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Great Expectations 1: The Domestic Scene

Dec 02, 2008
Most progressive pundits we follow (among them Jeremy Scahill1, Naomi Klein, Robert Kuttner2, and Robert Scheer3) are bummed out by the selections Obama has made so far for his White House staff and cabinet. And indeed, one cannot but sigh in despair at the right-of-center Democrats (and Republicans!) paraded across Change.gov, Obama’s web site, which is looking increasingly like an ingeniously designed propagandistic puff piece. What could be worse than a George W. Bush? A George W. Bush with a brain.

Kuttner reminds us that Obama will be the president, not Larry Summers, Hillary Clinton, or Robert Gates. Cold comfort, we fear. As noted last week in Center Stage, the progressive agenda has moved to the center of American politics, or the center has moved toward progressive solutions to the serious challenges we face. With that in mind, here are five exigent items on the domestic agenda we expect the Obama administration to engage from a progressive standpoint:

Income Inequality
We expect the tax cuts for the wealthy to be repealed and a living wage assured for all full-time workers. We expect the capital gains tax to be raised to a reasonable level, and we expect Social Security to be withheld on wages higher than the current maximum, which, at $102,000, is ridiculously low. We expect any economic bailout or recovery plan to be accountable to the people and to be crafted in such a manner as to benefit the greatest number. We expect an end to poverty for all working individuals and families in America.

A Dysfunctional Education System
We call for a national commission on educational reform that will be encouraged to throw out all the “sacred cows” and conventions in PreK-16 public education developed since the 19th century. It will consist of the widest possible spectrum of educational reformers who have displayed success in the field, many of whom we have featured here on All Together Now (see, for example, The War on Tenure, The Next Step, and SEED Money). It will be empowered to put forth a comprehensive set of recommendations for reinvigorating American education from the ground up, recommendations which the Obama administration will commit to implementing expeditiously. We are bleeding oceans of human capital, and the bleeding must be stopped.

Health Care
Implement a single-payer, federally managed health care system (Medicare for all), containing the best features of the dozens of such systems which have been in operation for more than a generation in the rest of the civilized world. To do less is to thwart the people’s will and to continue a system where the many exist only to enrich the few—a bankrupt system which must end.

Voting Rights and Wrongs
Impediments to the franchise are a scandal in this country. We must pass laws that will assure the public that everything possible is being done to enable every eligible voter to exercise the franchise, easily, efficiently, and with a high degree of assurance that their vote is being properly counted.

Social Realism
Social issues such as premarital sex and the taking of illegal drugs need to be confronted in a rational manner. When they are, we will realize that education is the key to solving these issues. Teens will engage in sex and people will take mind-altering substances. They always have and they always will. We need to stop punishing ourselves for these human inclinations and rather do what is necessary to protect ourselves from their less fortunate consequences. Our current responses to these perceived social ills, including abstinence-only indoctrination and more and longer incarcerations, are positively insane.
These are the domestic issues on which we will judge the first Obama term. If they are not pursued with vigor, we will have no interest in a second.
1 Agents of Change or Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons? from Democracy Now, November 20, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
2 Naomi Klein, Robert Kuttner and Michael Hudson Dissect Obama’s New Economic Team & Stimulus Plan, from Democracy Now, November 25, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
3 Obama Chooses Wall Street Over Main Street, by Robert Scheer, from truthdig.com, November 25, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
tags: Politics | Obama

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