A Progressive Agenda For The New Congress

capitol_280x222The 2014 midterm elections are over.  Republicans won with no platform, no plan, and no vision. They rode a wave of discontent with government and blamed Obama.

While the GOP savors its impressive electoral successes, many voters remain discouraged. A majority of them told pollsters that they suffered a decline in household income during the past year. They strongly agreed that both political parties pander to big corporations, big banks, big oil companies, and big political donors. Nearly two-thirds feel the economy is fundamentally unfair.

We still have a wretched economy for many Americans, and a generation of people suffering from largely flat wages. People work harder and churn out more goods and services, but there’s no sign of that in their paychecks.

Poll after poll indicates that the economy/jobs ranks as the people’s chief concern. Yet, the Republican economic message remains unaltered: downsize government, reduce domestic spending, cut taxes, and curb regulations on business. This worship of unfettered capitalism has delivered an economy that only works for the rich with stagnant wages and diminished economic prospects for nearly everybody else.

A recent Pew poll shows roughly three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.” In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.

The real dividing line in our economy is between those who derive their income from investments and those who get it from work. Data from the IRS shows that 95 percent of post-recession economic growth going to the wealthiest one percent. The distribution of wealth is determined by policy, not nature.

While the deficit declines and we are finally adding jobs, wages lag behind inflation and most of the new private service sector jobs offer only low pay. This also reflects employers’ increased use of temporary and part-time workers. Financial hardships hit the long term unemployed hardest, and they account for twenty percent of those laid off over the past five years.

For the past six years Congressional Republicans have done everything in their power to delegitimize President Obama. They have questioned his citizenship, his patriotism, his intelligence, and his religion. He has been personally and publicly insulted, lectured, yelled at, and disrespected in a way that few, if any, American presidents have ever experienced.

While the Republicans now control Congress, the Democrats have the executive branch. Obama holds veto power and can issue executive orders. The President should issue an executive order that gives procurement preference to employers who pay a living wage, provide good benefits, and allow workers to organize and bargain collectively.

With the deficit rapidly shrinking and interest rates low, we might even see the GOP finally ready to spend money on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. This would create good paying construction and manufacturing jobs.

The president and congressional Democrats should continue to press for raising the federal minimum wage to a modest $10.10 an hour. This would help an estimated 28 million people earn more money and would reduce those living in poverty by 4.6 million.

Creating good paying jobs with benefits remains the most important means to advance economic fairness. More of these decent jobs means more tax revenues and more consumer spending as well as less poverty and less debt.

Enactment of a progressive economic agenda would create jobs, raise wages, and protect the right of workers to form unions. Americans want a government that cracks down on corporate and banking abuses, helps students crushed by debt, strengthens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, provides paid sick leave, protects the environment, and increases the minimum wage.

Ralph Scharnau
December 31, 2014

This entry was posted in 2014 Election Campaign, Congress and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.