The new Democratic Agenda 


It is clear after the results of the recent election that the people voted for the Republicans more out of desperation for leadership.  They were unable to discern any realistic program from the Democratic Party.  It is necessary for the democrats to formulate a clear view of the future, develop an appropriate agenda and propose this agenda as a viable, in fact, superior alternative to the Republican agenda.  Rather than relying on polling data and thereby being fearful of the response to new and innovative directions and programs, and rather than being afraid of upsetting cherished constituencies, it is time for the democrats to look at the real needs of the people, the society, the world and the environment and formulate common sense approaches that will address these needs, and then stand up for these values and lead us into a new future of peace, prosperity, security, harmony, and environmental stability.


The new democratic agenda should incorporate values of social justice, world harmony and environmental balance.  While it is impossible in the scope of this document to go into every possible aspect of the agenda, enough aspects of it can be developed to show its tenor and basic principles in action.


I.                    SOCIAL JUSTICE:  The vestiges of racism and both the subtle and not so subtle actions founded on the racist past of this country, must be finally eliminated.  The fact that our country’s Black men are at least 10 times more likely to be imprisoned, killed by violence, or executed for various crimes is directly due to the action of the survival instinct, which all of us must acknowledge, within a system that does not provide real opportunity to Black youth to achieve success.  Black male unemployment is many times that of any other sociological group in this country.  Education and funding for education is substandard in the Black communities.   The education does not prepare the Black youth for living in the modern world.  The schools in many cases do not have appropriate facilities, and many cannot even be wired for access to the internet.  Compare this to schools in the rest of the country and it is clear to see that we are institutionalizing a class of disenfranchised people, who in order to survive are left few viable options other than crime.  Money spent to provide education, after school activities and guidance, and real opportunity for gainful employment will reduce the pressure on our court system and our prisons, and stabilize the family units which are torn apart through this problem.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Let’s put this principle into action to address the underlying causes of the problem rather than simply enabling this problem to continue and try to build enough prisons and hire enough police to try to stay ahead of an ever greater problem.  While it may take a generation to work through the existing problems, we can ensure the next generations of hope, opportunity and the skills required to live a life of prosperous industry.

a.        Progressive taxation:  Taxes that fall unduly on the working poor simply help to keep people desperate and wage slaves.  There is no reason why those who gain the greatest benefits and blessings from our society and economy should not pay the largest share of the cost of maintaining it.  It is a basic issue of equity.  Those who have the most should give the most.  Those who have the least should give the least.  This implies a tax policy favoring income taxes which are progressive with the increase of income rather than “flat taxes” which tend to cost the middle and lower classes more while costing the rich classes less.  Additionally it would favor income over consumption taxes since the poor people cannot afford the added burden of what is basically an increase in the cost of the necessities of life.

b.       Ballot franchise:  One of the secret implications of the policy which forces the disenfranchised into prison in overwhelming numbers is their loss of the franchise of the vote.  This means that large numbers of people have lost their ability to choose a government that will address their needs and concerns and embeds a government that does not need to face or address the concerns or problems that these people really face.  The fact that the USA now has the largest prison population in the world (having recently passed Russia as the world’s largest jailor) is a sign of how out of balance this system is.  One aid to this situation would be to favor the re-establishment of the voter franchise once someone has paid their debt to society and is released from prison.

c.        Voting Rights:  We have seen in the last several elections numbers of people unfairly turned away from the polls due to inaccurate voter registration lists, felony lists, and sheer mistakes.  It must be a priority in this country to ensure that every adult citizen has both the right and the opportunity to vote.  This is the foundation of our democratic institutions and the ability of the people to elect a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

d.      Access to Health Care:  The current health care system leaves some 15% or more of the US population behind without any ability to receive decent and necessary care.  The whole system is set up so that the small percentage of very rich people can basically get any kind of care they can imagine, while the rest struggle to find a way to maintain insurance, scrimp and save to balance insurance costs against living expenses, and a large number of people have no options whatsoever.  While there is much debate about “socialized medicine” as being some kind of “evil” that we should avoid, it is clear that some kind of safety net system needs to be put in place and the “free market” has not in fact, succeeded in creating this safety net.  The failure of the “free market” approach to health care requires us to put in place some reasonable system of basic medical support.  While this basic system cannot be expected to be “all things to all people”, it certainly can help to provide people with a life of dignity.

e.        Elder Care:  The social security system must be put on a sound financial footing and this can be most easily done by recognizing that is not an “investment” but a taxation program.  Money in fact is not saved and invested in this system, but current payers are financing the benefits of past retirees.  Once we recognize that this is a taxation program in its operation, we can develop a system to provide a “need based” social security system such that middle and lower class individuals have access to funds, while the affluent will not have to be provided funds.  What use does a multi-millionaire have in getting a social security check every month?   We also need to address the way the cost of living allowances are calculated.  The formula used is an artificial formula widely recognized to overstate the real cost of living and it brings about increases in cost that cannot possibly be sustained within the framework of the taxation system we use to finance this program.  If everyone changes their basic understanding of this program and agrees to support a common sense approach to the future, there is no reason this program cannot be made fully sustainable.

f.         Freedom of religion and freedom of choice:  we must assure our citizens of the right to freedom of religious persuasion and practice of their religious traditions and must encourage tolerance of those who have beliefs different than our own.  This includes the freedom of choice of a woman to have an abortion, even though many of us would not like to see this within our own religious perspective.  It is up to each individual to determine the basic issues of their meaning of life on earth, and the sanctity of life, and the time when a fetus becomes a “human being” subject to the protections of life afforded to all human beings.  We may disagree with the view of others, but we should not infringe on their ability to act according to their own best lights in this area.


II.                 ECONOMIC JUSTICE:


A.      The economic system as currently formulated allows certain individuals to become rich, take advantage of the system even at the expense of others, and basically we have created a “dog eat dog” relationship rather than a cooperative mutually harmonious relationship between our citizens.

B.       Companies and individuals must be held accountable for honest and fair dealing with investors, employees, retirees, customers and other companies and those that violate these principles must be held strictly accountable.  Because of the widespread damage done to large numbers of people and the system as a whole by this corporate crime (like Enron or WorldCom) this is far more harmful than a common thief, and the punishment must fit the crime.  Of primary importance is the need to ensure that all individuals and companies who violate the trust must cough up all their ill-gotten gains for the benefit of those who are harmed.   When these executives and officers find out that they lose all their wealth and possessions and are treated like the “uncommon” thieves they are, then we will see them begin to conform their actions to principles of decent relations.  The worst punishments should be for the white collar criminals of our society because they both know better and harm larger numbers of people than the disenfranchised who harm single individuals.

C.      Lack of exploitation.  The principle of the minimum wage was developed to address the tendency of capitalism to exploit employees for the benefit of the employer without any check.  This minimum wage must be adjusted regularly in sync with the actual cost of living changes in our society.  We have seen in recent years the tendency of major corporate officers to have hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in raises at the same time that their employees are losing their jobs or having their raises restrained by “hard times”.  Clearly there is no fairness here and there should be a coordination between the minimum wage rate increases and the percentage of raises by CEO’s.  If the CEO gets 5% per annum raise, why should not the minimum wage employee get a consistent increase at the same time?  Instead of a uniform flat wage, there should be a minimum along with a company-requirement for raises to be pegged to the raises obtained by the top officials and managers of the company each year.  Then everyone is in the same boat together.

D.      Artificial cost shifting of expenses should not be shifted from companies to the taxpayers.  This occurs when the taxpayers are forced to subsidize corporations with toxic dump cleanups, subsidized logging or mining rights, subsidized water use below the real costs of production, or below market value leasing of airwaves, etc.  Any rights of the “commons” are a trust that the government must administer for the benefit of all its citizens and there is an obligation not to squander these resources or use them to benefit small groups of capitalists at the expense of the quality of life, the environment or the taxpayers who have to accept the burden of the effects caused by exploitation of these resources.


III.               Environmental Justice:  One of the pre-requisites of life on the planet is clean air, clean water and clean land.  Another is adequate sustainable production of resources needed by people to live.  And a third is appropriate disposition of waste materials such that we do not pollute our environment and degrade the quality of life for the future.

A.      In order to achieve these goals it is necessary to look at our industry, our mining, and our use of chemicals in the production of goods and growing of crops and encourage and support formulation of new ways of fulfilling these needs and a re-ordering of the cost/benefit structures of these activities so that they truly begin to reflect the real costs down-line.

B.       We need to move beyond the hydrocarbon economy.  We artificially subsidize this economy with its pollution, clean up costs, health effects, but we do not acknowledge this subsidy.  We then refuse to support serious research and development to create clean and cheap alternative fuels.  If we begin to recognize that we subsidize the hydrocarbon economy, it becomes easier to recognize that a focused subsidy on the post-hydrocarbon energy options will help free us that much sooner from all the negative effects of the hydrocarbon economy and have the fringe benefit of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and thereby our need to be involved in the policing of the world and all the military entanglements this creates (which will be addressed in the world peace section).

C.      Reduction of waste and excess.  “Pollution” and “waste” taxes should be imposed on goods and services that have long-term consequences and costs so that they truly bear the cost of their own effects, rather than having these costs artificially and secretly shifted to the taxpayers and the populace either in the form of taxes paid for the government to administer clean up programs or in the health and long-term reduction in quality of life effects of these activities.  This would automatically begin to change consumer habits and buying decisions as corporations will naturally have to pass on these real costs so that non-polluting, less wasteful goods and services will naturally be cheaper than those that create pollution or lots of landfill waste.


IV.              International relations:  The basic principle of international relations must be to create a world of mutual respect and harmony with social justice and freedom of culture for all peoples on the planet, while providing for a military defense to protect ourselves from anyone who wants to breach this peace.

A.      This attitude is built upon a recognition that each people and society have the right to self-determination and their own organization of their society, culture, religion, and internal economic affairs.  The motto of “free trade” has often been used to bludgeon other countries and force them to accept our cultural products that are in many cases contrary to and disruptive to their traditional cultures.  We cannot and should not assume an arrogant stance that tries to “civilize” the rest of the world.

B.       In order for there to be a foundation of peace and harmony we need to embrace the international institutions of cooperation and work toward making them more responsive and effective in bringing people together in a peaceful forum for reviewing, addressing and resolving world issues, including issues of economic justice, social justice, military balance and environmental concerns on a world level.  We must recognize that many problems are world level problems with no borders and it will take all humans working together to achieve a solution.  Global warming, pollution, nitrogen runoff, economic dislocation from manipulation of world markets, cultural change spawned by technology or capitalistic trade requirements all have impacts the world over and need to be seen as problems of humanity.

C.      Specific “hot spots” need to be addressed with a view toward addressing the underlying causes of these issues and defusing them over time.  As an example, the Israeli / Palestinian problem needs to be addressed in a totally new and creative way.  It must first be recognized that the methods of the last 50 or more years have obviously failed and we are further from peace today than we have ever been.  Thus, there is no reason to continue with the existing methods that can be convicted of failure.  Let’s start from the first basic principle that ALL humans have the right to existence, survival and a life of hope and peace and therefore, both the Israelis and the Palestinians have rights which must be supported, respected and protected.  At the present time, much of the violence we see in the middle east is due to the utter lack of hope and future of the Palestinian people.  If we can address this issue, we can begin to defuse the violence.  Of course, there is an embedded generation of violence and Israel can and should have the right to defend itself from this violence.  A radical approach would involve Israel voluntarily giving up the entire West Bank and Gaza region to the Palestinians, but without destroying the infrastructure they have created there.  Rather this should be turned over intact to the Palestinian people of the camps, and an expression of goodwill and willingness to live and work for a mutual prosperity should be stated and acted upon.  This will give the Palestinian people something to starting building upon, hope for the future, and defuse the hopelessness that perpetuates the cycle of violence.

D.      Mutuality through development of treaties and embracing of the global needs of the world community with the US acting as a leader in developing this mutuality.

E.       Reduction of reliance on hydrocarbon fuels.  To the extent we can reduce or remove the reliance on hydrocarbons, the entire world situation changes.  This must be a primary goal of not only our environmental policy but our world relations policy as well.

F.       Development of a world water use policy.  Fresh water is quickly becoming the most critical resource world wide and is an underlying cause of major disputes both today and for the future.  Before it becomes too late, we must address the basic needs of all humans to fair access to fresh water.

G.      Financial and economic justice considerations:  We must develop a policy to ensure that people the world over are not made to pay for the long-term destructive effects of our lifestyle decisions and to the extent that pollution, global warming etc. caused by us harms other countries, we have a duty and obligation to help mitigate the effects and provide people everywhere hope, opportunity and access to water, sanitation, food, shelter and a reasonable sustainable existence.  To the extent we succeed at this (without forcing them to adopt our way of life or religions), we reduce the overall causes of war and suffering world wide.


Obviously the above is just illustrative of the type of creative new directions that the Democratic Party could lead with to usher in the new century of world unity, prosperity and harmony based on a balanced relationship between all people and in their use of all resources of the planet’s “commons”.

Thank you for your consideration of these ideas.  For more expansive discussion or to address other issues for their implications under these principles and ideas, you may contact me at the email address on the home page.

Santosh Krinsky

Twin Lakes, Wisconsin

November 6, 2002