Posted 3 years ago on Feb. 28, 2012, 4:47 p.m. EST by francismjenkins
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I'm hoping some offshoot or existing activist organization puts together a pledge for political candidates to sign (although, I don't expect something like this to become part of any OWS platform, and I'm not sure that would be wise, I still think it's a good idea, and one we can at least loosely stand behind, provided it has synergy with our values). So then, what should it say? First let me say, I actually think two pledges would be a prudent idea, mainly because there's some things that enjoy very broad support (among both liberals and conservatives), while other things are only likely to attract liberal support.
1) the "Abramoff proposals" to reduce/eliminate the influence of lobbyists.
2) passage of a law to replace the overturned provision in McCain Feingold, tailored to accomplish the same goals (like regulating donations to super-pacs and similar organizations), while taking into account the Constitutional defects found by the Court in Citizens United.
3) support for a Constitutional amendment if the legislative approach fails.
4) restore the provision in Glass Steagall repealed by Gram Leach (specifically, the provision which prohibited investment banks from owning commercial banks, and vice versa).
These four points enjoy broad support among many conservatives and liberals (at least among the electorate). The following ideas will likely only find support among liberal oriented candidates:
1) loan program designed to fund the purchase of closed down factories by workers. 5.5 million manufacturing workers have lost their jobs since 2000. Over 40,000 factories closed down during that same time period. Imagine if these closed factories were turned into employee owned/managed firms? This is not an experimental idea, employee owned companies have been successful in this country for a long time. The program could provide "direct loans" (like our student loan program) from government to workers (no bank intermediaries).
2) implementation of a value added tax. Bangladesh (a WTO member) has a 15% VAT, which exempts "cottage industries" (generally speaking, small to mid sized firms, including manufacturers). The VAT schemes of most of our trading partners exempt exports from the tax. And Canada's VAT (framed as a national sales tax) is progressive. Point is, there's a variety of ways to structure a VAT that would be permissible under WTO rules (and we need a VAT to level the playing field for our manufacturers).
3) fiscal stimulus. We have over 70,000 bridges that need to be repaired or replaced, many of our major airports are falling apart, we need to modernize our electrical grid, many of our elementary and high schools are falling apart, many of our state universities and community colleges are still using 50 year old chairs, and haven't been expanded in decades (to spite rapid population growth), etc.
4) alternative energy. Thorium reactors, electric cars, natural gas (for large trucks and buses), wind power, and alcohol fuels are extremely promising, and the science is good enough to develop a national energy strategy around. Our goal should be a sufficient level of energy independence within 10 years (when I say "sufficient" .... I'm assuming that we don't need to worry about importing energy resources from places like Canada).
We can afford to borrow, notwithstanding the mania concerning our deficit. Right now 10 year treasury notes pay a 1.9% interest rate, which is lower than the rate of inflation. In other words, people are willing to "pay us to lend us money." An additional $1 trillion in debt would only cost us $17 billion per year to service. The costs to service our debt will pale in comparison to the tax revenue generated through such a dramatic increase in economic activity. We should stop comparing our country to Greece, based on a single data point.