An Economy That Works for Everyone
An Economic Bill of Rights
In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights that would guarantee employment, food, clothing, leisure, a living wage, housing, healthcare, social security, education and freedom from monopolies and unfair competition to every American. We had the technology and the resources to achieve it 70 years ago, and we could easily accomplish it today. It’s time to fulfill Roosevelt’s vision and guarantee the necessities of life to all as a human right.
Recognize that the nature of work will forever change as automation extends from agriculture and manufacturing into service jobs and creative tasks. Improving technology allows us to produce an abundance of goods with ever-fewer resources and human labor. Automation and artificial intelligence are advancing so rapidly that studies predict that half of American jobs will be automated in the next 15 years. The resulting social transformation will be so profound that it’s referred to as The Fourth Industrial Revolution. We must ensure that people are provided for in a society where machines replace entire industries and millions of jobs.
Instead of laying off workers, shorten the workweek to four days and progressively reduce working hours as automation improves. Make access to the necessities of life a human right with a universal basic income. Ensure that work and re-training are available for those who seek them with a federal job guarantee.
Employ millions of Americans in public works programs, repairing and modernizing our infrastructure and building a 21st century energy system. Wages broke from increasing productivity in the late 1960’s resulting in massive inequality. Implement a $15 minimum wage and index it to inflation. If the minimum wage had continued to track productivity, it would be about $22 today.
Join the rest of the developed world in ensuring paid maternity, family, sick and vacation leave from work. Guarantee affordable housing and rent control to all. Reverse the consolidation of industries into trusts and monopolies. Ensure that Americans can retire with dignity and respect. Lift the cap on taxable income going into Social Security and extend its solvency by 50 years. Social Security is not a perk, it is an obligation of the government to those who have paid into it their entire lives.
Advocate for a realistic way of looking at how our economy works, as posited by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ economic adviser Stephanie Kelton. The government, which is the source of and controls how dollars are taxed or untaxed, has deceived the public into thinking that we cannot afford the social programs that the vast majority of Americans say they want. Congress’ focus on deficits as a justification for why we can’t have a job guarantee or social programs is fundamentally flawed. Our elected representatives always manage to come up with trillions of dollars for the military budget and corporate welfare.
Money is not a scarce commodity like silver or gold. Spending must precede taxation or there would be no dollars in the economy to tax. In other words, it’s the political will to spend on social programs that is lacking, not the money to afford it. With a keystroke, Congress could authorize the money for universal health care, social security, a jobs program and more because federal taxes don’t fund spending.
“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights. Among them, the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. We have come to a clearer realization of the fact, however, that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
Strong Unions and Workplace Democracy
The American middle class was strongest when a third of our workforce was unionized in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Wages have stagnated and inequality has risen in proportion to the decline of unionization in America. A thriving labor movement is vital to economic justice. Support the rights of employees to organize into unions, collectively bargain and strike. Repeal all anti-labor laws, including Right to Work laws and the rest of the Taft-Hartley Act.
Shuttered businesses and production facilities often leave workers and surrounding communities in financial ruin. Grant workers the option to collectively purchase factories and plants as an alternative to shutting them down. Reverse the outsourcing of American jobs and renegotiate trade agreements that have proven disastrous to workers worldwide.
Democratize the workplace by encouraging the creation of worker cooperatives. Modern corporations are completely undemocratic. Workers don’t share in the ownership of the company, elect leaders from amongst themselves, or have any say in the company’s direction. Unelected investors and executives hoard the wealth that the workers produce, leaving them just enough to survive and continue generating profits. Our ancestors brought democracy to government and now we must extend it to the workplace, where we spend much of our waking lives. Working people should participate in management of the corporations that they contribute to just like they participate in the management of the country where they live. Worker cooperatives build unions directly into the fabric of the corporation.
Modernize Our Infrastructure
From land to sea, our infrastructure is in a perilous state of disrepair. Enact a green new deal, putting millions of Americans to work in good paying jobs that repair our crumbling roads, bridges, airports, dams, harbors and waterways. Modernize the electrical grid for a renewable energy future.
Repair our aging and leaking drinking water pipes, meters and wastewater treatment plants. Expand bus lines, subway systems, high speed rail and other means of public transportation. Reduce public transit fares to broaden access and take more cars off the road. Create millions of living wage jobs modernizing the infrastructure that powers American life and commerce. Classify the internet as a public utility and bring the country online with universal high-speed community broadband that covers rural communities.
Ensure swift federal disaster relief and recovery to cities, states and territories struck by natural disasters. Citizens of the richest country on earth should not have to languish for months on end without basic necessities like the thousands in Puerto Rico who continue to suffer the loss of electricity following Hurricane Maria.
Boost America’s high-tech innovation with investments in basic research and STEM education. Reignite the country’s passion for space exploration with an ambitious manned mission to Mars. Empower NASA and academia to pursue an understanding of the origins of life, our universe and space, the final frontier.
A Fair Tax Code and Thriving Small Business
In the 1940’s and 1950’s the top marginal tax rate was above 90 percent and Franklin Roosevelt proposed a maximum income. While we won’t go that high, we will restore higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, requiring them to pay their fair share of the costs involved in the public infrastructure and services that power their companies. Increase the inheritance tax and introduce a wealth tax for multi-millionaires. Raise the capital gains tax which allows billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than nurses and truck drivers.
Small businesses employ half of American workers. Level the playing field for small business owners. They can’t afford corporate lobbyists who bribe politicians or lawyers into setting up offshore tax havens. Close tax loopholes that allow multi-billion dollar corporations to pay effective tax rates of zero. End corporate welfare as we know it. Ban corporate inversions and the use of offshore tax havens that cost our country more than $150 billion in annual tax revenue. Ban the practice of no-bid government contracts.
Rein-in Wall Street and Create Public Banks
The massive too-big-to-fail banks are much larger and more consolidated than when we bailed them out after causing the Great Recession. They are threatening to crash the global economy and wipe out millions of jobs again. Revive Glass-Steagall and break up the big banks. End too-big-to-jail and hold accountable financial executives who defraud the public. Pass a financial transactions tax and regulate the sale of derivatives. Reduce and cap credit card interest rates. Reign in corporate power by breaking up monopolies, enforcing antitrust laws and reversing the consolidation of businesses.
Ban corporate stock buybacks that are used to manipulate the stock market and taxable income, to reduce investment in R&D, and to inflate CEO compensation. Eliminate conflicts of interest and increase transparency at the Federal Reserve, ensuring that it operates as a public bank for the people of the US. Enforce stricter oversight of banks, revoking the banking licenses for those that repeatedly engage in criminal, fraudulent, discriminatory and negligent activity at the public’s expense. Immediately revoke the licenses of banks found to be financing terrorism and drug cartels that presently get off with minor fines. Prohibit banks from writing off fines from criminal activity as tax deductions.
Expand public banking and postal banking. Public banks like the Bank of North Dakota are driven by service to their community rather than the profits of distant, giant multinational corporations’ shareholders. They can make affordable loans to small businesses, farmers, students and government agencies. They save taxpayers’ money on infrastructure projects, eliminate hundreds of millions in banking fees, and keep profits in the local community — funds that can be returned to the people in the form of better schools, affordable housing, and lower taxes. Charter public banks in each state, with regional and city banks, and support a national postal bank, similar to those in many developed nations.
Reverse trade policies in agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and PNTR with China that have outsourced millions of jobs and created a global race to the bottom in wages.
Ensure that future treaties do not put our government under the jurisdiction of corporate tribunals known as investor state dispute settlement. ISDS provisions in NAFTA and other treaties have given corporations the power to sue our government, right down to municipalities, for millions of dollars in “projected loss of profits due to regulation.” This occurs even in the case of regulations to protect public health and safety or to ensure truth in advertising. ISDS surrenders our national sovereignty to multinational corporations and a supra-national corporate judiciary. Remove it from existing trade deals and ban attempts at corporate governance in all international agreements.
America’s chief export should not be poverty. We should not be taking good paying jobs from Americans and sending them to sweatshops in the developing world. It’s time to embrace fair trade and domestic policies that incentivize companies to keep good paying jobs in America.