Dave Lindorff Economy Politics Voting

What Would a Real Opposition Party of the People Do?

Image by Teemu Paananen.

By Dave Lindorff / CounterPunch

We are currently at the mercy of a cabal of self-righteous Christian zealots with a 6-3 grip on the US Supreme Court and on Congress, thanks to an arcane structure designed by slave-owning wealthy men who handed the power to a Senate dominated by small-state rich people and to their party of Christian fascists and ordinary fascists.

If the US were a real democracy, there would be a courageous leftist people’s party to resist this grotesque situation. Instead we have the Democratic Party, a collection of wealthy, campaign bribe-grasping, gutless and smug career politicians, ready to compromise any principle to stay in office and serve those willing to pay the most for their support.

How else to explain not only the Democrats’ continuing support of candidates and of hack politicians seeking re-election who have no interest in doing what the public wants (cancellation of student debt, access to abortions and contraception, free government-funded healthcare for all, a much smaller and non-interventionist military, real action on climate change, more funding for public schools, more generous Social Security, a liveable minimum wage, etc., etc.

So let’s imagine what a real People’s Party and its elected representatives and president would do. Here’s my list:

1: Immediately cancel all student debt, and make public colleges tuition-free as they were intended to be. (What’s too lose? Tens of millions of people of all ages living in debt peonage would instantly become enthusiastic voters for the party that freed them, even if, and perhaps especially if the measure had to be defended in court.)

2: Raise the tax rate on the wealthy with the maximum rate of 90% on all income over $1 million. And do it in a way that is significant enough that all Americans earning less than $200,000 for a family see a substantial tax cut as a result, and at the same time raise the federal minimum wage immediately to $20/hour –we’ve been talking about $15 for so long inflation has left that number in the dust! — and peg it going forward to the annual CPI increase. (Virtually all ordinary Americans want these things done!)

3. Tax all income, including investment income, for the payroll tax that funds Social Security, and don’t tax Social Security benefits for anyone earning less in total than $100,000 a year. Also don’t raise the tax on individuals above the current already high 6.2%. Raise it on the employer, say to 8.2% of payroll, and stop the nonsense bout a 50-50 split in that tax being the rule. Meanwhile raise Social Security benefits for the lowest income retirees so that no one receives so little in benefits that they are below the poverty line. (Again, almost all Americans support this.)

4. Following the Supreme Court’s deceitful overturning of Roe v. Wade, immediately declare a national emergency and open federal women’s health and abortion clinics in federal buildings of all states that seek or have already passed laws to ban abortions in their borders. Meanwhile, for low-income women who don’t want an abortion provide government funded pre-natal care and lodging if a home is needed, free Ob-gyn services and delivery, and child care, housing and food assistance for the first five years of life, which if anti-abortion zealots oppose they should be called out as hypocrites for. (54% of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s action outlawing abortion and 4% more are undecided. Only 40% support it.)

Follow up by launching impeachment proceedings against the last three seated Supreme Court justices who are all guilty of lying under oath at their Senate hearings about Roe v. Wade being ‘settled law,’ an impeach Justice Clarence Thomas for voting on cases in which his wife has an interest. If that fails act to add four more judges to the court — and nominate them right away. (The Supreme Court today is widely loathed. This idea should be popular.)

5. Release all prison inmates locked up while awaiting trial because they cannot pay cash bail. Free all sentenced prisoners who are over 60. Period, And end all life sentences and solitary confinement. (Some people may oppose this idea but what we’re doing now, locking people up until they die in the US ain’t working, and this proposal will prove itself to be the right thing to do fairly quickly as old inmates return to families, don’t return to crime, and the costs of our massive prison system plummets.)

6. Cut the military budget by 50 percent and demand that the Pentagon to do a thorough line by line justification for the amount requested on every line in its next year budget proposal. (Most people know the Pentagon is a huge money-wasting machine that sucks up half of the income taxes collected every year, and doesn’t make the country safe or even win wars — but makes the US globally hated.)

7. Open the the books on the CIA, NSA, DIA, Fusion Centers, Joint Terrorism Strike Force and other intelligence organizations, and end all surveillance and spying on the American public. (No democratic government can have secret budgets and survive.)

8. End federal subsidies to all energy companies and provide federal subsidies instead to individuals for installation of home solar and wind electric generation systems and in-ground heat pumps. (Everyone’s seeing energy companies jacking prices to earn record profits. Why on earth are we subsidizing them even as they fuel our way to climate armageddon?)

9. Terminate federally subsidized flood insurance for all properties in regions subject to climate change flooding and substitute relocation assistance funding only for those seeking to move to higher, drier ground. (inland taxpayers should not be reimbursing people for staying on low-lying sea-front properties that are destined to be underwater in a short time. (On Hawaii’s Big Island, people who buy property and build a home or buy an existing home on the slopes of Mt. Kilauea, the island’s active volcano, are warned that if the lava erupts and runs over their home, there will be no effort to rescue it and no insurance to reimburse them. With rising seas it should be the same.)

10. Put the federal government — in the form of civil service employees not political appointees — in charge of all elections, and mandate simple written mail-in ballots and online voting as well as in-person voting with every vote receiving a paper receipt, showing how each voter voted. Elections should not ever be the responsibility of a party that is in power, or of any elected official like a Secretary of State. (Obviously the likelihood of election hanky panky is vastly greater for someone who has to face the voters than workers who simply work for the state on a salary, regardless what party is in power. Even a MAGA-wearing mouth-breather ought to recognize that reality. )

11. Declare a national education emergency, and provide federal aid to hire additional teachers in any school district where elementary school classrooms have more than 25 students. Also provide federal funding for child care of pre-school children, which would be the best jobs program the government could offer, hands down. (Another no-brainer that should be hugely popular.)

12. Provide federal funding for free mass transit in every city, and a subsidy for intercity rail travel to make it affordable to all. (If cities in Europe can do this with their much costlier and modern mass transit systems, so can we with our much smaller systems.)

13. End the corporate offshoring of profits and other tax dodges. If companies want to sell their products in the US, they either have to make them here or they have to pay the taxes on profits they earn producing them abroad. Foreign taxes paid by corporations should not be deductible in calculating domestic profits taxes due. (Again, almost nobody but corporations and big financial investors would back this.)

14. Declare everyone of every age eligible for Medicare, and expand Medicare immediately to cover the costs of Parts B and D for all. Eliminate Medicaid and terminate the stealth Medicare privatization program deceptively dubbed Medicare Advantage. (Since everyone would be on government healthcare companies would no longer have to offer private insurance, which employees usually have to contribute premiums to and pay co-pays on, so there’d be both instant savings for workers and companies, and good grounds for workers to demand raises or to organize a union if the employer doesn’t do that.)

15. Ban high-speed computerized trading and tax all short-term trading on both the buy and sell side at 1 percent of each trade. (Since this measure would raise vast sums to support the above proposals, and most Americans if they own stocks at all are buy-and-hold investors and mostly have their stocks in tax-deferred retirement funds anyhow, they would not be impacted at all.)

That’s only a start, and some of these measures would surely be challenged in court, but making these moves would show a will of a real People’s Party to govern in the interests of us and not of the moneyed interests — corporate and individual.

And yet, not one of these 15 ideas is being proposed much less being acted on or promoted by the Democratic Party or even by more than a handfull of its elected politicians. Why? Because the Democratic Party is not a people’s party. It’s a party of, by, and for the rich disguising itself as a party for ordinary people.

I encourage readers to send in other good proposals for a real People’s Democratic Party wish list.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

34 comments

  1. Why not just replace the obsolete capitalist system with a system that would work for ALL people plus the environment too?
    world socialism.org/spgb

  2. Great platform, Dave. So, who’s gonna be the head of this Party? Are you putting your hat in the ring?

    I think when it became clear that Bernie was being cheated by the Democratic Party (relying on Clinton money), that he should have bolted and started the Party you describe. He didn’t, thinking he could make change from the ‘inside’.

    Now, Bernie knows a lot more about politics than I do, and he turned a formerly ‘rock solid conservative’ State into a pretty Socialist enclave (by attracting votes from the most ‘rock solid’ part of the State, the Northeast Kingdom). So, maybe he has a point.

    On the other hand, Biden is a huge failure (not to mention Neocon warmonger). And only Clinton could have lost to Trump. The Democratic Party has no soul.

  3. The path to changing the political model is by way of first changing the monetary model.
    Any other attempt that ignores the monetary need will simply chase windmills.

    1. What do you mean by monetary need? Whose monetary need? We are most certainly a weak public, happy with our stalls, but what can some leader do, espouse about this “monetary need” you speak of? Whose need? The many investing and supporting this awful structure for their gain? And the CEOs working for them and the CIA working for the CEOs and both of them owning our government? Please explain further.

  4. Bravo!!!! Your ideas like rain on parched earth!!!! Thank you for substantive plans that make great sense and because articulated -instead of left in the airy climes – give us something tangible to work toward. Good thinking!

  5. First off, eliminate capitalism, the ripping of profit from the world’s working class. Eliminate money and convert all production to only serve the needs of the world’s working class. That should do it.

  6. I Could not have said it Better! A great list of things that need to be done. Everybody should forward this to everybody they know!!
    Al Wilson

  7. A real party of the people would probably do for the people what the People’s Republic of China does. Or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

  8. What an absolutely GREAT idea! I believe that the Democratic politicians all want us to think that this is their AGENDA! NOT!,
    but we do need a 3rd party – the one you describe so brilliantly in your article! Unfortunately, both parties of the corporations have fought that idea for decades. Their benefactors wouldn’t tolerate that.

  9. The fifteen items on the wish list are all good ideas. None of them will be adopted as policy unless the current totally corrupt political/electoral system is replaced by a democratic system, ideally one without the undemocratic Senate (or at a minimum, a Senate without the filibuster). I cannot imagine how we can rid ourselves of the current corrupt system since both political parties support it because they and their politicians like the bribe money. It appears that real change will only occur when we have a complete systemic societal breakdown, something which may be looming in the not too distant future. Due to the idiocy of our aggressive “dominate the world” foreign policy, the financial advantage of having the dollar serve as the world settlement currency is rightly being challenged by many countries which contain a majority of the world’s population and GDP. The people in the US are already suffering financially due to the failure of our “great leaders” to foresee that the illegal sanctions against Russia would boomerang, making us pay more for goods rather than punishing Russia. When the Wall Street thieves crashed the economy, Obama gave the keys to our Treasury to the thieves rather than helping the people who were the victims of the thieves. Should we continue to reward the Dems for this great leadership? Due to the outrageously bad leadership the 99% in this Country (the 1% has, of course, gotten much richer) has endured for the last forty years, including the nonstop war mongering, it appears to me that societal breakdown is inevitable. No one knows what will happen after that. I doubt that it will be good for anyone.

    1. Unite black, brown and poor white like Fred Hampton did and tried to do. They were so afraid of that 21 year old black man that they shot him dead while he was sleeping. We need a uniting party leader that is able to get across all these false lines and wade into the truth. Yes, they may be risking their lives to do so as one can see of the 60s assassinations in Fred Hampton, JFK, MLK, Malcolm X, RFK, and before then Allende and Lumumba. Our eyes must be opened to the truth and the only way to do that is on the streets, because those in “control” are shutting everything else down and allowing people who’ve given signals in this surveillance state that they are going to do some unspeakable act, the leeway to do so. Such allowances do not bode well for democracy.

    1. Kathy H- in the town you live in. That’s what the right did. Books have been written about it.

  10. What you’re considering is revolution. This could be a good thing, but don’t expect the present ruling elite to do anything. But, first you have to consider a leader, one that is incorruptible and can deliver. Otherwise, your praiseworthy ideas will fall flat.

  11. Yes! Plus – put profit/price controls on pharmaceuticals; require transparency and high standards for pharmaceutical research; review the protocols for testing medicines and vaccines; and reject the use of coercion i.e. mandates and ‘the nudge’ as unethical and socially damaging methods for implementing public health programs; encourage public discourse and welcome open scientific discourse in universities and the media, and more, as you say..

  12. First thing we all might do is denounce consumerism. Then, quit playing into the hands of the “system” by using local trade rather than the Jeff Bezos system. We can learn to be human beings again if, for example, if we can learn to trade with very important people, more important people than the assholes wanting to rule the world who can’t fix a simple toilet leak on their own or build their own house or make a garden that produces nutritious food. I’m saying if we can grow victory gardens during WWII, we can grow those kind of gardens again, and we can grow an economy built on trade between states and individuals with skills we trade across borders and build our states and our labor force with trade and of course money, but when things are scarce, or if we want to make them scarce then we starve out the ruling world MFers, of this planet we are all dependent upon and we quit buying anything but what is necessary to live on. It is our strength. the sooner we embrace our power as consumer, the more we can change our world and it doesn’t involve killing anything. For instance, I’m a disrespected poor person on EBT, also known as food stamps. There are organic and regenerative growers of food in farmers markets and online and willing to accept EBT and if you use your EBT that way, those who robbed Peter to pay Paul, are now giving back to Peter what should have been his in the first place. See: 100,000 Beating Hearts on carbon cowboys. org. Let’s grow a movement from the importance of the soil up. Also see The Need to Grow. Take away is, Starve Them of what they need to stay powerful.

  13. Abortion has been an option for those who can afford them. If it were a right, poor women would have had access to them as well.

    What we see here is a classic middleclass wish list, showing who (in their eyes) qualify as “the people.” US job losses long surpassed job gains, another 10 million left jobless because of the pandemic. There is tremendous need to restore basic human rights (UDHR) to food and shelter to those left jobless. But first, liberals want free health care and college tuition for the middle class…

    1. IMO, you’re right! The lack of any mention of the majority working class was a huge tell. (My response in full below.) I was trained in the early ’70s by ’30s labor organizers, who told me: “liberals are the ones who leave the room when the fight starts.”

      1. Ahh ha! Nailed!!! So throw it all out! Yep. throw it all out! You found out the error, and that makes the whole list bunk!!! EEgads. No wonder stasis remains before the corporate gobbling of everything. Whether it’s Bernie or a proposal, if it’s not perfect then he and /or it is totally damned. Apparently, the skill of making discriminations – as in this works, that doesn’t, this does…okay let’s retain these and throw that out- has been lost altogether or must be surrendered to the three year old’s demand for perfectionism again. All or nothing!!!

      2. @Selena;

        THE NOTHINGS, THE NO ONES

        Nicely misread. Not to mention an ad hominem and deflection. Nor, apparently, did you bother to follow that hint (My response in full below.)

        Apparently, criticism is perfectionism to you. Or is it my jab at liberals? Maybe what’s glaringly obvious to us blue collar types is invisible to the educated elite.

        Apparently you haven’t read much of anything I’ve posted, either. To reiterate: I was a professional local political campaign mgr. and labor union board member for decades, including doing contract negotiations. Obviously, then, I have plenty of experience in the real world of necessary compromise.

        I also have experience in the real world of betrayal. And of being pushed aside for more important people with better connections. Especially having grown up in Indian country.

        It’s a matter of survival to be able to read the signs. Or the lack of them. Something as big as no mention of majority class issues is a huge warning sign about who is important and whose issues count. Never mind the no ones of no concern.

  14. this made me happy in a crappy month of bad political news…

  15. Great article. Here is an email I sent to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema last fall after receiving numerous emails requesting donations. I never got an answer. It includes a lot of the same things as this article and a few others.
    To Kyrsten Sinema:
    Before I donate to your campaign I would like to see you actually do something to help the working class, poor people and the retirees in this country. So far I haven’t seen you do anything. When I voted for you I thought you were better than that. Here’s a list to help you get started.

    1. Do something to make the banks raise the interest rates on savings since they are currently paying .01% which is pretty much nothing. Although, they are charging me 17% interest on my Visa card.

    2. Do something about prescription drug prices and the cost of healthcare. There is no earthly reason why the people in this country should be paying so much more for their drugs than any other country. Ideally this would include the US having national health care like every other industrialized country in the world and some that aren’t industrialized.

    3. Do something about housing prices. I’ve been offered $250k for my house that I bought 8 years ago for $67k. If I was trying to buy a house now I wouldn’t be able to and neither can millions of other people in this country. Rents for apartments and homes has also risen or doubled in many cases. There needs to be controls on this so people can afford to live. Whatever happened to the FHA and rent control?

    4. Do something about the cost of college. These kids should not have to start their life after college so heavily in debt that they have to live with their parents and can’t even afford their own place. Oh, and there are other countries that have free college!!!

    5. Do something about the minimum wage. It is absolutely criminal how this has remained so low over the last 30 or 40 years. It is especially criminal when you consider how much CEO’s and executive’s pay has increased over the same time period.

    6. Do something about the cost of daycare. Oh, and there are other countries that have free daycare!!! How about doing that?

    7. Do something about the sorry state of prisons in this country. For-profit prisons was a horrible idea that never should have happened. Reform the prison system into a system that rehabilitates people and treats them like human beings. Drug use is a disease so stop throwing people into prison for drug abuse and get them into rehab centers.

    8. Actually do something about the infrastructure in this country instead of just grandstanding and paying lip service. Set up a project to really improve the infrastructure and create thousands of jobs in the process. Hey, here’s an idea. Give some of those jobs to people who are on welfare and unemployment. That way you could decrease costs at the same time. That would be a win-win for everybody.

    9. Get rid of lobbyists……….oh yeah, you’re not going to do that because you make too much money from them buying your vote.

    Ok, there’s some things you can start on. There are a lot more but I don’t want to overwhelm you. I realize that the government is pretty polarized and none of you really do anything anymore but if I see you actually doing any of these things and not just talking about them then I will donate to your campaign. Deal?

  16. Prohibit donating money to candidates for public office, while requiring media to provide a modicum of air time to said candidates to lay out their plans for representing the interests of constituents. If the compensation of public office is unattractive, stay home and apply for some other job.

  17. lemming punch—dim utopian measures that no US politician can support—unless he wishes to be assassinated like Wellstone…..the American allergy to ideology/principles precludes a 3rd party—-only in parliamentary govt can multiple parties thrive—true in most of Europe from Russia to UK

  18. Sorry but it is nothing but meek plan for … rescue of Capitalism.

    Capitalism has no human face and author’s new makeup deal won’t make any meaningful difference except stirring more social divisions in the same still unequal, inherently unjust capitalist society.

    Capitalism is vicious, cruel, inhumane socioeconomic system where social relations and human bonds are negotiated by power and money.

    It is historically reincarnated Capitalism and violent cultures/societies it breeds that is the root of everything that is evil, inhumane within global societies and economies.

    People born into capital bondage struggle their whole lives to preserve shreds of their humanity under murderous dictate of profits over people.

    Capitalism must be abolished as it creates divided, class societies and economies with inherently embedded, unalienable from the system itself features like joblessness, homelessness, social alienation, poverty and extreme inequality as guarantees of control and dominance of global speculative, fused State/Market capital over global labor.

    What we need is equal, equitable, egalitarian locally self sustainable, democratically & directly self governed by consensus society where the only form of social competition is caring and sharing among community members.

    In such just society all the economic activity is focused on satisfying basic community needs of healthy food, healthy lifestyle, healthy environment, safe and secure shelter, opportunity to develop human relationships.

    Moreover, needs of companionships, opportunity of human learning and creativity not according externally imposed standards but according to local community determination directly via consent and consensus, are priorities of economic self governance.

    But most of all economic stability amid matched to population economic growth is what must be assured by self governed local economic policies.

    Capitalism effectively prevents fulfillment of basic human needs and hence must be eradicated.

      1. Capitalism is an incomplete process at this moment. Learn about it. It has yet to emerge .
        True free market capitalism will not be using debt on an exclusive basis in order to grease the wheels of the economy.

        The Yin needs the Yang and is doomed without it.

  19. —>>> What Would a Real Opposition Party of the People Do?

    Wrong question. The right question is , “What Would a the free market do with its own debt-free money?
    The answer is after driving real economic growth, it would have a dramatic effect on reconfiguring the existing political model .

    The order of event is crucial or we all just end up chasing windmills.

  20. Nothing much will change, likely to be more and more of the same.
    It is incredible to behold the differences from 70 years ago…. Our middle class have almost disappeared;, Detroit, long ago, has lost its crown; Ak47 s are now ubiquitous ; gun violence and mass shootings are an unstoppable virus; on and on.
    There are far too many people and groups that require this present system for their benefits and they are heavily armed with lawyers, police, politicians, corrupt courts, corrupt lawmakers, etc.
    Proof… Recent Supreme Court decisions, Floyd’s murder, about 60 bullets in a Black running away, and deadly, unhealthy lead in our waters.

    Etc, etc.
    Our country, Right or wrong!!!

  21. REAL CLASS PREJUDICE. (F.U., D.L.)

    You had me cheering until that smarmy line at #10: “…MAGA-wearing mouth-breather…” revealed your true feelings. Couldn’t resist the elitist jab, eh?

    So as obviously superior, you should have the right to speak for ungrateful, ill-dressed, declasse peasants. My self-taught logger grandfather was a Wobbly. Hardly Ivy educated, he understood how he and his co-workers were fully capable of running their own systems. Like I said to an SDS “leader” in 1971 when he called on us community college marchers to charge a police line: “We’ll be right behind you.” Vanguard of the working class my ass. Just one more form of political elitism.

    You’re not interested in a real “Party of the People” when you denigrate real people. Especially when mention of the majority working class is glaringly absent! You may believe the well connected, educated middle class is safe, but get real; the term middle class is propaganda. The truth is 80% of the country is working class–it’s just that some of us used to be paid good union wages. Where is your concern about that?!

    I’m surprised this post didn’t have some reference to HRC’s infamous “basket of deplorables.” If you truly care and really want to be effective, get in that basket and learn to share the desperation of people ignored for the last 4 decades. It’s no coincidence that the Rust Belt became opiate abuse central and now leads in what are called deaths of despair.

  22. being a reactionary –opposition…Marx wrote the Paris Commune opposed nothing….free money, cancelling student loans is childish fascism…children always want more candy
    as the marxist Meszaros writes, “there is nothing radical about asking for more—only acting differently is radical”

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