Category Archives: Democrats

Being A Moderate In A Polarized World

I have lived most of my adult life as the man in the middle. I tend to be a mediator when my friends argue. I actively avoid taking a side on most issues, because most issues are not black and white. 

When I was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press Editorial Board, I was asked if I was pro-life or pro-choice. I answered, “No.” I don’t like the political duopoly in the U.S., because most of the time the parties treat issues as for or against. On environmental issues, I agree with the Democrats that we need stronger regulations in many sectors, but I agree with the Republicans that the regulatory burden is often too great for small businesses. We should be able to find ways to both make our world cleaner and make it easier for businesses to understand and comply with regulations. 

I have heard pundits on both sides say that moderates just don’t have the courage to take a stand. Obviously, I think they are mistaken, but furthermore, I think that going against conventional wisdom often takes more courage, since the attacks come from all directions. As you can probably tell from my meme post, I tend to strike in all directions, but I am also looking for good ideas wherever I can find them. 

Too many people reject deals because they aren’t perfect. The Iran nuclear deal is an excellent example, because many people believe the U.S. gave up too much, but Iran feels, correctly, in my opinion, that giving up its nuclear weapons program is worth quite a bit. Liberals don’t like Obamacare because it isn’t single payer, conservatives don’t because it is too far from a free market. No deal is perfect, but sometimes good enough has to be good enough. 

The extremists usually only get things done through force, physical or otherwise. The moderates improve things peacefully.

Too bad there aren’t any left in Congress.

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Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 6 of 6)

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

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A Leader in the World

Asia-Pacific

Ignoring for a moment that the platform calls India “an important Pacific power”–Geography Check: Google Maps has the minimum distance from India to the Pacific Ocean as about 750 miles–the focus of this section is on improving relations with India while getting China to play fairly. I do sense a disconnect between the standard–since Woodrow Wilson–party policy of self-determination and the mention of supporting the “One China” policy regarding Taiwan. I’m also not happy that they ignored the current problems with border disputes in the region.

Middle East

Most of this section talks about Israel, and the Democratic platform is solidly pro-Israel. I know, for many reasons, that this has to be the default U.S. position, but I would like to see at least some trivial pushback Israel’s role in the stalled negotiations with the Palestinians. (I am hopeful that Netanyahu’s recent meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister is a sign of long overdue process.) The main thing missing in the platform is a call for more direct U.S. involvement in negotiations.

Europe

Essentially, all this is a statement of how important NATO is to U.S. security. I think they really missed an opportunity to talk about fighting against growing sectarianism and xenophobia in many European countries.

Americas

Besides emphasizing the anti-Trump position of opposing the wall that will never work, the message here is pretty good. I think reestablishing relations with Cuba was the right thing to do and continuing to move forward on that front is important. Venezuela is paying the price for its policies, and there is nothing in the platform that indicates a willingness to help them recover, just a call for their government to respect human rights and democracy. I would like to see more emphasis on helping to improve the economies of the Americas through strategic investments and infrastructure improvements, as I feel this is one of the best ways to control illegal immigration: People won’t want to leave home if they can find good jobs.

Africa

I would like to see an effort for the U.S. to emulate some methods of Chinese aid to Africa–notably, adding more commercial development–while pushing back against Chinese aid that ignores environmental concerns. Overall, it would be best if we could find some middle ground between traditional Western aid and Chinese aid and cooperate while competing. As in the rest of the world, I think we should focus charitable assistance on making sure all girls have an opportunity for an education.

Global Economy and Institutions

“Stay the course,” while (correctly) slamming Trump.

I am not happy with the way global economic institutions–namely the World Bank and International Monetary Fund–handled Greece. Yes, Greece did a horrible job of managing its finances, but the World Bank and IMF made the problem worse by calling for cuts without calling for the right cuts. Greece needed to maintain spending on infrastructure and cut spending on entitlements, but due to public pressure they initially cut infrastructure spending. This made bad economic problems much worse.

The World Bank and IMF need to shift focus from money to the larger economy. It’s better for banks to fail than for businesses to fail because the transportation and communications infrastructures in a country fail.


The main message of the Democratic platform, in my opinion, is that we are on the right track, but we need some tweaks. There is a lack of innovation and creativity. There’s nothing here that would make me excited to become a Democrat.

Frankly, the platform is boring. There are places where some imagination would go a long way toward engaging voters. Targeting Wall Street directly would help. Recommending some changes to the education system–besides adopting the NEA talking points–might attract more voters. Heck, even pumping up the Peace Corps and Job Corps would show young voters that the party wants to create more opportunities for them while helping the world.

I hope Bernie Sanders can shake things up a bit before this platform is finalized, but I am not hopeful.

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Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 5 of 6)

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

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Confront Global Threats

Terrorism

As I see it, the Democratic platform addresses half of the problem. Yes, we need to assemble and maintain an international coalition to defeat ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. Yes, it would be nice to end the Syrian Civil War in a manner that gets Assad out of power. Yes, we need to work with the international community to help the refugees in and around Syria.

The last of these is particularly important. We need to show those who currently hate the U.S. and Western culture that we aren’t the bad guys. We shouldn’t be known primarily as the ones dropping bombs and guiding drones. We should be known as the ones opening hospitals and schools, as helping farmers and small businesses, and as the ones making them feel safe.

The big picture is that too many people in the world feel hopeless. Hopeless people don’t see a problem with blowing themselves up, because they don’t think they have any reason to live. So, we should invest in schools, making especially sure that girls are getting educated. Make sure teenage girls have pads so they don’t miss several days of school every month. If girls are educated, they have fewer children, if for no other reason than they know where babies come from. Fewer children means more opportunity and resources for the children that are born. And, most importantly, hope. This isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight, but it could be fixed in one generation.

Iran, North Korea, and Russia

Decent sections, but essentially all they really say is “stay the course.” The position on Iran is to strengthen “our Gulf partners,” which I fear only exacerbates the Sunni-Shi’a conflict. The platform complains about human rights in Iran while ignoring the horrible human rights record of Saudi Arabia. It complains about Iran contributing to terrorist organizations while ignoring Saudi Arabia doing the same. Unfortunately, the Saudis are instrumental in our anti-Russia strategy: By keeping the supply of oil high, we have severely injured Putin’s economy. So, it’s complex, as usual.

Cybersecurity

Democrats will protect our industry, infrastructure, and government from cyberattacks. We will strengthen our cybersecurity, seek to establish global norms in cyberspace, and impose consequences on those who violate the rules. We will do all this while protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.

No, you won’t. Until the Democratic Party realizes that privacy and encryption are two sides of the same coin, they cannot be trusted to defend the online “privacy and civil liberties of the American people.” Effective encryption is one of the best ways to protect from cyberattacks, and the recently defeated Feinstein-Burr bill would have crippled encryption, making U.S. industry and the government more vulnerable to attack.

Elect some people who know technology. Hire some people who know technology. Don’t have technophobic senior citizens draft technology legislation.

Non-proliferation

The U.S. has made no progress toward nuclear disarmament since the 2010 New START, but relations with Putin would have made any progress difficult at best. The world is under 4,000 deployed warheads, and is on a downward track. It looks like proliferation is under control, with the exception of North Korea, as most countries with nuclear weapons, besides the U.S., Russia, United Kingdom, and France, do not have deployed nuclear weapons. It would take a while to activate and use those warheads.

I think we are getting to the point where the majority–90%+–of nuclear weapons could be secured to make them unusable without advance notice. For example, we could create a locking system that operates on a seven-day timer, where when the lock is started to be opened, the United Nations is notified. This, at least, would give countries a chance to come down from the brink prior to launch. I would suggest that a small number of warheads would remain unlocked as a deterrent to the one nuclear rogue state (North Korea), but if the North Koreans come into compliance, even that might not be needed.

I haven’t had coursework in nuclear proliferation in twenty-five years, so I am rusty on the subject.

Protect Our Values

By values, they mean inclusion and tolerance, which makes sense, to a point. I’m a fan of reciprocity: If you’re intolerant, I’m not terribly interested in tolerating your intolerance. If you or your group doesn’t believe that others should have the same rights and privileges that you have, I’m not terribly interested in protecting your advantage. My primary value is fairness. Without fairness, inclusion and tolerance don’t mean very much.

Women and Girls

As I said above, education is key here. I get why the platform puts such great importance on safe abortion for women abroad, as the restrictions currently in place are heavy-handed, but I’m not sure this is where I choose to fight my battles this election cycle.

Trafficking and Modern Slavery

There isn’t anything controversial here. I can’t see the Republicans thinking much differently.

Young People

I am cynical enough to believe this is self-serving, as younger people are generally more progressive. Having said that, this agrees with what I said above about the importance of education.

Religious Minorities

The difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans are mostly interested in protecting Christian religious minorities, and are fairly heartless toward Muslims.

Refugees

If your neighbors are in trouble, you help them. Republican policy toward Syrian refugees has been “Help yourselves–not our problem”…or worse. The Democrats are right on this one.

Civil Society

Democrats support progress towards more accountable governance and universal rights.

No argument there.

Anti-Corruption

I like what they say, but I don’t trust them to back up words with actions. Too many Wall Street people love their offshore tax havens for me to believe that the Democratic Party will make reasonable progress toward shutting them down.

Prove me wrong. Please.

Torture

The platform is unequivocal in its opposition to torture, and I agree. When I researched this issue years ago, I managed to find one case where torture actually worked: A carjacker stole a car with a baby in the back and abandoned the car in the summer sun. The carjacker was caught shortly thereafter and the police beat him until he told them where the car was, allowing them to save the baby. Having said that, most information acquired via torture is unreliable, so it should never be an official government policy. Even in the case I found, the police were willing to pay the price for torturing the carjacker, because it was worth it to save the baby (as it turned out, the carjacker took a plea bargain to avoid the kidnapping charge, so the police weren’t charged).

Closing Guantánamo Bay

Imprisoning people without charges for over a decade is wrong. Period. There is no declared war, and we have pulled most troops out of Afghanistan. If they are still a threat, charge them and move them to American prisons. If not, release them and let them go home.

Development Assistance

Yes! Americans routinely overestimate how much of the budget is spent on foreign aid: Most people think it is 25%, as opposed to the actual 1% of the budget. Money spent on foreign aid makes people like us, and, in most cases, it really doesn’t cost us anything, as there is a solid return on investment. For non-military aid, every dollar spent in aid results in seven dollars of economic activity in the U.S. economy. If this is taxed at the lowest standard rate of 15%, we break even.

International Labor

Democrats are right on this one as well. We need to make sure American companies aren’t exploiting lax foreign labor and environmental regulations to increase profits.


Tomorrow, I will cover the last section, “A Leader in the World,” as international relations is one of my strongest subjects.

Last night, I went to the Chattanooga FC match where they won the conference championship. The best thing about the night is that I let my daughter go where she wanted in the stadium, under my standard directive “Go talk to strangers!” People are good. She made new friends, and we had a great time. Get out of your bubbles and meet new people–especially those who are different from your current friends. Make the world a better place, one friend at a time.

CFC

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Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 4 of 6)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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Ensure the Health and Safety of All Americans

Universal Health Care

What the Democrats say here makes sense, but they miss a big chunk of the big picture. Yes, health care in a society like ours that can afford it should be a basic human right, and, therefore, universal health care should be a priority of government. (If you really want to question the constitutionality, I would argue that universal health care may be the perfect definition of “promote the general welfare” in the preamble.)

The big picture here is twofold. First, Republicans want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) to return health care in the U.S. to a free market. This is ignorant, for lack of a better term, as about half of U.S. health care was paid for by the government prior to Obamacare: There was already no free market, so repealing Obamacare cannot restore a free market unless they are calling for the simultaneous repeal of Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA.

Second, the U.S. operates at a severe disadvantage globally in manufacturing because of the way trade agreements now work. Governments are not, for the most part, allowed to subsidize exports. Governments are, however, allowed to provide health care for their citizens. The problem for the U.S. is that most manufacturers here have employee health care as one of their main expenses, and this is a cost that cannot be offset by export subsidies. As such, U.S. companies are not operating on a level playing field globally. Give U.S. workers universal health care and U.S. exports should increase rapidly–which would provide additional revenue and taxes to help offset the cost.

Community Health Centers

This is really the $64,000 question: How much of health care do we want to make public? If we make community health centers public, as opposed to the current norm of mostly private walk-in clinics, does that put us on track for public hospitals and a reduction in private research hospitals?

I honestly don’t know if this is good or bad, but I do think it is something that needs to be considered.

Prescription Drug Costs

I was on a drug that cost, without insurance, $120 per month. (For this and other reasons, I stopped taking it.) Had I bought the drug from a Canadian pharmacy, it would have cost me $60, including shipping. For a six month supply.

So I know from personal research and experience how bad this problem is. Because U.S. consumers pay more for prescription drugs than other countries, revenues from us fund most of the innovation in pharmaceutical research–along with, as the platform says, a ton of wasteful spending on advertising.

What the platform misses is that we need to address the problem of the lengthy approval process for new drugs. I propose two solutions:

  1. Tort reform: If an approved drug turns out to be harmful despite preapproval research indicating otherwise, we need to limit the liability of pharmaceutical companies–as long as doing this results in a corresponding reduction in the consumer costs for that company’s prescription drugs.
  2. An international consortium for prescription drug approval. We should be working with the rest of the world to determine the safety and efficacy of new prescription drugs. There’s no reason that Europe, Japan, China, India, and the U.S. should each separately bear the costs of reviewing new drugs, and there’s no reason that the pharmaceutical companies should have to pay for the research and paperwork needed for each country separately.

Medical Research

The platform wants to spend more on medical research. I agree. But, as for pharmaceuticals above, we need to streamline the approval process for new treatments and equipment by working with the rest of the world.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

The platform advocates for “expanding access to treatment, supporting recovery, helping community organizations, and promoting better practices by prescribers.” The opioid problem is increasing, and we need to encourage prescribers to use opioids as a last resort for pain management instead of often the first course of treatment.

Mental Health

Destigmatizing mental health issues is critical, and the platform calls for treating mental health and physical health similarly, which is an important step. The platform calls for a national initiative for suicide prevention–Zero Suicide–which doesn’t quite sit right with me. I don’t know if you need to treat suicide differently than the other results of mental health issues: I think that if you provide better access to mental health care and train all health care workers to spot mental health issues, reducing the number of suicides will follow. I don’t know if bringing attention to suicide will increase the number of people seeking help or the number of people looking at it as an appropriate outcome.

Once again, I am more ignorant on this issue than I would like, and I need to do more research.

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

The Democrats get this one about 98% correct, but I am concerned about the universality of legal unrestricted abortion. (See here.)

Violence Against Women and Sexual Assault

Yes, we absolutely need to continue to improve how police and school officials treat violence against women and sexual assault, and the platform gets that right. The culture of rape and the sexualization of women is a serious problem, and we need to educate people that this is not proper behavior.

What the platform misses is that there is another problem even more poorly handled by the legal system: men who are raped and abused by their partners (of both sexes). In many states rape is defined as being by a man against a woman, so prosecution may not even be possible. If a man goes into a police station to report a rape–especially by a woman–the probability is that he will be ridiculed or asked why he is complaining. Surveys indicate that men are sexually assaulted as often as women. And woe to the man who fights back….

We shouldn’t treat it as a one-way street. Women shouldn’t accept abuse, and men shouldn’t ever feel that it is acceptable to abuse–but the reverse is also true. No one has the right to abuse someone else, and no one should ever feel that being abused is acceptable.

Gun Violence Prevention

Yeah, nice words, but your actions have spoken differently. Of the four amendments that came up last month, the one the party fought hard for the one that sucked (using the no-fly list without due process) and opposed two Republican amendments that were reasonable, if imperfect–they were still better than nothing, and they were good starting points for negotiation.

The party is more concerned in using the issue for marketing than in actually getting something done. (See A Fistful of Dollars for a more complete review.)

Principled Leadership

Almost a page of content, over a page of an anti-Trump tirade–not that ranting against Donald Trump is unnecessary or unwarranted.

Essentially, it boils down to globalism vs. isolationism, caution vs. recklessness, cooperation vs. coercion. I find it darkly amusing that the Democrats adopt these ideals internationally but not domestically. The platform does give President Obama a bit more credit than is warranted, but that’s understandable and expected for the Democratic platform.

Support Our Troops and Keep Faith with Our Veterans

Most of the rest of this section consists of reforming the Department of Defense and the VA, and I don’t have much argument with anything they say here.


Nine parts down, four to go. I’m guessing that means this will be a six-part series overall, unless one of the next sections is particularly complex. Off to see Chattanooga FC play Memphis City FC for the NPSL Southeast Conference Championship. Enjoy your weekend!

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Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 3 of 6)

Part 1

Part 2

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Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice

The Democrats are far, far better on environmental issues than the Republicans. I am interested to see what the Republican platform says, but my guess is that it will be wrong on climate change. Overall, I am disappointed in this section only being a page and a half long.

Clean Energy Economy

I like what the platform says here, especially about wanting to make a huge push toward clean energy in the next decade. I would like to see something about how cutting reliance on fossil fuels will also help the trade deficit and reduce the income potential for Middle Eastern terrorist organizations, like ISIS. (That it also hurts Putin’s Russia is a bonus.)

Environmental and Climate Justice

This is an interesting section, but, like some previous sections, it does more problem definition than suggesting solutions. People responsible for water poisoning like what happened in Flint need to be held accountable with jail time. We need to make sure that communities threatened by climate change get the resources they need to lessen the effects of rising sea levels or dangerous storms. Loan guarantees to help people make their homes and businesses more resistant to storms would be a good first step.

Public Lands and Waters

I love the National Park Service. Western senators, typically Republicans, continuously push to allow for mineral and forestry exploitation of public lands. We need to carefully review such requests to make sure that the long-term environmental effects are trivial. I would have liked to see the platform call for fully funding the National Park Service, which, from an economic standpoint, makes sense, as the 10-to-1 return on investment for the economy means the government makes a profit on funds invested.

Provide Quality and Affordable Education

Higher Education

Given Clinton’s recent statements on making public four-year colleges free for families making under $125,000 per year, I expect this section to be updated, as this version only calls for making community colleges free. I would prefer that this section not only focus on college education, but a return to vocational education as well, since many jobs don’t–or shouldn’t!–require four-year degrees.

Student Debt

I would prefer to see some means here to give preferential treatment to students in majors where there’s a realistic career path, but what is here is pretty good.

For-Profit Schools

Tightening the requirements for for-profit schools is a must. We are wasting billions of dollars in federal financial aid on these schools. I know it’s anecdotal, but I have yet to know someone who has received long-term gainful employment as a result of a degree from one of these places.

Early Childhood, Pre-K, and K-12

This section hits the buzzwords, but I’m not sure it actually changes anything.

  • Early Head Start – Check
  • High academic standards – Check
  • Better balance on testing – Check
  • Mentoring – Check
  • Recruiting teachers – Check
  • STEM – Check
  • Opposed to for-profit charter schools – Check

While they stay the course, the Republicans are supporting things that actually damage the system:

Testing will still be fatally flawed, unless they can grasp the concept that the only way to measure student progress is to get a baseline at the beginning of the term, test at the end, and compare the difference. Measure improvement, not the actual final score.


For a party that is supposedly progressive, there’s very little progressive in their positions on the environment and education. I don’t expect to get to Part 4 (Healthcare and “Principled Leadership”) until Monday, so enjoy your weekend.

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Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 2 of 6)

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Part 1

Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Create Ladders of Opportunity

Wow. That’s a mouthful. On principle, I hate it. “We will work to break down barriers standing in the way of Americans and replace them with ladders of opportunity.” Please point me to the mission statement committee so I can berate them appropriately.

Don’t misunderstand me: I like the overall objective.

Racial Wealth Gap

Two paragraphs stating the case, one sentence of

“Democrats believe it is long past time to close this racial wealth gap by eliminating systemic barriers to wealth accumulation for different racial groups and improving opportunities for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to build wealth”

There are no policy recommendations here. I can only conclude that the Democratic Party is paying lip service to the problem. Democratic policy recommendations on other issues will help all poor people, and minorities are disproportionately poor, but if you aren’t specifically targeting remedies for past discrimination, you’re only addressing part of the problem. (I do have policy ideas–but this is not the time.)

Criminal Justice

There’s a lot of good stuff here. Closing private prisons is a great idea, although one that will take time. I’ve always hated mandatory minimum sentencing, but we need to make sure that judicial supervisors have data to make certain that all defendants are tried and sentenced fairly. We don’t need judges who sentence minority offenders three times longer than white offenders.

Ending profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin is also important. Body cameras probably need to become standard issue, now that they are light enough and cheap enough. I am disturbed that the platform only calls for reforms of civil asset forfeiture, when the abuses of the system indicate that it probably needs to be scrapped completely. I could support a system where assets are seized, held until criminal charges are concluded, then either released–if the defendant is found not guilty–or confiscated as part of the sentence.

Reforming the prison system to put a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and education instead of punishment also makes sense. I have been against the death penalty for years, so I am glad the platform is unequivocal in its opposition.

I wish the platform was more supportive of decriminalization–nay, legalization–of marijuana. Instead, it chooses to leave the issue to the states, while mentioning unfair arrest rates for African-Americans and problems facing marijuana businesses.

Immigration

I like the tone of this section. I especially like the mistake, where they refer to E Pluribus Unum as the national motto. (It was replaced, mistakenly, in my opinion, in 1956 by “In God We Trust.”)

I do think, however, that the policy recommendations are bandages and not cures. Reuniting families, providing paths to citizenship, focusing enforcement efforts on lawbreakers, and making sure unaccompanied children have legal representation are all worthy goals, but they don’t address the underlying problem. And it is a problem, despite the platform stating “Immigration is not a problem to be solved, it is a defining aspect of the American character and history.”

My question to people who want to build a wall on the Mexican border is a simple one: How long does it take for a Mexican citizen without family already living in the U.S. going through legal channels to immigrate to the U.S.?

The answer, which shocks most people, is “Forever.”

This section does mention needing to help Central American countries solve the problems that cause people to want to leave, and that’s important. (Too many people who are anti-immigrant are also anti-foreign aid, which I find foolish.) Finally, the platform condemns Trump’s religious litmus test for refugees, as it should. Not that such a test would be remotely constitutional….

Civil Rights and LGBT Rights

The platform implies that Democrats support adding gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity as protected civil rights classes, and I agree with that position. The rest of the section focuses on condemning hate speech, with a jab at Trump thrown in for good measure.

Disability Rights

I got called out on Twitter on the 4th, asking if I would support Sen. Schumer’s Disability Integration Act. I was skeptical, as Schumer tends to be a good distance to the left of me, but the DIA makes a lot of sense. Simply put, I look at it as replicating the shift from orphanages to foster care, but instead, it moves Americans with disabilities from community homes by providing families with the means and support to care for them at home. The expectation is that this will either result in a cost savings–the cost of home visits by professional caregivers is outweighed by the savings of a group home–or little additional cost. The benefit, of course, is increased freedom for Americans with disabilities. Yeah, I got behind that one.

The platform doesn’t mention DIA explicitly, but it does recommend policy changes, like tax breaks for families caring for the disabled, that would mesh well with it.

Poverty / Communities Left Behind

This section consists mostly of throwing money at the problem and promoting current popular programs. I would like to see a bit more creativity here. How about a program where companies get tax credits for opening facilities in impoverished neighborhoods–if they hire a certain percentage of the new employees from those neighborhoods? You get the double whammy of providing jobs and short commutes that will help the environment.

So, no, I’m not a big fan of this section.

Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations

This is a page and a half section with a laundry list of things to do for American Indians. I’d be happier if it included the phrase “We will honor our treaty obligations.”

I am guessing that the Democratic proposals will be significantly better than whatever the Republicans propose–if anything–and if any of this passes it would be very helpful. I’ve seen the poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation with my own eyes. Most of what the Democrats propose are ways to spend money, with only a token mention of investment. Improving the economies of American Indian lands is critical to pulling these areas out of poverty. Without plans to help tribal leaders do this, the rest is almost pointless.

I’m not comfortable on this issue, and I’m doing more research.

People of the Territories

We support full self-government and self-determination for the people of the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and their right to decide their future status.

Pretty simple–and right on the money. If I recall correctly, American Samoa has the highest level of military service anywhere. The fact that they can’t vote for president is just stupid.

Puerto Rico

Self-determination and debt restructuring. Pretty straightforward stuff, but, as with the section on American Indians, little about how to help Puerto Rico’s economy.

Protect Voting Rights, Fix Our Campaign Finance System, and Restore Our Democracy

Voting Rights

We must restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. We will bring our democracy into the 21st century by expanding early voting and vote-by-mail, implementing universal automatic voter registration, same day voting, ending partisan and racial gerrymandering, and making Election Day a national holiday. We will restore voting rights for those who have served their sentences. And we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.

I would add to this that we should look into online voting for people who cannot make it to polling places. I don’t have a problem with requiring voters to have a photo ID, but I do think states need to make these IDs free–so that they aren’t a poll tax–and they need to provide free transportation and assistance to anyone who needs help in getting one.

Campaign Finance

We need to correct the influx of political money from corporations and the wealthy caused by Citizens United. The platform says this, but I don’t see any specific means of addressing the problem. They suggest “executive order or legislation,” but I’m not sure these would stand up in court. I don’t know if an amendment is needed, but it might be. Again, the platform identifies the problem, but is weak on specifics.

Judges

We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion, curb billionaires’ influence over elections because they understand that Citizens United has fundamentally damaged our democracy, and see the Constitution as a blueprint for progress.

I hate litmus tests on either side. I would prefer a more general statement about appointing judges with a certain perspective on the Constitution, but it is what it is. The Republican platform will be just as inadequate from the opposite perspective.

Management of Federal Government

We will also ensure that new spending and tax cuts are offset so that they do not add to the nation’s debt over time.

Boring.

Tell me what you’ll actually do to attack the debt. Have some courage and say tax increases might be necessary. They do talk about “progressive investments” to create middle-class jobs.

I’d like to see something innovative here, but they are too dependent on the system.


Tomorrow, if I have time, I’ll get to the sections on the environment and education.

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Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 1 of 6)

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The Democratic Party released a draft of their 2016 platform on July 1. It is subdivided into 13 sections. Here’s what I think about the first two (If I passed over an issue, I agree with it, or, at least, have no significant quarrel with it):

Raise Incomes and Restore Economic Security for the Middle Class

Minimum Wage

The platform supports raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and indexing it–making it rise with inflation.

I think this makes sense. I think it may need to be phased in and there might be some room for exceptions for workers under age 18 living at home–to avoid job loss for these workers. Overall, though, it’s a solid position.

Labor

The Democratic Platform unequivocally supports unions.

Unions were a significant contributing factor to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, and the corresponding loss of power made sense. However, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Employers have seized power, and current laws have helped them do so.

I like most of the platform in this area, with two minor exceptions:

  1. I’m not sure I like mandatory union dues. We have seen corrupt unions in the past, and one way to fight corruption is to allow workers to not pay dues. Yes, I know that union members can vote out leaders they don’t like, but that isn’t always effective. If workers feel like they are getting a good return on investment, they’ll pay dues.
  2. I understand why the Democratic Party wants to allow voluntary membership payments to be used for political purposes, but I would be happier if this died–as long as Citizens United is overturned and corporate political contributions are also curtailed.

Equal Pay, Paid Leave, and Caregiving

The United States is not the only country without paid maternity leave. Papua New Guinea also doesn’t offer it.

Every other country has paid maternity leave.

We need to fix this. If anything, the Democratic Party Platform doesn’t go far enough.

Housing

I’m not entirely happy with the interventionist approach in the platform. I’m not necessarily opposed to the ideas in the platform, but it seems to me like the solutions may actually lead to an increase in real estate values–and costs–by creating an artificial government-supported floor in rents. However, I will freely admit that this is not an area where I have put much research.

Social Security

I agree with the platform’s desire to tax Americans with incomes over $250,000 to properly fund the Social Security Trust Fund. I am not sure why they don’t want to tax incomes between the current limit of $118,500 and $250,000. (Could that be where the salary of Members of Congress lies?) Realistically, the cap should be eliminated entirely.

The platform is also adhering to the AARP directive not to raise the retirement age. When Social Security started, the life expectancy for Americans was 62. Now it’s 79. I think we would be better off allowing Americans to take partial Social Security if they wanted to work part-time, giving them the opportunity to remain active in a job they enjoy while not penalizing them for doing so. In the grand scheme of things, I would not be opposed to indexing the retirement age to the average life expectancy.

Create Good-Paying Jobs

Infrastructure

The platform understands the importance of infrastructure investment, but misses what is perhaps the best selling point: return on investment.

Transportation projects vary wildly in their returns on investment, with some projects, frankly, being bad investments. Building new roads has a significantly lower return than repairing existing roads, for example. However, sewer and water projects are almost always good investments, with one study indicating a $2.03 return in tax revenue for every dollar spent. I think we need to prioritize investment based on expected return, so that, in effect, early projects fund later ones.

I hope the commitment to high-speed internet isn’t just lip service, but I’m cynical. The cable and telecom companies managed to shut down EPB’s expansion here via government intervention.

Manufacturing

Yawn.

The only specific policy in this section is to “claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.”

You can do better.

Research, Science, and Technology

I would have liked to have seen a specific NASA call-out here. I like that they specifically endorse net neutrality. However…

Democrats value American innovation and believe it is one of our country’s great strengths. We will protect the intellectual property rights of artists, creators, and inventors at home and abroad. The entire nation prospers when we promote the unique and original artistic and cultural contributions of the women and men who create and preserve our nation’s heritage.

Democrats will fight against unfair theft of intellectual property and trade secrets. We will also increase access to global markets for American intellectual property and other digital trade by opposing quotas, discriminatory measures, and data localization requirements.

This sounds really good, but part of it isn’t. When the first copyright laws were enacted in the U.S., the term was fourteen years, plus an additional fourteen if the creator was alive to renew it. Now the term is seventy years after the death of the creator, or ninety-five years for a work for hire. This length of time is extreme, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty would make that length standard throughout the treaty signatories. Creative works need to enter the public domain in a more reasonable period. I recall reading a suggestion that called for shorter renewal periods–like five to ten years–but for a minimal fee. If the creator or the creator’s estate didn’t renew or didn’t feel the work was worth renewing, the work would enter the public domain. Probably 95% of creative works don’t make any money after five years of their publication, so we could see a huge boon in works available for adaptation or production. Instead, we have a country where almost everything published after 1923 is still under copyright.

Fixing our Financial System

Theoretically, this part is pretty good. It is very confrontational though: It would be nice if there were some middle ground here where cooperation with Republicans could achieve something. Breaking up the “too big to fail” institutions and committing to putting individuals in jail for financial crimes is refreshing, but I think it’s all talk and no bite. The weaselly sentence, “We acknowledge that there is room within our party for a diversity of views on a broader financial transactions tax,” does concern me, as it makes clear that there are some in the party who want to keep the status quo.

Stopping Corporate Concentration

Antitrust regulation is mostly ineffective, with the notable recent exceptions of Comcast/Time-Warner and AT&T/T-Mobile. The Democrats want to strengthen antitrust legislation and enforcement, which is critical to reducing income inequality.

Taxes

I agree with what the Democrats want to do with taxes–I just question whether it’s politically feasible. I would like to see a focus on working with allies abroad at closing tax havens, rather than trying to solve the problem solely through legislation at home.

Trade

I think the Democratic platform is too protectionist, paying more attention to feelings than to facts. Of the twenty countries with whom the U.S. has free trade agreements, we have a trade surplus with sixteen. I agree that we need to include worker and environmental protection in free trade agreements to make sure that companies don’t move jobs overseas just to skirt U.S. laws. Most trade agreements cost some jobs while creating others, and lawmakers need to recognize that. I am happy with specifically calling out access to prescription drugs in this section, but the ambiguous statement about the TPP doesn’t please me.


Tomorrow, hopefully, I will address civil rights and voting rights.

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