This is a rerun of a diary which I wrote about a month or so ago and posted on dkos. I am reposting it here in response to Welshman’s important challenge to transform the blogosphere into a more positive and constructive outlet for ideas and not just a forum where everyone takes their turn expressing their outrage and disgust with their ideological adversaries. This is an abbreviated version of a longer diary which didn’t receive much of a response over at kos, so I thought I’d try it out over here.

In this article, I will  list some examples of, what I think, are winning concrete policy proposals for the Democratic Party: my own Positive Platform for the Democratic Party.

       What the Democratic Party is for:

1) The Democratic Party stands for the elimination or, at least, the increase of the cap on the amount of Social Security benefits subject to taxation. It is also for maintaining the government’s obligations toward its own citizens by preserving the integrity of the Social Security Trust Fund. Social Security is an autonomous and extraordinarily successful system of financial insurance which should not be used to mask the government’s general fiscal irresponsibility.
      This is a winning position because the Republicans have brought up the issue of the so-called “crisis” in Social Security’s long-term financing. We can turn that to our own advantage by proposing the elimination of the cap as one means, among others, of restoring confidence in SS’s stability while simultaneously turning this into a class (wedge) issue. We should also focus on the trust fund surplus and how the reckless fiscal policies of the current administration potentially threaten its ability to pay off its obligations.
    As Paul Krugman recently put it in the NYRB:

There are only two ways Social Security could be unable to pay full benefits in 2018. One would be if Congress voted specifically to repudiate the Social Security trust fund, that is, not to pay interest or principal on the trust fund’s bonds, which would in effect be a decision not to honor debts to retirees. In 2018 the payments on the trust fund’s bonds would be sufficient to cover Social Security benefits….In that sense, the trust fund is as real an obligation of the US government as bonds held by Japanese pension funds. The other way would be if the United States found itself in a general fiscal crisis, unable to honor any of its debt. Given the size of the current deficit and the prospect that the deficit will get much bigger over time, that could happen. But it won’t happen because of Social Security, which is a much smaller factor in projected deficits than either tax cuts or rising Medicare spending.
  1. The Democratic Party stands for the right of all workers to a basic “living” wage. I’m aware of the usual criticism of this idea among small business and the labor unions. But as rba put in nicely in a recent comment:

    In the Reagan years, public benefits [AFDC] were set at 87% of the poverty line, the minimum wage was 78%. If you add the additional taxpayer cost for medicare, food stamps, and a host of categorical programs, the costs go much higher.

    So the Republicans paid people to stay home, while touting their expertise in managing the economy, and protecting the interests of the “small business community”.

    Democrats should stop playing along in this charade. This is a winning position because it combines a clear moral message with a sound economic policy. It sends the message that Democrats are the party that truly cares about the needs and well-being of the working and lower-classes. During the 2004 elections, referendums on increasing the minumum wage were passed by solid majorities in all of the thirteen states in which they were conducted.

  2. The Democratic Party is for an increase on the amount of assets that it is necessary to own in order to become subject to the Alternative Minumum Tax (AMT).

       According to this article in the NYT:

The alternative minimum tax, intended to make sure that even the richest Americans with the most sophisticated tax advisers pay some income tax, is proving costly to many middle class Americans. The tax, which was not indexed for inflation, will affect roughly twice as many taxpayers this filing season as it did two years ago, negating a significant part of the 2003 tax cuts.The tax, complex to calculate, denies taxpayers above certain income levels benefits of personal exemptions and various regular deductions.

     The same article then goes on to describe the deleterious effects that the AMT is having on housing prices and on other assets owned primarily by the middle-class. This could,therefore, be an effective way of getting back the approval of the middle-class citizens, described in the article, who might otherwise drift toward the anti-tax agenda of the right.    

4) The Democratic Party is NOT the party of weakness. The Democratic Party is for the use of military force in the following circumstances:
    a) Self-defence and collective self-defence: In the event of invasion or attack by foreign forces on its own soil or that of one of its allies, the Democratic Party believes that the use of force is not only appropriate but necessary in order to defend its borders and the lives of its citizens, and likewise with respect to its allies.
    b) The pre-emptive (not preventive) use of force is justified only when the threat of imminent, preventable attack has been corroborated by solid and incontestible intelligence.
    c) Humanitarian intervention to stop genocide and ethnic cleansings when they are actually  taking place and not ex post facto. The Democratic Party believes that all such military intervention should be conducted mulilaterally and should be backed by the explicit authorization of UN resolutions when possible.

5) The Democratic Party is for encouraging energy conservation and the development of alternative sources of energy through tax incentives on research and development, higher taxes on the use of gasoline and other fossil-fuel based products, the expansion of the public transportation system to include rural or otherwise inaccessible areas, and other such measures.

6) The Democratic Party is for a CONSISTENT foreign policy with respect to the Middle East and other sensitive geo-political hotspots. It belives that one of the fundamental causes of the unrest and turmoil in the Arab world leading up to, and after, 9/11 is the hypocrisy inherent in the unwavering financial and military support that the US has demonstrated in the past and present toward such oil-rich feudal monarchies as Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the current dictatorship in Egypt, Iran under the Shah, and Pakistan under Musharaff, while, at the same time, invading Iraq and condemning Iran for its alleged connections to terrorism.

7)The Democratic Party is for authentic nation-building with international support and under the supervision of the UN. “Freedom and liberty” cannot long survive under conditions of extreme poverty, unemployment, warlordism, disease and ignorance.

This is far from an exhaustive list of options and ideas and most of them are uncontroversial; but I think it is sufficient to initiate a wide-ranging,open  and thoughtful discussion on the question of   what exactly would the Democratic party do differently from the Republicans if they were in power.
For example, I often hear and read comments such as what are the Dems going to do about the “war on terror”?

This demonstrates to me two things:
1)That the conservatives have already won the linguistic battle on this, as on many other, political issues. And they will continue successfully framing the debate for just as long as the major media outlets (the disseminators of the framed or reframed message) remain in the hands of the Rupert Murdochs of this world. One of the major problems that can result from overemphasizing language and framing, in fact, is that of ignoring the fact that there are three aspects to the problem of regaining control and predominance in the political arena: message content, message packaging and message dissemination. 2)Since message proliferation (something I wish to adress in another article) is overwhelmingly in the hands of conservatives, liberals end up desperately trying to retroactively reframe the discussion in their own terms: an uphill battle indeed. It would seem much wiser and simpler to me to simply acknowledge existence of, for example, the war on terror and provide an alternative approach (message content)  to dealing with it.

I would really like to read your comments and ideas on all of this. Thank you.

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