Progressives are delighted about the results of the first debate between the declared candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, but they shouldn’t be too happy. Sure, the candidates all expressed concern about income and wealth inequality, all favored paid family leave, all supported women’s reproductive rights and all want to do something about the high cost of college. Their biggest dispute, other than over gun control, was over whose proposals were tougher on errant banks and bankers.
That makes Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley far to the left of Republicans, but not necessarily progressives. All their proposals are quick fixes to a broken system. None of the candidates advocate radical change, not even the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders. They all avoid proposing real structural change.
Here is a short a list of proposals that should be part of the basic progressive platform that none of the Democrats would dare to support:
1. Institute a graduated annual tax on net wealth of more than a certain threshold, similar to what exists in France. For example, at the end of each year, the federal government could assess a half of one percent tax on all household wealth of more than $5 million, one percent on all household wealth of more than $20 million, and five percent on all household wealth of more than $50 million.
2. Remove the cap on income that is assessed the Social Security tax (AKA “payroll taxes”), which currently is a paltry $118,500.
3. Tax all inheritance income of more than $10 million at 100% and dissolve all trusts of more than $10 million at the death of the trust founders and funders.
4. Place a steep new tax on gas and use all proceeds to fund mass transit within and between metropolitan areas.
5. Equalize what is spent on every student by placing a tax on all private school tuition and taxing wealthy school districts and giving proceeds to poorer school districts so that every school district in each state spends the same average amount of money per student.
6. Place high tariffs on countries that do not meet our standards of employee, consumer and environmental safety and do not pay substantially the same wages and benefits as are paid in the United States.
7. Unilaterally dismantle all U.S. nuclear weapons.
8. End all private prisons and military outsourcing of personnel and services.
9. End all right-to-work laws and force charter schools to hire teachers in teachers’ unions, if the public school system is unionized. Force all private schools—religious and secular—to unionize if they want to receive public funding, e.g., busing and participation in public school gifted programs.
10. Limit the salary and benefits to all corporate executives to 30 times the average employee’s compensation package.
11. Allow the federal government to negotiate with drug companies and establish single-payer healthcare administered by a number of competitive commercial and not-for-profit insurance companies.
12. Limit all political campaigns to three months of primary campaigning and two months of election campaigning. Note that the Democratic candidates generally favor passing legislation to overturn the Citizen’s United decision.
Many of these proposals fund the nebulous plans that all the Democratic candidates have to make college less expensive, increase the social safety net for children, the poor and the elderly, invest in new energy technologies and rebuild our aging infrastructure of roads, rails, bridges and mass transit systems. To a large degree, the Democrats are telling us how they will spend money while concealing how we’ll pay for it. For years, we paid for what the Democrats want to do with higher taxes. That was before Reagan.
Other proposals on this list of progressive ideas that mainstream centrists looking left consider “untouchable” directly address inequality of wealth and income by preventing accumulation or reset our relationship with the rest of the world such as unilaterally destroying our nuclear weapons.
This list does not exhaust the list of proposals that would have the federal government manage the economy—much as it always has—but for the benefit of the people, not the weapons, automobile, real estate, oil and utility industries. Implement greater environmental regulations with strict caps instead of carbon trading. Develop a federal set of standards for voter registration and voting, including automatic “motor voter” registration. End all development of fully automated weapons systems. Deny aid to any university that gave an admissions break to “legacies.” Withdraw aid to Israel unless it works towards a two-state solution. We could spin “unacceptable” ideas all day long.
And how do we know whether an idea is unacceptable to mainstream liberalism? If it truly addresses the vast inequalities that exist in today’s United States and the world.