Bernie Sanders, a challenger to Hillary Clinton, for President of the United States has put forth his “Agenda for America”
Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.
Reversing Climate Change
The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.
Creating Worker Co-ops
We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.
Growing the Trade Union Movement
Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.
Raising the Minimum Wage
The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
Pay Equity for Women Workers
Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.
Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad. [Sign the petition to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership — another trade deal disaster]
Making College Affordable for All
In today’s highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can’t locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.
Taking on Wall Street
The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product – over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.
Health Care as a Right for All
The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.
Real Tax Reform
At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.
Sen. Murray and Rep. Scott Introduce The Raise The Wage Act To Raise The Minimum Wage To $12
Today, Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Bobby Scottreleased the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, get rid of the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, and tie future increases to the median wage. This legislation would not only be a huge step forward for low-wage workers, but also for the recognition that growing our economy requires investing the workers that make it run, from the middle out, not the top down.
For decades, the value of the federal minimum wage has continued to fall, forcing low-wage workers to fall further and further behind. Raising the minimum wage is a key step in building an economy that works for everyone and investing in the everyday working Americans who strengthen our economy. Here are just a few of the many necessary things the Raise the Wage Act does:
Give 38 million workers a raise. Raising the minimum wage to $12 will help nearly 38 million workers, 90 percent of whom are adults, and more than 25 percent of whom are parents.
Help working women get ahead.More than half of all workers who would earn a raise from the Raise the Wage Act are women. The vast majority of women who would receive a raise are over the age of 25 and one-third of the women who would be affected are mothers.
Give workers $100 billion in increased earnings. According to the Economic Policy Institute, workers would see earnings increase by more than $100 billion over the next five years, money they would likely spend in their communities, helping to boost local economies.
Help families make ends meet. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour would reduce taxpayer spending on food stamps by $5.3 billion annually, by helping to lift families out of poverty, allowing many who currently turn to nutrition assistance to make ends meet.
America’s current minimum wage is a poverty wage: Many full-time workers who receive minimum-wage salaries live at or near the federal poverty level. This means that many must turn to public assistance such as food assistance and Medicaid in order to make ends meet. In a recent study, the Center for American Progress analyzed the impact of past minimum-wage changes on spending in one particular program—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The study found that minimum-wage increases lead to statistically significant reductions in SNAP enrollment and spending. When workers’ incomes are increased, some end up relying less on SNAP benefits while others see their earnings boosted above the threshold for SNAP eligibility. The result is a win-win situation for both low-wage workers and taxpayers.
BOTTOM LINE: Americans who work hard and play by the rules should never have to live in poverty. Investing in workers honors the hard work of millions of Americans and puts money back in the pocket of families. What’s good for workers and families is good for the economy.
Progressive Policies For Veterans This Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a time for relaxation, but also for reflection and remembrance. The day is first and foremost about honoring American service members who are no longer with us. But there are also steps we can take to help improve the lives of the 10 million current vets and the many military families. So before you take off for the long weekend, take a few minutes to read our list of some progressive policies to help veterans:
Support Vets Looking For Work. Veterans have suffered from Congressional Republicans’ refusal to extend emergency unemployment benefits. There are roughly 163,000 unemployed post-9/11 vets and more than 600,000 unemployed veterans overall. Those who volunteered to protect our nation oversees but can’t find a job back at home deserve more support from our elected officials.
Give 1 Million Veterans A Raise. Of the roughly 10 million veterans in the United States today, one in ten — that’s 1 million vets — would get a boost in wages if we raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. Almost two-thirds of these veterans are over the age of 40. Nobody should be paid wages so low that working full-time can still leave them in poverty, and that includes many former members of our Armed Forces.
Expand Health Care To Low-Income Residents. There are over a quarter million uninsured veterans in states that are currently refusing to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That’s just wrong. (While many people assume that all veterans have health benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2013 only two-thirds were eligible and just one-third were enrolled).
Implement The Common Core. The average military family moves to six different states, and each state offers a separate set of academic standards for military children to follow. When relocating to one state, a child may be way ahead of her grade level; in another, she might be far behind. Having a high-quality, unified set of standards like the Common Core State Standards provide will help military families with transitions and ensure our nation’s economy and military remain strong.
Expand Background Checks For Gun Buyers. Veterans are some of our nation’s foremost experts on guns, what they can do in the hands of trained, responsible people, and how they can be used in the hands of those who want to do us harm. The massive loopholes in our gun background check system allow criminals, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people to easily access guns. Expanding background checks to all gun sales goes hand in hand with strengthening our second amendment by helping keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act. There are over one million LGBT veterans and almost 50,000 more currently serving. Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, members of the military can serve with honesty and integrity and without the fear of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the same fair treatment does not exist in the civilian sector. ENDA would go a long way to solve that problem and could also also significantly curtail high rates of veteran unemployment.
BOTTOM LINE: As a nation, we should pride ourselves on doing everything we can to make sure that citizens who sacrifice to protect our security and freedom are able to live healthy and secure lives back home. These are just a few of the many steps that we should take to get to that point for veterans, and create a more prosperous country for everyone.
PS: The allegations of long wait times and secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA hospital is a serious concern and must be addressed immediately. But we must also not lose sight of the VA system’s successes, as well as its steady improvement in recent years. Here are key facts to know.