Progressives should decide where they stand on issues based on values, not on polls. At the same time, we can’t fight all our battles at once and it is smart politics to lift up our more popular issues in a critical election year.
The most important thing is to be proactive. Americans don’t want their leaders to defend the status quo, they want agents of change.
So be proactive, whether your state is red or blue. If you can pass the legislation, do it. If you can’t, use these battles to show voters the differences between conservatives and progressives. Let them see that we are the ones on their side.
Here are ten extremely popular measures:
Raise the minimum wage
Americans overwhelmingly support an increase in the minimum wage, even when that minimum has been increased in prior years. This is because average Americans understand that the current minimum wage is too low to keep families out of poverty. They also understand that when workers are paid a very low wage, that taxpayers make up the difference in social programs like Medicaid and CHIP. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would raise the minimum wage, adjust it annually for inflation, and apply it equally to tipped employees. Localities that lack the power to affect the minimum wage can still enact a Living Wage Act to ensure that government contractors provide their employees with appropriate wages and benefits.
Require paid sick leave
Nearly 40 percent of private sector workers and nearly 80 percent of the lowest-income workers do not earn any paid sick time at all. When employees are compelled to come to work when sick, it’s obviously bad for employees while simultaneously a public health risk to customers. The Paid Sick Leave Act would provide that all employees accrue a minimum of one hour of earned paid sick time for a certain number of hours worked, with reasonable restrictions. Polls consistently demonstrate that such legislation is overwhelmingly popular across regions and parties.
Disclose corporate taxes
Americans believe that large corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, and they’re right. The situation in Illinois is a typical example: two-thirds of corporations pay no state income tax at all, only eight percent of state revenue comes from corporate income taxes, and the corporate share of taxes has been declining over the years. The first step to fix our broken system is transparency. We don’t know enough details about how corporations manage to evade taxes. We need public disclosure. To be specific, all publicly traded companies should disclose a summary of the amount they pay in state income taxes, including their tax rate and basis (income, credits and deductions). It is true that we don’t and shouldn’t require such disclosure of individuals, but corporations are not people. Corporations are legal structures, created by state law, and they do not need or deserve the privacy rights of individuals.
Stop prescription drug price gouging
Prescription drug prices rose about ten percent each of the past five years and drug costs are the fastest-growing component of health care in most jurisdictions. So, it is not surprising that the overwhelming consensus among Americans is that pharmaceutical companies are charging too much. In 2017, Maryland enacted first-of-its-kind legislation to directly address high drug prices. The Prohibition on Price Gouging for Essential Generic Drugs Act allows the state Attorney General to go to court to stop unconscionable price increases for certain medicines.
Protect the security of customer data
Corporations possess a tremendous amount of personal information about customers and potential customers. When these companies are hacked, individuals may have their money, credit and identities stolen. Massive data breaches have become painfully common, from Equifax and Target to Yahoo and Sony. To ensure the security of customer records, the Data Privacy Protection Act requires that any business that handles or stores the personal information of any resident of the state must meet certain security standards to protect this information.
Codify the right to abortion
There is no Supreme Court ruling that has been subjected to such a well-organized and well-funded attack as Roe v. Wade. If Roe is overturned, which could happen in coming years, state law controls the issue. And many states still have laws on the books that could automatically criminalize all abortions. Without access to safe, legal abortions, some women will die while others will be prosecuted. Several states have enacted laws to codify the right to abortion, and all others should do the same.
Enact a Student Loan Bill of Rights
43 million Americans now owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loans and, more and more, the lenders aren’t playing fair. Some states and the District of Columbia have started to protect consumers with the passage of a Student Loan Bill of Rights. Our model bill is based on groundbreaking 2015 legislation enacted in Connecticut.
Limit the use of standardized testing
In the more heavily tested grades, students in low-income schools routinely lose more than a month of instructional time because of standardized testing and test prep. Across the country, parents are rising up against this level of over-testing. States, localities and school boards should require a report on alternative assessment models to limit the educational and financial costs of over-testing. They should also limit the scope of standardized tests—children younger than third grade should not be subjected to them.
Create local climate change action plans
Climate change will eventually impact every state and locality. Coastal areas will have to deal with rising sea levels. The South and East will see more devastating hurricanes. The Midwest and West will experience more tornadoes, drought and wildfires. Farming will be affected by higher temperatures. And areas susceptible to flooding will see catastrophic floods. Some of the effects of climate change can be predicted and some of its damage can be mitigated with planning. States and localities should create commissions to study the local effects of climate change and what policy changes could address them.
End pay-to-play politics
Americans believe that government rules are rigged to benefit the rich and powerful, and that part of the problem is caused by our campaign finance system. One measure that would increase confidence in government is to outlaw “pay-to-play,” the practice of giving campaign contributions to gain access to elected officials and secure government contracts. The Eliminate Pay-to-Play Practices Act would prohibit campaign contributors from being eligible for such contracts.
Americans are counting on you to govern boldly, with the positions, policies, passion and practicality that it takes to counter the right wing. And if you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact PLI.