As Democrats and Progressives look forward from yesterday’s mid-term elections, we must pursue a new populist platform in the spirit of the great populists Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt. We must recapture our historical role as the advocate for the person who works for an hourly wage. We must win the hearts and minds of those who make up the "tea party" movement, convincing them that their corporate puppet masters are not working in their interests. Most of all, we must use all our powers of persuasion to convince the "broad center" of the American electorate that it makes sense for them to align with the Democratic Party.
That said, it is time for us to publish our own "contract" or "pledge" or whatever titled 10-point document that sets out clear, concise, achievable legislative and policy goals. These goals should appeal to the broad center of working class Americans. Here is my proposal:
- Pursue a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate corporate (and union) contributions to political campaigns. All campaign contributions must come from individuals registered to vote in the district/state which the member represents, with instant reporting of the names of donors and amounts donated.
- Eliminate corporate/business income taxes. This alone would throw cold water on much of the influence of business over government policy.
- Establish a simplified, progressive, personal income tax. Under this new tax, all income from all sources would be treated equally. Establish a standard deduction for each individual taxpayer, equal to twice the annualized Federal minimum wage.
- Eliminate the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax, and apply the tax to income from all sources. This should result in an overall reduction of the SS tax rate, while ensuring the viability of the Social Security program well into the future.
- Pursue a Constitutional Amendment to require states to choose Presidential Electors based on each Congressional District, rather than the current winner-take-all that exists in all but a couple of states.
- Pursue a Constitutional Amendment to require that Congressional Districts in each state be established by a non-partisan commission, with final approval by the state legislature, rather than the current legislative gerrymandering that exists in most states.
- Revisit and improve the health care reform act by combining all current Federal health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, veterans care, government employees, etc.) into a single national health care program, and allow the public to participate in that program.
- Pass immigration reform that provides a reasonable path to legal status for anyone in the country, without the stupid "return to home base" requirement that seems to be part and parcel of most current proposals. Excepted from this would be convicted criminals and those who don’t want to be productive members of our society and our economy.
- Return to pre-1970s banking regulations that made commercial banking separate entirely from investment banking. Provide common-sense regulation of financial markets, with a regulatory structure that can keep up with the financial marketplace. The key is transparency in the trading of financial instruments.
- Impose tariffs on imports from China and other nations who manipulate their currency values. Unfortunately, the "free trade" genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Therefore, we can insist on "fair trade," by making sure that workers who produce goods and services are treated fairly, with reasonable environmental and worker safety protections.
Of course, there are other planks that could be added to this platform, including support in R&D and incentives for alternative energy, conservation, etc. But I put this forward as a starting point for discussion.
The bottom line is that if we are to accomplish our progressive goals, we must recast our progressive message into a populist message. We must communicate to the working class American that the "tea party" is a sham, and the politicians elected as a result are not the "true libertarians" like Rand Paul, but the same old crowd led by Agent Orange and McConnell. Even more important, in the next year, we need to convince President Obama to be a true Populist instead of just another Wall Street bought-and-paid-for corporatist.