Create a state or local Progressive Economic Platform

Posted on May 24, 2017

There is a true and politically compelling story about the American economy. The rich have spent decades rigging the system to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else. Without any real knowledge at all, most voters already believe this is true.

Yet, if progressives don’t tell this story to non-college educated White voters, they will listen instead to the conservative economic narrative—that people of color (especially Latinos, Muslims and Blacks) are taking their jobs and getting their tax dollars through “welfare” programs. This bigoted narrative worked for conservatives in 2016.

We cannot allow that to happen again. Progressives need to make an explicit, factual argument that right wingers favor the rich while we side with typical working families.

But that economic narrative lacks credibility when progressives cannot easily demonstrate how they have fought for average Americans, and it gains a great deal of credibility when we can easily demonstrate that right-wing officeholders opposed popular economic legislation.

Therefore, progressives would benefit by the creation and introduction of progressive economic platforms in their own cities, counties and states. As a practical matter, this would require a caucus of progressive officeholders and stakeholders to agree to a menu of about a half-dozen policies that fit the politics of their state or locality.

So that people can think about it, here are a dozen politically compelling economic policies to choose from. Keep in mind that—to make any impact with average residents—each policy needs to be easily explainable and fairly bold. The idea is to: (1) directly address what’s upsetting people about the rich; (2) organize policymakers and activists around the platform while forcing conservatives to publicly oppose popular ideas; and (3) appeal to average residents’ economic interests and emotions.

  1. Fair Share Tax Reform: A bill to substantially increase taxes on the rich while slightly lowering taxes on everyone else. The bill might also earmark new revenues to fund popular priorities like public education.
  2. Close tax loopholes for wealthy individuals: Such a bill depends on the state or locality. It might increase the capital gains tax rate, increase the carried interest tax rate, or limit the mortgage interest deduction for very expensive homes and/or luxury second homes.
  3. Close corporate tax loopholes: Such a bill depends on the state or locality. It might implement Combined Reporting, direct that there is no deduction for government fines or for the expense of moving out of the jurisdiction, end the “single sales factor” or investment tax credits or special tax credits adopted for one industry or another, or adopt an alternative minimum tax (AMT) stronger than the federal AMT.
  4. Stop price gouging: A bill to allow the state attorney general to sue a company that sells a product or service that is an essential, must-buy item (e.g. prescription drugs) for price increases that amount to unjustifiable price gouging.
  5. Curtail government subsidies: A bill aimed at stopping “corporate welfare” by strictly limiting subsidies to wealthy corporations.
  6. Minimum wage increase: In such a bill, the amount of increase depends on the state—but it should be bold—including tipped workers.
  7. Paid sick days: A bill to allow all workers (including part-time workers) to earn paid time off to take of when a worker is sick, or care for a child or elderly parent.
  8. Equal pay: A new anti-discrimination law addressing the gender gap.
  9. Corporate influence disclosure: A bill to require full and timely disclosure of any corporate money spent on election campaigns or lobbying.
  10. Enhanced lobbying disclosure: A bill to require a lobbyist to disclose what legislation they are lobbying on, and specifically who they are lobbying at the state and local level.
  11. End “Pay to Play”: A bill to prohibit campaign contributions to candidates for any state office by any registered lobbyist, and prohibit any contributor to any state-level campaign from winning any state contract or subsidy (or a contributor to any local-level campaign from winning any contract or subsidy from that locality).
  12. Make willful wage theft or safety violations a criminal offense: A bill to subject corporate managers who willfully engage in wage theft or safety violations subject to criminal penalties and provide punitive damages to their victims. This might be accompanied by a “three strikes and you’re out” criminalization of serial violation of other employment law.