Essay:2020 Democratic Platform Proposal

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I've been thinking a lot about 2020, and the fact that as of late April there are 20[1] candidates vying for the nomination. Like most liberal minded people, I plan on voting for whoever the eventual nominee is (unless we discover they are literally a murderer), and living in Oregon, a candidate will likely be clearly in the lead so my vote won't matter at all in the primary. Whomever the candidate is, they are going to need to present to the American people a set of proposals that are reasoned and pragmatic to improve their lives. Though I'm sure 45 will be doing his best to absorb literally all the media oxygen [2] [3], having policy to fall back on will be critical.


Domestic Policy

Government Reforms

Right, Left, Center, I think it's obvious that no one likes the way government is currently functioning. [4] [5] Citizens feel disconnected from their Congressional representatives [6], believing that the wealthy are the only ones they listen to. The judiciary has evolved beyond calling balls and strikes to literally defining policy. SuperPac money from less than .00001% [7] of the population saturates the airwaves. 45 is threatening the DOJ[8], ignoring House oversight[9] [10] [11], and intimidating witnesses[12]. I believe the nominee should adopt these proposals at a minimum to improve trust in government and strengthen the institution.

Increase the number of Reps in the House

Do you know why we have 435 seats in the House? You'd think it would be based on something like population, but no, it's because that's the maximum amount of desks that could be installed in the chamber[Citation Needed]. This is unacceptable, the number of representatives should be connected by the population. Some of the founders proposed having each representative correspond to 30,000 people [13], which would be insane now (10,000 or so reps is definitely too much) but a number around 100,000 or 300,000 would give more people a voice, and make representatives more accountable because the group they represent is smaller. NY-14 represented by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is around the average and she represents over 700,000 people. For comparison, In 1910, the population of a congressional district was just over 210,000. Certainly some may argue that doing this would help the Democratic Party over the GOP, but Red states would also be on the receiving end of new reps, which kind of leads to my next point.

Create Non-Partisan bodies to draw congressional districts

The fact that most states allow state legislatures draw federal districts for their own party (let alone for themselves) is insane. The fact that the Supreme Court seems to be ok with partisan gerrymandering[14], but not racial gerrymandering[15] seems to miss that separating people this way is impossible[16]. A federal agency should have a non-partisan board of lawyers, statisticians, local representatives, and historians draw congressional districts with these three principles:

  1. Minority Districts: If you can draw a majority minority district, do it (in compliance with the Voting Rights Act [17]. You can't just pack all the minorities in one district, but if creating a 51% percent minority district complies with the other principles, do it.
  2. Draw Compact Districts Google search some congressional districts.[18] They look pretty weird.[19] You can't really draw neat squares because that's not how cities and neighborhoods are arranged. But some of these districts are egregious, connecting hundreds of miles by a highway. That isn't to say that some districts may look odd to help principle one[20], but I think experts would agree when this principle is ignored.
  3. Draw Competitive Districts[21] This is probably the most controversial, but I think arguably the most important. There is a reasonable argument to be made that our politics has become more extreme because most people tend to live around people who have similar political leanings. Candidates then race to the bottom to get support becoming more and more extreme. But when candidates are in a district that is more diverse, they tend to have more moderate views (generally).

Voting Rights

This section is about removing a stupid talking points from the GOP[22][23][24][25] and strengthening election integrity at the same time.

  • Create a nationwide voter ID, funded by the federal government, connected to state voting systems. ID would be assigned by Social Security number. No state law could deny it's usage and it could be used to attach social safety net benefits.
  • Create automatic voter registration and make voting mandatory. Those failing to vote would receive a tax penalty.
  • Make early voting mandatory for an entire week prior to election day, and make election day, a national holiday.
  • Require all states to allow mail ballots on request and allow all ballots to be counted that are postmarked by election day.
  • Ban all electronic voting machines that do not provide a paper copy.

Voting is part of participating in a democracy, and people seeking to limit the number of eligible voters are a threat to democracy.

Create campaign finance limits

Money is never going to get out of politics. But putting limits, real limits on what you can spend is necessary. Since the Supreme Court said money is speech[26], we have witnessed the harsh truth that it is actually better than speech, and those with more of it have more influence. There are a litany of examples of politicians straight up saying money get's meetings with them.[27] So limit the amount that companies can give, and limit political ads only to campaigns (to increase accountability for some of the insane shit out there).

Checks and balances/Federalism

Move the DOJ from the executive branch to the judicial branch. Create real separation from the president so they can't influence. Make the AG a six year gig (similar to the FBI director) to eliminate partisanship. Make the Supreme Court more like Federal District courts by expanding the number of justices from 9 to 13 and allowing smaller panels to make decisions. Create a judiciary board that makes judicial appointments.

Domestic Terrorism

Though the past 18 years have been defined by the War on Terror, the US has been focused almost exclusively on Islamic terrorism, even though most of the deaths from terrorists in the US are from white supremacists[28] Besides 45 generally gutting programs that target these groups[29], part of the reason the FBI is unable to do much stems from not having a law defining domestic terrorism. Candidates should push for a legal definition for domestic terroism that includes white supremacist terrorism as well as Islamic inspired terrorism, including laws to limit the ownership of symbols of white supremacy (Nazi symbols, Confederate battle flag) and Islamic inspired terrorism (ISIS flag) along with penalties for distributing violent extremist videos and documents.

Climate Change

We need to do everything we can to decrease our global carbon footprint and limit the effects of climate change. Warmer waters have already increased the severity of storms, and evidence of species die-outs are abound. We likely cannot reverse the effects but we can greatly reduce contributing to make things worse.

Put a moratorium on new domestic oil drilling

I wish it could be stop all domestic oil drilling, but we still need oil. A two year moratorium on new drilling could allow us to evaluate our current petroleum needs, and expand other energy options. Speaking of which...

Subsidize alternative energy

Solar panels everywhere. Nuclear energy. Geothermal. Windmills. We have so many other energy sources that aren't literally killing us (I mean technically the sun is killing us...) New houses should be required to have these alternative solutions installed, ditto to federal buildings. The fact that we're still dealing with the backlash of solar panels on the White House during the Carter administration is absurd.[30]

Harden infrastructure

The power grid kerfuffle in Puerto Rico should be a wake-up call[31]; current infrastructure was not designed to be pummeled by Cat 4 winds, and drowned by 30 inches of rain.[32] Building more of the power grid underground, and insulated where it makes sense, strengthening towers elsewhere. Starting building seawalls where surge waters have been increasing. Instead of paying people to rebuild, pay them to rebuild higher, or somewhere else. And completely get rid of FEMA flood insurance. Most people use it on secondary (vacation) homes[33], and people who are living in flood plains, we should move elsewhere.[34]

Punish petroleum industry

Like the tobacco industry before, Big Oil has known about the effects of climate change[35], lied about it[36], paid scientists to lie about it[37] and tried to bury the science.[38] They need to be the ones sacrificing the most as we go from trying to slow climate change, to living with a warmer, less biologically diverse planet, that will likely become more hostile to human life. They need to be taxed to harden infrastructure, to subsidize alternative energy, and to pay for all the medical bills of people a warmer planet has sickened.

Tax Policy

I am not a wonk, but I know the rich need to pay more[39]. Increased taxes among the countries wealthiest (more than $400K) will pay for services I'll bring up later, decreasing the burden on the rest of us.

Government does your taxes

The IRS knows what your tax liability is[40]. You don't need to tell them. Instead of keeping the tax preparation industry alive[41] and stressing people out, let the IRS mail you a letter saying what your tax liability is. If you agree, send it back. If not, do it yourself and prove your right. Other countries already do this[42] and it's way cheaper.[43]

Poor people don't pay taxes

I should really have labeled this wealth redistribution but I'm proposing doing through the tax code so here we go; people worth less than $300k don't pay any taxes. Every April 15th, Americans with less than $300,000 in assets, get a $10,000 check from the IRS as a refund. These funds will actually help Americans begin to build wealth by using this money to invest in their homes, put away money for their children's college, pay down debt, whatever. Poor people actually spend money, rich people don't. If your assets are between $325,000 and $400,000 you pay nothing you get nothing.

Tax people what they're worth

If your assets are worth more than $400,000 you have a tax liability. This scenario includes closing all tax loopholes and no deductions at all. You're tax bill at this point is 1% of your assets. That's it. Simple. Elegant, and Jeff Bezos pays $1,567,000,000 instead of nothing.[44]

Taxing Corporations

Undoubtedly this is tricky. Once you can get across to people that individuals have no reason to have billions of dollars, and that it's delusional to think someone could ever get that much money just working, people can come around to taxing individuals. But corporations are complicated, and you don't want to scare corporations off from actually investing in America. Taxing corporations on their assets, around .05% I think would be reasonable, especially if you could sell them on much of their taxes going to improving education, which will provide a skilled workforce for them in the long run. In their 2018 filing, Amazon did not pay any income tax, but actually got a refund.[45] Corporations also have a nasty habit of storing money abroad.[46] [47][48] This money would be included in their evaluation. If companies threaten to leave, seize their assets. A partnership with the IRS and CIA would likely be fruitful in literally robbing corporations that continue to steal from the American public.

Wages

Americans really need a raise. While American workers are more productive than ever[49], but their wages are stagnant, especially compared to corporate profits.[50]The nominee should be bold, pushing more than a $15 minimum wage.

Changing wage minimums

Notice this section is not labeled "increase the minimum wage" even though that is ostensibly what I propose. We should consider establishing structured wages based on skills and experience. So while the the wage for an unskilled, entry level position would increase to $15 as the minimum, positions requiring more skill and experience would start higher (increases in skill would be $2 per definition, increases in education would be $3 per definition, etc.) The federal government would need to lead by example, requiring all contractors to meet these definitions.

Union requirements

The Democratic party has been the face of organized labor for awhile, but the membership has not exactly been aligned recently. Part of the weakening of unions, has been the lowering of visibility from organized labor. The Democratic candidate should propose requiring all corporations allow organized labor and allow for an organized labor representative on corporate boards with a 10% stake at a minimum. While letting labor have some skin in the game, they can also profit a little more proportionally from their labor.

Creating wage maximums

Creating a maximum wage is not a new idea[51], but as corporate wages are nearing 1,000X the median employee wages the discussion needs to happen again. Increasing wage minimums will help, but by creating wage maximums for executives around 100X the median employee will either encourage companies to increase wages or decrease corporate wages but increase stock options which would be addressed below.

Limit corporate buybacks

The 2017 tax restructure was supposed to increase investment, wages and a whole other host of bullshit.[52]Despite making it clear corporations made no plans to use their tax cut on investments, it surprised virtually no one when they instead used it to buy back stock.[53][54][55][56] The Democratic candidate should run hard against this unfair redistribution of wealth, and include in their reforms creating a maximum percentage of corporate profits that can be spent on stock buybacks, with moderate increases for wage increases (ex. 45% of corporate profits can be spent on stock buy backs increasing by 1% for each 5% increase in profit sharing with employees)

Education

American education is falling behind.[57] Not only is the structure of schooling archaic, we aren't preparing students for the next generation of jobs. I propose a major investment including:

  1. Increasing the number of teachers and teachers assistants
  2. Paying teachers more (between 15 and 25 percent)
  3. Putting in food programs that emphasize fruits and vegetables over grains and milk
  4. Putting food pantries in every school
  5. Putting medical staff in all schools
  6. Putting dental services in regional schools
  7. Giving every student a tablet
  8. Installing high speed internet in every school

Though coding and computer science need to be the focus, continuing to focus on art, literature and history to create better citizens not just workers.

Public Health

The United States is the last major industrialized western country to not have socialized medicine[58], and among three in the entire world without it.[59] But we spend the most[60], which has earned us among the worst health outcomes of wealthy nations.[61] Frequently, the GOP says paying for Universal Healthcare is impossible [Citation not Needed], but several current Democratic candidates would disagree.[62][63][64] Whatever you want to call it, Medicare for All, Universal Healthcare, Subsidized Private Insurance, whatever every needs to be covered, and people shouldn't go broke because their sick.

Vaccines

Get rid of religious exemptions. The public health of the nation is more important than ones personal beliefs.

Prescription Drugs

Seize control of drug makers. Private industry is still probably best able to create new drugs, the federal government needs to take control of the production of common drugs. Not only because the pharma industry bounces the rights to drugs around and jacks up the prices[65], but because there is evidence the pharmaceutical industry found other uses for drugs and buried the info, for sexist reasons.[66] Pharma industries should also be banned from marketing drugs at all. Marketing takes up most of their budgets [67], and it's just crazy that a company can market a drug to you, when that should be a conversation with your doctor.

Abortion

Rare, accessible and safe. It's been around for as long as humans could copulate, and as a medical procedure it should be between a patient and their doctor.

Guns

Firearms are a leading cause of death for those under 20 [68], second only to motor vehicles. Firearm related deaths are also on the upswing[69] after decades of downwards trends. Though events like Parkland, Sandy Hook, Pulse and Mandalay Bay grab headlines, suicide by GSW is more common[70]. It is the duty of this country to protects it's citizens. I propose nationwide red flag laws, to create a judicial process for seizing firearms from people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others, as well as taking weapons from those with protective orders. I would also push for digitizing ATF and FBI records for background checks to increase efficiency, requiring background checks on all firearms purchases (closing the gun show loophole), and creating a nationwide gun registry on all new firearms followed by all firearms purchases in three years. Included in this is dividing firearms and explosives from ATF and creating a new organization specifically tasked with enforcement.

Marijuana

Decriminalize possession. Reclassify THC as a Schedule-II drug[71], so that research can move forward with better understanding effects, with the intention of creating a federal standard for impairment. Reclassify CBD as a Schedule-III drug[72], and move enforcement for it from the DEA to the FDA. It's crazy that we still are having this discussion about it in the 21st century. Also the alcohol and tobacco portion of ATF should be combined with marijuana to create a new enforcement body specifically dealing with intoxicants.

Safety Net

Universal Healthcare

As noted above, we can pay for it no matter what the GOP says. We're the only industrialized nation that encourages people beg others to pay for medical treatment, or allows medical providers to deny services for someone because they can't pay for it. Though I think something similar to the British NHS[73] would be preferred, Norwegian[74], Swedish[75], or Finnish[76] inspired subsidized private care would suffice.

SNAP

Get rid of SNAP. Give people money, and provide subsidized access to fruits and vegetables from farmers (like Blue Apron). SNAP is directly connected to the Farm Bill, so providing subsidies to farms to make produce for human consumption instead of industrial corn and soy.

Housing

Get rid of housing vouchers, just give people money. Build more public housing that has necessary utilities included and begin the process of acquiring private property to convert to public housing. This is kind of land redistribution, but private industry has no incentive to create more housing, driving down rates.

Criminal Justice

America currently has a prison population larger than North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana combined.[77] We beat out China and India (with much larger populations) as well as Russian and the Philippines (much more authoritarian) to hold the distinction of the most incarcerated per capita[78] Following the Civil War, the prison system functioned as the primary source of involuntary labor. It has evolved to become a catch all for a variety of societal problem requiring complex solutions from an unwilling society. Some of the issues mentioned previously intersect but the primary focus of this section is the prison system, executions and policing.

Private Prisons

Get rid of them. They encourage localities and states to round people up to keep them full.

Solitary Confinement

Create laws that make it illegal to use solitary confinement on any offender under 18, and require extreme circumstances for it's use more broadly. Solitary confinement has been connected to mental and social consequences for offenders[79][80][81], and the United Nations basically defined it's use as torture.[82]

Prison Systems

Federal prison systems, followed by state and local systems, should refocus from simple punishment and imprisonment to rehabilitation and reform. This includes radically redesigning prisons to be more open, providing offenders more rights while incarcerated (including voting) and making racial segregation illegal. Massive investments need to be made in providing more staff to assist rehabilitation and allow guards to focus more on protection than enforcement. Scandinavian prison systems are an excellent example of the type of reforms the US should embrace.[83][84][85]

Capital Punishment

The federal government needs to take capital punishment away from states. The federal government is the only body that has the right to kill[86], this should be applied to its citizens. This would create a much higher bar execution, and hopefully create regulations that make a more fair process.[87]

Policing

The US is unique as having a decentralized policing body[88], unlike most Western industrialized nations.[89][90][91] There are many major police forces that do have rigorous training and centralized administration,[92][93][94] but even these have had serious questions about oversight and accountability for frequent conflicts, including use of force and corruption. Creating a central body that is responsible for creating training requirements focused on community policing, reporting requirements (including types of use of force and consequences for those actions), independent investigators, and a culture of accountability would go along way in improving relationships with the general public, especially people of color. Some minor changes would include changes to marked vehicles to make them more visible to the public and uniforms that are easily identifiable, creating a less military look. If necessary this may also include creating a new federal police force dedicated to violent right-wing extremism.

Foreign Policy

45 has decided that military strength[95][96] is more important than diplomatic strength[97][98]. Even though military leaders agree diplomacy serves an important military function[99], and virtually every single foreign military conflict in American history had some diplomatic failure, it's clear 45 would rather kill everyone he disagrees with than negotiate (But he also sucks at diplomacy when he tries[100][101][102][103]) Considering that idiots thought Trump would somehow reduce Americans presence abroad[104] it's clear that isn't happening. The Democratic nominee should propose robust reductions military personnel abroad and focus instead on robust diplomacy, including bringing the world tighter together through trade agreements and foreign investment.

TPP

There was a whole host of bullshit around the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But the strategic goal of the agreement was to create a united front against China. Now the US is on the outside looking in[105], and it's not just hurting American exports[106] but it takes away diplomatic influence over other countries. We need to get back in, and probably take the licks from the other parties angry about us leaving in the first place.

USCMA

45's signature international trade agreement[107] to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement[108] has received mixed reviews at best[109][110], and will face a multitude of hurdles to be ratified before 2020. If changes are made that the current house leadership has requested[111], the nominee should applaud 45 for his work to create a platform that will be improved upon, especially with regard to environmental regulations, labor laws and market access. If these needs are not met, the nominee should push against the USCMA in it's entirety as negotiated in bad faith, recommending a true NAFTA update to include parties that have been excluded from 45's negotiations.

Paris Climate Accord

We are the only Western industrialized nation not in, and one of two countries not in[112](the other is Syria, which is in the middle of a civil war). Not only was it incredibly stupid to resign because of the threat of climate change[113] it also pissed off business leaders [114] and our allies[115]. To add insult to injury, 45 could have stayed in, but lowered the US commitments and influence other nations. By leaving, the US has seceded the right to complain about any other nations commitments. A new Democratic administration should get back in on day 1.

Iran Nuclear Deal

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (or JCPOA) was designed to limit Iran's ability to acquire the material needed to create a nuclear weapon[116]. No matter how much Bibi saber rattles[117] evidence indicates Iran did not and does not currently have that capability.[118] Beyond that, the JCPOA was designed to bring Iran into the economic fold, that would limit their belligerence abroad. Nations that have trading partnerships, tend not to fight each other. 45 backed out, even though the IAEA said they were holding up their side of the bargain[119]. Our allies, especially in the EU are not happy[120], trying to salvage the agreement themselves[121] as the US prepares to begin sanctioning our allies[122]. A new Democratic administration should eliminate these punitive measures and work tirelessly to enforce the JCPOA.

Military Deployments

The US has 43 military instillation in the Middle East. We need to reduce that to a more manageable number, and focus on intelligence rather than force. It makes it difficult to negotiate with someone when you have a gun in their face.

The War on Terror

It's a failure. We can't kill ideas. Establish more diplomatic relations with regional governments. Support more autonomous regions, and invest in these areas.

China

They are presenting themselves as a naval rival.[123] Trade in and around the South China Sea is vital to world trade.[124] The US has to commit to protecting these trading routes, ensuring the free movement of goods.

NATO

It's fair to say a lot of us laughed in Romney's face when he said Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat to the United States.[125][126] But Russia, primarily Putin, remains belligerent. The US must continue to lead the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, focusing less on a traditional military conflict, instead focusing on intelligence, cyber warfare and deterrence. Adding North Macedonia, Ukraine and re-engaging with Turkey and Italy would go along way in creating a united front against Putin's aggression.

United Nations

The United States need to retake it's place as the main player in the UN. This includes joining the International Criminal Court, assigning a representative to the UN Council on Human Rights, and pushing for a Universal rights standard that provides more explicit protections and is enforced in the United States.

South America

It's time to return to the Monroe Doctrine, with the United States and Canada leading in major investments in Central America as well as partnering with Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia to help them form a more unified front and trading partner for the world. This will probably include a military component similar to the African Union to allow a South American governing body to remove threats like Maduro in Venezuela.

References

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