Even with the good news that came last Tuesday, all too much evidence exists that the basic machinery of democracy in America is broken. Election Day is like Groundhog Day and the first stories of problems with voting machines, long lines, or voter intimidation hit the wires in the early A.M. Fortunately, with progressives in control in more states than ever before, we have an opportunity to get the machinery working, so that the engine of democracy starts humming again.
One sign of progressive strength is when progressive candidates win
elections. But another sign is when conservative candidates begin
adopting progressive programs for fear of losing office. And across the
country, many GOP gubernatorial candidates have begun embracing progressive causes as a way to court the voters:
In the groundbreaking film An Inconvenient Truth, Vice President Al Gore makes an impressive case that it is now essential that the world act to prevent the potentially catastrophic implications of global warming. The film could not come at a more critical time. While the planet warms, Washington dawdles. The nation's political elite remains mired in a debate manipulated by powerful energy interests.
Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted
to create a health care plan to provide health care coverage for the
85,000 uninsured residents of that city. While there are additional
votes needed to finalize the bill, with a unanimous vote and the
endorsement of the mayor, the proposed ordinance is expected to become
law with no problem.
After years of stagnating wages for working Americans and inaction by
Congress, legislators and activists across the country are taking the
lead in securing higher minimum wages on a state by state basis. They
are achieving some outstanding results. Here's where the minimum wage
fight stands in a number of states:
Yesterday, a federal judge overturnedMaryland's
Fair Share Health Care law, which had required large employers such as
Wal-Mart to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care
for employees or pay the equivalent in fees to the state. The judge in
his decision argued that the federal ERISA (Employment Retirement Security Act) law preempted the Maryland law.
The reality for working Americans is that wages have been largely stagnant for
over three decades. For many workers -- especially those without a
college degree -- pay has actually gotten worse, meaning that this
generation is the first one in American history which is not doing
signficantly better than the previous one. Part of the reason for
these stagnant wages is that inflation was allowed to erode the federal
minimum wage-- its inflation-adjusted value dropping from $9.12 per hour in 1968 down to just $5.15 per hour in 2005.
Hawaii is the latest state moving in that direction with a proposed Hawaii Innovations Fund which could grow to $200 million in government funds over four years to invest in Hawaii's renewable energy, life science and technology companies.
Last week, the state of Marylandjoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of states -- now eight with Maryland's
membership -- that have committed to reduce emissions on four
pollutants and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 10 percent by 2019.