Agenda

In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it. Gilens and Page

We should be voting for an agenda, as well as candidates. Candidates say different things to different audiences to get elected.

In a real democracy, supposedly the majority rules, but it is becoming clear that we are not a democracy. As Lawrence Lessig has written in his freely-downloadable, public domain book, we have lost our Republic.

Since the outcome of elections is questionable, the only way to judge the legitimacy of the government is to observe whether it acts in accordance with the wishes and needs of the people. Since Trump, it is not even close.

Here's what a majority of Americans want. The GOP wants none of these.

Allow Government to Negotiate Drug Prices (79%)
Give Students the Same Low Interest Rates as Big Banks (78%)
Universal Pre-Kindergarten (77%)
Raise the minimum wage (76% Gallup)
Fair Trade that Protect Workers, the Environment, and Jobs (75%)
End Tax Loopholes for Corporations that Ship Jobs Overseas (74%)
End Gerrymandering (73%)
Let Homeowners Pay Down Mortgage With 401k (72%)
Debt-Free College at All Public Universities (Message A) (71%)
Infrastructure Jobs Program — $400 Billion / Year (71%)
Require NSA to Get Warrants (71%)
Disclose Corporate Spending on Politics/Lobbying (71%)
Medicare Buy-In for All (71%)
Close Offshore Corporate Tax Loopholes (70%)
Green New Deal — Millions Of Clean-Energy Jobs (70%)
Full Employment Act (70%)
Expand Social Security Benefits (70%)
Strengthen the EPA (more than two thirds)
Federally Funded Healthcare (58% Gallup)
Military Spending is too High (52%)

A Real Agenda For Working People

Leap Manifesto

Jill Stein's Agenda

Senator Sanders Agenda For America: 12 Steps Forward

Elizabeth Warren: It’s time to work on America’s agenda (11/7/2014)

Polling to determine the Agenda - Elections don't do it.

Who decides the American agenda ? Not the people.

The late Sheldon Wolin wrote:

"Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media. Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic." Sheldon Wolin

Dysfunction in U.S. Presidential elections is partly because establishment journalists aren't interested in meaningful public discussion: Willie Horton, Swiftboats, Benghazi, (not Iraq) etc. Discussion of the candidate's issues, leaves real ones (those that matter to governing) back-burnered and debate that is not constructive. Media, always beholden to big money is complicit in distracting Americans. Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision by Republican Party hacks, exacerbates the problem.

...changes in government policy, Hacker and Pierson argue, account for the radical change in the distribution of American wealth. This isn't the rich getting richer because they're smarter or working harder. It is the connected getting richer because their lobbyists are working harder. No Political philosophy - liberal, libertarian, or conservative --should be ok with that." Lawrence Lessig: Republic, Lost (p157)

After election, the winning candidate claims he has a mandate and media guesses the public agrees with his agenda. This is always arguable, but national polling would better determine what direction people would like to take.

Noam Chomsky wrote “There is an enormous gap between public opinion and policy. In 2005, for example, right after the federal budget was announced, the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which also studies domestic issues, did an extensive poll on what people thought the budget ought to be. It turned out to be the inverse of the actual budget: where federal funding was going up, an overwhelming majority wanted it to go down. The public opposed increases in military spending overall and supplemental spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, which is going up even more now. Where the budget was going down; social expenditures, health, renewable energy, veterans benefits, the United Nations right across the board, the public wanted spending to increase. I asked a friend to see how many newspapers in the country reported this. Apparently not one.”

In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it. Gilens and Page
"If you wonder why the United States is the only country in the industrialized world not to have a national health care program, if you're asking why we pay the highest price in the world for prescription drugs, or why we spend more money on the military than the rest of the world combined, you are talking about campaign finance. You are talking about the unbelievable power that big-money interests have over every legislative decision." Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt)

When politicians appear before an audience, they usually tell them what they want to hear. It is most likely different for each audience. They can do a 180 degree turn after the primary electiions, because the general election requires them to say something else. Trump has backed off his most incendiary statements after the election, Romney famously executed an etch-a-sketch maneuver.

People should determine the agenda, and politicians should carry out the wishes of the people.

Polling can measure candidates distance from the public, to rate the Federal Budget on its disparity with public preferences, and to determine our direction.

Periodically, there should be a large-scale, academic, non-partisan poll of major issues.

First, People would rank, say on a scale of 1 to 10, the relative importance of each issue. No doubt it is important how questions are framed. Here are examples that come to mind:

* Should we expand social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Eldercare, or income assistance ?
* Should Community Colleges be free ?
* Should Medicare be expanded to cover everyone ?
* Compared to other countries, Federal assistance to public media is very small. Should it be increased ?
* Should the Federal Government have a jobs program like the WPA ?
* Civil engineers rate condition of infrastructure as poor. Should we spend more ? 
* Scientists are near unanimous is saying climate change is a threat. Fossil fuel use causes CO2 emissions that will persist for centuries. Should we invest more in conservation and renewables ?
* Fossil fuel taxes constrain usage, should we raise them ?
* The U.S. military is the world's largest, should we spend more ?
* Immigration reform is needed to assure sufficient agricultural workers.
* The U.S. is the world's leader in incarceration. The war on drugs is largely responsible and is a failure. Should we eliminate the war on drugs ?
* Secrecy in government has permitted activity that no one would approve: torture, renditions, assassinations, universal surveillance, secret law, militarized police... Should there be aggressive oversight of secret government ?
* Land based nuclear weapons are on hair-trigger alert. Should Congress have embarked on a ten year trillion dollar upgrade ?
* The School of the Americas has trained terrorist, death squads. Should it be cut ?
* Should we increase assistance to needier countries ? (We do not keep up with the Scandinavians.)
* Should election procedures be reformed ?
* Should we support the UN ? (We don't.)

Second: After ranking the importance of each issue, the next step would be to apply a percentage to each line with a positive or negative percentage for each. The percentage might indicate agreement or funding depending on context. For example, I might think military expenditure should decrease by 25%. The School of the Americas should be canceled altogether. Land based, hair-trigger nuclear ballistic missiles should be eliminated, Citizens United should be fixed, the Supreme Court should be enlarged because a single person should not be in position to determine the direction of the country.

After summarizing such a poll, we would not have to guess so much what the agenda should be.

Candidates should be required to complete the poll also. That would get them on the record and allow comparisons. Completion of an issues survey should be a condition of candidacy.

We could then rank the candidates depending on how closely they agree with the publics polling results.

Then, in debates, they could attempt to justify their departure from the norm. This would help to identify the best candidates.

Results should be placed in a free and open-source, public database, so that it would be possible to select, as a group, scientists, economists, Republicans, Democrats, minorities, and others for comparison of opinion. We could reconcile differences between informed opinion and public preferences, and thereby identify areas that media should work on. The database should be accessible to the public for further analysis so that independent scoring could be done from different viewpoints and by various techniques.

To keep the database public, it would need to be done either by a non-profit, or by some public entity.

For a country that can engage in universal surveillance of communications without telling anyone, this could be done at a small price.

Meanwhile, it could be possible to summarize likely results from existing polling, candidates statements, and other data.

The really crucial question: is ANY reform of our bankrupt system possible ?

Note

Our politics is a kind of roulette in which candidates, after 'election', do what they want.

Studies show that U.S. policy choices reflect the wishes of the wealthy, not the people.

Being money driven, Congress usually gets it wrong.

Some goals are so important and so enduring that they should be incorporated in to the Constitution.

Failure to work to these goals should be cause for removal from office. Here are some goals we could agree on.

Most important is that we don't destroy ourselves...or future generations:

  • Climate degradation will be an existential problem. The science is in. Candidates should agree to mitigate the disaster as much as possible. It's probably too late, but we might slow down the almost certain crash.
  • For the same reason, we should stand down nuclear weapons and stop their further development. It is simple luck that we have not yet destroyed ourselves.
  • Infrastructure is rotting and our failed leadership has mostly chosen not to do anything about it. We are spending so much on the military that we no longer can maintain our basic needs.
  • Population overshoot is possibly a more certain threat. Jared Diamond has written about local, historical examples, but this time we have exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet and are not slowing down. Capitalism must have growth, and it knows no limits, so collapse appears to be inevitable and even sooner than climate collapse.

The Well-Being of People should be the Highest Priority

Guess what: this is already written in the Constitution. Republicans just don't recognize it.

Families are assuming increasing amounts of risk and it is largely because of the GOP's hostility to social programs, their worship of the 'free market', opposition to labor unions, and greed.

The result is plain to see: falling wages, disappearing pensions, financial instability, millions losing their homes, widespread unemployment, unaffordable higher education, unprecedented bankruptcies, infrastructure in poor condition, and social programs that are disappearing. Risk is being shifted on to individuals who are mostly without savings and accumulating debt. Childhood poverty in the US is at an all-time high. Republicans, while increasing perks for the already wealthy, will lead the majority of Americans into debt servitude. If you are working two minimum wage jobs, you are not free.

Republicans regressive agenda is a large part of the problem. R's would privatize Social Security, further aggravating the problems. It is clear that privatized health care is no solution. The flat tax would exacerbate our extreme income inequality.

The 'family-values' R's engineered all this. They profess concern for the unborn... not the living. They are the party of the greedy, wealthy oligarchs. See Fascism.

If Republicans were really concerned with our safety, they would stand down the nuclear arsenal. Instead they are building even more.

The economy should work for people, not the other way around.

Income inequality is extremely unfair. Because it is growing, the US has become a plutocracy, and the wealthy are further gaming the system. Congress responds to the wealthy, not the people.

The wealthy should be taxed more heavily than hard working people, but, as Warren Beffett has said, they are taxed less. A stiff graduated tax like we had in the Eisenhower years would help. An inheritance tax should assure that the children of the wealthy don't have it too easy and we don't become an aristocracy.

The economy, like currency, is a man-made artifact. It should be designed as a self-correcting system: a steep graduated income tax can keep income disparities damped down, demand strong, and adequately fund the common good. A strong social safety net should protect the vulnerable and the unemployed as automation takes over many of the jobs that now sustain people. Taxpayer funded healthcare should be provided for everyone without exception...even tourists.

A tax on speculation could help to stabilize the economy. To the extent that financial volatility can destabilize the economy, social programs should provide balance. In a downturn, welfare should grow.

Regulation of the financial sector is essential. Glass-Steagle should never have been removed. Bank speculation should not be insured by taxpayers... but it is.

The new-deal had a lot of policy right, but Republicans opposed it then as they do now. They never learned the lessons of the great depression and we are paying a heavy price for it.

There are limits to growth.

Concentration of power should be limited.

Because the wealthy can game the system, the US has become an oligarchy. Congress responds to the wishes of the wealthy, and that accounts for a large part of our failure of leadership. Our institutions are dysfunctional.

Concentration of power is a consequence of disparity in incomes. Although the Constitution wisely anticipated the problem when public, It is just as dangerous when private. Corporations, as they have concentrated, have evolved into predators.

Republicans have lost sight of the fundamental Constitutional principle that concentrated power is a threat whether public or private. They have allowed Rupurt Murdoch to all but take over their party even though he has been found unfit to run a major international company.

We have ignored anti-trust action allowing corporations to grow to sizes that remove competition. This is particularly bad bad news for media and the internet,

Media should be diverse

For government to be open and transparent, the press should suffer no sanctions when telling the truth, but they should be sanctioned if they knowingly lie.

Media companies have continued to consolidate over the objection of everyone except broadcasters...with the help of John McCain and the FCC.

Corporate media is controlled by a small number of corporations that are all right-wing zealots and they have an agenda.

Elections bring a massive windfall for them, they do not allow serious discussion of issues, and their point of view is always...corporate. Media, an essential element for any democracy, is firmly controlled by the plutocracy and there is no credible effort to change that.

Privatized media is responsible for widespread public misinformation and toxic politics. Without reliable news, there can be no informed public nor can we have democracy

Elections should be fair.

Our election process is severely flawed: Election machines are made by partisans, range voting or IRV are necessary to defeat the two-party duopoly, voter registration lists have been subject to manipulation, voter suppression is rampant in GOP controlled states, candidate selection that produced Bush needs careful examination, the primary process does not work, the Electoral College is largely deplored, redistricting can assure election outcomes, big money corrupts the process, and dirty tricks have seemingly been practiced mostly by Republicans. Election rigging should be a high crime.

Even if the election produces a result consistent with the vote counts, we take a gamble that the elected ones will do what they said they would. It's always a guess what they will do.

Instead of voting for individuals, we should be voting for an agenda. Politicians should be working for us and it should be clear from a democraticaly determined procedure what direction they should take. They should not be deciding for us because they often bend toward the money. Guessing policy from individual election results is a bad bet.

The Citizens United decision, if not overturned, will cost us our republic...if it hasn't already.

Fair elections are a precondition for democracy, but is not really under consideration right now.

How to scrap the Two Party System in Three Steps (11/11/2014)

Government Should Be Open and Transparent

The Federal budget does not reflect priorities of the people (when polled.)

democracy. (Government that actually benefits the people. Sorry, that's not on the table either.)

Secrecy hides corruption. Much of US government is NOT visible to citizens. It has allowed mass surveillance, torture, a long string of gratuitous, but profitable wars, hidden atrocities, militarization of the economy, and empire building. We have government that can't do anything unless it is for military. Warmongering Republicans are at the heart of this policy.

We are losing our civil liberties to secretive, unaccountable government. The Bill of Rights has been all but shredded. Universal surveillance is not up for public discussion, but it will certainly cost us our civil liberties.

The Patriot Act inverts the constitutional requirement that people's lives be private and the work of government officials be public; it instead crafts a set of conditions in which our inner lives become transparent and the workings of the government become opaque. Either one of these outcomes would imperil democracy; together they not only injure the country but also cut off the avenues of repair. Elaine Scarry

We Should Have Justice

Justice, includes the right of habeas corpus, due process, and a duty to observe international agreements that have been signed in the past. Torture is unconstitutional and should be prosecuted.

The Supreme Court has been packed with Republican corporate supremecists. The law is only for people who can afford it.

It is disgusting how cavalier Republicans have been with fundamental Constitutional principles. They do not respect international law, work to undermine the UN, nor have they showed leadership that might have improved its quality. Due process of Law in the US has become questionable.

Republicans have shredded the Constitution. The law has been rolled back centuries to when there was no habeas corpus. The US has engaged in torture, renditions, built secret prisons, and shown the world that the US is no longer on the moral high ground. Instead of downsizing government as they said they would, they initiated a massive program of domestic wiretapping, surveillance, and tracking of US citizens. The reported activities at airports are not only counterproductive, they discourage travelers, tourism, and others with legitimate but avoidable plans. As with the Nixon administration, the targets of these investigations have been dissenters, political competitors, and peace advocates. What was criminal for the Nixon administration is now legal.

It was inevitable that continued military buildup would produce a national security state.

We Should Not Build An Empire

Even though the framers wanted to avoid foreign entanglements and contrary to public opinion, we are embarked on a path to empire. . Worst of all R's have brought us and advocated for an imperial presidency. The President does business in secret, without oversight, and has made it clear that he is above the law. If he is not held accountable, we almost certainly will get a dictatorship.

Even though Bush provoked gratuitous wars, he insisted on big tax cuts. The cost of the war is on the tab, war profiteering rampant, the pentagon unaccountable, federal debt is steadily rising, yet R's would tell you they are fiscally responsible. They are the party of oligarchs... and war profiteers.

We spend as much as the rest of the world combined on the military and we are going into heavy debt to do it. R's want to spend even more on the military including the dysfunctional, provocative BMD program and a new round of nuclear weapons.. As we bankrupt ourselves, go into heavy debt, and deindustrialize so that corporations can use third world labor, we are weakening economically. Our infrastructure is deteriorating, social supports are crumbling. and financial instability is obvious. If we spent less on the military, we might be able to solve some of our problems. The US military is, by far, the world's largest. If we do not reduce it, we will lose our civil liberties, and become a police state.

Peace Should be a major goal

Republicans favor war instead of diplomacy. They plan to spend even more for the world's largest military.

Weapons manufacture is a lousy jobs program. It is well represented in almost every Congressional district. The military-industrial complex that Ike warned about is now in control of our politics. Military Keysianism will motivate perpetual war and ultimately destroy us.

We should downsize the military. strengthen our diplomatic corps, and increase foreign assistance to levels that are up to international guidelines and that Scandinavian countries achieve. We would find ourselves much less threatened by terrorism if we were doing good in the world. We don't need the world's largest military if we are not building a world-dominating empire.

peace. (Unfortunately not on the table right now.)

We should Protect the Environment

Earth is our only habitable planet, and we have already exceeded its carrying capacity.

We have been burning fossil fuels at an accelerating rate for centuries and now we are seeing a dramatic change in climate. We know that there are limited amounts of oil resources and much of it should be reserved for future generations. For the sake of the habitability of the planet, we need to change to renewable, non-polluting resource use. R's are against this, and advocate maximum drilling now. They are not conservative.

When population grows too large, it can destroy the habitability of the environment. Where there has been massive deforestation, it is often followed by desertification. Land becomes unproductive and people starve. Malthus was right. He was too early for the exponential growth that we are experiencing. Family planning, birth control, and other policies opposed by R's would mitigate the problem. Republicans promised more Supreme Court judges like Alito and Roberts, which is code for an intent to overturn Roe V Wade. In a few decades it may be necessary to impose population policies like China. R's solution is more growth. Taking these things into account, here is the forecast.

We Should Join the Community of Nations.

No one is exceptional, not even countries. We should live up to our international agreements, join the International Criminal Court, take a leadership role at the UN and not undermine it. Our most serious challenges are global and can only be dealt with effectively by global institutions.
Contrary to international agreements we have signed, we are building a new generation of nuclear weapons, not dismantling them. It is only blind luck that we have not yet destroyed the planet.

We have not done our share to help suffering people in other countries. Instead, the US is the leading arms supplier to the world.

Climate change denial will earn the U.S. world-wide ill will.

See explanation.

Links

Three Principles of the United Slate

Senator Sanders Speech to the National Press Club (Video about an hour) (3/9/2015)

Ten Policy Goals

Big Ideas Project

Sustainable Development Goals: All You Need to Know

Blue-Green Alliance

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Campaign for America's Future

Populism 2015

The Living New Deal

Populist Agenda 2015

Purple Insights

Bibliography

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Unstoppable, the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State: Ralph Nader

Agenda For A New Economy, David Korten (See his comments.)

Agenda For a Shared Prosperity (Download a PDF copy of the entire book)

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Matt Miller