On Wednesday, I wrote about the AFL-CIO’s terrific event, their Raising Wages Summit, and the difference in messaging on economics coming from the Obama administration and Elizabeth Warren highlighted there. This difference in messaging is at the heart of the strategic dilemma Democrats have to figure out to succeed in the 2016 election. There is a way to bridge this divide, and I will get to that below, but first I think it is important to talk about the policy agenda that undergirds the message debate.
Warren is well-known for her cutting analysis of how Wall Street and other wealthy special interests have, with no effective government watchdog or accountability, messed up the American economy in terms of how it works for 90%+ of the population. But she also has a clear agenda (and already a substantial track record sponsoring specific legislation addressing that agenda) for what needs to happen to rebuild and reorient the American economy toward the 90%+ that’s getting screwed. In the speech at the Raising Wages Summit, and in her legislative proposals over the last two years, she laid out that agenda:
- Raising wages and incomes for working people:
- Raising the minimum wage so that no one who works full-time will live in poverty
- Strengthening and enforcing labor law to make it easier for workers to organize and have bargaining power
- Better overtime pay rules
- Equal pay for equal work for women
- Making investments in roads, bridges, power grids, education, and research
- Trade policies that will raise wages and create new manufacturing jobs rather than the opposite results we have seen because of trade deals like NAFTA
- Protecting Social Security and Medicare, adding to Social Security benefits, and changing federal policy to better protect and encourage pensions
- More cops on the beat watching over the big banks so that consumers and the economy as a whole are better protected from financial speculation and fraud
- Breaking up the biggest banks to lessen their market and political power
- Reducing the level of student debt
- Closing corporate tax loopholes, especially those that subsidize dirty energy companies like Big Oil
- Raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans
- Creating a financial transactions tax so that speculative trading is dis-incentivized
This is exactly the kind of comprehensive agenda that this country needs — a populist economic agenda that would create more jobs, get working people significant raises, and deal with the deep structural flaws in our economic system that have developed over the last 35 years. Elizabeth Warren’s plan would bring us back to the economy of the post-New Deal years, an economy that was both fairer and far more prosperous for most people.
And on the message side, having a comprehensive economic package is exactly what the Democratic Party needs. It is a big part of what was missing for us in the elections of 2014: We didn’t have an agenda that gave voters confidence we knew what needed to be done economically. This agenda could very well bridge the message divide within the party. The Obama economic policies helped us through the great recession, but we need to do more to change the fundamental dynamics that are hurting the ability of most workers to get better jobs and incomes.
Elizabeth Warren isn’t campaigning for president, but she is campaigning for a better shake for most working people in an economy that doesn’t work for them. Support the Warren economic agenda by signing our petition here. And if Hillary Clinton is looking for an economic platform, this is the place where she should start.