Nine Ideas Up for Grabs

20 Oct

Economist Robert Reich (Secretary of Labor under Clinton) has nine suggestions for specific reforms (from Salon magazine).

One, Anger (cf Occupy America and Change History):

What’s needed isn’t just big ideas. It’s people fulminating for them – making enough of a ruckus that the ideas can’t be ignored. They become part of the debate because the public demands it.

Two, jobs:

The nation needs a real jobs plan, one of sufficient size and scope to do the job – including a WPA and a Civilian Conservation Corps, to put the millions of long-term unemployed and young unemployed to work rebuilding America.

Three, to address long-term debt, raise money by:

What about halving the military budget …? It doubled after 9/11, and military contractors are intent on keeping it in the stratosphere. . . .

And what about really raising taxes on the rich to finance what the nation should be doing to create a world-class workforce with world-class wages? . . . Incomes of more than $5 million should be subject to a 70 percent rate. (The top marginal rate was never below 70 percent between 1940 and 1980.) And these rates should apply to all income regardless of source, including capital gains. . . .

And a tax on financial transactions. Even a tiny one of one-half of one percent would generate $200 billion a year. That’s enough to make a major contribution toward early childhood education for every American toddler.

Four, healthcare:

We need Medicare for all. Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurers.

Five, financial reform:

The President’s financial reforms are also a beginning but they’re way too weak to stop Wall Street depredations. (At this moment, for example, no one even knows the exposure of Wall Street banks to European banks and, through them, Europe’s debt crisis.)

We need to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act and break up the biggest banks.

Six, Social Security:

But the best way to ensure the program’s long-term solvency is to lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes (now $106,800.)

Seven, Unions:

Workers should be able to form unions through a simple up-or-down vote, without delay.

Eight, Environment:

We should tax carbon-based fuels, and divide the revenues equally among all Americans.

Nine, election reform:

Finally, we need public financing of elections and strict limits on so-called “independent” expenditures. Corporations should have to get the approval of every shareholder before spending corporate funds – the shareholders’ money – on politics.


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