What Would a Real Opposition Party of the People Do?

Image by Teemu Paananen.

We are currently at the mercy of a cabal of self-righteous Christian zealots with a 6-3 grip on the US Supreme Court and on Congress, thanks to an arcane structure designed by slave-owning wealthy men who handed the power to a Senate dominated by small-state rich people and to their party of Christian fascists and ordinary fascists.

If the US were a real democracy, there would be a courageous leftist people’s party to resist this grotesque situation. Instead we have the Democratic Party, a collection of wealthy, campaign bribe-grasping, gutless and smug career politicians, ready to compromise any principle to stay in office and serve those willing to pay the most for their support.

How else to explain not only the Democrats’ continuing support of candidates and of hack politicians seeking re-election who have no interest in doing what the public wants (cancellation of student debt, access to abortions and contraception, free government-funded healthcare for all, a much smaller and non-interventionist military, real action on climate change, more funding for public schools, more generous Social Security, a liveable minimum wage, etc., etc.

So let’s imagine what a real People’s Party and its elected representatives and president would do. Here’s my list:

1: Immediately cancel all student debt, and make public colleges tuition-free as they were intended to be. (What’s too lose? Tens of millions of people of all ages living in debt peonage would instantly become enthusiastic voters for the party that freed them, even if, and perhaps especially if the measure had to be defended in court.)

2: Raise the tax rate on the wealthy with the maximum rate of 90% on all income over $1 million. And do it in a way that is significant enough that all Americans earning less than $200,000 for a family see a substantial tax cut as a result, and at the same time raise the federal minimum wage immediately to $20/hour –we’ve been talking about $15 for so long inflation has left that number in the dust! — and peg it going forward to the annual CPI increase. (Virtually all ordinary Americans want these things done!)

3. Tax all income, including investment income, for the payroll tax that funds Social Security, and don’t tax Social Security benefits for anyone earning less in total than $100,000 a year. Also don’t raise the tax on individuals above the current already high 6.2%. Raise it on the employer, say to 8.2% of payroll, and stop the nonsense bout a 50-50 split in that tax being the rule. Meanwhile raise Social Security benefits for the lowest income retirees so that no one receives so little in benefits that they are below the poverty line. (Again, almost all Americans support this.)

4. Following the Supreme Court’s deceitful overturning of Roe v. Wade, immediately declare a national emergency and open federal women’s health and abortion clinics in federal buildings of all states that seek or have already passed laws to ban abortions in their borders. Meanwhile, for low-income women who don’t want an abortion provide government funded pre-natal care and lodging if a home is needed, free Ob-gyn services and delivery, and child care, housing and food assistance for the first five years of life, which if anti-abortion zealots oppose they should be called out as hypocrites for. (54% of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s action outlawing abortion and 4% more are undecided. Only 40% support it.)

Follow up by launching impeachment proceedings against the last three seated Supreme Court justices who are all guilty of lying under oath at their Senate hearings about Roe v. Wade being ‘settled law,’ an impeach Justice Clarence Thomas for voting on cases in which his wife has an interest. If that fails act to add four more judges to the court — and nominate them right away. (The Supreme Court today is widely loathed. This idea should be popular.)

5. Release all prison inmates locked up while awaiting trial because they cannot pay cash bail. Free all sentenced prisoners who are over 60. Period, And end all life sentences and solitary confinement. (Some people may oppose this idea but what we’re doing now, locking people up until they die in the US ain’t working, and this proposal will prove itself to be the right thing to do fairly quickly as old inmates return to families, don’t return to crime, and the costs of our massive prison system plummets.)

6. Cut the military budget by 50 percent and demand that the Pentagon to do a thorough line by line justification for the amount requested on every line in its next year budget proposal. (Most people know the Pentagon is a huge money-wasting machine that sucks up half of the income taxes collected every year, and doesn’t make the country safe or even win wars — but makes the US globally hated.)

7. Open the the books on the CIA, NSA, DIA, Fusion Centers, Joint Terrorism Strike Force and other intelligence organizations, and end all surveillance and spying on the American public. (No democratic government can have secret budgets and survive.)

8. End federal subsidies to all energy companies and provide federal subsidies instead to individuals for installation of home solar and wind electric generation systems and in-ground heat pumps. (Everyone’s seeing energy companies jacking prices to earn record profits. Why on earth are we subsidizing them even as they fuel our way to climate armageddon?)

9. Terminate federally subsidized flood insurance for all properties in regions subject to climate change flooding and substitute relocation assistance funding only for those seeking to move to higher, drier ground. (inland taxpayers should not be reimbursing people for staying on low-lying sea-front properties that are destined to be underwater in a short time. (On Hawaii’s Big Island, people who buy property and build a home or buy an existing home on the slopes of Mt. Kilauea, the island’s active volcano, are warned that if the lava erupts and runs over their home, there will be no effort to rescue it and no insurance to reimburse them. With rising seas it should be the same.)

10. Put the federal government — in the form of civil service employees not political appointees — in charge of all elections, and mandate simple written mail-in ballots and online voting as well as in-person voting with every vote receiving a paper receipt, showing how each voter voted. Elections should not ever be the responsibility of a party that is in power, or of any elected official like a Secretary of State. (Obviously the likelihood of election hanky panky is vastly greater for someone who has to face the voters than workers who simply work for the state on a salary, regardless what party is in power. Even a MAGA-wearing mouth-breather ought to recognize that reality. )

11. Declare a national education emergency, and provide federal aid to hire additional teachers in any school district where elementary school classrooms have more than 25 students. Also provide federal funding for child care of pre-school children, which would be the best jobs program the government could offer, hands down. (Another no-brainer that should be hugely popular.)

12. Provide federal funding for free mass transit in every city, and a subsidy for intercity rail travel to make it affordable to all. (If cities in Europe can do this with their much costlier and modern mass transit systems, so can we with our much smaller systems.)

13. End the corporate offshoring of profits and other tax dodges. If companies want to sell their products in the US, they either have to make them here or they have to pay the taxes on profits they earn producing them abroad. Foreign taxes paid by corporations should not be deductible in calculating domestic profits taxes due. (Again, almost nobody but corporations and big financial investors would back this.)

14. Declare everyone of every age eligible for Medicare, and expand Medicare immediately to cover the costs of Parts B and D for all. Eliminate Medicaid and terminate the stealth Medicare privatization program deceptively dubbed Medicare Advantage. (Since everyone would be on government healthcare companies would no longer have to offer private insurance, which employees usually have to contribute premiums to and pay co-pays on, so there’d be both instant savings for workers and companies, and good grounds for workers to demand raises or to organize a union if the employer doesn’t do that.)

15. Ban high-speed computerized trading and tax all short-term trading on both the buy and sell side at 1 percent of each trade. (Since this measure would raise vast sums to support the above proposals, and most Americans if they own stocks at all are buy-and-hold investors and mostly have their stocks in tax-deferred retirement funds anyhow, they would not be impacted at all.)

That’s only a start, and some of these measures would surely be challenged in court, but making these moves would show a will of a real People’s Party to govern in the interests of us and not of the moneyed interests — corporate and individual.

And yet, not one of these 15 ideas is being proposed much less being acted on or promoted by the Democratic Party or even by more than a handfull of its elected politicians. Why? Because the Democratic Party is not a people’s party. It’s a party of, by, and for the rich disguising itself as a party for ordinary people.

I encourage readers to send in other good proposals for a real People’s Democratic Party wish list.

CounterPunch contributor DAVE LINDORFF is a producer along with MARK MITTEN on a forthcoming feature-length documentary film on the life of Ted Hall and his wife of 51 years, Joan Hall. A Participant Film, “A Compassionate Spy” is directed by STEVE JAMES and will premiere Sept. 2 at the Venice Film Festival. Lindorff is also writing a book on Ted Hall titled “A Spy for No Country,” to be published in Fall 2023 by Prometheus Press.