by SE 5/13/15
Today or was it yesterday, The Huffington Post (or as its referred to in our house "Mama Bear's Gazette") is featuring an article by the wonderful Toni Morrison calling attention to an effort by New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio and the new silent majority with a document they are calling "The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality". Its a 13 point plan that "identifies the pillars upon which healthy social structures can be built. Each pillar is designed to improve, even save, the lives of vulnerable populations. Addressing everything from financial traps to failing schools to jobs to methods for strengthening families and communities, each pillar of support enhances the lives of the poor and middle class, which in turn benefits the whole society."
Its agenda is worthy of a great nation which seeks a fair and just and healthy life for all its citizens:
(from the website)
- Raise the federal minimum wage, so that it reaches $15/hour, while indexing it to inflation.
- Reform the National Labor Relations Act, to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class.
- Pass comprehensive immigration reform to grow the economy and protect against exploitation of low-wage workers.
- Oppose trade deals that hand more power to corporations at the expense of American jobs, workers’ rights, and the environment.
- Pass national paid sick leave.
- Pass national paid family leave.
- Make Pre-K, after-school programs and childcare universal.
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
- Allow students to refinance student loan debt to take advantage of lower interest rates.
- Close the carried interest loophole.
- End tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
- Implement the “Buffett Rule” so millionaires pay their fair share.
- Close the CEO tax loophole that allows corporations to take advantage of “performance pay” write-offs.
With a few updates the Agenda echoes other attempts that have been put forward by good and decent citizens of our Republic from the not too distant past, including an organization named Demos who had a 14 point plan a couple of years ago that was eloquently described by the great Bob Herbert in the Mama Bear Gazette also. It was a plan that recalled an earlier one submitted by two giants of the civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph and enthusiastically endorsed by the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King called "The Freedom Budget". This plan was revisited 45 years later by the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College (May 2011
Working Paper No. 668
The Freedom Budget at 45: Functional Finance and Full Employment
Levy Economics Institute of Bard College
The Levy Economics Institute Working Paper Collection presents research in progress by Levy Institute scholars and conference participants. The purpose of the series is to disseminate ideas to and elicit comments from academics and professionals.
Levy Economics Institute P.O. Box 5000 Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-5000
Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, founded in 1986, is a nonprofit,
nonpartisan, independently funded research organization devoted to public service.
Through scholarship and economic research it generates viable, effective public policy
responses to important economic problems that profoundly affect the quality of life in
the United States and abroad.
Copyright © Levy Economics Institute 2011 All rights reserved
As with all good plans these were not given the serious consideration they so deserved ( at least I don't recall them making the rounds of our favorite Sunday morning newt-appearing TV programs) or perhaps it was the attention-deficit disorder that all Americans seem to (market -ly) have. As for my own worthy readers I can't begin to say how many requests I have had to re-post the following in light of this most recent agenda -
The Country We're Not, But...
originally posted by Sam Enderby , Sept. 7, 2012
Bob Herbert working out of some worthy Think-Tank is currently writing about a great and large-hearted effort to save the Amercian Middle-Class through shared sacrifice and a "substantial financial investment on our human capital" and assorted resources. Now Bob Herbert doesn't need a think-tank to help him tell us what's wrong with Amercians or what we should be doing to make this a better place for everyone (the answer is always easy we just have to make more Bob Herberts and fast) but hopefully there's a bunch of Bob-Herbert-types over at this www.Demos.org for the rest of us to feel confident about their work. The Report Mr. Herbert cites is called "14 Big Ideas to Build a Strong and Diverse Middle-Class" and you can read all of it by clicking on their link yourself (go ahead, I'll wait). According to the Huffington Post where I first came across Mr. Herbert's article about this venture there were 280 people who had already tweeted about this. Now in a world where good people tweet and read and discuss and vote and care and do 280 could exponentially grow to include the whole country which would be great if everybody in that country gave a you-know-what and the fact that we are in this mess to begin with doesn't bode well that there are even enough people in this country to care enough about it or else why would..oh forget it. Needless to add, the 280 needs at least 6 more zeroes trailing behind and then the work "to re-imagine," as Mr. Herbert writes, what this country can truly be can begin. The following is a summary of the "Plan' as offered by Mr. Herbert's colleagues and deserves our attention and of course the attention of our elected representatives, which is always the problem:
Investments in Human Capital and Education | MILLIONS TO THE MIDDLE
SUMMARY OF POLICIES
INVESTMENTS IN HUMAN CAPITAL & EDUCATION:
THE ZERO-16 CONTRACT FOR EDUCATION
• The American Family Trust
Enable working people to care for a new child or a
loved one in need without losing their paychecks or
their jobs through a family leave insurance system.
• Early Care and Education Plan
Invest in affordable, high-quality child care and
education to ensure all American children a strong
start in life and enable them to begin school ready
• The Contract for College
Reinvent the federal financial aid system to double
the percentage of college-qualified students from
low- and moderate-income families who enroll and
complete college degrees.SUPPORT FOR GROWTH, JOB CREATION,
AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT
• Public Jobs for Economic Recovery
Directly create jobs for the unemployed by hiring
them to produce goods and services for the public
benefit while we recover from the Great Recession.
• Public Investment Plan
Provide a foundation for sustained private sector
growth and productivity through improvements in
physical infrastructure, investment in clean energy,
and the creation of state-level public banks.
• Level the Playing Field for
Support the growth of middle-income manufac-
turing jobs by ending tax breaks that encourage
offshoring, strengthening Buy American provisions,
and improving the safety net for workers impacted
by trade.• The Career Opportunity Plan
Offer job training and career ladders to boost
• Federal Reserve Mandate for Full Employment
Use monetary policy to explicitly promote full
• Raise Work Standards
Ensure that all American jobs meet basic standards
of decent employment by raising the minimum
wage, guaranteeing paid sick days to working
people, and ensuring that worker protections are
effective and are applied to everyone.
• Strengthen the Rights of Working People
Rebuild labor rights so that Americans can band
together to negotiate pay and benefits that enable
them to enter the middle class.
HELPING AMERICANS BUILD ASSETS
• American Retirement Accounts
Create voluntary annuitized pensions with a guaran-
teed minimum rate of return to increase Americans’
• A Home Owners’ Loan Corporation
for the 21st Century
Establish a new public agency to acquire distressed
mortgages from private lenders and directly refi-
nance them under more affordable terms.
• Fairness in Bankruptcy Act
Allow bankruptcy judges to reduce the mortgage
principal on a primary residence and to discharge
student loan debt.
• Borrower Security Act
Ensure the nation’s lending industry provides credit
to individuals on fair and responsible terms by creat-
ing a floating federal usury limit and capping loan
Of course in Amercia everything New is Old again or is that the other way. Even the Republicans, who in a sense(less-way) are no longer Republicans but a sort of nasty mob of ideological fanatics; governed by the Fear that their amorphous group is somehow threatened and so become unreasonable; how many times must we hear or read that "their" small-town White Amercia is disappearing and they can't abide a Black man in the whitehouse? And that's being kind. They're imprisoned by this stifling mind-fix that has gone on too long - how it feeds from one generation to the next is a wonderment to me something to do with how our children learn or don't learn (see previous post)- and must suck the rest of us in because obviously we haven't done enough to stop it. A collective amnesia or a catastrophic failure of our public education system which is always good for a lot of scapegoating; who said when faith in education is gone anything is possible? Well, I'd hate to be the one to blame our public and parochial ways for the way we are right now but, seriously folks, Sarah Palin? Paul Ryan? These are the best put forward to be leaders of a party that as a comedian once said thinks that the Flintstones are a documentary? The very first words Ryan spoke upon being named Mitt's mate were, "I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the Amercia that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old." Not only is that first sentence a blatant lie, head of a long list during his big Public Amercian Debut but he wants to give the children what? Is it the Amercia that the Republicans and George W left behind in January, 2009- an Amercia literally at the brink of an unfathomable disaster- the economy imploding, unemployment rising, fighting two wars in foreign lands, or is it the Amercia that Ryan was born into in January, 1970? I would refer to any number of well-attended histories of the Nixon-Era, paying close attention to Vietnam and his "very Republican" wage and price control dicta of the following year, Paul being a 1 yr. old little Nixonite at the time. "The Amercia that was given to us". When the infant Paul was but a month old Richard Nixon and his coterie came up with the concept of Vietnamization which was such a big success then that Amercia is trying it again but in Afghanistan and to a lesser degree Iraq. Almost two generations after and we have learned nothing except perhaps to have finally realized that it may be decent of us to welcome home our fighting men and women with a little more grace than we did then. That same year saw the first EARTH DAY, an idea and concern that Lil' Paul's party scoffs and ridicules today; for the first time in a very long while Amercia actually had a debt and a trade deficit thanks to, well, an unpaid war. A war that expanded not so surreptitiously into Cambodia during young Paul's first Springtime. Anti-war protests were more prevalent then. Four students were shot and killed at Kent State University during one of those protests. Students were referred to as Bums by Nixon and his henchmen then; today, I guess, Paul's colleagues would just call them "snobs". In a show of Big Government take over of the airwaves cigarette advertising was banned on TV and Radio. Fox news hadn't come along yet to save Amercians from fairness and truth. Within a year of Mrs. Paul's blessed event the Pentagon Papers were able to be published, there was a missile agreement with our arch foe, and 18 yr olds. were given the right to vote. Young Paul would just miss out on voting for his hero, Ronny Reagan. By the time our young (gun) hero was three Nixon had broken chopsticks with Mao and the Supreme Court had decided Roe v Wade. By the time he turned 4 1/2 Nixon would resign in disgrace and Chrysler would receive a life-saving BAILOUT. I for one would certainly like to know which Amercia or what Amercia Mr. Ryan thinks he would like to give the "younger generation". Such a giver.
But I digress. If the younger generation is stuck with the likes of and the rest of the Republican "young guns" waiting for him at the old corral or with a very watered down and accommodating Democrat Party, even with its superior oratory and exuberant inclusiveness, then they should not necessarily cast their glances too far forward but harken to what was once set down as a potential nation-changer but for a stronger political will and a non-declared war in a far off Asian land and perhaps the usual dose of Amercian racism may have made all the difference. History is full of this stuff; of why such and such happened this way instead of that; why if they only did this and not that; I guess its all part of what the cliche-mongers say being human is all about. Not really, but it salves the pain a little. We suffer and die unnecessarily because we won't figure out how to live on this planet without fear and hatred. We will come up with any excuse -in the mass- not to help those who need help-and at a time when we have the wherewithal to do so. No wonder God casts Truth down to the ground with the proviso that truth must spring from the earth itself. Well good luck to us.
A few years before Mr. Ryan's parents decided to grace the world with his presence ( see our previous blog) and just a year or two after the Voting Rights Bill was signed (see another previous blog)
Mssrs A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin with the strong participation of a guy named Leon Keyserling (kids, you really should check these gentlemen out, you won't be sorry- get a bibliography from google or a teacher you like or maybe a parent) came up with what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr called a sort of "Marshall Plan" for the poor and disadvantaged. They called it THE FREEDOM BUDGET and it was, according to Dr. King, "a basis for common action with labor and other groups in utilizing the economic growth of this nation to benefit the poor as well as the rich. It raises the possibility of rebuilding Amercia so that private affluence is not accompanied by public squalor of slums and distress." There were to be 10 or 11 goals and they included:
- Abolition of Poverty
- Guaranteed full-employment
- Full production and high economic growth
- Adequate Minimum wage
- Farm Income Parity
- Guaranteed incomes for all Unable to work
- A Decent home for every Amercian family
- Modern health Services for all
- Full Educational opportunity for all
- Updated social security
- Equitable tax policies
Of course there was always the question of how but as unreal as this appears now there was some very serious support for these proposals but as it is with Amercians there was an on-going unpaid for war still going on, the South and some other neighborhoods were still fighting the civil war, and some just thought it pie-in-the-sky- liberalism run amok. Forty-Five years later some citizens over at Bard College took another look and put together this little report written by a Matthew Forstater of the Levy Economics Institute and published in May, 2011. It makes for some inspiring reading - and pay close attention to the how of "functional finance".
from the conclusion:
"The choices for the future are clear: functional finances or dysfunctional finance? A pool of unemployed to hold prices down or a flexible system of public service to maintain stability? Exploding prison systems* and deteriorating skills or increased community services and more social cohesion? Poverty wages, no health care; no child care, or living wages and universal care? Fallacy of composition or sensible macroeconomic common-sense? technocratic individualism or humanistic social policy? Involuntary part-time, involuntary flextime labor market treadmill or life-sustaining, life-enhancing employment"?
Of course if I'm thinking about this you know someone else has already written a bit about it. A Chester Hartman of something called "Poverty and Race Research Action Council ( and they really should change the name) wrote in The Huffington Post (damn that Arianna) about the Freedom Budget ( anent MLK birthday) on Jan. 18, 2010! listing 7 of its main objectives. It was undoubtably-if memory serves- buried in the "Black Voices" section. Now if we can just get the councils of Amercian power to dust it off .
Do you supposethat Bob Herbert's friends over at Demos. org are in touch with Dr. Forstater at the Levy Institute? This is good stuff as that daffy Chris Matthews would say and what is more we may even deserve it. And in Amercia 2012 someone should print up Young Gun Ryan's Budget for Amercia on one half side of the page and the combined Demos/ Freedom Budget on the other side and - well, don't even bother to ask.
*In Re: Those "exploding prison systems" :
"California struggles to comply with a court order to reduce its prison population, a new study finds that the state now spends more on its correctional system than on higher education. Since 1980, the prison population has skyrocketed 436 percent, while spending on higher education has decreased by 13 percent adjusted for inflation, "