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John Bacino on August 6, 2007 - 8:14am
Monday, August 6, 2007
Building a Progressive Majority: Policy Options for 2008
EVENT at NCSL
If you are attending the NCSL conference in Boston, join Progressive States Network tomorrow night (Aug. 7th) at 6:30pm to celebrate this year's many progressive legislative victories at a reception at the Westin Copley Place.
We are happy to sponsor this event with our partners the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFSCME, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), National Labor Caucus of State Legislatures, and the Teamsters (IBT).
We are also pleased to have Robert Kuttner, columnist for The Boston Globe and co-editor and co-founder of The American Prospect, deliver his perspective on the current state of the country and how states can bring about the reforms we need. Bob Kuttner writes regularly for The American Prospect on political and economic issues, and he has just completed a book, to be published in 2007, on the connection between political and economic inequality and systemic risks facing the economy.
In Today's Dispatch:
Building a Progressive Majority: Policy Options for 2008
Last November, we saw voters taking the first steps to repudiate the right-wing ideology and institutions that have long dominated much of the political landscape in our states. For too long, we have seen right-wing politicians, backed by corporate money and by conservative think tanks, blocking communities from improving wages, impeding expansion of health care, and auctioning off public assets and public contracts to big monied interests.
In 2005, a group of legislators, non-profit leaders and advocates formed the Progressive States Network (PSN) to provide day-to-day support to state legislators and community organizations in each state to help make that happen. The efforts of PSN and the progressive allies we work with in the states are beginning to bear fruit, as we detailed in our recently published Taking the Lead: A Report on State Legislative Successes in Enacting Progressive Policy.
But these achievements are only the beginning. The need for bold progressive leadership has never been greater as our states confront challenges of stagnant wages, global warming, exploding health care costs, and civic disgust with elections dominated by monied interests.
This week, the Progressive States Network is releasing its policy options package:
For an HTML version of the report, click here.
This package of reforms for 2008 provides a range of options progressive legislators and allied advocates can use to build an enduring progressive legacy in our states. Although these are obviously not exhaustive of the issues that embody the progressive agenda, the issues detailed in this set of policy options reflect opportunities where progressives can make some of the most serious political inroads in the present environment.
Even with last November's victories, progressives confront a political landscape shaped by a well-organized right-wing network that has worked for decades to establish political power in the states.
As we outlined in our February 2006 report, Governing the Nation From the Statehouses: The Rightwing Agenda in the States and How Progressives Can Fight Back, groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other allied right-wing groups have often hijacked public policy in the states. Tens of millions of dollars of corporate money have poured into local research think tanks and lobbying organizations to create an "echo chamber" around their issues, promoted policies that have often wedged progressive groups against each other while cementing a coalition around a rhetoric of tax cuts and right-wing social issues.
Yet as we have seen, new opportunities have opened up for bold, progressive leadership. Even most social conservatives in polls complain that power is too concentrated in the hands of large corporations and support stronger environmental protection, better labor laws, and health care for all. And the rising number of young voters are more progressive on both social and economic issues. Where progressives have often failed is where voters don't actually know where their leadership stands, but where voters see progressive leaders standing up strongly for working families, progressives can win, making good policy good politics.
The key is to create a strong narrative around multiple issues that highlights the values for which progressives stand: Rewarding Work, Valuing Families, Promoting Justice, Growing the Economy and Increasing Democracy. The political power of any issue then expresses the values that connect that policy to peoples' lives and to other issues that also matter to them. Within this framework of values, Progressive States is initially providing legislative support for seven key issue clusters. Although these are obviously not exhaustive of the issues that embody the progressive agenda, the issues detailed in this set of policy options reflect opportunities where progressives can make some of the most serious political inroads in the present environment:
The following sections outline the policies that can make these goals a reality and the full report includes greater detail, updates on recent developments in the states, and additional resources to support policy in each policy area.
Wage Standards and Workplace Freedom
Policies to raise wages should be a linchpin of progressive leadership. A higher wage is the best anti-poverty program and a key "pro-family" policy to allow parents to work fewer hours and have more time with their families. It is also one of the best local economic development tools, since workers earning a higher wage will contribute to an increase in local consumer spending. Fundamentally, strong wage policies express the progressive value of the dignity of work and that all labor deserves a reasonable reward.
Balancing Work and Family
Helping parents balance the demands of work and family underlines progressive pro-family policies. With the rhetoric of "family values," the right-wing has convinced large swathes of voters that gay marriage and other hot-button social concerns are endangering the family, even as those same corporate conservatives studiously downplay the real stresses on families, especially a workplace that is unforgiving of parents trying to balance the demands of work and home. A core challenge for progressives is to reclaim their image as defenders of the family against the pressures of modern life and work.
Health Care for All
Solving the health care crisis ”” rising costs for everyone and lack of access for tens of millions of Americans ”” is a top priority for voters and progressive leaders. While right-wing politicians, supported by pharmaceutical, insurance and other self-interested corporate lobbies have blocked many reasonable reforms in the past, progressive leaders recognize that as they expand access to health care for families they can build the base of support for health care for all of us. In fact, state leaders are enacting innovative proposals that are models for reforming the system that help extend quality, affordable health care to all our states’ residents.
Smart Growth and Clean Jobs
cornerstone of progressive policy should be a program to create jobs based on
clean energy and to promote smart growth in our communities. Rising
gas prices, fears of increasing involvement in unstable Middle East politics,
and a public desire to protect the environment all reinforce the appeal of an
energy independence policy based on alternative energy sources, energy
efficiency and decreasing wasteful sprawl through better transit and housing
development policies. Investing in these strategies will not only make America
safer and more secure, it will create hundreds of thousands of good quality
jobs in communities across the country.
Tax and Budget Reform
In a debate too often dominated by right-wing tax cut rhetoric, there is a real opening for progressives to demand a fairer, more accountable tax and budget system. State residents are frustrated by governments that they believe tax low- and middle-income residents too much and upper-income people and corporations too little. Hidden economic giveaways to companies receiving tax breaks and government contracts only add to voter distrust that state budgets serve those with money, not the average taxpayer. In response, a range of reforms at the state level are showing the way to creating more transparent tax and budget decisions, transparency that can strengthen voter trust that their tax money will actually go towards the important public services that they do support.
Fair and Clean Elections
Election reform and eliminating the corruption of money in politics is necessary both to achieve progressive goals and to highlight progressive leaders as reformers of a system with which voters are disgusted. In a post-Bush v. Gore climate of outrage over election abuses where corporate "pay to play" lobbying deals are constantly in the news, there is an opportunity to push forward reforms that guarantee voting rights and promote elections where voter support, not corporate money, determines the election outcome.
Broadband Buildout and Technology Investments
Why High-Speed Internet Broadband Matters: In a wired world, communities that are networked with broadband are more likely to attract the jobs and industries that can build a 21st century economy. State leaders increasingly see universal broadband deployment as a key component of increasing local democratic participation, promoting local economic growth, creating "smart" communities that are healthier and more energy efficient, and closing the widening gap in economic opportunity.
As we outline in more detail in the full report, each of these issue clusters are not only good policy for working families, but they each expand and deepen the progressive coalition by appealing to disaffected, swing and even many self-described conservative voters who nonetheless care about these issues which express the value of work, family, justice, economic growth and democracy.
Additional details on legislative models and other support materials will be available on the website at Progressive States (www.progressivestates.org) in coming months.
We will also use the Stateside Dispatch to regularly updates state legislators and advocates on policy proposals and victories (as well as defeats) across the country on these and many other progressive issues as well.
Please have colleagues and friends go to http://action.progressivestates.org/signUp.jsp to sign up.
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