top of page
Over the past two decades, many Americans have concluded that we are witnessing the unraveling of America. So many traumatic, corrosive events in such a compressed period have left many Americans grasping for answers.
That America has pulled through and, in many ways, prospered over the past two decades is a testimony not to American exceptionalism but rather to our resilience. If we examine our history closely, we see that the foundation of this resilience is strong, collective action.
As a country, solidarity and collective action are the roots of all of our greatest reforms. When the country was on the brink of collapse in 2008 and 2020, it was powerful collective action - not Wall Street, not Silicon Valley - which saved the country from ruin.
But to credit the federal government is to credit ourselves. This is what FDR meant when he implored Americans to ‘….never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us’.
Government can and must be a force for good. We are not victims in an unfolding drama. As a nation, we shape our own destiny. This means good government, political accountability and reforms which benefit the majority of Americans.
New leadership must deal with the world as it is, not traffic in hate, lies and fear. America has too much untapped talent, too much unrealized potential to tolerate leadership stuck in the past. New leadership means new people, new ideas, new energy but, above all, an unwavering commitment to serving the public interest with honesty and integrity.
PROTECTING OUR DEMOCRACY
‘If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” -Abraham Lincoln, 1838
January 6 was the 911 of American Democracy – a deadly insurrection to overturn a free and fair election. This was a violent assault on the foundational principle of self-government – majority rule. In truth, the forces which led to January 6 had been eating away at our institutions for decades.
The fight to prevent majority rule, to prevent truly Representative Democracy from taking root in the US is one of the most common, complex, and overlooked themes in our nation’s history. Who gets to vote? Who governs? Whose interests are advanced? Whose rights are ignored or suppressed? Who are the ‘We’ in ‘We the People’?
These questions have been at the core of every crisis in American history - The Civil War, Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, and the Civil Rights Movement. The January 6 insurrection is only the most recent and visible manifestation of this historic struggle. Our generation can either deal with the root cause of this struggle and embrace representative democracy or we can push the issue aside again and hope for the best.
The right to vote is the most fundamental right in a democracy but, for many Americans, this vote is under constant threat. To tolerate any form of voter suppression is to tolerate the continued erosion of Democracy.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
To finance campaigns, candidates must raise money from friends & family, fellow citizens, private corporations and, increasingly, political action committees and ‘SuperPacs’ with vested interests to advance or protect.
Today, corporations view political contributions as ‘investments’ - investments in tax cuts, regulatory loopholes, the ‘watering down' of major laws, federal subsidies, the extension of a patent, or, even, protection from federal investigations.
Once elected, members of Congress must continue to raise money – often dedicating 50% of their time - in order to fund the next election. This ‘pay to play’ system leads to corruption, the sale of public policy to special interests, blocks reform initiatives, and ensures that the revolving door of politics keeps spinning.
This system also produces cynicism and apathy among voters across the country – the belief that nothing can be done.The vast majority of Americans are locked out of this system.
We must reform this system. Our Democracy depends on it.
A STRONGER ECONOMY
Since the late 70s, US policymakers of both parties have largely embraced what is generally called ‘trickle down’ or, in the words of George H.W. Bush, ‘voodoo’ economics. This is the belief that in order to create the conditions for economic growth and prosperity, the federal government must constantly slash corporate taxes, weaken regulatory oversight and constantly prod corporations with generous public subsidies or ‘incentives’.
This done, workers – normal people – should, could or may eventually benefit thanks to the ‘trickling down’ of benefits in the form of higher wages, greater opportunities, improved benefits and a more dynamic labor market. According to one critic of this ideology, “If you feed enough oats to the horse, some will pass through to feed the sparrows.”
Guess who the sparrows are? The rest of us, everyday working Americans – the majority.
This fanciful economic vision came crashing down in October, 2008 – as it did in October, 1929. In both cases, Democratic administrations were elected to save a collapsing economy.
We have to put this failed ideology out of its misery once and for all.
Achieving sustainable economic development and prosperity is only possible if we have dynamic markets to drive innovation and competition. But this is not possible without government oversight to protect and enforce worker, consumer, and environmental rights. Government has a responsibility to protect, preserve and, when necessary, to modify the structures and enforcement mechanisms which make modern capitalism work for all.
Without rules and public enforcement, markets consolidate, big players dominate all major sectors, prices rise, innovation suffers, wages stagnate and worker benefits are slashed. In turn, the corporations which dominate their respective sectors then enter the political ‘market’ to buy even greater power and influence.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because working Americans know this already. This is also one of the reasons why millions of Americans no longer believe a better future is possible, it is why they turn away from politics and why they conclude that the ‘system is rigged’.
Since 2021, the Biden Administration has begun the pivot toward a ‘bottom up’ economy; an economy which prioritizes wage growth and skills development, collective bargaining, consumer rights, public investments and community development.
And it’s working.
Consumer spending represents nearly 70% of the US economy. American business and the US economy prosper when American consumers have money to spend - not strangled by debt. The US is now at almost full employment, wages are rising and manufacturing is rebounding strongly with historic investments in sectors of critical importance to the US economy.
America is on the move again.
But this is NOT the time for triumphalism or complacency. The extreme right promises a return to this failed ideology which calls for anti-worker policies, the gutting of federal oversight, and a regressive tax system in which working families pay a larger share of their income than those who have gamed the system for decades.
We've seen this movie before. It’s a flop but like a zombie, there is always the risk that this debunked ideology will return again to wreak havoc on the American economy.
We cannot let this happen.
Bottom-up benefits all.
PROTECTING OUR HEALTH
‘Healthcare is a tapeworm on the US economy.’ – Warren Buffett.
The United States is the only country in the developed world which does not provide guaranteed
national healthcare coverage to all of its citizens.
As a result of our complex and highly inefficient health care system, the US pays more for its healthcare and prescription drugs than any other developed country in the world while leaving as many as 50 million Americans uninsured or underinsured.
Despite paying more, we have the highest rate of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions and, as a country, rank at or near the bottom in nearly every metric of healthcare outcomes.
This is an economic, physical, and psychological weight on all but the most affluent Americans. All working Americans – even those with insurance – know that they are a banana peel away from physical, mental, and financial ruin.
Not surprisingly, medical debt is the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States.
The healthcare system is a long-term drain on our economy – a ‘tapeworm’ in the words of Warren Buffett. The billions of ‘extra’ dollars US companies, self-employed professionals, small business owners, and part-time workers are forced to pay annually are billions not invested into the productive economy and businesses, billions not directed to retirement savings, family, holidays, children, or charity.
Healthcare is a weight on our families, our well-being, and our economic competitiveness.
Congressional leadership must work to expand affordable, healthcare coverage to all Americans, reduce the cost of all prescription drugs, and extend coverage to include eye, dental, mental health, and long-term care for the elderly.
The health of our country depends on the health of our people.
STRENGTHENING SOCIAL SECURITY
Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Social Security has been the cornerstone of the American safety net since the 30s – one which has helped generations of Americans live their ‘golden years’ with dignity.
And yet, since the early 90s, the Republican party has repeatedly tried to cut, privatize, or eliminate this critical federal program. Fortunately, they failed each time.
Let’s be clear: Social Security is essential to the preservation of our social fabric. Social Security must be preserved, protected and, in the years to come, expanded.
For decades after WWII, the model for retirement in the US was a stool with three legs. Americans were expected to build their retirement through a combination of personal savings, professional pensions, and Social Security. This model has come under tremendous pressure in recent decades as extreme right-wing policies have seriously damaged two of the three pillars of this system.
Today 50% of Americans over the age of 55 have little or no savings for retirement. Jobs that previously provided security, pensions, and benefits now force workers to live from paycheck to paycheck with no protections and little chance of saving for retirement. Factor into this equation, the high cost of healthcare, insurance, housing, and higher education and you get a picture of millions of working families running just to stand still.
For millions of working families, the ‘three-legged stool’ now has only one leg – Social Security. Social Security must be protected, preserved, and expanded.
PROTECTING OUR PLANET
Climate Disaster is one of the greatest threats to our nation and the world. Global warming is real, it is man-made and it is producing catastrophic changes to our environment, our communities, our water, our energy supply, our food-chain systems and our health. If left unchecked, it will transform society, and negatively impact our security.
We know this. The scientific community knows this. Industry leaders – including the fossil fuel industry - know this. Government knows this. The near-constant flow of well-publicized disasters worldwide has also increased public awareness of the danger of inaction. For deniers, there is no one left to lie to.
The Biden Administration has started the pivot toward sustainable and renewable energies but we’ve got so much more to do.
Addressing Climate Disaster is one of the most important, complex, and difficult challenges of our time. Important – because of the consequences of inaction. Complex – because there is no single solution. Difficult – because we cannot solve this problem alone. We need international cooperation. This
cooperation however calls for leadership – and the US must provide it.
The pivot toward sustainable sources of energy will take time but the entrenched power of the fossil fuel industry must not be allowed to dictate the pace of reform.
We cannot kid ourselves: addressing Climate Disaster will also require reforms in agriculture, transportation, construction, infrastructure, public security, technology, and in taxes.
In each area, the forces of the status quo and vested financial interests will be tested. All of these interests must be considered and evaluated but none should dictate policy. This is a matter of our long-term public interest and, perhaps, our very survival.
Congress must lead.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is perhaps the signature event of the transition to the modern era. This was also a period of American triumphalism. The Cold War had come to an end - the U.S. had ‘won’.
This triumphalism was a factor in the expansion of NATO, the invasion of Iraq, and the American withdrawal from international organizations, protocols, and agreements.
History never ends and the dynamics of the international order are always changing. Like all great powers past and present, the US must recognize these changes, constantly evaluate its strategic interests, and adapt, when necessary, to new alignments, new threats, and new opportunities. Military power is a tool of diplomacy to be used with great restraint and only after a sober assessment of risks and outcomes – intended and unintended.
No country is immune to the laws of gravity.
Over the past two decades, China has emerged as an economic and strategic power with global ambitions, the European Union has created one of the largest economic blocks in the world, India and Brazil have become major geopolitical players and a host of formerly ‘third world’ countries have started to express their intolerance of a world dominated by a single power.
The international order is evolving.
We must remind ourselves what formed the base of American leadership in the post-war era. It was the fight against tyranny abroad, the vibrancy of our democratic institutions, the independence of our judicial system, our economic dynamism and social mobility, our investments in science and education, our willingness to address the darkest chapters in our history and a culture that radiated to every corner of the earth.
Weaken any part of this and you weaken the whole.
Leadership is a function of moral authority. Unilateral, unjustified foreign wars undermine our moral authority abroad. Presidential elections ‘won’ by the candidate who loses the popular vote undermine the credibility of our democracy. International agreements signed and then unilaterally rejected erode confidence in American leadership.
Rebuilding and leveraging American power abroad means first rebuilding our institutions and
recommitting ourselves to a more open, just, equitable, and dynamic America at home.
Our international standing depends on it.
bottom of page