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Progressives Have a Choice in 2016: Lead or Compromise!

By Yezdyar S. Kaoosji 

As progressives, we should lead and not resort to compromising our principles. The strength of our convictions and not political expediency should drive our campaigns. 

What a yawn! The formal 2016 White House race is finally taking shape. Candidates have started popping up in orchestrated events made to appear casual and low key. The announcements follow announcements that an announcement will be made. With vague soundbites, as malleable as the play dough that keeps my grandchildren occupied, politicians of all parties have started declaring their candidacy.

Nov. 1, 2016 is 500 days yet, the faux urgency into which we have been cast by the corporate media is disingenuous, to say the least. The campaigns that are funded with billions of vested-interest dollars will be responsible for “turning off” the very voters they are expected to “turn out.”

These are two intertwined issues: First, we have a faulty election system that runs perpetually in the background like an app on a smartphone. While visible at election time, just as an app is when in use, it recedes into the background updating itself and spinning away relentlessly. Second, we want a committed and accountable President, who can provide the quality of life all Americans seek.

Like many progressives, I’ve been bothered that there is no easy way to define a progressive platform. In a quest to identify progressive issues, I researched organizations with “progressive” in their names. One group sent me its ponderous bylaws. Another, a laundry list of actions. From these and other resources, I culled the following six themes and added major issues of concern under each:

1. Financial Security for All: 

All persons should live in an economically secure society, wherein everyone has the right to fair compensation for services and a fair return on financial investments.

  • Address spiraling economic inequality.
  • Provide equal pay to women.
  • Support the workforce to negotiate wages and benefits commensurate with their work.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage from $7.35 for workers so that they are self-sufficient.

 

2. An Economy That Serves Everyone: 

The American system is based on economic freedom in the use of capital and provides for regulation of economic activity to achieve and maintain a balanced society.

  • Infrastructure:

o Invest in our crumbling infrastructure while using American labor and products.

o Progressively use renewable energy and reverse the impact of anthropogenic climate destabilization.

  • Strengthen regulation of financial institutions to protect consumers.
  • Update and reinstate the now-defunct Glass Steagall Banking Act of 1933.
  • Break up the monopoly of the six largest banks in the United States that control 61% of the nation’s GDP.
  • Simplify the tax code, eliminate loopholes and ensure the wealthy pay a proportionate share of taxes on their total income.
  • Create and enforce regulations to prevent the use of offshore tax havens and curb inversion as a mechanism to stash earnings abroad and avoid paying income taxes in the United States.
  • Provide tax incentives to U.S.- based businesses, and eliminate all tax breaks to corporations that outsource jobs to low-wage countries.

 

3. Social Justice for All: 

Guarantee equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities for everyone. Ensure that a social safety net is always available to every American.

  • Establish a Medicare-for-all healthcare system that removes a financial profit component from healthcare.
  • Expand, adequately fund and integrate a single national social services program comprising various components currently funded like Social Security, Medicare, nutrition programs, and others.

 

4. Educational Opportunity for All:

Education is a human right. Free secondary education is enhanced with affordable higher education.

  • Ensure that students are not repaying exorbitant loans for decades after their graduation.
  • Affordable public education should be provided to ensure the United States achieves and retains a competitive edge in the world.

 

5. Universal Suffrage for All Natural Human Beings: 

One person, one vote…every adult citizen has the right to vote. The federal government should guarantee and enforce it in all states.

  • Legislate to overturn the undemocratic Citizens United ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, which confers rights on corporations to legally influence elections.
  • Guard against voter suppression and voter registration restrictions, ballot-box abuses, and combat all states that deter universal adult suffrage.

 

6. A Non-Imperial Foreign Policy:

A presidential candidate should present a comprehensive vision of foreign affairs, encompassing our nation’s commitment to democracy and human rights. Eliminate American exceptionalism from all foreign policy actions and initiatives.

  • Terminate all foreign totalitarian regime relationships that benefit private U.S. corporations.
  • Revise existing trade policies and oppose the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership.
  • Ensure all foreign trade rules and incentives favor businesses operating in the United States and employing a domestic workforce.
  • Curtail warfare and start reducing expenses on U.S. armed forces and equipment.
  • Terminate contracts with corporations that profit by supplying mercenary military forces for U.S. military actions.
  • Invest all savings from the armed forces budget in domestic economic development.

 

I hope this summary of the six progressive themes provides a starting point to define progressive action. Readers are invited to respond and help fine-tune the list.

Please send your responses to me at yezdyk@comcast.net by May 11 at 5 p.m. This will help me to incorporate suggestions in a planned sequel article that will contain an Assessment Grid to help evaluate progressive candidates for 2016 elections at all levels of government, including the President of the United States.

*****

Yezdyar Kaoosji is a progressive activist. He writes an occasional column “Progressive Voice” for the Community Alliance. Contact him at yezdyk@comcast.net.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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