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Op-Ed: A progressive’s prescription for the future

March 18, 2017
In The News

The U.S. economy is moving from the industrial to the digital age. We are seeing transformation in how technology impacts our homes and businesses. We communicate more rapidly and frequently than ever.

And with that comes the urgency for people to learn and apply new skills to be part of the changing workforce. Yet the impact of automation and globalization has created unprecedented inequality.

Recently, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was asked by a New York University sophomore at a CNN town hall how progressives can offer a bold economic vision that differs from conservatives: “We’re capitalists, that’s just the way it is,” she replied.

But too often the national economic debate stalls between free market conservatives who want less regulation and liberals who want greater government participation. Economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich explain that government sets the rules that create the free market. The problem with our economy is that the rules have been rigged in favor of the wealthy and the connected.

Congress must take bold, transformational action to make the rules of the economy more just.

Take for instance the Affordable Care Act “repeal and replace” debate. In reality, Republicans are rushing through a massive tax break disguised as health policy. The GOP plan is an ill-conceived and bureaucratic bill and should be used as a jumping off point to discuss the simplest policy solution to fix our health care system: Medicare for All.

In the budget blueprint released last week, President Donald Trump included a $1 trillion giveaway to Wall Street investors, but dismantles training programs that enable workers to win jobs of the modern economy. Trump, who hosted a show called “The Apprentice,” should be funding apprenticeship programs around the country.

The stock market has bounced back from the Great Recession, but working families are not seeing gains in their paychecks. In addition to raising the minimum wage, closing the gender pay gap, and supporting paid family leave, Congress should help working families by dramatically expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. That would place money in the pockets of working families to correct decades of no wage growth.

While working families seek a decent wage, corporations exploit our tax rules. If a family making $48,000 is required to pay taxes on all their income, shouldn’t the same be expected of a multinational company based in the U.S.? That is why we must close the “check-the-box” corporate loophole that allows foreign subsidiaries of multinationals to avoid tax. By eliminating this 1990s corporate giveaway, the U.S. could collect billions of dollars in new revenue and discourage companies from going offshore.

Wall Street reform champions long have asserted that the rules of the stock market favor wealthy individuals who benefit from short-term profits. A 1982 Securities and Exchange Commission rule, written by a former Wall Street banker, allows corporations to make large purchases of their own stock, sending profits to shareholders and executives. This rule should be repealed and such buybacks should once again be scrutinized for market manipulation. A financial transaction tax on stock trades and bonds would generate hundreds of billions of dollars and reduce risky, high-speed trading.

In accepting his re-nomination at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said: “These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power.”

FDR’s language and programs were far bolder than the consultant-crafted platitudes that too many Democrats have run on these past few election cycles. Members of Congress must see that the American people want more idealism and substance from progressive politics. We neglect their voices at our own peril.