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Unified Progressive Platform
Preamble: A New Progressive Alliance
"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
- George Santayana (1863-1952)
Perpetual war. Rampant unemployment and under-employment. Environmental degradation. Self-interested corporatists run amok.
The difficult times America now faces, though challenging, are hardly new.
Our nation’s first Progressive Era addressed and surmounted similarly daunting challenges. It won Americans the eight-hour workday; women’s suffrage; direct election of Senators; the federal income tax. Though entry into World War I ended this amazing era, the Progressive conscience lived on, and prompted enactment of Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Compensation, Civil Rights, and Head Start.
Nonetheless, WWI - the supposed “war to end all wars” - was in fact anything but. Ever since, whether on foreign shores or here at home, we have unwisely and needlessly relied on war to prop up our economy. From foreign adventurism to the so-called “War on Drugs,” this ideology and its perpetual application has cost us dearly.
Those who nurtured the first Progressive Era ran the social and political gamut. They were Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Independents, Anarchists, suffragettes, farmers, immigrants, freed slaves, lawyers, teachers, trade unionists, physicians, ministers, and businesspeople. In short, Progressives were America’s working classes.
In just 25 years - from 1892 to 1917 - the Populist Party and then the Progressive Party delivered a one-two punch that shook the federal government from its complicity with elites in the oppression of workers, families, farmers, and small businesses. One hundred years later, our oppressors are re-entrenched. We must rise up again to put them in their place - and this time make our victory permanent.
Note: The text colors in this document indicate source material, whether ideas or verbatim statements, as follows:
Context: Our Proud Heritage
From the Populist Party Platform (1892):
The conditions which surround us best justify our cooperation: we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.
The people are demoralized; most of the States have been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling-places to prevent universal intimidation or bribery. The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion silenced; [small] business prostrated; our homes covered with mortgages; labor impoverished; and the land concentrating in the hands of the capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right of organization for self-protection […] The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.
From the Progressive Party Platform (1912):
“The conscience of the people, in a time of grave national problems, has called into being a new party, born of the nation’s sense of justice. We of the Progressive party here dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by our fathers to maintain the government of the people, by the people and for the people whose foundations they laid.
“We hold with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln that the people are the masters of their Constitution, to fulfill its purposes and to safeguard it from those who, by perversion of its intent, would convert it into an instrument of injustice. In accordance with the needs of each generation the people must use their sovereign powers to establish and maintain equal opportunity and industrial justice, to secure which this Government was founded and without which no republic can endure.
“This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.
"It is time to set the public welfare in the first place."
The New Progressive Alliance (NPA) will endorse only those candidates who publicly sign the Unified Progressive Platform, which combines the ideals of four present-day and two foundational Progressive organizations. Any candidate or elected official who fails to uphold these tenets will be just as publicly exposed as a fraud and will lose the Alliance's support.
This is politics as our nation's Founders envisioned it: The people telling their public servants what they expect, and the public servants doggedly fighting for the people's interests - not those of corporate benefactors.
People, Peace and the Planet:
The Unified Progressive Platform
1. Peace First
A world of increasing population, diminishing resources, and unstable climate is a world poised for conflict.
To minimize military posturing that only exacerbates potential conflict, America must behave as a global citizen, just as we insist that other nations do.
We therefore oppose war as an instrument of foreign policy, and support an overarching commitment to nonintervention in foreign lands.
We call for the complete and immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and all other regional conflicts; the immediate dissolution of private security contracts for these conflicts, and the immediate cessation of payments to private contractors who are in any way associated with these conflicts.
The United States must also reopen all its agreements concerning military bases in other countries and immediately vacate any where a host country requests that we do so, with the longer-term goal of closing all our bases abroad.
As we shrink our global military presence, we must also shrink our military budget and redirect spending toward a culture and economy rooted in scientific inquiry, peaceful technologies, sustainable industries and agriculture, education, and the arts, in order to address critical societal needs such as creating jobs, saving the environment, and developing a real social safety net.
2. Full Employment at a Living Wage
We hold that reordering our national priorities to make peace, the welfare of all people, and the protection of our planet our topmost concerns will result in long-term Economic Sustainability.
Peace + People + Planet = Economic Sustainability
The costs of supporting our war-based economy, coupled with bailouts of unethical and in many cases lawbreaking for-profit institutions, preclude the possibility of investing in a new economic paradigm that does not profit from death and financial speculation.
We recognize that our national and global economic systems are embedded within and dependent upon the earth and its resources. We therefore support measures to restore a more broadly shared prosperity, to build a more equitable society, and to protect our planet.
As we work to make these changes, it is important to bear in mind that the biggest task before us is transitioning our economy from an unlimited growth model to a sustainable, or “steady state” model.
We therefore support, as the first critical step in advancing this new economy, a commitment to full employment with a living wage.
Full employment policy maintains that maximizing employment is the key to a healthy economy; that both the private sector and the public sector have a role to play in job creation; and that the best results are achieved when both sectors are committed to the policy.
In line with this thinking, we believe that where the private sector cannot provide enough jobs, the public sector must be the employer of last resort, through a combination of job banks and workforce development programs. We support a permanent, WPA-style jobs program wherein, when possible, public sector jobs are “green” jobs, or others which contribute to a more positive future for all. All work must pay at a minimum a local living wage that covers basic needs including food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, childcare, and transport.
Alternatively, a universal basic income or federal guaranteed livable income, implemented via an earned income credit or negative income tax, could be used to ensure a minimum standard of living.
Full employment at a living wage with price stability will be our national priority. The Federal Reserve must work harder to redress the imbalance between its inflation control and full employment mandates.
Trade policy must favor fair and balanced trade relationships that include universal labor and environmental standards. Banks must be required to create low-interest set-aside funding for small community businesses, workers cooperatives, and family farms.
Corporate tax policy should discourage and punish outsourcing and offshoring. Corporations seeking to exploit labor markets and circumvent environmental protections should be identified and penalized for their lack of corporate responsibility and citizenship.
To prevent our country from again allowing employment trends that have decimated the American workforce, including reduced wage scales, reduced benefit packages, increased job insecurity due to outsourcing, offshoring, contract labor, and part-time work, we support workplace democracy and the right to organize unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike when necessary — for both public and private employees. We further call for enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act.
3. Saving the Environment
We envision a sustainable society that recognizes our interdependence with the planet and utilizes resources such that future generations will benefit rather than suffer from the practices of past generations.
To this end, we support science-based policies to curb and mitigate the effects of climate change; carbon taxes on fossil fuels to reflect true environmental costs; elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, waste incineration, and biofuels; clean fuel mandates; adoption of energy efficiency standards that reduce energy demand economy-wide; building an efficient low-cost public transportation system; adoption of a national zero waste policy.
A sustainable society needs clean, green jobs based on renewable energy, energy conservation, organic agriculture, local food production/distribution, mass transit, waste management/recycling, and similar practices that sustain the environment.
Energy independence is essential to peace, security, and prosperity. We promote a planned transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy, to a cleaner energy generation/distribution system based on solar, wind, geo-thermal, hydropower, and other renewable energy sources.
The strict comprehensive protections of the Clean Air and Water Acts must be maintained and enhanced. In particular, safe and adequate water supplies for all citizens must be maintained and privatization efforts must be vigorously resisted.
Land-use practices should honor the interconnected and interdependent nature of all life, respect ecosystems and other species, and at the same time provide for human needs in a responsible and sustainable way. The chemical treatment and genetic engineering of crops run counter to these criteria and should be prohibited.
The planning and construction of urban environments should limit sprawl, maximize green space, and encompass light rail systems connecting downtown areas to pedestrian and bike-friendly neighborhoods offering the full range of everyday services.
Rural land use policies should promote livable communities to minimize urban migration and favor small-scale farmers and ranchers. National parks, forests, and seashores are not for sale.
Oceans, forests, and biodiversity are indispensable to life on this planet and deserve special attention and protection.
4. A Real Social Safety Net
We stand firmly in support of strengthening, expanding, and protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance by any means necessary.
Unemployment and home foreclosures, a lack of financial system protections, failure to collect revenue sufficient to fund government operations (including illegal wars), and failure to provide for America’s future have all but destroyed this country’s social fabric. Through the worst possible fiscal management, our social safety net hangs by a thread.
We propose to expand the real social safety net to the benefit of all Americans through raising taxes primarily on corporations and the wealthy, and by targeting public and private investment in education, research and development, and infrastructure.
We must also:
• Remove the income cap on Social Security withholding to increase revenue, and include previously excluded income masquerading as capital gains.
• Prohibit the use of Social Security funds for any purpose other than the purpose for which they were collected.
• Provide equal access to free, quality education from Pre-K through vocational schools or public universities; expand access to lifelong learning; and stop the privatization of public education.
Further, we favor a New Deal–style Home Owner’s Loan Corporation set up under existing federal home loan entities, to eliminate troubled loans and to resolve what is perhaps the most significant impediment to sustainable economic recovery. With this institution, however, must come the recognition that home ownership should be only one of many approaches to providing the safe, adequate, and affordable housing necessary to create and maintain strong, stable, sustainable, and inclusive communities.
Comprehensive housing policies that foster integrated community development, serve broad social, economic, and energy goals, and leverage federal, state, and local resources should be used to provide community-specific housing solutions, including shared ownership, supportive housing, transitional housing, cooperative housing, and rentals (conventional, affordable, and resident-controlled, as applicable).
We support pension reforms designed to safeguard retirement monies belonging to working Americans.
Current law provides a virtual monopoly over investment options to Wall Street and the financial industry. Not only is this hard-earned money placed at risk by a system that privileges and enriches some at the expense of less-sophisticated others, but the investment choices often work against workers’ best interests, by funding corporate mergers, acquisitions and leveraged buyouts that undercut workers’ rights, employment, and retirement.
Corporate-sponsored pension funds should be jointly controlled by management and workers. Federal law should be changed to allow funds to be securely invested both locally and in socially beneficial programs. Consideration should be given to the creation of a National Pension Authority with the power to hold assets and address pension fund deficits as they develop.
We must revise corporate and personal tax codes such that all businesses and citizens contribute their fair share toward the support of a more equitable society.
The need for financial industry reform is critical and cannot be overstated. In addition to reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, curtailing speculation, outlawing derivatives outright or submitting them to review by an FDA-style financial products regulatory commission, and breaking down financial institutions of excessive size and influence, the entire Federal Reserve and central banking system should be converted to a public system which places the needs and interests of the country ahead of profits for a private cartel. In the interim, the Federal Reserve must be subject to continuous, fully transparent public audit.
5. Medicare for All
We support Medicare for All as the single most effective approach to cutting runaway healthcare costs, and providing high-quality health care for all Americans.
Americans spend far too much on health care and get far too little in return. Studies show we spend twice as much as other developed countries but consistently underperform them in quality of care, efficiency, and fairness.
The best solution to our overpriced, under-served situation is the simplest: we need to move to a universal, single-payer system: , Medicare for All.
A bill supporting this change — H.R. 676, The American People’s Universal Health Care Bill — was first introduced in the U.S. House in 2003, and has been reintroduced in each Congress since, including during the healthcare reform debates of 2009, when it was actively refused consideration.
Medicare for All will cut the exorbitant cost paid by Americans for health care by eliminating the duplicative overhead and administration, underwriting, sales and marketing, CEO pay and bonuses, and profit margins of for-profit insurers; by improving leverage for product/service package negotiations; and by emphasizing preventive care.
That Medicare for All was not enacted long ago renders the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution a travesty and makes our lack of universal health care a national embarrassment.
6. Fair Trade
We support reformulation of all international trade relations and commerce practices in order to protect the labor, human rights, economy, environment, and domestic industry of this nation, and those of partner and recipient nations.
Trade policy, as currently defined by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), and the nascent Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), privileges capital and corporations at the expense of people and the planet. Recognizing this, we support trade policy reformulation that enables local industry and agriculture to take precedence over corporate domination. We must also:
• Evaluate and address trade imbalances through direct negotiation, currency management, business engagement, and consumer action.
• End tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas (e.g., deductions for shutdowns, special depreciation on offshore plants, and deferral of foreign source income).
• Prohibit U.S. corporations from avoiding or evading payment of their taxes by banking abroad or locating their charters offshore.
7. Human Rights/Civil Liberties
We are dedicated to protecting, respecting, and expanding the rights and civil liberties of all people.
Our country was founded upon a set of principles and ideals that have their most eloquent expression in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Based on these core values, we support equal rights for all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, or other status, including the right of same-sex couples to marry, and the right of all women to make decisions about their reproductive health.
We further support ending criminal prohibitions on the use and sale of marijuana and advocate its immediate legalization, and more broadly, an end to the so-called War on Drugs, an un-winnable war that has distracted us from our far more pressing responsibilities of caring for and expanding the chances of success of all our citizens.
We support the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an international standard that all nations should strive to meet.
With rights come responsibilities. We must remember that life is both individual and social, that freedom must be balanced with equality and justice. The Preamble to our Constitution lists “to promote the general Welfare” as one reason for its establishment. To an increasing degree over the past forty years — and particularly during economic crises — this charge has been ignored by both major political parties, which have instead seen fit to promote the special welfare of the rich and powerful.
We must, as the Progressive Party stated in its 1912 platform, “set the public welfare in the first place,” thereby returning the general welfare clause to its paramount place in government policy making, and making government good again. Our people have been wrongly taught that government is the enemy. Government can and should comprise people working together for their own collective benefit.
• The USA PATRIOT Act is an Orwellian abomination wrapped in a snide misnomer. It violates key privacy and due process protections and contains vast potential for the abuse of power. It must be repealed.
• We must close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; try individuals accused of terrorizing the United States on our own soil; stop playing extra-jurisdictional and semantic games (e.g., using black sites and calling POWs “enemy combatants”); and end the U.S. government’s terrorizing of its citizens to justify imperialism.
• The right to a writ of habeas corpus must be restored immediately, and criminal investigations into all post-9/11 acts perpetrated in the name of “security” must be launched. These include warrantless wiretapping, torture, rendition, assassination, indefinite detention, obstruction of justice, and the twisting of legal advice by executive branch and DoD lawyers to justify such acts.
8. Election Reform
We support full public financing of elections in order to remove undue influence from political campaigns. Further, we recognize and are committed to ending the myriad opportunities for fraud which now exist in our electoral system.
Our democracy is at peril. In a system where money equals speech, the rich can afford to drown out the rest. They own mainstream media outlets, fund the Commission on Presidential Debates, bankroll think tanks and policy institutes, fund academic research, finance artificial grassroots (“astroturf”) organizations — in short, the wealthy have built a propaganda empire that manufactures consent for all things contrary to the public interest.
• In line with public financing, all qualifying candidates must have free and equal access to radio, television, and press coverage, and be included in any and all public debate forums.
In addition, they underwrite influence factories like the American Legislative Exchange Council, institutionalizing and streamlining the quid pro quo process and matching corporate contributors with legislators-for-hire in a highly structured arrangement that leaves voters entirely out of the loop. The recent Citizens United ruling was the final blow to American democracy, which is now for sale to the highest bidder.
• In line with public financing, all qualifying candidates must have free and equal access to radio, television, and press coverage, and be included in any and all public debate forums.
• We support uniform ballot-access laws that make it easier for all political parties to include their candidates on the ballot.
• We support the adoption at local, state, and federal levels of ranked choice voting, as a mechanism to ensure that elections result in an intelligent exchange of varied perspectives.
• We endorse the use of auditable, hand-counted paper ballots in all local, state, and federal elections.
• We support the abolition of the Electoral College, such that the President of the United States would be elected solely through a direct popular vote.
• We support efforts to ensure that the membership of the United States House of Representatives is substantially increased in order to adhere to the original intent for that body to provide this country's citizens with representation at a ratio that will allow citizens and representatives to know and communicate with one another.
• Corporate law must be rewritten to overturn Citizens United. In the absence of comprehensive campaign finance reform, legislation such as the DISCLOSE Act would impose transparency on the current system. A constitutional amendment would establish that money is not speech and that corporations are not persons.
9. Corporate Accountability/Reform
National and multinational corporations have become too powerful. We must reduce the economic and political clout of corporations, improve corporate citizenship, increase executive responsibility, and require corporations to serve society and democracy while safeguarding the environment.
Improved tax and regulation compliance, enhanced shareholder democracy and governance, and the abolition of corporate personhood will help us reach these goals.
We must also:
• Change corporate charters to reflect a “triple bottom line” orientation that measures social and ecological performance in addition to financial performance. Social responsibility requirements should be comprehensive, strict, and enforceable. Corporations that routinely violate their charters should face dissolution.
• Enforce and expand anti-trust laws at all levels.
• Increase legal jurisdiction over multinational for-profit entities, in accordance with the UN’s evolving “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”
10. Infrastructure Investment/Ownership
We support the establishment of a publicly funded infrastructure bank to capitalize large-scale physical projects and direct funding toward associated research and development.
Forty years of defunding the public sector has saddled America with an outdated and crumbling infrastructure. In all that time, the private sector has not stepped forward to remedy this steadily worsening reality. Contrast that with our heritage. From the Erie Canal to the Pony Express to the transcontinental railroad to the telegraph system to air mail to the airlines to airports to the interstate highway system to the Internet, we have always invested in our infrastructure, which has consistently resulted in handsome benefits for our economy.
Since 2007, Congress has floated proposals for public-private capitalization of a national “infrastructure bank” to invest in energy, environmental, telecommunications, transportation, and water systems infrastructure projects. Infrastructure investment of this type offers immediate job growth and sets the stage for long-term economic expansion, and we fully support its immediate institution.
Along with natural resources and the public airwaves, public infrastructure like highways, railways, electrical grids, water systems, and the Internet rightly belong to the commons and should be managed and allocated in the public interest, free from interference by corporate agendas.