Friday, June 06, 2014

The progressive agenda: Vote for me

Barack put it well in his kick-off for his U.S. Senate campaign in early 2003 as he talked about politicians and the people who support them - he said (I'm paraphrasing): “we are ultimately judged by whether we make the lives of ordinary people better off.”

That's the bottom line. That's why we are in this permanent campaign of politics and government -- because we have the opportunity and responsibility to make ordinary people better off. (And it's fun.) 

The progressive agenda is to make life better for most people.

That means they make more money. They have fewer costs. And thus, they are happier and healthier.

There are lots of ways to increase income. One easy way is to reduce the taxes they pay. (That's what the 1% politicians are working to do – increase the income of the richest by cutting the federal income tax). Reducing taxes on regular people is a good thing. Cutting regressive taxes like the sales, payroll and property taxes are good, because regular people end up paying a disproportionate share of those. Not so much the income, estate or corporate taxes because regular people don't pay that much of those. 

A better way to increase the income or regular people is to increase wages. Most working people make most of their money from wages, not from investments. So if wages go up, income for most people goes up as well. We can reduce the taxes on wages (the payroll tax, which the federal Dems did for a few years). We can increase the minimum wage. And we can help get more people into unions so that they can work together to raise everybody's wage. Nothing raises wages faster than being in a union. 

The progressive agenda is also about decreasing the costs for regular people. This one is really interesting. Here are costs for regular people we can reduce through government policies

Health insurance. That's the triumph of the Affordable Care Act (and why it is named the Affordable Care Act) -- it lowers the cost of health insurance for almost everybody. And when the Republicans vote in Washington to repeal it (about every two weeks), they are voting to make health insurance more expensive. Even with ObamaCare, health insurance is still really expensive. We can reduce costs even more by building off the success of the Affordable Care Act: expanding the relatively efficient government-financed insurance pools like Medicare, Medicaid and public employee pools, better regulate insurance and pharmaceutical companies and create non-profit alternatives like health insurance co-operatives. The more the government can buy health care in bulk and drive the price down, the better off families who pay for it will be.

Gas and utilities Energy costs -- gas for the car, electric, natural gas or heating oil for the home -- are high. Oil in particular is expensive, and that's what we use for gasoline. Requiring cars to be far more fuel-efficient, getting more electric-powered cars and running much more public transportation would be much cheaper for people. For utilities, we should always be on the side of cheaper power (short-term and long-term). We can better regulate the electric and natural gas companies. We can develop non-profit alternatives (like municipal power) to make our utility costs cheaper and save money. Did you know that cities with their own power plants, like Los Angeles, pay much less than cities with a privately-owned power plant? I'd like cheaper utility bills every month. Wouldn't you?

Rent Rent is really expensive in cities. Even in cheaper places to live, rent can be a big bite out of the budget. We should talk about lowering rents in every campaign. Probably the best way to do it is to get more rental units built to increase supply, but whenever we can side with tenants to keep them from getting nickel-and-dimed by landlords, we should to lower the cost of rent.

Education. College is way too expensive. Making college more affordable means that families keep more money. Part of our agenda needs to be making college cheaper and making public schools better. The more we improve our public (free) education the more valuable it becomes – which makes the students who benefit from the public schools more valuable as well.

The progressive agenda has to resonate directly with a regular person, or we haven't found the right pitch yet. When a politician makes a proposal, the right question to ask is “what's in it for me?” Our answer has to be “you and your family will be better off with more money in your pocket.” That will get heads nodding.

The progressive agenda is increasing income and reducing costs for families, often by buying things through the government.

When a politician says “Vote for me” the citizen can say “Vote for me” - voting for the progressive agenda that makes life better for me. Increase my income. Lower my costs. Vote for me.  

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