A Bold Agenda

Whether you support or dislike Bernie Sanders, look beyond the fact that he wrote this and evaluate the actual plan presented.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Wednesday outlining a plan for the incoming Congress, his major point being that the incoming Democrats and Progressives along with the remaining incumbents to have an well defined policy plan to aggressively pursue over the next few years, especially with their new found party influence at the state level in many traditionally conservative states.

I’ve pulled out the actual plan itself and added some additional commentary below.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and indexing it to median wage growth thereafter. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage that must be increased to a living wage — at least $15 an hour. This would give more than 40 million Americans a raise and would generate more than $100 billion in higher wages throughout the country.
A path toward Medicare-for-all. The Medicare-for-all bill widely supported in the Senate has a four-year phase-in period on the way to guaranteeing health care for every man, woman and child. Over the first year, it would lower the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55, cover dental, hearing and vision care for seniors, provide health care to every young person in the United States and lower the cost of prescription drugs.

These two items combined would increase annual household incomes dramatically for the vast majority of American families. Most companies would also save considerable money under this. Yes, higher wages would be a higher expense for companies, but not having to cover the cost of employee health care would certainly offset that for the vast majority. Household taxes would go up to cover the expenses, but what family wouldn’t pay an extra thousand or so a year in taxes to eliminate their annual insurance premiums which are considerably higher?

Prices might rise or jobs might be cut, but recent studies of areas that have already raised the wages considerably prove this far less likely than the conservatives would have us belief. Meanwhile, the economy would get a massive boost of readily usable funds in the hands of the people most likely to spend it, while still allowing them the opportunity to also increase their savings and investments.

There is also the fact that despite the high price tag on Medicare for All (or some other single payer health care system), the total is still trillions less than the amount the government actually spends on health insurance now.

Bold action to combat climate change. The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear we have just 12 years to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, or our planet will suffer irreversible damage. Congress must pass legislation that shifts our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and renewable energy. We can lead the planet in combating climate change and, in the process, create millions of good paying jobs.

In addition CNN reveals that

A new US government report delivers a dire warning about climate change and its devastating impacts, saying the economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars — or, in the worst-case scenario, more than 10% of its GDP — by the end of the century.
The federally mandated study was supposed to come out in December but was released by the Trump administration on Friday, at a time when many Americans are on a long holiday weekend, distracted by family and shopping, [while the President simultaneously spent the same weekend issuing climate change denial messages on his official social media account.]
David Easterling, director of the Technical Support Unit at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, emphasized that there was “no external interference in the report’s development.” He added that the climate change the Earth is experiencing is unlike any other.

Climate change is already becoming a major factor in driving refugees, as coastal fresh water sources are compromised by rising tides and resources become more scarce, both intra and international migration of refugees will become a serious issue for every nation on Earth.

Fixing our broken criminal-justice system. We must end the absurdity of the United States having more people in jail than any other country on Earth. We must invest in jobs and education for our young people, not more jails and incarceration.

Ending the mass incarceration of our minority and lower income populations by profit driven prison systems using their outsourced labor to bypass labor laws, wage requirements, and benefit needs would return jobs to the economy, and end the driving factor behind the nations “need” to mass incarcerate.

Comprehensive immigration reform. The American people want to protect the young people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and to move toward comprehensive immigration reform for the more than 11 million people in our country who are undocumented. And that’s exactly what we should do.

We must get a handle on current migration as well as make a plan for the mass climate driven migration we know is coming as people move within and to our country en masse. Not having a viable plan will prove to be disastrous.

Also as a large amount of our workforce ages into retirement or, sadly, death, and our population hasn’t replenished at a rate sufficient to replace them, without an influx of immigrants to fill jobs, the economy will have no recourse other than to either downsize or further overburden workers with additional tasks.

Progressive tax reform. At a time of massive and growing inequality in both income and wealth, Congress must pass legislation which requires wealthy people and large corporations to begin paying their fair share of taxes. It is unacceptable that there are large, extremely profitable corporations in this country that do not pay a nickel in federal income taxes.

Along with the increased wages and shifting of the health care cost burden, revamping the corporate tax rates would eliminate the need for government programs to make up for the shortfall in corporate wages and health care plans just to make sure that their employees can survive. Food stamps, CHiP, Housing assistance, and more would all be greatly reduced as the vast majority of the population was elevated out of the income bracket requiring the need for such assistance programs.

A $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Every day, Americans drive to work on potholed roads and crumbling bridges, and ride in overcrowded buses and subways. Children struggle to concentrate in overcrowded classrooms. Workers are unable to find affordable housing. The structures that most Americans don’t see are also in disrepair — from spotty broadband and an outdated electric grid, to toxic drinking water and dilapidated levees and dams. Congress should pass a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to address these needs while creating up to 15 million good-paying jobs in the process.

Repairing and updating our infrastructure would secure jobs nation wide, improve overall health (better water and energy systems), decrease the transit costs of delivering goods, improve ecological conditions as more could and would opt for better mass transit options, and make more jobs more accessible to more people through those mass transit improvements which would also create a larger talent pool for companies to hire from.

Lowering the price of prescription drugs. Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs because, unlike other countries, the United States doesn’t directly regulate the price of medicine. The House should pass legislation to require Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices and allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to purchase low-cost prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. It should also pass legislation to make sure that Americans don’t pay more for prescription drugs than citizens do in other major countries.

Fixed price negotiations with pharmaceutical companies as a result of a single payer health care system would dramatically lower prescription drug costs. Getting people the care and treatment they need will mean less sick days from work, a longer ability to work, and a society that can actually afford to focus more on preventative care instead of reactive management of illness.

Making public colleges and universities tuition-free and substantially reducing student debt. In a highly competitive global economy, we must have the best-educated workers in the world. Every young person in America, regardless of income, must have the opportunity to receive the education they need to get a decent job and make it into the middle class. The House should pass the College for All Act to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and substantially reduce student debt.

Again, we all know that terms like tuition free do not actually equate to free. It means that we as a society work together to make education freely available. I personally believe that this should not just mean college though but trade-skill and skilled labor schools. I would also like to see apprenticeship programs for many of those skilled labor professions that pay the apprentice for work performed as an alternative to college or trade-skill for those that want to pursue such options.

This combination would mean that everyone from every income level would have equal opportunity to achieve their personal goals and be a greater individual contributor to society without having to incur massive personal or family debt in the process of just getting started.

Expanding Social Security. When 1 out of 5 seniors is trying to get by on less than $13,500 a year, we must expand Social Security so that every American can retire with dignity and security. The House should pass legislation to expand Social Security benefits and extend its solvency for the next 60 years by requiring that the wealthiest Americans — those making more than $250,000 a year — pay their fair share of Social Security taxes.

The only reason social security is at risk for not being solvent is that conservatives have been finding reasons to raid the funds for other purposes for decades with no intent to ever replenish/repay them.

This is not an entitlement program. This is an insurance plan that people have been paying the premiums on for their entire adult lives, and now the benefits that they’ve paid for are being stripped from the most vulnerable of them.

As Senator Sanders makes clear in his op-ed:

It is not good enough for Democrats to just be the anti-Trump party. If they want to keep and expand their majority in the House, take back the Senate and win the White House, Democrats must show the American people that they will aggressively stand up and fight for the working families of this country — black, white, Latino, Asian American or Native American, men and women, gay or straight. This means addressing the crisis of a broken criminal-justice system and reforming inhumane immigration policies. But it also means fighting to expand a middle class that has been disappearing for more than 40 years, reducing inequality in both income and wealth — which has disproportionately hurt African Americans and Hispanics — and aggressively combating climate change, the most urgent threat facing our planet.

We need a bold agenda.

A Bold agenda requires bold leadership.

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