Recently, AOC has started to insist on more action from the Biden administration. But what are the things that she and other progressives want? This is going to be a list, borrowed from other lists:
The first thing is to state what needs to be done in the abstract, borrowing from the platform of the Working Families Party:
1. Care for the Wronged: Repair historic harms and end systemic racism.
2. Emergency care: Help everyone get and stay well, and support workers, families, and small businesses as long as it takes.
3. A Good Job for Everyone Who Needs One: Working people can’t wait years for jobs to come back, we need millions of jobs now.
4. Care for Each Other: Address the deficiencies in how our government cares for us that the pandemic has revealed.
5. Care for the Future: Act now to make us all more resilient to challenges we know we have to confront.
This is a good start. Personally, I would stop focussing on jobs and start moving towards Universal Basic Income, coupled with programs which will use unemployed people to better the society. We need the latter, because all people should feel that they need to and are contributing to the society. In other words, we don’t need “welfare” by itself. Rather, although income is essential, everyone should pull his or her own weight to the extent that they can. Moreover, people should feel that what they do has value.
It is predicted that 3.5 million truck and other vehicle drivers will lose their jobs in the next ten years as automated vehicles come online. Those drivers need UBI, but they also need retraining to the extent that they are still able to work. Moreover, if they are really too old to work, then they should be able to contribute in other ways, like volunteering to assist in the medical industry, take care of children, and do other things that give value to themselves and to the society.
Then there are the practical things that need to be done. For instance:
Restore balance: Republicans have used redistricting and voter suppression to create an unlevel playing field; the Democrats should tilt it back. Yes, do away with the filibuster, especially in such a closely divided Senate. Yes, let Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have voting representation in Congress. Yes, add seats to the Supreme Court. And let’s be fair about it: put these ideas to voters as referendums, debate the merits and abide by the results.
No pardons for Trump: The most corrupt president in U.S. history faces a slew of potential criminal charges for everything from tax fraud to obstruction of justice to the same campaign finance violations that sent his personal lawyer to prison. Trump, the divider-in-chief, should not be able to escape justice on the grounds that this would be “divisive.” Charge him, try him and, if warranted, lock him up.
(The pardoning of Richard Nixon and subsequent pardons of criminal politicians has made our country corrupt. This needs to stop.)
Eliminate the Electoral College: This accommodation to slavery has diminished our system of governance long enough. It’s time to pass a Constitutional Amendment to establish the principle of one person, one vote, like everywhere else. Let’s start with advancing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which aims to get a sufficient number of states to agree to cast their Electoral College votes for whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote.
Ensure the right to vote: Both houses of Congress must pass a new national Voting Rights Act, named after the late Rep. John Lewis, to protect the ability of every citizen to vote and to have that vote count. No party or state should be able to make voting harder for political gain.
Address climate change: We have dawdled long enough, putting the planet in peril. Now we must work at breakneck speed to contain the damage. The impacts from our heedlessness will still be severe, but they can be survivable. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation that requires strong leadership and a spirit of global cooperation. And yes, that will be as hard as it sounds.
End endless wars: The U.S. war in Afghanistan needs to come to an end, along with U.S. involvement in Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as our government’s determination to stoke conflict with Iran. We can redirect defense spending to domestic needs, and end up enhancing our national security.
Reform the criminal justice system: The United States has the world’s highest rate of incarceration, for which it pays enormous financial and human costs. During the campaign, both Trump and Biden broke from the once-bipartisan consensus that the more Americans we lock up, the better. Biden rued his support of a 1994 crime bill that spiked incarceration, and Trump boasted about the baby steps he’s taken toward reform. Now it’s time for some big steps.
Bernie Sanders’ 2020 platform is a good place to review for ideas:
2. Climate change is real – Sanders proposes a $16.3tn (£12.5tn) “Green New Deal” that he says would create 20 million jobs and pay for itself over 15 years, including through $3tn of taxes on oil companies. He has generated controversy by supporting the idea of population control through widening access to abortion and contraception for women in poor countries and last year tweeted: “Fossil fuel executives should be criminally prosecuted for the destruction they have knowingly caused.”
3. College should be free – “Education must be an economic right for all, not a privilege for the few,” Sanders wrote in an opinion piece last year. His $2.2tn plan to make college free is, like much of his policy platform, the most far-reaching in the Democratic field. It would include paying off all student loans for some 45 million Americans, regardless of their income or assets, leading some critics to portray it as an unlikely socialist giveaway to the rich.
4. Background checks on gun ownership – “The world has changed, and my views have changed,” Sanders said at this year’s New Hampshire presidential debate. Gun control used to be a rare sore point on his left flank. Now the senator from firearms-friendly Vermont wholly endorses such measures as expanded background checks for gun transactions, something he voted against in Congress back in 1993.
5. Black lives matter – Sanders was shouted down by members of the Black Lives Matter group in Seattle in 2015 during his last presidential run. He was accused of viewing the problems facing African-Americans through the prism of class, rather than race. This time around he’s been endorsed by one of Black Lives Matter’s founders. Sanders once dismissed out of hand the idea of reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves, but last year backed the idea of a commission to study the issue.
6. No to Super PAC money, kinda – Sanders prides himself on his grassroots-funded campaign. But while he denounces billionaire-funded Super Pacs (political action committees) and secret campaign contributions, he does have a non-profit political organization, Our Revolution, that operates similarly to a Super Pac. The Sanders group, however, won’t have to disclose its donors during this election year, prompting criticism over so-called dark money, reports AP.
7. Double the federal minimum wage – It should be $15 per hour, up from $7.25, Sanders argues, though some economists have warned such a dramatic increase could harm poorer cities and struggling businesses. After the Washington Post reported Sanders organizers were being paid less than $13 an hour, the campaign pledged to rectify the situation by adjusting their hours.
8. The two-party system is broken – Sanders – one of two independent US senators – has been at times as unsparing in his criticism of the Democratic party he hopes to lead into this election as he is of the Republicans. He has long condemned the Washington duopoly, saying both parties are beholden to corporate money. Some say Sanders’ rejection of both congressional parties has left him politically alienated. But his outsider status is the touchstone of his appeal to supporters.
10. Universal healthcare – Sanders proposes that all Americans would receive government-run health insurance, which he says would cost about $30tn over a decade, though his costing for the policy, Medicare for All, is under intense scrutiny. Sanders’ idea to nationalize US health coverage was as recently as 2016 dismissed out of hand within the Democratic party as too far-left. What was once a pipe dream is now mainstream.
11. Invest in infrastructure – A rare policy overlap between President Trump and Sanders, both have called for $1tn to be spent on infrastructure. Sanders, however, says the president’s stalled proposal is a “sham”.
12. More taxes – Much has been made of Sanders’ aim to introduce taxes on Wall Street stock transactions and raise them for millionaires (with a net worth exceeding $32m). His critics say that’s a bit rich, considering Sanders himself is worth $2.5m, according to Forbes. But the candidate also acknowledges planning to raise taxes for working families in order to fund Medicare for All. However much extra the federal government deducts from Americans’ payroll, he argues, would be more than offset by their health-cost savings.
13. Anti-war – “The American people are sick and tired of endless wars, which have cost us trillions of dollars,” Sanders said during a TV debate in Iowa in January. It’s a sentiment President Trump has often echoed. But unlike Trump, Sanders was against the US invasion of Iraq from the outset back in 2002. Sanders stands by that decision today, calling the conflict the “worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country”.
17. Break up Big Tech – “These corporate giants control too much,” Sanders has said of tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. Like rival Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, he wants to break up the firms’ “monopoly” and subject them to anti-trust enforcement.
Other progressive politicians have suggested other things:
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has released a draft job guarantee plan, and New York
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sanders have said they’re in favor of some form of job guarantee. It’s a pretty broad policy idea that could take any number of forms, but the basic idea is that the government guarantees work to whoever wants it. One left-leaning think tank’s draft plan advocates that government would hire people to work in infrastructure, child care and the Postal Service, among many others. Plans often also guarantee a wage well above the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
Basic Income (But Not Quite)
The LIFT the Middle Class Act from California Sen. Kamala Harris creates a refundable credit (a lot like the Earned Income Tax Credit — one that gives the taxpayer a refund even if the taxpayer has no income taxes to pay) of up to $6,000 per family. It’s like a universal basic income program, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews and Slate’s Jordan Weissmann have noted, but not quite — it’s only for relatively poor families (so, not universal), and it’s only for families who are already working and earning at least a low level of money (so, not basic).
Medicare For All
Sanders has for years been a proponent of Medicare for all — generally used as a loose term for single-payer health care (said payer being the government). Now, potential 2020 contenders including Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke are all in favor of the idea, as well.
Overhauling Corporate Accountability
Warren has put forward a bill that would require large corporations to be federally chartered and to make sure that charter “requires corporate directors to consider the interests of all major corporate stakeholders — not only shareholders — in company decisions,” as she put it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. In addition, workers would elect 40 percent of the members of a corporation’s board of directors.
Improving Working Conditions
Multiple potential candidates (Booker, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Gillibrand, Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, O’Rourke and Warren) support a $15 minimum wage, and several also have pushed for expanded paid family leave. In a similar vein, Sanders’ Stop WALMART Act would require large corporations to provide $15 hourly wages and sick leave.
Booker and Harris have both introduced bills that would provide refundable tax credits to people paying large shares of their income in rent. Booker’s bill would also attempt to grow the amount of affordable housing.
If we take all of these ideas together, we can see that they do fall into certain categories:
1. Rectifying the broken political system. We have a duopoly that results in corruption. We really need to get rid of it. This will call for getting rid of corporate money, punishing corrupt politicians (not pardoning Trump), preventing voter suppression and ensuring the right to vote, eliminating the Electoral College, getting rid of the filibuster, letting Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico vote and have representation, and making the Supreme Court more balanced by adding seats. Having a referendum on all these and other ideas would be excellent.
2. Improving the Environment. We know that climate change is an enormous problem, and yet little is being done about it. Personally, I would not only move towards electric vehicles but do everything possible to promote ride sharing and public transportation. We should make every effort to stop using oil and coal. We should think hard about stopping deforestation (promote the growth of bamboo and hemp to substitute for paper and wood for furniture). We should also try to get people to move away from growing and eating cattle, because cows create an enormous amount of atmospheric damage. (“Since cows are the most carbon-intensive part of the food industry — cattle are responsible for 62 percent of agricultural emissions — eating fewer of them is one of the most powerful steps an individual can take toward protecting the planet.”) Then, too, we need to fix the infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, and so on) because too little work has been put into them. But if many jobs (like those of truck drivers) are going to disappear, we should use the unemployed to fix the infrastructure, in the same way as was done in the 1930’s during the Depression.
3. Medicare for All. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have Universal Health Coverage for all citizens. Period. Why are we putting up with this. UHC is the major issue on progressive lists. It must be done soon. COVID-19 proved that government is the way to solve medical issues.
4. College Education Should Be Free. Bernie Sanders said it best: “Education must be an economic right for all, not a privilege for the few.” This doesn’t mean that every child should go to college, because some are just not mentally equipped to do so. But the opportunity should be there. America is slipping badly in producing scientists, doctors, and other educated people. Something must be done, now.
5. Get Rid Of Racism. This is a tough one, because the U.S. has a long history of racism. I’ve even thought that we should reward people who marry interracially, because if the society was interracial, racism would gradually disappear. Whatever the solution, we have to think outside the box. I do think that there should be reparations for our history of slavery and for the internment of Japanese during World War II. I don’t think money should be given to individuals, though; there should be public programs to assist those harmed by racism. And we should reform the prison and judicial system, which is a huge example of racism in our country.
6. Get Rid Of Guns. It’s hard to know what the Supreme Court will do with the Second Amendment in the future. But letting people carry automatic weapons around with licensing or background checks is the height of stupidity. It isn’t the guns themselves that do it, because countries like Switzerland have a lot of weapons in the hands of individuals but few mass murders. The U.S., on the other hand, has mass murders almost daily. (293 mass murders between January 1 and June 21, 2021; ten mass murders in each of the past two weekends). Part of the problem is that we let men go unemployed and feel worthless, and many of those men are the killers. (Almost half of the mass murderers are without a job). I’m sure that Americans will always be allowed to have pistols, rifles and shotguns in their homes, but taking them out on the street is plain ridiculous, as are automatic weapons.
7. Tax The Wealthy. A lot of the programs which the country needs will cost money. We know that there is extreme wealth and income inequality, and that has to end. We should create a wealth tax and end the rules which permit people to park money aside and contribute nothing on account of that. Frankly, I don’t think anyone should have more than $5 million in assets, but that’s just my personal feeling. “The United States exhibits wider disparities of wealth between rich and poor than any other major developed nation. We equate wealth with “net worth,” the sum total of your assets minus liabilities. … In the United States, wealth inequality runs even more pronounced than income inequality.” We have to do something before this inequality wrecks our entire way of life.
8. Put An End To Endless War. “The American people are sick and tired of endless wars, which have cost us trillions of dollars.” That’s Bernie Sanders again. In 243 years of existence, the United States has been at war in 226 of them. (This includes all the Indian wars, of course, but there have been plenty of others. We’re been at constant war in the Middle East since 2001). We should spend a lot less on military weapons and a lot more on negotiating with other nations to have peace.
9. Raise The Minimum Wage. $15 per hour is probably too low for the minimum wage. If should probably be $20. But whatever it is, people should be able to live on it. There should be a Universal Basic Income, if not for all, at least for those who are desperately poor. There should also be rent relief to help those who don’t earn much.
10. Enforce The Anti-Trust Laws. We have laws on the books which are supposed to prevent monopolies, but in the past thirty or more years, those laws haven’t been really enforced. As a result, we have what amount to monopolies by Amazon, Facebook, and Google. This really doesn’t require anything except action by the Biden administration. But that administration is so strapped to Big Business that it will take a huge movement to get it to do anything. In addition, real consideration should be given to Senator Warren’s plan to make all corporations federally chartered with rules that protect the society and the workers.
11. Think About The Future. As human beings, we’ve done a lot of things that jeopardize our future. We have too many people. We should work together with other nations to lower the birth rate, because overpopulation is one of the causes of climate change and the strain on everything from water to food to minerals. If we have too few children and too many old people, that will cause problems, but fortunately, we are likely to have robots in the near future to help care for the elderly. The coming of robots is going to make jobs redundant, and we cannot rely on jobs to be the way we spread wealth. But we really need to think clearly about how our society’s assets are used so that we have a better, fairer, and (in the end) happier society and happier life for all.