Our Years Ahead

This fall there are lots of candidates without a sustainable economic vision. We need to make sure they get there – they should decide today to support these 5 policy proposals that address our immediate and future needs. Polling shows that there is wide public support for these proposals – there is no good reason they should not become law.

We have five questions we hope you, our best advocates, will ask your local candidates. Call them up, and report back your answers in the comments.

We generally support candidates that will hold the big banks accountable and prevent the reckless behavior that caused the economy to collapse and cost 8 million Americans their jobs. We vote for candidates that have a vision of a stable, growing economy populated by millions of small and medium sized businesses rather than big business speculation, regionally-based industry, healthy competition, rising wages, and one that supports innovation in industry and stability in the workforce. This may sound ambitious during a time of recession, but as history has shown, the only way out of this recession is to dream big and try big projects, in the best American tradition.

1. Full employment: Do you support Rep Conyers’ proposal of a deficit-neutral program that funds jobs with a tax and curbing of Wall Street transactions?

In a healthy economy, everyone who can work and wants to work should be able to find a job. It is highly wasteful, and bad for communities, family, and human dignity to have a 10% unemployment rate. When the economy goes through a recession, rather than spend our tax dollars that go to CEO pay, the government should invest directly in jobs – hire people to fix bridges, teach under-staffed schools, refit homes to make them energy neutral, lay train tracks, and build wind turbines. We support President Obama’s proposal to put people to work building a 21st century roads and rail system. We also support Rep. Conyers’ proposal of a deficit-neutral program that funds jobs with a tax and curbing of Wall Street transactions.

[A February 2010 Lake Research poll showed “solid pluralities, including among independents, prefer the (progressive) Democratic position on job creation and putting Americans back to work to the GOP’s (46% of Democrats)”]

2. Financial Transactions Tax: Do you support legislation sponsored by Tom Harkin and DiFazio for a financial transactions tax?

We support legislation sponsored by Tom Harkin and DiFazio that would make banks pay a tax on the casino culture of Wall Street. This is a sales tax on their sales of complicated financial instruments.  To pay for our deficit and social programs, we should make banks pay a sales tax on their sales of exotic financial instruments. Economists think even a tiny such tax (less than 1%) could bring in between $250 billion and $350 billion/year, which would help pay for new teachers, modernize millions of homes to make them more energy efficient, shrink our financial sector, and meet the tax shortfall of our cities and towns since the financial crisis.  This would help prevent another crisis by discouraging transactions that have no real value, and will help reduce the deficit. Opponents won’t support the tax because they work for Wall Street, not the people.

[A January 2010 poll showed that 81% of Americans agree with the
following strongly worded statement. “We need to rein in the greedy, reckless behavior of the big banks on Wall Street that cost millions of jobs and led to huge bailouts on our dime. This tax will put a limit on the casino culture of Wall Street that provides no real value and only exists to line the banker’s pockets. This reform will strengthen our financial system to help prevent another crisis and reduce the deficit.” ]

3. Break up the Banks: Do you support legislation that would break up the too big to fail banks?

We support legislation that would make sure no more banks get to be too big to fail and require government bailouts. Opponents want all the “Too Big to Fail” banks to continue to suck huge profits out of innocent people, receive taxpayer handouts for their dangerous risk taking, and destroy our economy. Our small and medium banks tend to serve their customers better and take on less risk. Breaking up our largest financial institutions opens up the industry to greater competition from small and medium banks, leading to better products for consumers and more small business lending. It would also help to limit the financial industry’s corruptive influence over federal policy making.

[ In a January 2010 Lake Research poll, Americans gave a 6.9 out of 10 rating (very to absolutely the most important reform) in a measurement of the importance of different reform proposals to “cap[ping] the size of banks and financial firms to prevent them from becoming so big that taxpayers would need to bail them out in a crisis”. A May 2010 Fox News poll showed that 69% of Americans favor new stricter controls and regulations on Wall Street and financial services industry, 20% oppose.  ]

The Mortgage Crisis

4. Housing Market Reset: Do you support legislation sponsored by Jeff Merkley that would make sure that the big banks do not get to make homeowners pay all the cost of the bad and deceptive deals they make. Instead, they should have to renegotiate for fair home prices?

Legislation sponsored by Jeff Merkley would make sure that the big banks do not get to make homeowners pay all the cost of the bad and deceptive deals they make. Instead, they should have to renegotiate for fair home prices. Foreclosures are bad for employment, bad for communities, bad for people, and they leave homes wasting. The banks that got the government to bail them out should have to come to the table.

[In a May 2010 CBS News poll showed that 56% of Americans think the government should help homeowners with mortgage issues.  “Americans disapprove of the government bailing out the banks and U.S. automakers, but they support help for ailing homeowners.”]

5. Right to Rent: Do you support the proposal made by economist Dean Baker that people who bought their homes for far more than they were worth should have the right to stay in their homes if they pay fair market rental value for them?

We support the proposal made by economist Dean Baker that people who bought their homes for far more than they were worth should have the right to stay in their homes if they pay fair market rental value for them. Many homeowners are under water at no fault of their own. For every homeowner helped by HAMP to avoid foreclosure, 10 were foreclosed on – this proposal keeps people in their homes but does not cost the taxpayer a dime. This would help save our communities from the blight of foreclosure, and encourage care and investment in homes, while forcing the big banks to negotiate with innocent home owners.

[“Homeowners who are simply underwater would likely be able to afford market rents,” says Ingrid Gould Ellen, an economist at New York University who helped current Housing and Urban Development secretary Shaun Donovan]

Please tell us what you hear in the comments.


What a Sustainable Economic Vision Looks Like

We are at a historic moment in our history. There are two completely different visions of our future economy.

The unsustainable vision is an economy dominated by a few dozen enormous corporations. Proponents believe that when big business does well, everyone else does well. This vision rewards debt-fueled growth, unproductive speculation, and overly concentrated power. We’ve already seen where that leads us–instability, crisis, unemployment over 10% in much of the country, empty homes, wasted jobs, overpacked schools, uncertainty and unhappiness and severely divided social classes.  This is our recent past, and this is our current economy. Republicans and some Democrats openly admit they plan to support loopholes that make it easier for Wall Street and big business to keep doing business as usual. They continue to gamble away our jobs, retirement funds, homes, city and state budgets, and tax dollars – and it is dangerous.

The sustainable vision is one built around fair wages and good jobs, with millions of small and medium sized businesses, regionally-based industry, healthy competition, rising wages, innovation in industry and stability in the workforce. We’ve already seen where this leads us — better, more secure jobs, great schools, creativity, community, stable lives that allow for innovation, and social mobility. This is our post-war America, where we overcame Jim Crow and created industries that spread throughout the world. We plan to take on the big banks that broke the economy and make sure they pay to rebuild our country.

A healthy economy builds on our traditional strengths as a country, where we nourish individual entrepeneurs and local investment. Small and medium businesses tend to care more for their workers, be more attentive to environmental concerns, and don’t get the same tax breaks and poltical muscle of big businesses. While big business is a threat to democracy, small business is its partner. A healthy economy values rising wages over lowering wages, and includes a high degree of local manufacturing, so that foreign prices can’t destabilize the basic market.

We should aim for a less speculative economy than the one we’ve had for 30 years – it leads to maximum employment, better jobs, an increasing living standard, more socially beneficial innovation, and a sound social and economic infrastructure. Less of our economic activity should be tied up in risk, we should be investing in humans and the infrastructure we need to lead healthy lives.

There is no question that people are suffering and looking for something to blame. Foreclosures are destroying communities, but also people’s dignity. Republicans are blaming immigrants, and the qu’aran, and democrats, but the real culprit is big banks and corporate handouts. There is plenty of money that can flow in the economy, it is just in the wrong place. We can decide to take history by the horns, and reward education instead of speculation, and small business instead of corporate takeovers.

More policy demands will be posted shortly.

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