A New Progressive Platform

This is a cycle we seem to be caught in. The Republicans get elected, and govern like a cross between a barbarian horde and a drunken fraternity. Then, the Democrats come in, and have to do the expensive and unpopular work of fixing the problems…which makes them unpopular, allowing a new Republican horde to ride into town like a panzer division on acid, and start the looting and pillaging anew.
As long as we are caught in this pattern, progressives /cannot/ win any lasting victories. There will only be occasional pauses in the downward spiral. How do we break out of this cycle? The answer, it seems to me, is big ideas. We have been so focused on repairing the damage that we haven’t done anything honestly worthwhile in a very long time. ObamaCare came close, but not really: like HillaryCare 20 years earlier, it was hobbled by its attempt to work within the existing paradigm instead of embracing the kind of genuine restructuring that might have genuinely changed things. So, we’re talking about New Deal, Great Society big. BIG.

So, here’s my Big Idea Platform. I’d like to know what the people think of it.

1) The Election Reform Act
This act will include public financing of elections, based on the understanding that any transfer of a thing of value to a public official or political campaign should be considered an attempt to bribe that official, and an end to partisan redistricting. There are robust, mature systems of public financing around the world available for study and adaptation. It is long past time to end the system of legalized bribery that has captured the US government and rendered it unresponsive to the needs of the general population. Likewise, all redistricting shall be done by non-partisan commissions.

2) An “Apollo Program” for clean energy.
It will be based on solar, wind, and wave power. Such a platform shall include a new energy grid that harnesses distributed micropower generation and AI management, and a new generation of nuclear reactors capable of using existing stocks of nuclear waste as fuel. This will simultaneously reduce carbon and heavy metals pollution in the environment, mitigate climate change, and eventually rid the country of nuclear waste.

3) Universal healthcare.
This can include a true single-payer system allowing access to everyone while allowing private providers for those who wish to avail themselves of additional services. Again, robust, mature systems are available for study and adaptation. Possible models include France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, and Canada.

4) A program of free post-secondary education or business investment.                                        Under this program, citizens will be able to either A), attend four years of a public university at public expense, B) access the amount of money four years of schooling would cost and use it as seed money to start a business, or C), any combination thereof: for instance, a student would be able to attend two years of technical school and then access two years worth of seed money funding for a start-up. Such a program will also include the forgiveness of all existing student loan debt, which is currently consigning two generations of Americans to debt peonage and acting as a huge brake on the US economy.

5) Raising the minimum wage.
This will include indexing the minimum wage to the inflation rate, putting an end to the degrading spectacle of continually having to beg for a continually-shrinking slice of the pie. Likewise, and for the same reason, Social Security benefits shall be indexed to the inflation rate.

6) Ending the war on drugs.
This will include the outright legalization of cannabis, the pardon of all federal prisoners held on simple possession charges, and the institution of a robust national drug treatment program for addicts. Under this program, regulatory authority will be transferred to the Food and Drug Administration, the DEA will be abolished outright, and asset forfeiture will not occur in the absence of a criminal conviction. This program will include a ban on the transfer of military equipment from the Department of Defense to civilian police departments, and a requirement that any civil judgement against a police officer must be paid by the officer personally. This program will hold that possession/intoxication itself is not a crime, but that criminal behavior, such as DUI, is.

7) Immigration reform.
Under this program, all immigrants, documented or otherwise, will be granted amnesty and allowed to stay if they register. This will allow immigrants to be protected under labor and civil law, ending the problem of legitimate business being undercut by underpaid, illegal labor. Any illegal employment of an undocumented worker shall be considered a felony. Likewise, immigrants convicted of crimes of violence, theft, fraud, espionage, or a pattern of criminal behavior, are subject to permanent deportation.

8) The Federal government as the employer of last resort.
This can be thought of as a new WPA: anyone unable to find productive work can go to work for the government, building/repairing infrastructure, parks, public buildings, etc. This should make the institution of a Universal Basic Income unnecessary, although a cost-benefit analysis and comparison between this program and a UBI should be conducted.

9) The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act.
This will outlaw any and all warrantless electronic or physical surveillance of a citizen, and will include a Citizen’s information Bill of Rights, which will state that any business that compiles information on a citizen for sale or other distribution is required to notify that citizen and give the citizen the opportunity to dispute information included therein. Further, any business that profits from the sale of individuals’ information will be required to share those proceeds with the individual.

10) The Private Security Services Reform Act.
Private prisons, police forces, military contractors, and intelligence agencies, or any other businesses serving largely identical functions, are henceforth banned.

11) The Assault Weapons Control Act.
Any firearm design that includes a detachable magazine and a semi-automatic or autoloading action shall be considered a Class III weapon under the National Firearms Act. Further, the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any device designed to increase the rate of fire of an otherwise legal weapon, such as, but not limited to, trigger cranks, multiple-fire triggers, or so-called “bump-stocks”, shall be banned.

12) The Honesty in Commerce Act.
Any business that engages in systemic theft or fraud, as has been widely documented in, among others, the banking and auto-repair industries, shall be subject to seizure and liquidation without recompense to shareholders, and shareholders shall be held liable for crimes committed to their benefit. Likewise, the importation, manufacture, sale, or distribution of any device designed to access or steal from individuals, such as credit-card skimmers and car lock defeat mechanisms, shall be banned.

13) Adoption in total of S.1006, the “Equality Act”, to, finally, “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

14) The Criminal Justice Reform Act.
In order to avoid the further criminalization of poverty and to promote equal justice before the law, this bill will reform the cash bail system as follows: No bail for a violent felony. Sliding scale for a first-time violent misdemeanor; no bail for a second offense. Not showing up is a no-bail felony. Analysis of an arrestee’s likelihood of showing up based on previous history and investment in the community; sliding scale bail depending on results-unlikely to appear, high bail, likely to appear, low (or no required) bail.

Feedback, suggestions, and comments are encouraged.

What the Heck Does “Progressive” Mean, Anyway?

“Progressive” is a problematic word. What does it mean, exactly? Are “progressives” more or less “liberal” than Liberals? Even within this Institute – and “progressive” is our middle name – there’s a broad diversity of political views.

I can only speak for myself. While I view myself as a political centrist, I believe laws should be based on what’s best for our society as a whole, not on any particular religious or moral code. And that political decisions should be guided by the best scientific research and data, taking into account our society’s goals and values. This usually seems to put me left of center on most issues.

I also believe that our society’s main goal should be the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time. Not  “to each according to his needs”. Communistic socialism has shown that it doesn’t provide great good to a great number. Capitalism does a better job, but pure capitalism has proven to be far from ideal as well. The right kind and right amount of government involvement in an economy can and does improve on many market outcomes.


Beyond that, I like to think about Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was a Republican when he was President. After leaving office he went on to found the Progressive Party, which made a good showing in the election of 1912. Some of the Progressive Party’s positionsBull Moose Party Charter Member Certificate may not sound revolutionary today, but at the time they were pretty extraordinary:

  • A National Health Service
  • Social insurance for elderly, unemployed, and disabled
  • Minimum wages for women and women’s suffrage
  • An 8-hour workday
  • Farm relief
  • Workers’ compensation for work-related injuries
  • An inheritance tax
  • A Constitutional amendment to allow a Federal income tax
  • Citizens’ referendums (decide on a law by popular vote) and initiatives (petitions)
  • Judicial recall (allowing popular vote override of court unconstitutionality rulings)
  • Strict limits and disclosure requirements on political campaign contributions

While the specifics differ now, most of these positions apply to my vision of “progressive” today. Treating women – and everyone – fairly, both socially and legally, is progressive.

Decreasing the influence of money in our political system is progressive.

Providing financial and healthcare support to those who need it most is progressive.

Requiring the people who can most afford it to pay a larger share of government expenses is progressive.

Hardly an exhaustive list. But you get the idea.

Progressives, quite simply, want real progress. Social, political, and economic progress. Not just for the richest people. For everyone.


Speaking of progressive, let’s talk taxes. By coincidence, progressives I know advocate a progressive tax system. That means that richer people don’t just pay more taxes, but a larger percentage in taxes. Our federal tax system generally is progressive, but there are many exceptions. And despite this, income inequality in the U.S. has been increasing for decades.

There are good arguments for progressive taxes. The richest can most afford to pay more taxes, and they feel the least pain in paying them. Progressive taxes and redistribution increase fairness. A strong and healthy working class can help the economy. Poverty imposes lots of long-term costs on a society. Redistribution – at least up to a point – can pay off.

There also are arguments against progressive taxes. Conventional economics says they decrease economic growth, though recent research is bringing that idea into question. Some call redistribution “theft” or “social warfare” that punishes the most productive people for being successful.

I might be able to go along with some of that, if higher incomes were 100% due to certain people working harder and being smarter than everyone else. But lots of people are smart and work hard. The fact is, plain dumb luck plays a big role in whether a smart, hard worker becomes a millionaire or becomes homeless. Some of that luck might be in being born to the right parents, or it could be being in the right place at the right time.

Yeah, some differences in income are due to working smarter or harder. But far from all.

So it comes down to balancing rewarding hard work and taking care of the most vulnerable in society. And right now, the U.S. leans far too lightly on the latter.


At the end of the day, we need more progress and more progressiveness, in our tax system, in our economy, and in our society.

And Evergreen’s here to push for just that.