It is with great pride, excitement and humility that the New Progressive Alliance (NPA) herewith presents, for review and comment, our draft of the proposed Unified Progressive Platform (UPP).
During the NPA’s founding at MyFDL in late 2010, readers voted to identify 10 key values. Work on this detailed yet succinct statement of core Progressive beliefs – which has proceeded over the past three months at NewProgs.org – has kept true to those values.
Along with comments and ideas readers expressed during the NPA’s founding and input from the organization’s volunteers and members, this document includes platform material from five historic and current Progressive organizations: The Green Party, United Progressives, Socialist Party USA, Populist Party (1892), and Progressive Party (1912). At the NPA site, this document is color coded to indicate the various sources of each line of text. Though MyFDL does not support color coding, the draft below is otherwise identical.
We believe a Unified Progressive Platform is key in creating a broad, principled alliance focused on putting the American people first, and countering the war profiteers and corporate opportunists who have overrun our government.
The parallels between our current situation and that in which the first Progressive Era took shape are striking, and while it never elected a president, that first Progressive push won the eight-hour workday, four Constitutional Amendments, and (up until both parties sold out completely to the military industrial complex) occasional other Progressive victories: Social Security (which this president is okay with cutting), Medicare (ditto), and Civil Rights (wouldn’t surprise us).
We believe the best social and electoral answer to the oligarchs who now control our government is a united call for a second Progressive Era in America – one whose victories, this time, are made permanent.
In reviewing this draft, bear in mind that a platform is a broad document laying out core beliefs and policy objectives. Actual policy work flows from, as opposed to being included in, this document. At this stage the NPA seeks overall impressions of our communication and approach to the issues identified at it’s online founding, while encompassing changes in the political, social, economic, and foreign policy climates since that time.
Preamble: A New Progressive Alliance
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
- George Santayana (1863-1952)
Perpetual war. Rampant unemployment and under-employment. Environmental degradation. Self-interested corporatists run amok.
The difficult times America now faces, though challenging, are hardly new.
Our nation’s first Progressive Era addressed and surmounted similarly daunting challenges. It won Americans the eight-hour workday; women’s suffrage; direct election of Senators; the federal income tax. Though entry into World War I ended this amazing era, the Progressive conscience lived on, and prompted enactment of Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Compensation, Civil Rights, and Head Start.
Nonetheless, WWI – the supposed “war to end all wars,” was in fact anything but. Ever since, whether on foreign shores or here at home, we have unwisely and needlessly relied on war to prop up our economy. From foreign adventurism to the so-called “War on Drugs,” this ideology and its perpetual application has cost us dearly.
Those who nurtured the first Progressive Era ran the social and political gamut. They were Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Independents, Anarchists, suffragettes, farmers, immigrants, freed slaves, lawyers, teachers, trade unionists, physicians, ministers, and businesspeople. In short, Progressives were America’s working classes.
In just 25 years – from 1892 to 1917 – the Populist Party and then the Progressive Party delivered a one-two punch that shook the federal government from its complicity with elites in the oppression of workers, families, farmers, and small businesses. One hundred years later, our oppressors are re-entrenched. We must rise up again to put them in their place – and this time make our victory permanent.
The New Progressive Alliance (NPA), is a completely volunteer organization of concerned Americans. We herewith propose a platform in hopes of uniting all who hold with Progressive values. With individual rights. With workers. With the poor and the unemployed. With non-intervention over imperialism and perpetual war. And with the belief that we must treat the earth as it truly is: Our only home.
Context: Our Proud Heritage
From the Populist Party Platform (1892):
The conditions which surround us best justify our cooperation: we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized; most of the States have been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling-places to prevent universal intimidation or bribery. The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion silenced; [small] business prostrated; our homes covered with mortgages; labor impoverished; and the land concentrating in the hands of the capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right of organization for self-protection […] The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.
From the Progressive Party Platform (1912):
“The conscience of the people, in a time of grave national problems, has called into being a new party, born of the nation’s sense of justice. We of the Progressive party here dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by our fathers to maintain the government of the people, by the people and for the people whose foundations they laid.
“We hold with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln that the people are the masters of their Constitution, to fulfill its purposes and to safeguard it from those who, by perversion of its intent, would convert it into an instrument of injustice. In accordance with the needs of each generation the people must use their sovereign powers to establish and maintain equal opportunity and industrial justice, to secure which this Government was founded and without which no republic can endure.
“This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.
“It is time to set the public welfare in the first place.”
Peace, People and the Planet: The Unified Progressive Platform
1 – Peace First
A world of increasing population, diminishing resources, and unstable climate is a world poised for conflict.
Add to these existential challenges the concentration of power in the hands of a global financial and corporate elite perpetually bent upon the concentration of wealth, and the current proliferation of wars and civil unrest become nothing short of inevitable.
It is evident that the U.S. is a major part of the problem, using its overwhelming military power to consolidate its strategic hold over much of the world, and to defend and advance the interests of U.S.- owned corporations and various strategic partners.
It is further evident that allocating an ever-increasing proportion of our national treasure toward defense – and often imperialism in the guise of defense – is impoverishing us as a people, and if anything, making us less secure.
For these reasons, and knowing full well that in so doing we challenge the hitherto unchallenged supremacy of the military-industrial complex, we affirm first and foremost that we oppose war as an instrument of foreign policy. We must reinstitute non-intervention as the United States’ default military position, as it was for the first 140 years of our history. We therefore support the complete and immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and other regional conflicts.
We further support the immediate dissolution of private security contracts for these conflicts, and the immediate cessation of payments to private contractors who are in any way associated with them.
Further, the United States must reopen all its agreements for the siting of military bases in other countries, and must immediately vacate those we are requested to by the host countries.
We reject the militarism on which our culture and economy are increasingly based, and support the transition to an economy and national security rooted in scientific inquiry, peaceful technologies, sustainable industries and agriculture, education, and the arts.
As we shrink our global military presence we must also shrink our military budget and redirect spending to critical societal needs such as job creation, saving the environment, and a real social safety net.
New definitions of national and global security must be debated and adopted to support the peaceful and equitable resolution of future conflicts.
Our goal is a world in which war is obsolete. That cannot happen until the major powers stop instigating and providing materiel support for war.
The role of the United States military is neither to police the world nor build its nations. Intervening militarily in foreign lands for these purposes is incalculably expensive in human lives and fiscal resources, and is morally indefensible.
2 – Full Employment at a Living Wage
Peace + People + Planet = Economic Sustainability
Perpetual war simply has no place in the above equation. The costs of supporting our war-based economy, coupled with bailouts of unethical and in many cases lawbreaking for-profit institutions, are directly attributable to the lack of investment in a new economic paradigm that does not profit on death and financial speculation.
We recognize that our national and global economic systems are embedded within and dependent upon the earth and its resources. We therefore support measures to restore a more broadly shared prosperity and to build a more equitable society.
As we work to make these changes, it is important to bear in mind that the biggest task before us is transitioning our economy from an unlimited growth model to a sustainable, or “steady state” model.
We therefore support, as the first critical step in advancing these “new-economy” criteria for economic success, a commitment to full employment at a living wage.
Full employment policy maintains that maximizing employment is the key to a healthy economy; that both the private sector and the public sector have a role to play in job creation; and that the best results are achieved when both sectors are committed to the policy.
In line with this thinking, we believe that where the private sector cannot provide jobs for all who wish to work, the public sector must be the employer of last resort, through a combination of job banks and workforce development programs. We support a permanent, WPA-style jobs program wherein, when possible, public sector jobs are “green” jobs, or jobs in the service sector which contribute to a more positive future for all. All work must at a minimum pay a local living wage that covers basic needs – food, shelter, healthcare, childcare, transport.
Alternatively, a universal basic income or federal guaranteed livable income, implemented via an earned income credit or negative income tax, could be used to ensure a minimum standard of living.
Full employment at a living wage with price stability must be a national priority. The Federal Reserve must work harder to redress the imbalance between its inflation control and full employment mandates.
Trade policy must favor fair and balanced trade relationships that include universal labor and environmental standards. Banks must be required to create low-interest set-aside funding for small community businesses, workers cooperatives, and family farms.
Corporate tax policy should discourage and punish outsourcing and off-shoring. Corporations that seek to exploit labor markets and circumvent environmental protections should be ‘outed’ and penalized for their lack of corporate responsibility and citizenship.
As a counterweight to employment trends that have decimated the American workforce and middle class – e.g., reduced wage scales, reduced benefit packages, increased job insecurity due to outsourcing, off-shoring, contract labor, part-time work, etc. – we support workplace democracy and the right to organize unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike when necessary – for both public and private employees. We further call for enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act.
3 – Saving the Environment
We envision a sustainable society that recognizes our interdependence with the planet and utilizes resources such that future generations will benefit rather than suffer from the practices of past generations.
To this end, we support science-based policies to curb and mitigate the effects of climate change; carbon taxes on fossil fuels to reflect true environmental costs; elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, waste incineration, and biofuels; clean fuel mandates; adoption of energy efficiency standards that reduce energy demand economy-wide; building an efficient low-cost public transportation system; adoption of a national zero waste policy.
A sustainable society needs clean, green jobs based on renewable energy, energy conservation, organic agriculture, local food production/distribution, mass transit, waste management/recycling, and other environment-sustaining practices.
Energy independence is essential to peace, security, and prosperity. We promote a planned transition away from fossil fuels, including nuclear energy, to a cleaner energy generation/distribution system based on solar, wind, geo-thermal, hydropower, and other renewable energy sources.
The strict comprehensive protections of the Clean Air and Water Acts must be maintained and enhanced. In particular, safe and adequate water supplies for all citizens must be maintained and privatization efforts must be vigorously resisted.
Land-use practices should honor the interconnected and interdependent nature of all life, respect ecosystems and other species, and at the same time provide for human needs in a responsible and sustainable way. The chemical treatment and genetic engineering of crops run counter to these criteria and should be ceased.
Urban environments should limit sprawl, maximize green space, and their planning and construction should encompass light rail, connecting downtown areas to pedestrian and bike-friendly neighborhoods which offer the full range of everyday services.
Rural land-use policies should promote livable communities to minimize urban migration and favor small-scale farmers and ranchers. National parks, forests, and seashores are not for sale.
Oceans, forests, and biodiversity are indispensable to life on this planet and deserve special attention and protection.
4 – A Real Social Safety Net
We stand firmly in support of strengthening, expanding, and protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance by any means necessary.
Unemployment and home foreclosures, a lack of financial system protections, failure to collect revenue sufficient to fund government operations (including illegal wars), and failure to provide for America’s future have all but destroyed this country’s social fabric. Through the worst possible fiscal management, our social safety net hangs by a thread.
We propose to expand the real social safety net to the benefit of all Americans through raising taxes primarily on corporations and the wealthy, and by targeting public and private investment toward education, research and development, and infrastructure.
We must also:
- Remove the income cap on Social Security withholding to increase revenue, and include previously excluded income masquerading as capital gains.
- Provide equal access to free, quality education from Pre-K through vocational schools or public universities; expand access to lifelong learning; and stop the privatization of public education.
Further, we favor a New Deal-style Home Owner’s Loan Corporation set up under existing federal home loan entities, to eliminate troubled loans and to resolve what is perhaps the most significant impediment to sustainable economic recovery.
With this, however, must come the recognition that home ownership can be one of many approaches to providing the safe, adequate, and affordable housing necessary to create and maintain strong, stable, sustainable, and inclusive communities.
Comprehensive housing policies that foster integrated community development, serve broad social, economic, and energy goals, and leverage federal, state, and local resources should be used to provide community-specific housing solutions, including shared ownership, supportive housing, transitional housing, cooperative housing, and rentals (conventional, affordable, and resident-controlled, as applicable).
We support pension reforms designed to safeguard retirement monies belonging to working Americans.
Current law provides a virtual monopoly over investment options to Wall Street and the financial industry. Not only is this hard-earned money placed at risk by a system that privileges and enriches some at the expense of less-sophisticated others, but the investment choices often work against workers’ best interests, by funding corporate mergers, acquisitions and leveraged buyouts that undercut workers’ rights, employment, and retirement.
Corporate-sponsored pension funds should be jointly controlled by management and workers. Federal law should be changed to allow funds to be securely invested both locally and in socially beneficial programs. Consideration should be given to the creation of a National Pension Authority with the power to hold assets and address pension fund deficits as they develop.
We must revise corporate and personal tax codes according to recommendations in the FY 2012 People’s Budget, a product of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, such that all businesses and citizens contribute their fair share toward the support of a more equitable society.
The need for financial industry reform is critical and cannot be overstated. In addition to reinstating Glass-Steagall; curtailing speculation; outlawing derivatives outright or submitting them to review by an FDA-style financial products regulatory commission; and breaking down financial institutions of excessive size and influence, the entire Federal Reserve and central banking system should be converted to a public system which places the needs and interests of the country ahead of profits for a private cartel.
5 – Medicare for All
We support Medicare for All as the single most effective approach to cutting runaway health care costs, and providing high-quality health care for all Americans.
Americans spend far too much on healthcare and get far too little in return. Studies show we spend twice as much as other developed countries but consistently underperform them in quality of care, efficiency, and fairness.
The best solution to our overpriced, under-served situation is the simplest. We need to move to a universal, single-payer system: Medicare for All.
A bill supporting this change – H.R. 676, The American People’s Universal Health Care Bill – was first introduced in the U.S. House in 2003, and has been reintroduced in each Congress since, including during the health care reform debates of 2009, when it was actively refused consideration.
Medicare for All will cut the exorbitant cost Americans pay for health care by eliminating for-profit insurers’ duplicative overhead and administration, underwriting, sales and marketing, CEO pay and bonuses, and profit margins; by improving leverage for product/service package negotiations; and by emphasizing preventive care.
That Medicare for All was not enacted long ago renders the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution a travesty, and our lack of universal health care a national embarrassment.
6 – Fair Trade
We support reformulation of all international trade relations and commerce practices in order to protect the labor, human rights, economy, environment and domestic industry of this nation, and of partner and recipient nations.
Trade policy, as currently defined by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), and the nascent Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) privileges capital and corporations at the expense of people and the planet. It facilitates labor outsourcing and the rape of our environment. It enriches the few while worsening the plight of the many. Recognizing this, we support trade policy reformulation which enables local industry and agriculture to take precedence over corporate domination. No more NAFTAs!
We must also:
- Evaluate and address trade imbalances through direct negotiation, currency management, business engagement, and consumer action.
- End tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas (e.g., deductions for shut-downs, special depreciation on offshore plants, and deferral of foreign source income).
- Prohibit U.S. corporations from avoiding or evading payment of their taxes by banking abroad or locating their charters offshore.
7 – Human Rights/Civil Liberties
We are dedicated to the preservation and expansion of diversity; and to protecting, respecting and expanding the rights and civil liberties of all citizens.
Our country was founded upon a set of principles and ideals that have their most eloquent expression in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. A commitment to equal rights was present at our creation and remains a core value of American life.
We therefore support equal rights for all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, or other status, including the right of same-sex couples to marry, and the right of all women to make decisions about their reproductive health.
We further support ending criminal prohibitions on the use and sale of marijuana and advocate its immediate legalization and taxation, and more broadly, an end to the so-called “war on drugs,” another perpetual war which has distracted us from our far more pressing responsibilities of caring for and expanding the chances of success of all our citizens.
We support the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an international standard that all nations should strive to meet.
With rights come responsibilities. We must remember that life is both individual and social, that freedom must be balanced with equality and justice. Among the reasons for establishing the Constitution given in the Preamble is: to “promote the general Welfare.”
To an increasing degree over the past forty years – and particularly during economic crises – this charge has been ignored by both major political parties, who have instead seen fit to promote the special welfare of the rich and powerful.
We must, as the Progressive Party stated in its 1912 platform, “set the public welfare in the first place,” thereby returning the general welfare clause to its pride of place in government policy making – and making government good again in the minds of a people who have been wrongly taught to believe it is the enemy.
- The USA Patriot Act is an Orwellian abomination wrapped in a snide misnomer. It violates key privacy and due process protections and contains vast potential for the abuse of power. It must be repealed.
- We must close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; try individuals accused of terrorizing the United States on our own soil; stop playing extra-jurisdictional and semantic games (e.g., using black sites and calling POWs “enemy combatants”); and end the U.S. government’s terrorizing of its citizens to justify imperialism.
8 – Campaign Finance Reform
We support comprehensive campaign finance reform, including caps on spending and contributions, at the national and state level, and/or full public financing of elections to remove undue influence in political campaigns.
Our democracy is at peril. In a system where money equals speech, the rich can afford to drown out the rest. They own mainstream media outlets, fund the Commission on Presidential Debates, bankroll think tanks and policy institutes, fund academic research, finance artificial grassroots (“astroturf”) organizations – in short, have built a propaganda empire that manufactures consent for all things contrary to the public interest.
In addition, they underwrite influence factories like the American Legislative Exchange Council, institutionalizing and streamlining the quid pro quo process, matching corporate contributors with legislators-for-hire in a highly structured arrangement that leaves voters entirely out of the loop. The recent Citizens United ruling was the coup de grâce. American democracy is now for sale to the highest bidder.
- In line with public financing, all qualifying candidates must have free and equal access to radio, television, and press coverage. All qualifying candidates must likewise be included in any and all public debate forums, and the full array of candidates beyond the two major parties must qualify.
- We support uniform ballot-access laws that make it easier for all political parties to include their candidates on the ballot.
- We support the adoption at local, state, and federal levels of ranked choice voting, as a mechanism to ensure that campaigns result in an intelligent exchange of varied perspectives.
- We support the abolition of the Electoral College, such that the President of the United States may be elected solely through a direct popular vote.
- We support efforts to ensure that the membership of the United States House of Representatives is substantially increased in order to adhere to the original intent for that body to provide this country’s citizens with proportionally equitable representation.
- Corporate law must be rewritten to overturn Citizens United. In the absence of comprehensive campaign finance reform, legislation such as the Disclose Act would impose transparency on the current system. A constitutional amendment would establish that money is not speech and that corporations are not persons.
9 – Corporate Accountability/Reform
We must reduce the economic and political clout of corporations, end corporate personhood, and require corporations to serve society, democracy, and to safeguard the environment.
National and multi-national corporations have become too powerful. In addition to ending corporate personhood and implementing campaign finance reform, corporate economic and political clout should be diminished, and corporate citizenship increased by improved tax/regulation compliance and enhanced shareholder democracy/governance.
We must also:
- Change corporate charters to reflect a “triple bottom line” orientation that measures social and ecological performance in addition to financial performance. Social responsibility requirements should be comprehensive, strict, and enforceable. Corporations that routinely violate their charters should face dissolution.
- Enforce and expand anti-trust laws at all levels.
- Increase legal jurisdiction over multi-national for-profit entities, in accordance with the U.N.’s evolving “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”
10 – Infrastructure Investment/Ownership
We support the establishment of a publicly funded infrastructure bank to capitalize large-scale physical projects, and direct monies toward associated research and development.
Forty years of defunding the public sector has saddled America with an outdated and crumbling infrastructure. In all that time, the private sector has not stepped forward to remedy this steadily worsening reality.
Since 2007, Congress has floated proposals for public-private capitalization of a national “infrastructure bank” to invest in energy, environmental, telecommunications, transportation, and water systems infrastructure projects. Infrastructure investment of this type offers immediate job growth and sets the stage for long-term economic expansion, and we fully support its immediate institution.
Along with natural resources and the public airwaves, public infrastructure like highways, railways, electrical grids, water systems, and the Internet rightly belong to the commons and should be managed and allocated in the public interest, free from interference by corporate agendas.