses are heard.
For more on issues that need more exposure in the debates, read Bryce Covert on the curious omission of the word "women" during the first presidential debate in Denver.