I: BASIC FAIRNESS ISSUES:
1) Minimum wage of $15 per hour. Job losses from raising the minimum wage would be more than offset by the economic boost caused by millions of Americans being lifted from poverty, and better able to buy goods and services. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/07/19/332879409/states-that-raised-minimum-wage-see-faster-job-growth-report-says, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/01/10-ripple-effect-of-increasing-the-minimum-wage-kearney-harris,
And no one working full time should be in poverty.
It is nice to get low prices at places like Walmart, but those low prices are subsidized by our tax dollars for food stamps and healthcare (Medicaid) for Walmart employees.
The world economy is largely powered by the American consumer. That may not be the best or most sustainable economic system, but it is what we have. Yet middle class jobs are going away, and as long as consumers are essential, we’d better make sure lots of people can consume.
2) Equal pay for equal work. “Whether women earn 77 cents to the male dollar, as the Obama administration claimed, or the figure is closer to Pew’s findings of 84 cents for most women and as high as 93 cents for younger women, it’s clear that the playing field is not equal. It’s also clear that disparities are indeed related to gender. Recent cases have shown that women who ask for pay increases often don’t get them. What they get instead: negative reactions. A 2007 study found that women who asked for raises were perceived as demanding. Men, meanwhile, faced no backlash. Women are also more likely to disrupt their careers to raise children or care for ill family members, and come back at a disadvantage.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peggy-drexler/equal-pay-for-equal-work_b_5151267.html
According to data from the US Census Bureau, the average gender pay gap in the United States in 2018 was around 18.9%, meaning that a woman working a full-time, year-round job earns 81.1% as much as her male counterpart earns. The pay gap varies, however, by state. In Wyoming, for instance, the gender pay gap is 30.9%, the biggest wage gap in the nation. Louisiana is followed closely behind at 30.8%. In 30 states, the gender pay gap is larger than the national average.
Most states have implemented laws against gender discrimination, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects women at the federal level, yet disparities persist. California had the smallest pay gap in 2018 at 12.2%, with full-time, year-round women over 16 making a median salary of $49,177, while men made $56,023.
Several things could be done to help: Both men and women should be able to take family leave without retribution. All employees should be allowed to share salary information without punishment. Employers should be forbidden to punish those who ask for a raise, and in particular from treating one group of employees differently from another. And employers should not be allowed to demand information regarding one’s salary at a previous job, nor have salary guidelines which limit what can be paid based on your previous salary. That just perpetuates inequality. More transparency of what others in an organization make has also been shown to be helpful toward reducing inequity. (There was a Fair Paycheck Act in Congress, blocked by Republicans): https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/84.)
3) Easy refinance of student debt to 3% (or prime plus 2.5%), and offer new student loans at same rate. We don’t want the rates to be so low that people incur more debt by borrowing more money than necessary, or play games with borrowing and investing, etc. But if educated workers and voters are crucial to our long term success, why lend money to Too Big to Fail Banks almost for free, and charge students usurious rates?
If you borrow a few hundred thousand dollars to buy a Ferrari, get drunk and crash it, go to jail, lose your job, and go bankrupt, your debt is forgiven. If, however you borrow that money to go to a good university, take a low paying job which helps humanity, then need to pay the medical expenses of a loved one, so go bankrupt, you still owe the money. How did we allow this? (Very strong Bankers’ lobby). Why don’t we change it?
Our International Online University could be the best IOU ever. Private online universities cost $20,000 per year or more. Germany recently eliminated all tuition on higher education, while American students are drowning in $1.2 trillion of loan debt. Even if we can’t immediately match Germany, at least we could offer a free on-line alternative, and free Community colleges.
Bernie Sanders’s platform called for free university tuition at regular brick and mortar institutions as well. That of course requires a large funding source. Is free college tuition the best use of the tax on financial trading? Maybe! Let us know what you think.
4) Equal Protection Under the Law:
This is a fundamental part of American government we learn in Civics class, but it is not reality. Poor people go to jail for small offenses, and Wall Street Bankers break the law, crash the economy causing hardship for millions, and don’t even have to give back their ill-gotten bonuses.
Police are “To Protect and Serve” all citizens, but that is not reality either. Leveling the Justice playing field with reform and demilitarization of police forces should be a very high priority. One excellent suggestion is that “ALL law enforcement (local, state and federal), be required to wear video recording cameras at all times while on duty. Any camera that is turned off or tampered with, carries a mandatory minimum 1 year prison sentence. We need to end the racism and police misconduct brutality and corruption. But we need to help the police do their job better, and be an effective and valued part of their communities. So we will need many other changes as well. What laws do you think we need?
5) Veterans should be treated fairly. Our promises should be kept. We should help them rebuild their lives and ensure that no veteran is homeless, hungry, or forgotten. We should do everything we can to have our troops avoid combat whenever possible, and only “bomb onto others as we would have them bomb onto us”.
6) Comprehensive Immigration Reform: For a nation of immigrants, we certainly are conflicted regarding those following in our (or our ancestors) footsteps. But it is an extremely complex issue. There is no way we can accept all the billions of people who would like to live here. We have to treat immigrants fairly, while reassuring voters we’ve included safeguards to protect their jobs, and tax dollars, and try to promote actions that make more people happy to stay where they were born. http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/issues/DREAM-Act
7) Net neutrality–critical for a well informed electorate, and to give ordinary people some means to possibly level the playing field against the rich and powerful. This is increasingly important as corporations become more rich and powerful than countries.
8) Combine the best ideas of the whole political spectrum to advance our societal well-being and cohesion. Again, this contract is crowd-sourced. The “wish list” we present Candidates is the one best supported by voters. We see this contract as being in two parts, a populist part which conservative and libertarian voters might embrace, and some clearly progressive suggestions they might dislike very much. We would have no problem with a similar organization, overlapping with us on populist issues to bring even more voters against the influence of big money on elections and money, while having their own conservative wish list/contract as well. Letting voters choose what they want from their elected officials is our goal. Please share your thoughts and ideas.
9) Make abortions uneccessary and obsolete by encouraging good contraception so much that in the vast majority of cases, women choose whether or not to have a baby BEFORE they get pregnant. Contraception is much cheaper and safer than abortions, and generate far fewer moral concerns. Even with good contraception availability, some abortions will be necessary, and they should be legal, safe, available, and affordable. According to the CDC, abortions for cases of rape or incest are about 1 % of the total of US abortions, so a goal of a 90% reduction in abortions seems a possible and desirable goal.
II: TAX REFORM:
1)Income is income, and all should be taxed the same. Eliminate the lower tax rates for capital gains income. . For years we’ve heard that the rich need special treatment of investment income so they will re-invest it and prosperity will “trickle down” to the rest of us. But that was never true. Nearly all new wealth in recent years has gone to the wealthiest 1% or 0.1%, and wealth disparity has grown to the highest levels since the Robber Barons.
If you had the good fortune to have $1million in a US stock market index fund in 2013, you made about $250,000 without doing anything. If you had $1billion in such a fund, you made $250 million. Without doing anything. One could argue that capital gains should be taxed at HIGHER levels than regular income, but treating all income the same is simplest, with higher tax rates for the wealthy, elimination of many loopholes, and/or stronger alternative minimum taxes. Certainly, taxing Capital gains at LOWER rates than income obtained by real work by real people is crazy, and the fact that has been the case since 1921 largely reflects how well the government does what rich people want.
Even the famed tax cutter (and extremely wealthy) Andrew Mellon wrote that ‘unearned income,’ that is, income from capital, should be more heavily taxed than ‘earned income, or labor income’. (Capital Gains should be taxed higher than regular income.) “As he argued in his 1924 book, Taxation: The People’s Business The fairness of taxing more lightly incomes from wages, salaries and professional services than the incomes from business or from investments is beyond question.”
2) All Financial Trades Should Be Taxed 0.5%.
“It’s a simple tweak that would reign in an out-of-control financial sector, stimulate jobs, generate billions of revenue, and possibly prevent another heart-wrenching crisis. Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman want it. Billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates want it. Polls show the majority of Americans want it. Even the Pope wants it.
We’re talking about a financial transaction tax (FTT) — a tiny tax of, say, less than half a percent: maybe 3 cents per $100 — on Wall Street trading. It’s simple, more than fair, widely supported by the public, and long overdue. Wall Street has been raking in billions of dollars in profits from financial transactions. And they pay not a penny in taxes on most of them.
Instead of talking about nickel-and-diming seniors by cutting their Social Security and Medicare, letting our infrastructure crumble, and forcing our children to go without proper education or medicine, we could be returning sanity and balance to our financial system. The FTT would put the breaks on the sort of reckless, breakneck-speed computer gambling that helped tank the American economy five years ago. It could raise hundreds of billions annually. Did you hear that, deficit hawks? We’d have enough to close the funding gaps in states that had their budgets destroyed by Wall Street’s risky behavior and predation. We’d even have enough to invest in new jobs. ” http://www.salon.com/2013/10/18/the_tax_that_could_save_america_from_wall_street_partner/
“This small tax of less than ½ of 1% on Wall Street transactions can generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year in the US alone.
Enough to protect American schools, housing, local governments and hospitals. Enough to pay for lifesaving AIDS medicines. Enough to support people and communities around the world – and deal with the climate challenges we’re facing.
It won’t affect ordinary Americans, their personal savings, or every day consumer activity, such as ATMs or debit cards. It’s easy to enforce and tough to evade.
This is a tax on Wall Street, which created the greatest economic crisis in our nation, and globally, since the Great Depression. The same people who have returned to record profits and bonuses while ordinary Americans, the 99%, continue to pay the price of their crisis.
So it’s time for justice for ordinary families and businesses. For American families faced with a choice between buying food or paying the heating bill.
The Robin Hood Tax is just. The banks can afford it. The systems are in place to collect it. It won’t affect ordinary members of the public, their bank accounts or their savings. It’s fair, it’s timely, and it’s possible.
It’s not a tax on the people, but a tax for the people.”
A financial transaction tax would also help eliminate the scam of being able to trade stocks a few milleseconds faster, which does nothing productive, but does suck billions of dollars out of the economy and into their companies and bank accounts. Now many of our best and brightest young people go into financial fields for great wealth with no benefit to society, rather than helping solve the many large problems we face. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-29/cable-across-atlantic-aims-to-save-traders-milliseconds.html
Please notice that the above quotes mention rates far below 0.5% which is 50 cents per $100. They mention 3 cents/$100, which is only 0.03%. Even that would be FAR better than nothing, but 50 cents/$100, $5 per thousand dollars seems reasonable to us. What do you think?
3) Eliminate corporate tax loopholes: http://www.njpp.org/releases/many-of-americas-most-profitable-corporations-pay-little-or-no-federal-income
“NEW REPORT: Many of America’s Most Profitable Corporations Pay Little or No Federal Income Taxes; Multinationals Pay Higher Rates Abroad Than in the U.S.
“Corporate lobbyists incessantly claim that our corporate tax rate is too high, and that it’s not ‘competitive’ with the rest of the world,” said Robert McIntyre, Director of Citizens for Tax Justice and the report’s lead author. “Our new report shows that both of these claims are false. Most of the biggest companies aren’t paying anywhere near 35 percent of their profits in taxes and far too many aren’t paying U.S. taxes at all. Most multinationals are paying lower tax rates here in the United States than they pay on their foreign operations.”
111 of the companies enjoyed at least one year in which their federal income tax was zero or less.
26 companies, including Boeing, General Electric, Priceline.com and Verizon, enjoyed negative income tax rates over the entire five-year period, despite combined pre-tax profits of $170 billion.
Of the 125 multinational companies in this sample, two-thirds paid a lower U.S. tax rate than the rate they paid to foreign governments on their foreign profits. On average, their foreign effective tax rate was 12 percent larger than their U.S. effective rate.
The total amount of federal income tax subsidies enjoyed by the 288 profitable corporations over the five years was $362 billion.”
Thanks to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Amazon’s federal tax responsibility is 21% (down from 35% in previous years). But with the help of tax breaks, according to corporate filings, Amazon won’t be paying a dime to Uncle Sam despite posting more than $11.2 billion in profits in 2018.
Perhaps we should decrease Corporate tax rates, but make sure companies doing business here cannot avoid them. We can and must do better than having many of our wealthiest and most successful companies pay little or no corporate taxes.
4) Reinstate inheritance taxes on Estates more than $5 million, and eliminate perpetual trusts to lessen the formation of a hereditary aristocracy. (Wealth and our Commonwealth, Gates) http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/url.cfm?ID=1000792, http://www.amazon.com/Wealth-Our-Commonwealth-Accumulated-Fortunes/dp/0807047198
According to a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, only 1.6% of Americans receive $100,000 or more in inheritance. Another 1.1% receive $50,000 to $100,000. On the other hand, 91.9% receive nothing (Kotlikoff & Gokhale, 2000). Thus, the attempt by ultra-conservatives to eliminate inheritance taxes — which they always call “death taxes” for P.R. reasons — would take a huge bite out of government revenues (an estimated $253 billion between 2012 and 2022) for the benefit of the heirs of the mere 0.6% of Americans whose death would lead to the payment of any estate taxes whatsoever (Citizens for Tax Justice, 2010b). http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html
5) Bolster Social Security by having the wealthy contribute the same percentage as their secretaries and servants.
Social Security payroll tax contributions are only paid on wages up to $117,000 in 2014, ($137,700 in 2020) , with employees and employers contributing equally. Less than 6 percent of the population has wages above the cap. While the vast majority of Americans must make payroll tax contributions on all of their wages, millionaires and billionaires only do so on the first $117,000 of their earnings. Scrapping the cap so that all earnings are subject to the payroll tax would come very close to closing Social Security’s entire projected 75 year funding gap. Congress scrapped the cap on payroll tax contributions to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund in 1993. It’s time for Congress to do the same for Social Security. www.robinhoodtax.org/
If we make capital gains the same as regular income, that will further bolster Social Security.
III: FAIRER ELECTIONS and LESS CORRUPTION in GOVERNMENT:
Not that long ago, when you paid a government official to get the laws you wanted, it was called Corruption, or Bribery. Now we just call it Government.
To avoid becoming a government of the money, by the money, and for the money, we need:
1) A Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. Corporations are NOT people, and do not have a right to Freedom of Religion, or “free speech” in the form of buying elections and elected officials. The Citizens United decision gutted campaign finance restrictions and we need a constitutional amendment to limit the power and influence of money in elections and government. “Broad Bi-Partisan Consensus Supports Reforms to Supreme Court,” Democracy Corps, May 7, 2014 http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=300406&id=100190-8946818-7ylbUTx&t=4
But there are things we can do in the meantime, without involving “free speech”.
One thing is the “Shareholder United Act“, which would allow corporations to make political donations only with the approval of the majority of their shareholders. (This would be a good start, but would not help with privately held companies like Koch Industries.)
Another promising trend would be encouraging “Benefit Corporations“, whose charters include promoting public benefits, not just maximizing shareholder profits.
Some other ideas below:
2) Transparency. Make names of all major donors public Perhaps if candidates accept more than $1000 from any one person, they would need to list the donor and amount given. (you can have all the “free speech” you want, but not anonymously). Equally important is assurance that election results actually reflect what the voters intended. Regardless of what voting machines or methods are used, there must be a way to audit results to insure accuracy. We do NOT have that now. Venezuela, of all places, reportedly has a far more technologically advanced, reliable system.
3) Anticorruption Measures: Even the Supreme Court acknowledges that “corruption or the appearance of corruption” is not a good thing. Yet we allow politicians to accept money, and then do what the donor asks. More ethical and reasonable would be that a politicians can take all the money they want from any individual, but if it is more than, say $10,000, they must recuse themselves from any vote likely to benefit the donors more than the general public.
There is also the American Anti-corruption Act, which addresses many of the same concerns expressed here. It is being encouraged by Represent.Us. These laws would be useful at all levels of city, county, state, and federal government. Senator Warren has also proposed an excellent Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Bill.
4) Make lying to confuse or mislead voters illegal. This may already be illegal. If so, we should enforce those laws. As in the measure above, there will of course be gray areas, reasonable disagreement, and need for litigation at times, but the potential for punishment for intentional misleading (as for passing laws for money) should have some salutary effect. As technology improves, this will become an increasingly serious issue. It is now very easy to create ads which seem to show people saying things that are quite the opposite of what they actually said or meant. Free speech and comedic satire are fine, but there are still slander and libel laws. There need to be significant penalties both for the creators of intentionally grossly misleading political content, and for the social media firms which propagate them.
5) Prohibit unreasonable restrictions on voting, and registration. A new voters’ rights act to prohibit election laws designed to discourage certain groups from voting. Voter ID would be allowed, but only if states ensured that seniors, minorities, etc. were able to easily obtain such ID. Voting hours, wait lines, availability of bathrooms at voting places, etc could not be manipulated in a discriminatory manner, and there should be penalties for legislators and election officials who violate those rules.
One possible solution is voting by mail–cheaper, more convenient, and less easily manipulated than polling places. Federal financial incentives might be needed to encourage all states to participate. One potential problem is that since absentee ballots can be prepared out of public scrutiny, voter intimidation might be possible. Concerns that voting by mail encourages fraud have found no evidence to support them.
Gerrymandering of election districts is complex and controversial. It would seem the districts should be drawn up by retired judges, the league of women voters, or some other non-partisan group, with the goals of having minority populations get representation roughly proportionate to their percentage of the population; that “safe districts”, where one party is almost sure to win, be avoided where possible; and that as much as possible, who is elected is the result of the individual candidate, rather than their race, ethnicity, or party.
6) Stop the “revolving door” between those in government and industry,. Government officials should be banned for at least 5 years from lobbying the government, and lobbyists banned at least 5 years from working in the government. Now it is very lucrative for former government employees to then use their relationships to sell out the public interest for special interests. This is addressed in Senator Warren’s Anti-corruption and Public Integrity Bill
7) Limit ability of corporations and industries to set the regulations on themselves. (eg, how can an ex- top lobbyist for the big internet service providers be a good choice to head the FCC as they are determining the future of net neutrality?)
IV: Healthcare and Environmental Sustainability:
1) Healthcare is a basic Human right. Everyone should have effective basic health insurance so illness does not cause bankruptcy or homelessness. Work to make Health Care more patient centered, efficient, and cost effective. Medicare for All is a good goal with expansion of Obamacare into “Medicare for all who want it” a good transition step.
Medicare is much more efficient and cost effective than private insurance, since the latter spends much of it’s premiums on advertising and profits. Part of Obamacare is that Insurers are required to spend 80% of premiums on healthcare and quality improvement, and are only allowed 20% for overhead and profits.
In 2017, administrative costs accounted for 34.2% of all health care expenditures in the United States, twice the percentage spent on administration in Canada, according to study findings published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
But Medicare for All or other single payer plans are still quite controversial with many voters, (https://www.kff.org/slideshow/public-opinion-on-single-payer-national-health-plans-and-expanding-access-to-medicare-coverage/)
and, more importantly, would not solve all our health care financing and quality issues. It is part of a comprehensive healthcare solution, not the entire solution. Anyone who now has Medicare will tell you that even with expensive supplemental insurance, many healthcare costs are still not covered. As biotechnology improves exponentially, we could easily expend as high a percentage of GDP as we want on healthcare. There is unlimited demand. How much we want to spend on healthcare, as opposed to education, infrastructure, social safety net, defense, etc., and who gets what will be a major contentious issues in coming decades.
In Addition to Making Medicare available to All Who Want It, there are other things we can and must do now to make healthcare more patient centered, efficient, and cost-effective. . For example,
Allow Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices.
Limit Pharmaceutical Companies ability to Avoid Competition from generic drugs.
Perhaps the most notable instance of the authorized generic racket occurred with the EpiPen, a life-saving medication needed for people who suffer from deadly allergic reactions. The EpiPen is the product of pharmaceutical giant Mylan and has effectively cornered the market on epinephrine auto-injectors — an accomplishment that can be chalked up in part to brand recognition and in part to a push for laws that incentivized schools to have the medication on hand for students, which made the EpiPen ubiquitous. While having the drug on hand is certainly essential, Mylan took the opportunity to jack up prices. The medication originally cost about $50 per injector in 2007, but the drug maker managed to increase the cost by 400 percent by 2016, charging people $600 for a two-pack of the single-use devices. In response to outrage that was raised over the decision, Mylan took the route of introducing its own authorized generic alternative. It cut the price of the name-brand version in half, charging $300 for a two-pack. Unfortunately, that still put the price at three times what it was less than a decade earlier despite no significant changes to the medication.
These high prices carry a cost for people beyond what they have to pay at the pharmacy. A 2015 report from the National Center for Health Statistics found that nearly one in 10 Americans choose not to take medication prescribed to them because they can’t afford them. That number jumps to three out of 10 for households with income under $40,000. Others are forced to choose between affording the drugs and buying groceries or other essentials for the month.
Authorized generics have become an increasingly popular tool of Big Pharma. According to the FDA, there are currently about 1,200 instances of authorized generics on the market in the United States. Meanwhile, even though the FDA has approved more than 1,600 true generic drugs since January 2017, nearly half of them have yet to actually be made available. Kaiser Health News reported that 36 percent of those approved true generics would be the first instance of competition for brand-name medications. That’s especially troubling given the fact that the FDA has reported it takes five generic alternatives on the market to drive down the price of the original name brand version by 33 percent. Without competition, drug makers are free to increase prices at will for essential drugs. If those companies are simply allowed to compete with themselves, they’ll continue to milk people for as much money as they can, offering only minimal savings while ensuring they are maximizing their profits on necessary and life-saving medications.
2) Embrace global climate change as a scientific fact, and an existential threat to us all.
Pass the Green New Deal. to encourage clean technology, efficiency, renewable energy, and green jobs. Create strong emissions and water pollution standards. Strongly encourage efficiency and renewable energy use. Encourage “landfill-free manufacturing.” Try to prevent polluters from crippling more sustainable competition.
Develop specific and extensive programs to provide new jobs, especially in coal mining and midwest “rustbelt” areas, in manufacturing, installing, and providing wind and solar energy, energy grid upgrades to allow 100% sustainable energy, and energy storage to allow intermittent sustainable sources such as wind and solar to provide electricity 24/7.
Get serious about recycling. Taxes on use of virgin materials could make recycling cost effective, and another source of good local jobs. It could also help us not fill up our oceans and landfills with plastic and ewaste.
Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash.. .Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form. Only 12 percent has been incinerated. . .Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent has been recycled. The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning: at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink. . .The rapid acceleration of plastic manufacturing, so far has doubled roughly every 15 years. . . Half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year. . .research, published in 2015, estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. That is the equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline around the globe.