Here is the Progressive Agenda

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Clintonite corporatists still control the Democratic National Committee despite their long string of failure at the polls. But the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters—72%—are self-identified progressives.

44% of House primary candidates in 2018 self-IDed as progressive. If you’re after the Democratic nomination for president you have to be—or pretend to be—progressive. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to be “a progressive who gets things done.”

All the top likely contenders for 2020 claim to be progressive—but they would prefer that voters ignore their voting records and unsavory donors. “Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have spent the past two years racing to the leftmost edge of respectable opinion,” reports New York magazine. “In recent weeks, they have also all reached out to Wall Street executives, in hopes of securing some funding for their prospective presidential campaign.” It does no good for your heart to be in the right place if your ass is owned by bankers.

“You don’t just get to say that you’re progressive,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told progressive donors recently.

Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, called the 2020 election a chance to “leverage our power.” She says it’s critical “that we have some very clear guidelines about what it means to be progressive.”

Here are those guidelines.

You can’t be a progressive unless you favor a big hike in the minimum wage. Elizabeth Warren, the first pretty-much-declared candidate for 2020, wants $15 an hour. But she told a 2013 Senate hearing that it would be $22 if it had kept up with increases in worker productivity. The official inflation rate makes that $24 today. And according to the real inflation rate (the official number as it was calculated before the Labor Department downgraded the calculation in 1980 and 1990) at, $22 in 2013 comes to at least $35 today.

If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968 using the same methodology used to track inflation at the time, it would be closer to $80 per hour.

What should be the progressive demand for the minimum wage? Nothing less than $25 per hour.

(For the record, I see no reason why the minimum wage should be lower than the maximum wage. But we’re talking about progressivism here, not socialism or communism.)

Thanks to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign “free college became a litmus test for liberals,” notes The Atlantic. But a 2017 bill cosponsored by Sanders and Warren defines “college for all” rather narrowly. It only addresses public colleges and universities. It would “make college tuition free for families earning $125,000 a year or less and allow current student loan borrowers to refinance their debt at lower interest rates.”

A quarter of American college students attend private schools. Considering that the average cost is $35,000 a year and some run as high as $60,000, even families earning more than $125,000 need help too.

The progressive stance on college should be three-pronged. First, the obscene $1.5 trillion student loan business should be abolished. Student loans should be replaced by grants but if loans exist at all they should be a zero-profit government program. Second, all outstanding loans should be forgiven or have their interest rates dropped to a zero-profit basis. Third, the government should rein in out-of-control public and private college tuition and fees—which have gone up eight times faster than wages—by tying them to the official federal cost of living index.

Progressives agree that Obamacare didn’t go far enough. With 70% of voters in favor, even centrist Democrats like Kamala Harris have climbed aboard Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” bandwagon. Warren, Gillibrand and Booker now say they want single-payer public healthcare. Being progressive, however, means demanding more than what mainstream politicians deem practical—it’s about pushing hard for more ways to improve people’s lives.

In 2020 progressives should be calling for nothing less than universal healthcare. If it’s good enough for the rest of the developed world and many developing countries like Botswana and Bhutan, why not us?

I cosigned a letter to Sanders calling on the Vermont senator to use his platform as the country’s most prominent and popular progressive to talk more about foreign policy and to openly oppose militarism. Now it’s time to get specific.

Progressives should demand that U.S. troops come home from any country that did not attack the United States—i.e., all of them. They should put an end to the disgusting drone wars. The bloated nearly-$1 trillion Pentagon budget should be shredded; let’s see what they can do with $100 billion (which would still be far more than Russia’s defense spending).

From banks that charge usurious credit card interest rates to employers who fire full-time employees and hire them back as “independent contractors,” there are plenty of other targets for progressives to go after.

Progressives: you are no longer the ugly stepdaughter of the Democratic Party. You own the joint.
Now’s the time to demand what’s yours, what you want and what’s right.

(Ted Rall, the cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

11 thoughts on “Here is the Progressive Agenda

  1. Ted,

    The biggest problem I see for Bernie Sanders is that the mainstream media will attempt to box him into the “Will you confirm that you didn’t beat your wife in 2018” corner–damned if he does something, damned if he doesn’t do something because the MSM will throw shade regardless.

    Example. (Let me preface this by saying, I dip into the New York Times once in a while, but I no longer follow it closely because I simply don’t trust them.) After Trump’s Wall speech, I know that the Times covered the–I’ll agreed, for civility to call it a response–response by the animated cadavers of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Let me ask the collective gallery: Did the Times cover the responses of the Republicans? (I bet they did.) Did they cover the responses by some of the democrats, and were those democrats the ones that the Times is going to end up supporting in the primary? (That’s a two-parter, but my guesses are yes and eventually yes.)
    Here’s the big question. Did they cover Bernie Sanders’ response? (I think I know the answer. If they did, and I don’t think they did, it was a pretty tepid response, despite Sanders making a number of clear, to-the-point criticisms and attacks on Trump’s fantasy.)

    And here’s the big problem. I bet the Sanders Progressives had NO co-ordinated response against the Times’ unfair treatment/coverage of Sanders. Lots of tweets probably, but they had no one who rallied the troops.

    The other big problem? Did anyone see how Trump handed Jonathan Karl his ass the other day? Karl walked right into a trick that any second-year journalism student shoulda seen. Karl asked Trump if he’d end the shutdown for some parts of the government. Trump’s response went something like: “If you were in my position, would you do that?” Karl kept trying to go back to his question, and Trump simply kept asking his question.

    Karl’s correct — and ONLY correct — response? “I’m a journalist. I can’t answer that question because this is a subject I’m reporting on. It’s a conflict of interest. I can’t express an opinion on this. Not even Fox journalists would answer that one.” Instead, he let Trump dismiss him with a “You’d be terrible if you were in my position.” And Trump was right! There is NO NO NO benefit to Trump to fund “essential” parts of the government when he’s using the cutting off of those portions as leverage. It’s like sending out all your hostages and then demanding the money and the getaway car.

    That’s the other problem: the media, even those DINO parts that kinda sound like they’re progressives, no longer know how to be skeptical, aggressive or tenacious. They are easily manipulated (by the billionaires who own the networks, the papers, the magazine) and easily distracted. And Sanders’ people have the right ideas about a whole lot of the problems this country is facing, but they have to step up their game on blocking attempts to divert the conversation. I watch Trump because I see exactly how he takes charge of the discussion. The Sanders people have got to got to got to work on that sort of “No, you’re trying to take us to topic X, but the real issue is topic Y.”

    I wish Sanders would declare already. I sure could use a job. Maybe he’ll hire in New York.

      • And that’s exactly the strategy that the “libs” take against Sanders. Right now, the biggest “challenge” to Sanders is that one of his people might (because it hasn’t gone to court) have harassed a woman during the 2016 campaign.
        Similar challenges have been raised against other campaigns. But only the Sanders campaign is getting heat for it.
        Second–and THIS IS GOING TO BE UNPOPULAR–I’d rather have a pussy-grabber who’s pushing for $15/hr and Universal Single-Payer Healthcare than a pussy-grabber who wants me to take $12 an hour and who has Henry Kissinger on her speed-dial.
        No, I don’t mean that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lesbian.
        What I mean is that Hill has no trouble selling all of us down the river when Goldman Sachs is the john leaving the money on the dresser.
        I no longer have the luxury of waiting for the rest of the morons to catch up: these are the ONLY three issues that matter for the upcoming election–minimum wage, healthcare, and climate change.
        You want Sanders’ position on left-handed red-headed lesbians in comas? Wait in line. Three’s all most people can handle at a time, so wait in line.
        I don’t care if Bernie Sanders comes on stage tomorrow wearing only a pair of chaps and head-to-toe body lotion. As long as he wants an increased minimum wage, universal healthcare, and accepts that climate change is real, I don’t care about anything else.
        And neither should you.

  2. Nice, beats the everlovin’ snot out of Newt Greengrinch’s “Contract on America”

    I’d tweak a few things: e.g. ” Student loans should be replaced by grants but if loans exist at all they should be a zero-profit government program.”

    I worked my way through school, but also used grants and loans to the fullest extent available. I think that’s a good combo. I saw the spoilt rich brats who didn’t take it near as seriously as I did, when you’re paying for it you tend to appreciate it more. Them’s the facts.

    So, let’s put some rules in place. Campuses (Campi?) need a lot of work to maintain. Gardeners, janitors, secretarial staff etc, etc, etc. Oh! Look! We’ve got lots of young people nearby – how about they take over the manual labor in return for their education? (Spoilt rich brats: I”m lookin’ at YOU most especially. You need to form some sort of association between “work” and “eat” at some point in your lives)

    The surrounding area likewise has food venues, entertainment, living quarters – all in need of staff. Do they really need to be for-profit, or could they serve as platforms to teach management, customer service, and responsibility? How about “Community”?

    But there also needs to be a catch – we’re not wasting our hard-earned money to be scammed by slackers. You keep your grades up or you’re voted off the island. You don’t get to play professional student: you’re actively working towards graduation. You earn a degree: you’re expected to put it to work right here in the country what edumacated you. (needs investigation: How the fuck do you make THAT work without the government deciding who gets educated in what fields?)

  3. The success of “progressives” in 2020 depends a great deal upon what current congressional “progressives” do between now and then.

    Ralph Nader wrote an article on his blog setting forth a method to determine if we still need to use quotation marks with the term “progressives.”

    The link: Nader Blog

    My “progressive” guidelines:
    Progressives put:
    1) people before profit
    2) citizens before corporations
    3) peace before the pentagon

  4. +1, Ted. All the things you mention are important, but from the point of view of someone on the outside looking in, this tops the list :

    Progressives should demand that U.S. troops come home from any country that did not attack the United States—i.e., all of them. They should put an end to the disgusting drone wars. The bloated nearly-$1 trillion Pentagon budget should be shredded; let’s see what they can do with $100 billion (which would still be far more than Russia’s defense spending).

    Alas, I suspect you’ll be hard put to find any Democratic party candidate – including candidates who «caucus with the Democrats» – who will touch that with a bargepole….


  5. “For the record, I see no reason why the minimum wage should be lower than the maximum wage. ”

    Damn, it Ted, you made me think on a Saturday morning. This certainly sounds good (in theory, anyway) but I’m cursed with a knack for math and …

    The 2017 GDP was about 19.39 trillion. that certainly sounds good, but then the per-captia rate works out to 59,531.66 or 153,620.66 per household. Considering that would be your salary from the age of majority unto death we could – conceivably – all be millionaires. If we managed our money well. Which we wouldn’t.

  6. I note that since Tulsi Gabbard threw her hat into the ring for the US Democratic Party’s nomination, she’s been viciously attacked by both «Republicans» and «Democrats». She must be doing something right….


  7. The minimum wage should be raised but how much is going to end up in the hands of landlords? Will the rest of it go to pay higher bills on food, utilities…ect. $15 or $25 is just a number until you know what the prices are going to be.

    I live at the southern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area in older rent controlled apartment (1800 studio) and take the bus to the train and pedal the last mile to work. The government laboratory job I do is shutdown (the pay barley covers the rent and utilities but I have my military retirement to cover food and other items) but would be it nice live closer and cut down on the hour and half one-way commute. I looked around and Facebook and the rest of the high tech companies that cluster around Palo Alto and Sunnyvale have tilted the market and landlords charge what the market will bear. A older one-bedroom apartment next to the Menlo Park train station $4000 a month. They should build new apartments several stories high to meet the demand for housing but the people area in the community vote down and large changes, they don’t want new comers add traffic and disrupting their way of life or lowering their property values.