One Agenda for 2006 & 2008

Friday, October 14, 2005 at 08:15 AM

I've been having an e-mail debate with a bunch of folks (none of whom I've even met--isn't the electronic age wonderful?) on what the Democrats need to do to get back control of the government.

In the course of it, I developed a list of issues/goals that seem worthwhile to me.  Here's my summary of a proposed agenda for 2006 and 2008--I'm interested in what other people think of these.

**A program to ensure that working class Americans have a job at which to work. I would expect that part of this effort would include some method of dealing with offshoring, and would definiteley involve scouring the government regs and statutes to find and fix all provisions that encourage/reward offshoring; a program similar to CCC of the depression years may be necessary.

**Reinstitution of the estate tax, a reasonable rate of taxation on capital gains, and raising the top marginal income tax rate to some reasonable level (in the range of the top rate during the 1950s to 1970s, before Reaganism infected us).

**Wages that will allow the workers to support themselves above the level of starvation and freezing, OR a program to supplement private sector wages to bring them to the point of livability.

**A program to draw students into the fields that will provide the economic advances of the 21st century, including an effort to identify students with aptitudes in those areas, and offer to those students of college scholarships in those fields.

**A program to ensure that worthy students can afford to attend college or tech training--either full tuition grants at state schools, or a combination of loans and grants.

**A national debate and, eventually, consensus on how to manage health care costs and access.  Part of the debate needs to be the wisdom of allowing drug companies to manipulate their accounting to produce the level of profit they choose to recognize in any given nation, with the result that they get away with claiming little profit, and paying little taxes, in a country where their prices are the highest.  Another part needs to be an investigation into the profit levels and overhead claims of insurers, of manufacturers of medical tests and equipment, and of providers of imaging and lab services.

**A new commitment to making the UN work.  Having a functional and reliable international body is the only way we have a prayer of avoiding nuclear proliferation, and of resolving the endless territorial disputes that tend to spark wars, atrocities, and long-term hostilities.

**A major effort to form partnerships between government and the private sector in the area of energy research, with an eye to finding the successor to oil, or at least an energy source that can be used in place of oil in some areas, to give us more time to find new energy sources.

**A program to ensure that the poor have adequate housing. There is no way that poor people can afford adequate housing in today's real estate market, where perfectly ordinary 1-BR apartments in perfectly ordinary locations go for $600 to $850 per month.  Here in Vermont, at the state's current $7 per hour minimum wage, a $600 per month apt. (low end of the scale) takes up more than half of four weeks worth of gross salary (7 X 40 hrs per week X 4 weeks = $1,120).

**A renewed mission for the federal and states' anti-trust agencies.  We have far too few entities competing in any given sector, there is evidence of price collusion in several fields, and pricing in "captive" fields is exorbitant.

**Revision of the rules on media ownership to restore diversity and preclude the current lockstep corporate thinking.

**A renewed seriousness to our oversight of stock and commodity trading, with consumer interests represented at the highest levels of each agency.

**New laws governing personal liability of corporate officers.  One idea is to have each officer certify that he/she has made every reasonable effort to ascertain the accuracy of information produced and used in financial statements as to areas under that officer's control.

**A new law requiring that all bills before the Senate or House be placed online for public view and comment for at least 10 days before the final vote, except in limited cases of emergency.  If the language is altered after the bill is placed online, the 10 day period runs anew from the date of the alteration.

**When a  House-Senate compromise committee works out a compromise, the language of that compromise bill should also be posted for online for 30 days before final action/effectiveness.

**Strict requirements for federal election voting, including: paper ballots or at least a paper trail; requirements that all electronic voting or vote-counting machines be turned off, segregated, and disconnected from their power source as soon as the voting period ends, with all such equipment to remain under guard until the election is certified final; specific standards for when a recount is in order, and specific procedures for conducting the recount.

**A government web site devoted to listing all public contracts in effect, the name of the contractor, links to that contractor's web sites (which must contain all pertinent info on the ownership, board of directors, and major officers), whether the contract was competitively bid or simply awarded, and, if awarded, the reason for not letting it out for bidding.