Fair and Free Economy- Draft of Message and Policies

Note: This is a draft of a policy paper for a PA Progressive House candidate.  I want to capture the ideas of a fairer economy in language that resonates with American values of hard work, fair play, and compassion.  The policy ideas are negotiable…

The economy should work for everyone who works.

We have lived through an upside-down economy where Wall Street prospers on Main Street’s misery.  Just as millions of hard-working home owners found themselves upside-down in their homes- paying for a mortgage worth more than the house- all of us have been in an upside-down economy.  We are paying for the idea of an economy, one that favors wealth over work, one favors a quick buck over an earned dollar, one that favors glitz over grit, when the real economy is loosing real value.

The real economy is where stuff is made, relationships matter, value is clear, and a handshake instead of a stock option starts a deal.  The real economy needs the strengths and talents of all of us.  It also needs the infrastructures to connect people and companies.  It also needs rules of the road that we all agree to.

We can fix the economy.   We can give it what it needs: better people, better infrastructures, and better rules of the road.

Better People Ideas:

1) Healthy People: decouple health insurance from employment
2) Prepared People: invest in worker re-training
3) Child care systems so that working parents can work

Better Infrastructure Ideas:

1) Invest in transportation networks
2) Invest in healthy ecosystems
3) Invest in people through daycare, schooling, community college, state 4 year
4) More access to the Internet for people, towns, and entrepreneurs

Better Rules of The Road Ideas:

1) Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Be- re-instate Glass-Steagal separation of retail from investment banking and also cross-ownership of financial institutions.
2) Reward Work and Wealth- change taxes so that wealth (retained interest, capital gains) does not get a huge tax break compared to work; encourage better alignment of compensation to long term wealth
3) End Foreclosure Abuse by Banks and Mortgage Holders
4) Allow workers to represent themselves
5) Tie minimum wage to economic indicators like inflation
6) Require all free trade agreements to integrate wage, safety, and environmental minimums so it is far trade and not a race to the bottom

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Welfare Capitalism

(submitted by Joe Detelj)

By all accounts we are bearing witness to a financial collapse of epic proportions. It is serious enough that our political appointees have offered a trillion dollar prescription to the Bush administration, no questions asked. The properly credentialed experts residing in our economic institutions warn that we have yet to suffer the effects of this in the “real” economy. The job losses announced to date will continue unabated well into the future. A double digit spike in home foreclosures clearly portends hard times and an economy whose fundamentals are far from sound.

In my opinion this situation needs to be viewed from a set of assumptions that are not necessarily those of the corporate media, Fox business news, or their sponsors. I assume that wealth is created from manufacturing and agriculture: Energy from the sun, mixed with air, water, soil, and mystery plus raw materials worked into the stuff we use to feed, clothe, house, and amuse ourselves generates the surplus that allows us to live in towns and cities, attend university, go to the opera, movies, or church such  as our inclinations warrant. The service economy is a myth, a Ponzi scheme whose effect we are now experiencing. How can we live by taking in each others laundry while the material substance of our lives is made in places the average person could never find on a map?

It is in this context that I find it difficult to control my passions in light of the Senate’s reaction to an auto industry loan. The opposition is largely centered in the right to work Southern states that are home to the foreign auto plants held up as  industry standards.  We are to suppose that the market share these plants would inherit in the event of a collapse of the domestic auto industry plays no part in the civic virtue exhibited by our kin south of the Mason-Dixon line. We have been issued the talking points that as guardians of the taxpayers money  these good fellows can not in good conscience help a failing industry unless the recipients  restructure. They could not support failure. If a restructuring takes place then limited help would be acceptable, with conditions similar but different from those imposed on Germany after WW1.  At last compassion reigns.

But let us be clear what is meant by restructuring, and that is that the union must be broken. If you listen to the latest rhetoric it does not obscure this  requirement which was originally inferred. Were we to scrutinize our civic guardians of virtue with a modicum of oversight comparable to that which they believe they are practicing, we would find circumstances that should give pause. Every foreign plant located in the US has been the recipient of huge subsidies. These factories have been given the facilities where they are located as an economic development stimulus. They are housed in State provided land , buildings, water, sewer, and a host of municipal services. They pay discounted utility bills not available to the rest of the citizenry. They all require rail service that has been routed and rerouted for their convenience, all at taxpayer expense. Their State and local taxes have been deferred, reduced or eliminated. Of particular relevance, is their absence of “legacy costs”.   

These plants being of more recent origin have a work force who have not reached retirement age, consequently their pensions are not factored into the published wage rates. Of greater significance is the fact that these factories are assembly plants. They assemble components imported from their European and Far Eastern parent companies: Multinationals that are not hindered by “legacy” costs since universal, single payer health care and a social safety net is provided as an entitlement of citizenship. It is not a cost of production incurred by the industry. The mystic market workings of a fair and impartial “invisible hand” guiding economic behavior is rubbish. The nonsense that we need only leave the market sort itself out is a veil of tears meant to obscure the ideological and financial self interests of the very persons who have created this disaster and laid us to rest on a bed of nails.  It has occurred to me that much is made of the wages that auto workers receive. They produce cars and trucks fundamental to our economy. They produce wealth. The industry is in a collapse and the workers, the least culpable cause of this situation are being blamed. The financial industry is  in a collapse of immensely greater proportions and we hear hardly a murmur of the need for reorganization cast at our friendly banker, broker, auditor, SEC/Federal Reserve director, Treasury Secretary, or President. I have not been able to find any call for a reduction of their compensation and benefits. They have destroyed wealth and have avoided scrutiny. The major difference is the color of their collar.    

Leadership at every segment of society has failed. A rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic appears to be the order of the day. A clearer vision of remedial action that does not blame the victim needs  to be the first prerequisite for a proper correction to happen. People are hurting and are experiencing a great deal of uncertainty. In the grand scheme of things, they are not the engineers who brought this upon themselves.

The Employee Free Choice Act and Reestablishing Prosperity

This article is by John Enyeart!

The Employee Free Choice Act and Reestablishing

Prosperity

In January, Congress and President-elect Obama can lay the foundation for getting us out of our current economic crisis by passing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  The EFCA would allow workers to organize unions by signing authorizations.  Currently workers have to sign a petition, send that petition to the National Labor Relations Board, and then wait for the NLRB to schedule an election.  Between the petition drive and the election employers typically turn to a well-rehearsed set of intimidation tactics–such as sending threatening mailings to employees’ homes and firing union leaders–in order to frighten workers and prevent them from establishing a local union as their bargaining agent.  If passed, EFCA would also guarantee workers a contract within ninety days of organizing, and levy stiff penalties against employers who refused to recognize these new unions.

Like the Wagner Act, which guaranteed workers the right to organize in 1935, this measure will lay the foundation for a future round of American prosperity.  In fact, union membership went from a little over 3.5 million in 1934 to 13.5 million in 1943.  When the post-World War II economic boom occurred, workers were well positioned, because of their unions, to claim a larger share of the wealth their work produced.  By the late 1970s conservative attacks on organized labor, including the constant appointments of pro-business advocates to the National Labor Relations Board and state sponsored violence, saw union membership plummet.  Not surprisingly, because of this decline real wages have not gone up for the vast majority of Americans since 1976.

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