Sunday Jun 26

Winter 2020

What Should the Biden Administration Do?

Looking Forward -- A Special Feature

Editor’s Note:  As the interminable election season came to a close, draining us all to the dregs by President Trump’s slow walk and banshee whine as he exits, stage far, wacky right, the various papers and networks coalesced to finally state the obvious:  Joe Biden was elected president.  Social Policy took that moment to reach out close to our deadline and ask more than one-hundred academics, activists, organizers, union leaders, friends, contributors, subscribers, and others, “What Should the Biden Administration Do?”  We asked for contributions that would range from a few words or sentences to no more than 500 words.  In the main, with only a few exceptions all of the priorities for Biden came in under the limit and under the wire for our deadline.  We think you will find them on point, challenging, aspirational, thoughtful, and even somewhat desperate, but taken together, a good road map that the administration would serve us well to heed. 

We like to believe that Social Policy provides a platform for many voices and ideas.  Here they are front and center! 

Biden’s Task and Ours: By Joel Rogers

Biden’s chief task is to restore broad confidence that government can improve people’s lives by actually doing so, and thereby build popular support for doing more. Serving the many not the few. he should firmly break with the half-century of Democratic neoliberalism that did the opposite. Using whatever power he has (the Executive branch alone, or with the whole Congress if he gets it in January’s Georgia runoff), he should do this quickly, legally, and repeatedly, each time broadcasting in clear terms just what he’s doing and why. He should aim for programs that help lots of people, particularly the non-college-educated working-class majority, with easily understood and tangible benefits and minimal red tape in getting them, that are already overwhelmingly popular or would naturally become so (think Social Security or Medicare). The list of policies that have these characteristics is too long for this space, but today probably begins with getting COVID relief (unemployment benefits and protection from eviction) to the vulnerable and cheap vaccines to all. It continues with laying down the planks of a new social contract: making work pay with higher minimum wages and wage supplements; universalizing citizen access to high-speed communication, cheap mobility, safe water and food, affordable housing, quality healthcare and childcare, post-secondary education and training; paying for it by progressive taxes on top earners/consumers and available Federal Reserve Board and Treasury powers for productive social investment; reinvigorating our democracy and citizen contribution to it by securing the vote, getting big private money out of elections and freer choice within them, investing more in public-minded media, and making federalism work for and not against democracy with a hard new national floor of services every citizen has by right but encouragement rather than preemption of locals choosing to go above it – a nation of neighborhoods, with more substantive national citizenship and more local control.

Doing these things will help end the public cynicism about politics and fear of the future that everywhere underwrite voter endorsement of GOP greed and nihilism. It will begin to build the durable progressive Democratic majority needed for further progress toward a society worth living in.     

The left should help Biden in this. Along with “friendly persuasion” to answer his better angels, we should defend him in battles with reactionaries and help him get even small wins moving in the right direction. This doesn’t mean abandoning our more radical loving hopes for a Third Reconstruction, but it does mean taking those hopes, and the enormity of the task of realizing them, and our role in furthering that task, more seriously. We need to learn, as a movement, to value actually improving things for most people more than commenting on their many deficiencies, recognize that our fragmentation and insularity is the chief cause of our political weakness, and work toward deeper agreement among ourselves and better organizational alignment in getting something useful done. We should at least try to come together around a few great ambitions for this country over the next generation – what sort of place we really want it to be, operating under what rules at home and be what sort of example to the rest of the world – and a plausible and shared theory of change of how we propose to get from here to there. We need a shared plan on how to organize and allocate the resources to that work, which will indeed likely take a long while with lots of reversal along the way. And, perhaps especially, we need to build a kinder and more functional culture among ourselves in doing that work that will attract many more people to doing it with us.

And then, guided by these ambitions and plan of action and culture – from wherever and however we may now be organized, staying in touch and never getting too agitated or angry with one another, constantly revising particulars of our analysis and plan, seizing whatever opportunities for progress we may have and helping each other stand up again after inevitable defeats, working with both our social  movements and with candidates and electeds, and always inside and independently outside the Democratic Party – we should settle in for and commit ourselves to playing and gradually mastering the long hard game required for real power and enduring and radically positive political change.

That’s a life worth living and a future worth fighting for.         

Joel Rogers is is the Noam Chomsky Professor of Law, Political Science, Public Affairs, and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also directs COWS, the national resource and strategy center on high-road development.

Democratize the State.  Fund Community Organizing: By Bob Fisher

Throughout the history of community organizing in the United States, funding has been a serious and neglected issue.  While there has been increasing interest in community organizing since the 2008 Obama campaign and election -- with community organizing being bombarded by attacks from the Right and the GOP and ACORN being destroyed -- Obama’s eight years did little to expand or further legitimize community organizing.  He campaigned like a community organizer and mobilizer but governed as though the only good of organizing was to have created an email list to request support on DNC issues.  A central problem for organizing is the over-reliance on progressive philanthropic sources (more than 2/3rds).  This has resulted in the underfunding of community organizing, while also contributing to the de-politicization of civil society, and obscuring the potential role the state can play in achieving egalitarian social change.  It is time to diversify funding sources for community organizing and to re-evaluate debates in the field about the limits and difficulties of drawing on state funding.

This argument was triggered not only by an understanding of the history of public funding of community organizing in the United States – such as the Community Action Program in the 1960s – but also by the Community Organising Programme (COP) in England from 2011-2015.  The COP, admittedly imperfect, illustrates how state funding for community organizing can lead to progressive outcomes, even when initiated by a Conservative government committed to neoliberal policies.   To its credit, aware of its multiple motives, the government invested approximately 20 million British Pound Sterling, with which they hired and trained 500 community organizers, educated approximately 5000 additional folks on community organizing basics, and gave birth to and helped dramatically expand ACORN International in the UK. 

Community organizers in the US have much to learn from this program.  One of them would be to push Biden and Harris to understand that this is a legitimate function of democratic government.  Somehow, it’s acceptable in the US to fund service delivery through government contracts and RFPs but not teach people how to build community, help each other, or organize for better jobs or income to public schools.   People in our poorest communities know what problems they face.  What they lack is more training and skills to effect change.  What they lack is more hard working, trained community organizers.  In fact, a central failure of the prior Obama/Biden administrations, admittedly under attack from the start by the Right, was to adopt a neoliberal version of globalization which reinforced the 40-year de-legitimization of the Federal government.  A more expanded case for public funding for community organizing would bring into relief the existing interconnections between civil society, state and market, challenge de-politicized interpretations of civil society and, ultimately, serve counter-hegemonic purposes to demand higher rates of taxation on the wealthy in order to fund economic and social programs and encourage a broader discussion of the causes and solutions of horrific economic, social, and political inequality.  

Robert Fisher is is Professor and Chair of Community Organizing at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in Hartford, Connecticut.

Make Working-Class Program a Priority By By Sherry Linkon & John Russo

To understand what the working class needs from the Biden administration, we might begin by recalling that the working class is both larger and more diverse than many imagine. It’s hard to define the needs of about 60% of Americans from different races, regions, ages, and so on. Yet they face shared economic struggles due to low wages, the proliferation of contingent work, and limited access to health care. Their efforts to organize on their own behalf are often blocked or disparaged, and too many in the political class view them as undeserving losers. Working-class people are tired of hearing that the answer to economic inequality is sending everyone to college. They know that the strength of the economy is not reflected in unemployment rates or the stock market, both of which ignore the underemployment and empty bank accounts that are part of everyday reality for many working-class people. They look at both Democratic and Republican administrations over the last few decades and see the war on drugs that sent too many people to jail, trade policies that shuttered factories and cut wages, battles over health care, and policies that obstruct unionizing. No wonder they resent and distrust politicians.

These underlying economic conditions have made the pandemic especially devastating for the American working class. And like doctors treating COVID, Biden must begin by addressing the immediate crisis. His administration must get the virus under control so that the economy and basic education can recover and provide substantial economic relief to ensure that the millions of Americans with little or no savings – some of whom would not call themselves working class –will not lose their homes or go hungry. A relief package will also protect the long-term health of the economy, not just the stock market, and that will benefit everyone.

Once the economic pandemic is under control, the Biden administration should initiate infrastructure programs to create new industrial jobs to grow the economy and address climate change. This should be part of a broader industrial policy that includes a buy American program, improving labor laws, and raising the minimum wage. 

Further down our list is attention to social supports, starting with expanding access to affordable health care, improving early childhood and K-12 education, and supporting elder and child care. Working-class people also need help addressing social problems rooted in their economic displacement, like drug addition, family violence, and mental health.

All of this will help working-class people of all kinds. It will help many in the middle class as well, especially those who have lost ground due to economic shifts and the pandemic.

Of course, this agenda faces some real obstacles, including limits on their power and the distrust and resentment that the Trump administration have promoted toward them. But if Biden and the Democrats don’t make real progress to address these issues, they’ll be sent packing in 2024. And that would be even worse for the working class.

 Sherry Linkon, a professor of English at Georgetown University and a faculty affiliate of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, edits the blog Working-Class Perspectives. She is co-author with John Russo of Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstown.  Her most recent book is The Half-Life of Deindustrialization: Working-Class Writing on Economic Restructuring. Follow her on Twitter: @WCPerspectives.

John Russo is the former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies and coordinator of the Labor Studies Program at Youngstown State University. Currently, he is a visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and Working Poor at Georgetown University. Russo has published widely on labor and social issues, in academic journals as well as magazines and newspapers. He is also managing editor of the blog Working-Class Perspectives.

Biden Can Solve America’s Housing Crisis: By Randy Shaw

President Biden takes office amidst the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. His first action, which will likely occur during his inauguration speech, will be to announce an Executive Order extending the national eviction moratorium set to expire on January 1. The pandemic makes this order an essential response to a national health emergency.

The extended moratorium should be coupled with one of two plans. If Democrats win Senate control on January 5, Biden should announce on day one that he will sign the Heroes Act (which the House passed in May but the Republican Senate ignored) to cover $100 billion in back rent and mortgage arrears for an estimated 70 million Americans. If Republicans maintain Senate control Biden should announce plans to either a) reach a deal with them on a version of the Heroes Act or b) use executive authority to transfer funds to begin implementing rent forgiveness for tenants.

Preventing mass evictions tops everyone’s priority list. But it’s also important that the Biden Administration do what Presidents Clinton and Obama did not: provide the affordable housing funding necessary to end America’s longstanding housing and homelessness crisis.

Fortunately, pressure from the over thousand groups affiliated with the Our Homes, Our Votes campaign---a project of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) makes a meaningful funding increase politically possible. The coalition pressured Biden and other Democratic presidential candidates to announce specific housing plans. Biden’s includes universal Section 8 and the building of an additional 1.5 million homes. While these actions will not end homelessness or ensure affordable housing for all, they would be huge steps forward. And unlike 1993 and 2009, there is a grassroots coalition in place to push Congress and the President to act.

Can housing make major gains if Republicans maintain Senate control? There are enough Republican Senators who support housing development to create a Senate majority; the question is whether a McConnell led Senate will enable this to occur. And if so at what funding levels.

Housing advocates did not get anything near what they needed from the last two Democratic Presidents. We must ensure the Biden presidency is different.

Randy Shaw is Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic. He writes about strategies for solving the housing crisis in Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America (UC Press 2020)

Medical Debt: By Chuck Shuford

According to The Commonwealth Fund, 79 million Americans have medical debt or problems paying medical bills.  Most of those 79 million have health insurance.  Joe Biden’s decision to avoid confronting structural change in a health care system built upon the foundation of profit-driven institutions calling the shots has severely limited his ability to eliminate medical debt in the U.S.  Given that he is going to tinker with the current system, there are still some things that he could do to reduce the risk of medical debt. Here are a few suggestions.

  • As a first step the president and vice-president and their health care advisors should sit down with Wendell Potter and Elisabeth Rosenthal, two health care reform advocates with a in-in depth understanding of the medical industrial complex. Potter is a former health insurance executive turned health care reform advocate and Rosenthal is a Harvard trained physician who became a journalist covering the health care industry for 22 years and is now editor-in-chief of the Kaiser Health News published by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Follow through on Biden’s plan to provide a public option to the Affordable Care Act, which will allow people to purchase a public health insurance policy similar to Medicare. This plan will also ensure that Medicaid eligible persons in states that did not expand Medicaid coverage get covered by offering premium-free access to the public option.
  • Advocate for lowering the Medicare eligible age from 65 to 60.
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
  • Prevent insurance companies from charging out of network rates when the patient has no control over which medical provider or hospital provides service.  This will go a long way in preventing surprise billing.
  • Tackle market concentration by using antitrust laws to break up oversized hospital conglomerates.
  • Cap total health expenditures at a reasonable percentage of a family’s income. Biden is currently proposing to cap insurance premiums at 8.5% of income but insurance premiums are only part of health insurance expenditures.  Lower premiums usually mean higher deductibles and co/pays. 
  • Mandate more transparent hospital billing.  Require hospitals to provide each patient with a line item bill.
  • Take a serious look at how other nations with little or no medical debt have dealt with this problem.  Every other developed country delivers health care for a fraction of what it costs here and usually with better outcomes.  They use a wide range of tools and strategies. It isn’t all “socialized medicine”.   American exceptionalism be damned.
  • Crack down on non-profit hospitals by ensuring that they provide charity care and community benefit to justify the value of their tax exemption.

Chuck Shuford is a retired nonprofit and foundation executive, including as executive director of the Needmor Fund, which funded community organizing as a major priority.

Biden Bullet-Points: By Jim Sessions 

I don’t have any special wisdom on this.  Though I care deeply.

Equal and fair and strategic distribution of an effective vaccine.  Replacing federal judges with decent ones....and strengthening the Dems version of the federalist society’s vetting and nurturing of bench of young, brilliant lawyers.  A large and strategic economic care package.  Rebuilding our international ties.  Climate, climate, climate.

Jim Sessions is President of the Working America Education Fund and a United Methodist minister who has lived and worked in Southern Appalachia for over thirty years.  He has served as an executive director for the Southern Appalachian Ministry, Southerners for Economic Justice, the Commission on Religion in Appalachia, the Highlander Research and Education Center, and the Union Community Fund of the AFL-CIO.  He also has worked as a program director for the Children’s Defense Fund’s national training center: Alex Haley Farm.  Prior to those years he was chaplain at several universities: Princeton, Drew, Brown, Harvard, and MIT.

Suggested Policy Priorities for the Administration: By Franklin Delano Strier

1. Climate Control/Alternative Energy 

 Global warming is or should be the most compelling constraint. It is, literally, an existential issue. We should heed the experts and adopt the many viable alternative energy sources now available. They may need financial support, such as more attractive tax incentives to the energy companies for the development of such sources. An example: harnessing the energy of tides coming in and out. (See 4. Below.)

2. Improved and More Extensive Public Transportation 

Because of our renowned infatuation with our cars, we are loathe to substitute public transport, notwithstanding the public benefits. An example would be the development of high-speed magnetic levitation rail now employed in several other countries.

3. Revised Presidential Election

The present system, involving the Electoral College and Winner-Take-All allocations in every state except Maine and New Hampshire, results in thousands (maybe millions) of uncounted votes. With this in mind, candidates focus their campaigns—in time and money—on wooing the undecided voters in the swing states. The resulting mess is more suitable for a board game than electing the most powerful person on the planet.

4. Clean Energy from Ocean Tides

Tidal energy is produced through the use of tidal energy generators. These large underwater turbines are placed in areas with high tidal movements, and are designed to capture the kinetic motion of the ebbing and surging of ocean tides in order to produce electricity

Franklin Strier is  Emeritus Professor of Law, California State University Dominguez Hills, author of Reconstructing Justice: An Agenda for Trial Reform and, more recently, Guns and Kids: Can We Survive the Carnage from Social Policy Press.

Rural Development: By Gloria Dickerson

My number one issue for rural development in the Mississippi Delta is infrastructure. Some of the places that rural residents live in are full of giant potholes in the streets, dilapidated buildings, rat and snake infested abandoned houses, and lots of debris in the neighborhoods. The environment is toxic and dangerous for children and their families. These poor neighborhoods and towns do not have enough of a tax base to make the needed cleanup of the environment. They have the look of poverty, and is the land of poverty. They need help.

Gloria Dickerson is the CEO of We2gether Creating Change, an economic development and community organization based in Drew, Mississippi, Sunflower County. 

A Community Organizer’s Wish List: By Lew Finfer

1. Housing

Extend the CDC Eviction Moratorium and fund greatly rental and homeowner assistance to prevent evictions and foreclosures

2. Jobs and Good Jobs

Funding for job training starting with dislocated workers whose jobs are coming back.

New funding to states but also some funding to which organizations can apply to nationally with some groups from each state getting funded.

 Whatever can be done to strengthen the National Labor Relations Board to help unions organize new workers.

3. Health Care: Paid Family Medical Leave for federal employees to encourage more states and localities to do this.

Grants to community health centers.

4. Wages: Pay all federal employees to at least be paid $15 an hour.

Require of companies receiving federal contracts to do this; extend the concept of prevailing wage on construction jobs to many other jobs with companies getting federal contracts.

5. Bank Regulation

Pro-active regulation and pressure on banks to agree to forbearance for homeowners unemployed or with serious cut in income to put mortgage payments owed until the end of the mortgage.

6. Policing and racial justice;

Reactivate Justice Department engaging and investigating police departments and signing of consent decrees.

Educate police departments on best practices in training on implicit bias, de-escalation, use of force policies, civilian review boards.

7. Immigration--Expand DACA to parents of DACA children/adults, Extend TPS for people from current countries, legislation for path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

8. Infrastructure bill with language to increase employment of people of color and low income.

9. Memories of when some federal money went directly to community organizing groups with the pro's and con's of that; remember during the Carter Administration the LEAA Community Anti-Crime Grants and the VISTA volunteer grants!?!

10. Groups doing international work with community organizations have a place at the State Department to bring issues that the State Department should consider, press governments of ACORN International, Faith in Action, European Community Organizing Network's work in Eastern European countries, etc.

Lew Finfer is Director/Community Organizer at Massachusetts Communities Action Network in Boston who recently celebrated fifty years as a community organizer.

A Poetic Biden/Harris To Do List: By Mike Gallagher

1. As the most urgent priority, it would be of course most desirous to get on top of the coronavirus

2  No one had to ask me twice, I'm always free with my advice

   Now is a good time to abolish ICE

    (and clean out the bottom of the DHS raptor cage,

    we have no further use for fascist-sounding agencies at this stage)

    Perhaps the stormtroopers can be retrained to do some good

    As valuable front line caregivers, teachers'  aides, meatcutters or grocery store cashiers --  surely they could

3. Speaking of stages, isn't it way past time to raise minimum wages?

 4. Aside from kids from very rich families and the Ivy League set,

    Let's hear a motion to cancel all student debt.

    While we're at it, can it be

    That this is a good time to make public higher education free?

5. After millions have lost their employer based health, isn't it fair

    To expand and improve Obamacare?

6. You say Medicare for All is a bridge too far, then how about the adoption

    Of the Medicare buy in for 55 plus or the overdue public option?

7. Unions built the middle class.  That is just a fact.

    Time for a brand new National Labor Relations Act

8. With millions thrown out of work, you don't have to be a policy geek

    To see that it is finally time for an actual (not fake) infrastructure week.

 9. Oh what a tangled web we weave

     When we try to survive a pandemic without paid family/medical leave.

 10. To support young families, help them keep the wolf at bay,

     Promote the public school adoption of universal pre-K.

11. Everyone is saying this; you didn't hear it just from me:

make Stacey Abrams -- a community organizer -- head of the DNC 

Mike Gallagher is a longtime community and labor organizer having worked for Mass Fair Share, the United Labor Unions, and SEIU. Social Policy distributes Mike’s poetry book, Red Nose Mike.

Without A Budget, There Are No Rights, Without Taxes, There is No Money

By Elena Delavega and Gregory M. Blumenthal

The Peruvian government has as its slogan “sin presupuesto no hay derechos” which is translated into English as “without a budget, there are no rights.” We find this phrase to be extremely enlightening about the role of taxes in the well-being of the country. At a time when the stock market is soaring past 30,000, how is it possible that the national debt is the highest we have ever had? The reason is simple – tax cuts.  Tax cuts are the single most important cause of the mounting debt we have. The U.S. government does not have the money it needs to meet its most basic commitments, let alone provide any relief to the population.

The government needs money to provide basic infrastructure and services, and it needs to be able to help the citizenry face unexpected shocks such as COVID-19.

It is for this reason that we urge President-Elect Biden to consider raising taxes. However, it is important that this be done in a manner that does not hurt the working class. The heaviest tax burden is borne by the middle class, and by those who work to live, very often the professional class. What we would like to see is a tax structure that protects the middle class and “kicks taxes up.”

The lowest tax bracket should increase to $50,000 and remain at 10%. The second, third, fourth, and fifth tax brackets should move up accordingly.

Additional tax brackets should be implemented, for those making between $500,000 and $750,000, for those making between $750,000 and $1,000,000, for those making between $1 million and $1.5 million, for those making between $1.5 million and $2 million , and for those making between $2 million and $3 million, for those making $3 million and $5 million, for those making between $5 million and $10 million, and for those making above $10 million.

Additionally, all income should be counted in the same manner. There is no reason why capital gains should be treated in any manner different from working income, other than those with income from work are not the ones making the rules.

Treat all income equally and increase taxes for the wealthiest people while preserving the middle class.

When we have a budget, we can start talking about rights.

Elena Delavega is Associate Director at Benjamin L Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis and Associate Professor in the School of Social Work there.

Gregory M. Blumenthal is CEO of Good Deeds Virtual Marketplace and Owner, GMBS Consulting

Biden Needs To Pick a Side: By Jeff Kirsch

Whew! Glad for the impressive unity work that elected the Biden-Harris ticket and defeated Trump. Now what….

In general, Biden needs bold strategies to overcome today’s hardships and to energize the people who voted for him, including not only Democrats but independents and disillusioned Republicans as well. (This doesn’t include Trump voters though Democrats need to work to peel off Trump voters through sound policy and messaging over time. Democrats need more support to make progress and to avoid being set back in the 2022 elections.

The first step of activity needs to be that Biden, Harris, and their team do all they can to win the two Georgia U.S. Senate seats, with control of the U.S. Senate at stake.

As importantly, Biden immediately needs to take charge of the pandemic, provide health care resources as needed, persuade people to behave properly, make testing available and affordable, and make sure the distribution of vaccines is done fairly and efficiently.

Biden at the same time has to provide relief to Americans who are paying the price of the pandemic-produced economic problems. Jobless income relief needs to move immediately and smoothly; SNAP (food stamp) benefits need to be increased as hunger and food pantry lines explode; housing eviction moratoria need to be extended beyond Dec. 31 to avoid further homelessness; small (and vulnerable) business and its employees need support; and schools and hospitals need resources to function and recover (and improve their environments), among other priorities.

Biden should also move forward on health care system improvements, some of which need to be done through a pandemic package (testing, access to care for people losing insurance through their jobs, no surprise bills); and some that will continue the push towards the goal of all of us having access to affordable, quality health care.  Expanding Medicaid coverage to the non-compliant states (and helping people achieve real access) should be a priority; lowering the cost of drugs is essential; and Biden should deliver his “public option” as part of the Affordable Care Act. (While a compromise for many of us, this will be plenty hard to win in the current climate, even if the Democrats win in Georgia, given the unyielding opposition of all parts of the medical industry that donates enough to both parties to have power.)

With almost half the nation positioned against us, we need to be realistic about how rutted is our road forward, but aspirational in terms of our goals and outcomes. We also need to be practical to win important benefits for the vast majority of Americans who are not economically well-off. But I hope the Biden-Harris Administration is clear about goals and the steps needed to achieve them, and the values of social and economic justice that need to frame them. As Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it clear whose side they are on.” This is clearly a very long fight, and we need to win more support for progressive policies.

Jeff Kirsch has worked for almost 50 years as a community organizer and advocate for organizations working on hunger, health care, and issues supporting vulnerable children and families.

Biden Needs to Pay Attention in Class, Both on Campus and Outside of It: By Josh Miller

Like most “Social Policy” readers, I support the Black Lives Matter movement, including rethinking the police, universal health care, a $15 minimum wage, fair taxation of the wealthy, the Green New Deal, and an end to the death penalty.

I would add:

1) Restore diversity training in government, corporations, and academia.

2) The Federal government should stay out of debates about “Cancel Culture,” Critical Race Theory, and the relative importance of 1619 and 1776 in American history.

3) Let faculty and administrators in schools, from kindergarten through universities, work out with public officials and health experts whether learning should take place in person or remotely.

4) Restore Obama-era protections for victims of sexual assault on colleges campuses.

5) Restore funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

6) The United States should have a friendly and respectful relationship with other countries. There is no “China flu”; there are no “shit-hole countries”; and there should be no “Muslim ban.” In order to overcome national chauvinism and xenophobia, Americans should learn more world history and study more languages. International students should be welcome at colleges and universities. Public universities should be tuition-free.

7) America should be proud to be a nation of immigrants. We should welcome asylum seekers. Preserving DACA is only the first step toward immigration reform.

8) We should apply the principle of nonviolence domestically and internationally. We need to stop the insane proliferation of guns in the United States. Avoiding war, we should help protect the rights of women in Afghanistan.

Josh Miller is Professor of Government and Law, Lafayette College (and former ACORN organizer)

Two Strikes, as the Start: What Biden Needs to do to Launch a Reinvigorated Fair Housing Effort: By Gregory Squires

Joe Biden confronts an incredibly complex set of domestic and international challenges starting from day one, if not sooner.  But the fair housing agenda is quite simple, at least for the first 100 days.  He needs to repeal the Trump Administration’s recently promulgated regulations on disparate impact and affirmatively furthering fair housing, and replace them with rules enacted by his predecessor.  Let me explain.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act a particular policy or practice may constitute unlawful discrimination even if, arguably, there is no discriminatory intent.  If a housing provider takes action that adversely affects or disproportionately exclude members of a protected class, it would be illegal unless that action serves a legitimate business objective and no less discriminatory alternative is available that would meet that objective. Trump’s chosen HUD Secretary Ben Carson repealed the Obama rule and replaced it with a regulation that would make it virtually impossible for any plaintiff to establish a disparate impact, and made it easy for a defendant to justify virtually any practice.  This get-out-of-jail free card was, as expected, universally condemned by fair housing advocates.  But even many major industry players like the National Association of Realtors, Bank of America, Quicken Loans, and several others objected.  As Bank of America Vice Chair Anne Finucane observed, “Given the recent protests and events, and the recognition of where we are as a country, we would respectfully offer that the time is not right to issue a new rule.”

The Fair Housing Act also requires recipients of federal housing and community development funds to use those funds to identify and dismantle barriers that created the nation’s segregated living patterns, and create truly integrated communities.  This requirement has long been virtually ignored by those recipients and by HUD, the primary federal fair housing law enforcement agency.  The Obama Administration enacted a rule that clarified the obligation of recipients to affirmatively assess policies and practices that perpetuate segregation, implement programs that would counter those patterns, and strengthened HUD’s enforcement role.  Trump replaced this rule with a call to create more affordable housing opportunities but did not even mention racial segregation.

There are more steps that should follow.  HUD, state and local governments, foundations, and other funders should provide more resources to fair housing advocacy groups. These same sources should provide legal assistance to families facing eviction and foreclosure.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should restore the enforcement authority of its Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity which has been turned into an advisory body under Trump. The Community Reinvestment Act should be revised to focus more attention on racial discrimination and segregation. More could be done through voluntary actions by all parties, education, organizing, regulation, and legislation. 

But the first two steps are clear. Repealing and replacing Trump’s disparate impact and affirmatively furthering fair housing rules should be done immediately, certainly no later than the first 100 days. 

Gregory D. Squires is Professor of Sociology and Public Policy & Public Administration at George Washington University.

Bring Justice and Anti-Racism to Public Security: By Ebony Guy and Nik Belanger

At Virginia Organizing, we are serious about building power to dismantle racism and create a more just state for us all. Here’s what the Biden administration can do to further those goals: reverse the harmful executive actions of the current administration and take meaningful steps to dismantle systemic racism.

Through executive orders and administrative rule-making, President Biden can:

  • Combat climate change: Rejoin the Paris agreement, reestablish carbon regulations, and stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • Protect immigrant communities: Expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, eliminate the public charge rule, and end deportations.
  • Rein in predatory lenders: Give the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the authority to regulate payday lenders.
  • Expand health care access: End junk health insurance plans and other policies that undercut the Affordable Care Act.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. The new administration will have a lot of damage to undo from the last four years.

But in organizing, we’re never just playing defense. We’re not interested in getting rid of the bad. We don’t want to go back to 2016. We want to build a new world together in 2021. For us at Virginia Organizing, that means a federal government that is willing to name racism and do something about it.

Grassroots organizations have led the way on this. For example, in the Danville Chapter of Virginia Organizing, we have organized to address racism in our local police department. In 1:1s and community meetings, Virginia Organizing members shared stories of harassment by the Street Crimes Unit and concerns with a mostly white police force operating in communities of color. Following a multi-year campaign, the police department made its complaint process more accessible and transparent, developed diversion plans for young people, and now prioritizes community policing in meaningful ways. We’re not where we need to be, but we’ve made a lot of progress.

Now, it’s time for President Biden to do his part.

He must move to demilitarize the police, redirect funds from law enforcement to community needs, and use federal authority to hold police accountable for killing Black people and other people of color.

Additionally, the Biden administration can do more to dismantle racism: invest in affordable housing, forgive student debt, strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act, and fight climate change.

Lastly, President Biden must take action to protect the most fundamental right in a democracy: the right to vote. It’s time to reinstate the Voting Rights Act nationwide to address voter suppression in communities of color. We need a federal government that values our voices, all of our voices, to rebuild this country.

Ebony Guy is on the State Governing Board of Virginia Organizing and Nik Belanger is the Organizing Director. 

Reform Criminal Justice: By Erin Hatton

  • Full-bodied structural reform of the criminal justice system, including deep investment in housing, education, childcare, public transportation, debt relief, employment (including but not limited to raising the minimum wage), and the social safety net, coupled with disinvestment in the carceral state (including demilitarizing the police)
  • At the most basic level, prohibit solitary confinement behind bars (including all supermax prisoners), prevent prisoner mistreatment, and disallow both private and public entities to profit from mass incarceration
  • Disallow corporate influence in crafting employment law and close loopholes that allow companies to evade their basic obligations to workers (e.g., employee misclassification)
  • At the same time, separate basic components of the social safety net from employment by providing universal health care and UBI
  • Bolster rights and protections for all workers, particularly for undocumented workers who are supremely vulnerable to exploitation, coercion, and abuse
  • Relatedly, bolster rights and protections for groups of workers who are not legally protected as such: student athletes, prisoners, many graduate students, workfare workers, immigrants in ICE detention centers, patients working in addiction rehab programs,  and others who perform productive labor for the benefit of other entities but do not reap the rights and benefits of that labor for themselves
  • STOP child separation at the border

Erin Hatton is an associate professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo and most recently author of Coerced: Work Under the Threat of Punishment.

Improve Voter Access: By Nick O’Neil

We’re suddenly in a unique position where millions of voters have voted by mail for the first time in 2020 and the experience seems to have gone smoothly and without a large spike in procedural ballot rejections that many had predicted.

The incoming Administration now has an opportunity to solidify voter access via early vote and vote-by-mail through improvements to 2002’s Help America Vote Act. In the same way the act provided funding to update out-of-date voting machines using punch cards, the Biden Administration should support funding permanent vote-by-mail and early vote infrastructure in states willing to enfranchise their voters with this option. Other proven voter access programs such as motor voter or vote-by-mail drop boxes could also be supported, in addition to restoring key Voting Rights Act provisions in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement act as previously passed by the House.

But the Administration should not rely solely on Congress passing improvements to voting rights. It should aggressively litigate in states where local provisions appear to disenfranchise on the basis of race, sex or age, all well-established rights under constitutional amendments. Litigants in favor of limiting voting rights will not shy away from fighting in the courts and neither should the Biden administration.

Nick O’Neil is founder and executive director of the voting reform and contact group, 5 calls.

We Need a Movement to Push Biden to Make Change Real By Jonathan Rosenblum

In its first week, the Biden/Harris administration should announce an all-out drive to enact Medicare for All; a multi-trillion dollar Green New Deal funded by taxing big business; and a plan to defund and replace closed borders, the carceral state, and militarized policing.

They won’t do any of those things, of course, even though these policies are exactly what would most benefit the American people and our planet.

The country – indeed, the world – dodged a bullet from fascism in November, but let’s not have any illusions about who won. Biden and Harris represent a continuation of the same economic policies that produced the historic wealth and rights inequalities of today’s New Gilded Age.

Biden is, after all, the man who assured rich donors that if elected, “nothing would fundamentally change;” who immediately after announcing his candidacy raced to a fundraiser with notorious union-busting attorneys; who has derided the Green New Deal and declared that “fracking is not going to be on the chopping block;” and who proudly authored the 1994 crime bill that ushered in the new era of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.

Biden was carried into office by billionaire class donors who were quite happy with the last four years of profiteering but preferred less daily drama. They will get a return on their investment: Unfettered capitalism, but with a benevolent Biden sheen.

Our job is to build movements to disrupt these plans and make bold demands on the new administration.

We should demand an end to the privatized, for-profit healthcare system that produces $20 million annual pay packages for insurance CEOs and a Rube Goldberg system that even before COVID failed to provide access to affordable care to 87 million Americans. Start with making Medicare available to all, regardless of age or citizenship.

Before COVID, nearly 80 percent of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck. It’s even worse now. And our world is on fire, quite literally. We should demand that the Biden administration immediately launch a multi-trillion-dollar Green New Deal program, with union apprenticeships and living wage jobs to build the new, 100% renewable energy economy, mass transit, affordable housing for all, and revamped public schools.

We should demand an end to the racist prison-industrial complex, which today imprisons 2.1 million Americans and confines another 4.4 million on probation and parole – not to mention the unnumbered more held in ICE detention facilities. We need to abolish ICE, demand full rights for immigrants, and fully fund restorative justice, jobs, and training for young people.

Any argument that progressives must limit themselves to “realistic” demands is a betrayal of the tens of millions of Americans who are on the precipice of economic ruin on a smoldering planet. Half-measures won’t do. Remember the 2009 argument that it was better to fight for modest, achievable reform like a “single-payer option,” instead of universal health care? Political realism got us neither.

It’s time to fight for what we need, and that starts with clear, bold demands.

Jonathan Rosenblum is the author of Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement (Beacon Press, 2017) and a member of the National Writers Union. He works as a community organizer for Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Find him online at or Twitter: @jonathan4212.

What a Biden President-Elect Owes Black Women By C.C. Campbell-Rock

On November 30, 2020, Black women gave former Vice President Joseph Robniette Biden, Jr., and former Senator Kamala Devi Harris the keys to the White House.

Black women voters carried Biden over the finish line. In this year’s presidential election, nearly nine out of 10 Black voters cast their vote for Biden, according to a survey by AP VoteCast. Among Black women, that number was even higher — 91 percent, according to exit polls — with 80 percent Black men voting for Biden.

Biden acknowledged that Black voters pushed him over the top during his victory speech. The “African American community stood up again for me….“You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours,” he said.

Black voters are not monolithic. Some are Republican or Independent, but the majority are Democrats. However, when it comes to presidential elections most Black voters form a Democratic voting bloc, because they know the Republican Party is comprised of people who harbor racial animosities and white supremacy ideals.

These views are borne out in the policies that elected Republicans have supported, specifically, racial gerrymandered redistricting, voter suppression laws, harsh sentencing laws, and attempts to eliminate benefits that the working poor depend on, such as food stamps.

Even before the Presidential election, Black voters, primarily Black women in South Carolina, made Biden the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee

Clearly Biden owes Black women a lot. As the Bible says, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”

Black women pushed Biden to make a woman of color his Vice-President, which he did, but these voters expect much more. If Biden thinks appointing Black women to key positions in his administration will satisfy Black women voters, he has another thought coming. Tokenism and window dressing (appointing Blacks to a few prominent positions) have never impressed Black women.

“What we need is action,” Marc H. Morial, former New Orleans Mayor and President and CEO of the National Urban League, said after the election.

And action is what Black women expect from the Biden Administration.

Today, Black women in the United States who work full time, year-round are typically paid just 62 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

 The wages of Black women are driven down by a number of current factors including gender and racial discrimination, workplace harassment, job segregation and a lack of workplace policies that support family caregiving, which is still most often performed by women.

“The ravages of the coronavirus have resulted in employment among Black women dropping 11 percentage points—more than any other group. Black women’s unemployment rate has climbed to 16.9%, suffering the greatest job losses as compared with other groups,” the Economic Policy Institute reports.

“Black women are the core of the nation’s economy, holding the front-line jobs and running small businesses, and they are more often the single heads of households in their communities. If they are elevated through policy, including everything from paid sick leave to stimulus programs targeted directly toward them, the economy at-large will benefit.”

Black women also struggle with higher infant mortality and maternal mortality rates. African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites and twice the sudden infant death syndrome mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites. In 2017, African American mothers were 2.3 times more likely than non-Hispanic white mothers to receive late or no prenatal care.

Black women, who comprise 68 percent of single heads of households, are also home insecure.

“Across the country, historic and ongoing displacement, exclusion, and segregation prevent people of color from obtaining and retaining homeownership, as well as accessing safe, affordable housing. Even when they succeed in purchasing their own homes, people of color—especially Black people—are more likely to experience foreclosure, often due to predatory lending practices. In addition, the cost of rental housing has outpaced wages and destabilized longtime residents’ ability to afford their homes,” according to the Center for American Progress.

What Biden owes Black women is a grocery list of items that will improve their quality of life: living and equal wages, affordable health care, access to affordable homeownership loans for and small business development, grants for childcare, free college tuition, substantive job training, labor union protections, programs, and increased social security and disability benefits.

Black women also expect the Biden Administration to implement criminal justice reform, police reform, judicial reform, sentencing reform, and an end to systemic racism in American institutions, including in lending institutions, among health care providers, in employment and hiring practices, job training programs, college admissions, the environment, voting systems, and education systems (e.g. charter schools) and in federal government departments.

Black women expect President-Elect Biden to oversee a fully functioning Department of Justice that investigates and holds accountable domestic terrorists, rogue police, and one which tracks, implements, and upholds Consent Decrees, where applicable.   

Black women expect a lot from the Biden Administration. At the very least, President-Elect Biden is expected to act immediately to secure a coronavirus stimulus relief package that benefits the working poor and elderly in Black communities nationwide.

However, the Biden Administration proceeds, one thing is certain, Black women sent the nation a message that the day of reckoning is at hand but also that the Democratic Party may lose the majority of its base in 2024, if substantive progress isn’t made.

 As far as black women voters are concerned, the days of unending patience and mediocrity from elected officials are over. They want bold, progressive action, and they want it now.

CC Campbell-Rock is an independent journalist and editor, who covers the Black Community, and she is the author of the forthcoming book, The Battle for Justice in New Orleans. 

 Enforce One Standard of Justice, Even for Corporate Criminals: By Marc Dann

Although frustrating and disturbing, President Trump’s futile attempt to use the courts to overturn the results of the election did serve a useful purpose: it illustrated the inherent power of the American legal system to dispense justice. Unfortunately, previous Democratic and Republican Presidents and Attorneys General have too often failed to exercise that power on behalf of the working class and poor. Here are just a few examples:

Wall Street got off scott free for decimating Main Streets across the country. Not one CEO of a “too big to fail” bank, predatory mortgage lender, or investment firm was charged with a crime for causing the fraud-fueled financial meltdown that cost millions of working class families their homes.

Like the evil geniuses who turned securitized mortgages into instruments of destruction, the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma took a toxic product, Oxycontin, wrapped it in attractive packaging, spent huge amounts of money on deceptive marketing, and sat back as billions of dollars rolled in. When the casualties caused by the opioid epidemic began to pile up, the Sacklers denied responsibility, filed bankruptcy and remain one of the world’s wealthiest families. And of course, they avoided prosecution for murders that would earn a street dealer a date with the executioner’s needle.

Investigations revealed that Boeing officials knew the 737 Max 8 was unsafe to fly but the company put profits ahead of safety. As a result, 346 people died. Some Boeing execs were fired. No one will be held criminally accountable for the killings.

Suspicious Activity: Inside the FinCEN Files,” documents how the world’s most powerful banks facilitate the worst of humanity by moving trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins. The U.S. government is aware of the activity but does nothing.

Except for the 2008 Financial meltdown crimes (where the Obama-Biden Administration took a pass) all of these obvious crimes remain available for the Biden Justice Department to prosecute.

The failure to bring white collar criminals to justice has undermined the public’s trust in the rule of law, eroded the widely held belief that our nation was fundamentally fair, and thereby stoked the nationalistic sentiment that propelled Trump to power and deeply divided the nation. By changing the narrative and holding corporate criminals accountable, Joe Biden and his Justice Department can regain the trust of working-class Americans.

We believe Joe Biden must ride to the rescue of the millions of people who have been repeatedly victimized by corporate America’s total disregard for both the consequences of their actions and the rule of law by supporting the Sanders/Warren “Ending Too Big to Jail Act.” Passage of this legislation would reunite the factions of the working class and focus their collective ire on the real common enemy: the corporate criminals who have yet to be held accountable for murdering major components of the American Dream.

It might not be easy for Biden to renounce decades of support for the finance and banking industry.  But we believe doing so will help unify the nation Trump has torn asunder.

That possibility makes perp-walking some bespoke suit-wearing corporate criminals off Wall Street and into jail the absolute right thing to do.

Marc Dann is a lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio, and a former Attorney General of Ohio and legislator from Youngstown.

Get the Wheels Rolling: By Bruce Coburn


H.R. 1139/S.436, the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act, which requires transit agencies to report all assaults on transit workers to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The bill requires transit systems to conduct risk assessments to determine if they have issues with attacks on workers and accidents involving pedestrians. If such risk assessments reveal issues, the agencies would be required to work with the frontline workforce and their unions to come up with solutions.

The Public Transit Safety Program Improvement Act, which requires transit systems to form labor-management health and safety committees – with equal representation between the frontline workforce and management. Such committees would be responsible for approving the Public Transit Agency Safety Plans (PTASPs) required by the FAST ACT.   


The regulation of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) to address issues with driver and rider safety, the exploitation of drivers, and the funding of public transit.  Encourage public transit agencies to develop technology with the same benefits as TNCs to serve these transit-dependent communities.

Autonomous Buses

Major Congressional scrutiny to explore all the issues surrounding the deployment of autonomous buses. Before any vehicles are permitted to be put into service, Congress must be assured that technological operational safety issues, labor issues, and quality of life matters are fully understood.

Transit Labor Protections

1) Continuation of the critical transit employee labor protections provided by Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Act.

2) Application of Section 13(c) protections to any new federal transit programs or innovative financing mechanisms created through the FAST Act’s reauthorization.

Workforce Development

  • The establishment of a national transit frontline workforce training center (targeted to both rural and urban transit systems) dedicated to the needs of the frontline workforce through standards-based training in the maintenance and operations occupations.


  • A federal investment of $145 billion for public transit programs over the next six years.
  • Raise the gas tax.


  • Restoring an employer’s ability to deduct the cost of providing the federal tax-free transit benefit.
  • Encouraging employers with 20 or more employees to offer the transit benefit to workers.
  • Incentivizing transit systems to offer free transfers.
  • Requiring transit systems to provide discounts for passengers whose income is 200% below the poverty level.
  • Free fares for all veterans.

Bruce Coburn is the former president of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a staffer for SEIU and the AFL-CIO.

Democracy inside the Party and Out: By Larry Cohen

President Biden will also be Democratic Party leader Biden.  Will President Biden and his White House staff encourage grassroots party building, or like his predecessors will he be more interested in party control?  Party progressives must insist on party building and the reforms that make that possible.

Our rules matter not just our rulers. Challenging the rules and direction inside the Democratic Party, while strategically building the grassroots parties in 3000 counties and 57 states and territories continues to be an essential path to economic, racial and social justice. Democracy for us is not simply an end in itself it must be connected to the organizing we need to do for issues like decent health care, workers’ rights, climate crisis, immigration, and public safety.

The US is an 18th century democracy in need of major structural reform. Private property and markets have always prevailed over the pursuit of general happiness and justice.  We must demand the Biden-Harris White House supports Party reform while also demanding executive action on jobs, health care, the climate crisis, canceling student debt and much more.

We need to insist that recent Party reforms at the national and state levels not be ignored or worse rolled back with the excuse that our fight is only against Trumpism. We need full income disclosure by all those running for Party positions at every level. It’s fine that the Biden transition committee ruled out corporate lobbyists for senior cabinet and administrative positions. But then top positions went to corporate consultants with no disclosure at all as to their clients or the sums received. Americans, rightly so, make no distinction between lobbyists and consultants.

Similarly, there is currently no disclosure as to the financial connections or income sources of those running for party positions at the state and national levels. Most Democratic members of Congress are from single party districts where they can accumulate huge corporate donations and then accuse primary challengers of disloyalty.  We need to be clear that we will continue to primary corporate Democrats at every level.  The Democrats are not our favorite sports team; we must insist that the Party, at every level, leads the fight for justice.

The rules inside the Party are just as damning to political change as the voter suppression and wealth pollution that we face in general elections. Our rules compel us to primarily work inside the Party, which means fighting big money influence inside as well as out. We are making slow progress on party reform in many states, but we must demand that the Biden White House and their political operatives understand that the Biden victory we all championed does not mean that we return to a top down party nationally or in the states.

Larry Cohen Chairs the Board of Our Revolution, the successor to Bernie 2016, and is the past president of the Communications Workers of America.

Repair Immigration System, Top to Bottom: By Rich Stolz

President-Elect Joe Biden has a lot of work ahead if he is to live up to expectations on immigration policy that he has helped to set through his own words on the campaign trail.  Here’s a to do list of actions Biden should take early on in his presidency:

  • Get Congress to pass a long overdue COVID relief package that includes immigrants – regardless of status. When Congress passed the last package nearly six months ago, it barred pandemic cash assistance to families with mixed status families and individuals that paid taxes with ITINs (Individual Tax Identification Numbers) – an alternative to a social security number.  Then Biden should go a step farther and call on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers who have been at greatest risk of catching coronavirus.
  • Halt all deportations. Biden (and his nominee for the Secretary of Homeland Security) must aggressively assert their leadership in executing a needed sea change at the Department of Homeland Security.
    • Biden will need time to repair what the Trump Administration did to America’s immigration system – repeal discriminatory travel bans, restore DACA, protect TPS holders, end the assault on asylum, reduce backlogs for immigration benefits and repeal policies – like public charge – that have spread fear of government across immigrant communities.
    • Conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of DHS and its component agencies with respect to racial and religious profiling, corporate influence, excessive use of force, internal accountability and spending.
    • While he’s doing that, deportations of immigrants should stop to ensure no one is denied due process. That should create pressure to end profitable corporate contracts for immigrant detention, create community alternatives to detention, and buy time to consider important structural changes, like making the immigration courts independent of political pressure under the Department of Justice.
  • Introduce his vision for immigration reform, including a practical pathway to citizenship, restoration of due process protection, decriminalize immigration offenses, and the reunification of families. Then press the fight through his first federal budget by drastically reducing funding for wasteful immigration enforcement and turning attention to the enforcement of labor, housing, tax and corporate ethics laws. 

Rich Stolz is Executive Director of One America, based in Seattle, Washington.

Unsolicited Advice to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris: By Pat Bryant*

Mr President and Vice-President, you have been anointed and blessed.  Do good. Do no harm. Remember the African-Americans and people of color who were your loyal base, and everybody else. Assist the struggling people around the world who are rising up against dictators like Putin and dictator wannabes like Donald Trump. Make good on the premise to make all men and women equal.

Mr President please dismantle the bloated military industrial complex. Reinvest the money saved into stopping pandemics worldwide. Reinvest to eliminate racist and sexist practices from government. 

Achieve criminal justice. Provide adequate healthcare for all. Provide adequate housing for all. Create quality education, job creation, clean-up the environment, and make electric vehicles affordable to all. 

During the campaign, especially during the Democratic primary, there were many proposals to fix the nation’s problems. Some were old and some new. Many will not work, some will work. Please work with and engage communities and Congress to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and eliminate fattening special interests.

Jesus warned about putting new wine in old wineskins because old wineskins will burst. Throw away old wineskins like subsidizing insurance companies to provide health and subsidizing banks and investors to provide housing. New approaches to serve the Black and People of Color communities would include direct family/worker subsidies so that all families/workers would have a basic income that would provide housing, healthcare, education, transportation and recreation. Direct income grants would wipe out poverty.

Release all who were locked up for non-violent crimes and monitor their transition into communities. Create good jobs and housing for them.

Support passage of the Heroes Act and expand benefits to include all American families. Support passage of the Green New Deal. Support passage of the John Lewis Criminal Justice Act.

Our military and foreign policy must end embargoes of places like Iran, Cuba and Venezuela and pay their citizens for the pain and suffering that strangling their economies has caused. We must stop using the International Monetary Fund to break struggling economies. Erase their debts.

Use diplomacy and foreign aid to bring peace and end suffering in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tigray-Ethiopia, Guatemala, Somalia, Peru, Thailand, Brazil, Libya, Armenia, Chile, and Honduras.

Make whole small, Black, and People of Color businesses that are struggling to survive racism, sexism and the pandemic. Inject these with new cash from erasing and recovering tax cuts from the wealthiest persons. These businesses are the front line of employment and wealth creation for our people.

Throughout the nation poisonous industries must be policed by the federal government with inspectors in every polluting facility. These inspectors should be trained and hired by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor. Their role would be to protect these communities and the nation from the disastrous consequences of allowing these companies to operate on their honor and self-police. In Louisiana, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas this would become a major jobs program and a great way to clean up the environment.

Lastly, give all people the right to vote.  Make the Voting Rights Act permanent without current requirements to reauthorize. Make every citizen a voter with same day registration. Make any voting changes pre-cleared by the US Justice Department. Make voter suppression a felony punishable by mandatory time in prison. Make it illegal to make false claims, publicly or privately, of voter fraud and use other methods of voter suppression. Help to end the Electoral College from its 143 years of trampling justice and the will of our voters.                                                                                                                     

Making peace and acting righteously will not be easy. Both of you are tenacious and benevolent. Follow spirits of Martin Luther King, Jr, and other prophets. 

End suffering worldwide and you will be granted 16 years to erase the stain of Fascism in our culture- Do not do these things alone. Nurture progressives- We will dialogue and stand with you-Do these things and you will build heaven on earth.

Pat Bryant is an African-American man who is a strategist for Justice and Beyond, a nine-year old justice coalition in New Orleans and the surrounding region.  He has been a freedom fighter all of his life. Inspired by his father, a North Carolina Baptist preacher, and other preachers like Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Dr. C.T. Vivian, Anne Braden and Dr. Ben Chavis, Pat learned and taught community organizing and the greatest tool for justice---coalition building.  

Aid State and Local Governments: By Ben Chin

It’s not the sexiest issue, but aid to state and local governments 100% has to happen. It’s one of the few areas where inaction doesn’t mean we default to the status quo; without these resources state and local governments will be forced to make devastating cuts to literally everything that matters to our communities. Economically speaking, inaction would also mean state and local governments would be hitting the breaks, deepening the recession, at exactly the moment we need to hit the gas, getting money into people’s pockets who need it, and will spend it locally helping the recovery. Because communities of color disproportionately rely on already underfunded state and local (as opposed to federal) programs—particularly Medicaid—it also would guarantee a worsening of racial inequality.

Ben Chin is communications director for the Maine People Alliance.

Reform the Police at Every Level: By Jim Lynch

Policing is a tough job.  However, we do have bad cops who should not be wearing a badge.

Moreover, when a police-killing occurs, the social climate of almost every city police department is to close ranks, say as little as possible and protect the miscreant wearing a blue uniform.

Police departments, like any bureaucracy of any size, must be actively managed and evaluated.  This must be done competently and can only be done by the Police, Mayor and City Council.  To do this chore they must have real data that is translated into meaningful information.  It will help, moreover, if the public can look over their shoulder in a meaningful way.

I think you would agree that one of the lessons of politics at all levels is that sunshine is perhaps the best disinfectant --  therefore, we must shine a whole lot of light on police behavior and also make certain that millions of citizens and voters know the real facts.   Chronic and proven abuse of citizens will ultimately get a Police Chief fired and a Mayor or City Council Members unelected.  No local political (or appointed) official wants to see his/her city among the bottom ranks of cities who routinely abuse those they are supposed to protect and serve.  Compiling and submitting this data is not burdensome  --  local crime statistics already are reported to the FBI (Uniform Crime Reporting or UCR), a standard practice for decades.  Moreover, the UCR  data system itself is now morphing into a more meaningful and detailed database styled as the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).  Most large cities already are sending data to the NIBRS.  2021 is the first year all cities must comply with NIBRS.  See  --

The Biden Administration ought to require all city, county and state (highway patrol) departments to submit to the Dept of Justice every year (or every six months?) data detailing the following:

Discharge of Police Firearms

Discharge of police firearms should be further detailed by color of officer, by years of service of the officer, and designation of repeat shooters.  (Years of service is important -- research shows that younger officers tend to use their firearms more than police with many years of service.)

The gender and color of the intended target also should be included. 

Use of Physical Force by Police

Physical force is defined when police use their hands to compel submission by suspects or others in a potential criminal incident.

The color of the officer and the color of the person submitting to the physical force should be reported.  Data should also designate officers who repetitively use physical force.

 Police Staffing Profile

Duty assignments (patrol, detective, training, administration, etc) should be reported by rank, color and gender.    New hires, departures (retirements, firings, disability, etc) and promotions should be reported by color and gender.  

 Police Discipline Profile

Data on disciplinary actions taken against sworn officers should be reported by rank, color, gender, duty assignment and type of discipline.

 Complaints Against Police

Complaint Data should be classified by type of complaint (i.e., use of weapon, physical force or service complaint), color and gender of officer.  Whether or not a complaint was adjudged to be legitimate should be included.  Repetitive complaints against an officer should be included.  

The Dept of Justice at least annually should organize this data into a report (digital) for all to analyze.  This is a longer-term reform but it cannot be easily dismissed.  Police departments (and city halls) are local and also very parochial --  this kind of data will never emerge unless some authority outside local communities compel its compilation and publication.

Jim Lynch is a former city and county executive in Little Rock and Pulaski county, a community and neighborhood activist, and director of the University of Arkansas Local and State Government program.

Deliver for the Many, Not the Self-Dealing “Meritocracy” Elite: By Jay Youngdahl

While the most immediate issue facing President Biden is the clean-up of Trump’s widespread noxious disorder, the most decisive matter is whether he will focus on the legitimate grievances of working people which have caused millions to reject the Democratic Party. While the Trump parade has been overwhelmingly white, the 2020 elections show that resentment is growing in Black and brown communities.  Beginning with Bill Clinton, the party deceived the working class about the effects of globalization and free trade: the American people viscerally felt the resulting destruction.  Recently, Obama/Biden alumni have invented, defended, and profited from the tech “gig economy:” those who labor in it must surrender governmental workplace protections.

Crucial policy decisions will be driven by the attitude of the Biden administration toward workers and “fly-over state” Americans. In every decision, no matter the issue, the Biden administration should consider class issues, such as those imbedded in the Hillbilly Elegy movie and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

To do so, Biden must refrain from replacing uncouth Trump hustlers with couth Ivy League hustlers.  Steeped in “social entrepreneurship” these elite have never seen a social problem they cannot use to increase their prestige and bank accounts.  They are highly educated, careful in their speech, and vacation in global oases.  With varying levels of transparency, they are contemptuous of those who do not share their “cultured” ways.  They govern accordingly.

The “meritorious” v. the “commoners” is not new.  In the Arkansas of my youth, some tried to change the state’s practice of electing judges and replace it with a “non-partisan” system relying on appointments by “knowing” citizens.  Their claim was that this would make for good government, as the common people are often fooled on such complicated issues as the choosing of judges.  I remember my father arguing to keep the election system.  His argument was simple - judges are going to be selected somewhere. In Arkansas, without the electoral process they would be chosen at the Little Rock Country Club, whose members were at many of the levers of control in the state.  Of course, the only Black people who came into the club had to wear pristine white jackets as they toiled to make the wealthy white guests comfortable.

Without a primary focus on working people, today’s version of the Little Rock Country Club will be the meritorious swamp with its Ivy League pedigree. Here, workers are ignored and realities that do not fit the chosen narrative are ridiculed.  Discussion of the subtleties of our most difficult problems becomes impossible. Take today’s global environmental crisis.  “Progressive” green energy leaders are making millions financing the destruction of middle-class jobs in “dirty” energy, with no adequate replacement for the displaced.  Globally, the elite “ESG” investing movement has jettisoned the “S” (Social) and “G” (Governance) components, replacing them with empty platitudes. When Michael Moore tried to point this out in the recent movie, Planet of the Humans, it was derided by the meritorious, even its most left wing. 

When individualism of the meritorious is at the fore, legitimate aspirations of the many are ignored.

Jay Youngdahl is a labor lawyer and former publisher of the East Bay in Oakland, California.

Deal with the Climate from Day One!: By Melanie Craxton

Over the past four years, the United States has not only failed to progress adequately towards taking meaningful action to address the ever-increasing specter of global climate change, but it has gone backwards. In this time the U.S. has become the only country to renounce the Paris Agreement after adopting it and has supported the growth and expansion of fossil fuels, while the rest of the world has undertaken significant effort to shift away from them. Biden has said that on Day One of his presidency he will rejoin the Paris Agreement. This is a critically important step in the right direction, but the path that follows, while the correct one, is not going to be easy. The inertia that has plagued the U.S.  during the Trump administration has also made a difficult task even harder. 

To ensure that the United States takes credible action in playing its part to prevent the worst impacts of global climate change and ensure the country is resilient enough to weather the, quite literal, storms that will roll through the country as a result of changes to the climate that have gone beyond the point of prevention, there are quite a number of things that should be on Biden's 'to-do' list. The below is a short-list of some of these actions that, while insufficient on their own to move the country to where it needs to be, are important places to start:

  • Re-adopt the Paris Agreement and commit to a robust 2030 target
  • Introduce a means by which to price carbon
  • Support investment in renewable energy and other technologies that allow the U.S. to decouple its economy from fossil fuels.
  • Ensure distributional impacts, in particular on those who are the most vulnerable in society, are robustly considered when adopting policy measures.  
  • Develop safeguards to ensure that novel federal energy policy and investment does not have perverse effects of creating energy poverty anywhere in the country.    
  • Welcome experts back to support the creation of well-considered federal climate policy
  • Empower state and local initiatives and groups to educate and support all Americans in the transition to a low-emissions economy
  • Move large organizations towards robust consideration of the risks and opportunities presented by climate change in strategic and day-to-day decision making.

Over the next four years, Biden has his work cut out for him. His team has already articulated plans to address some of the above, but the critical piece that needs to be in place from day one is a recognition of the importance of understanding how the significant required policy and regulatory shifts will affect those across society; in particular those who are the most vulnerable. Action to address climate change will have significant impact across the country; Biden does well to recognize that action is needed and the direction we need to travel in as a country, but it will be equally important to ensure that how we get there ensures a better future for all Americans

Melanie Craxton holds a PhD from Stanford University's Management Science & Engineering's Energy Policy group. She is an applied economist whose research has been at the intersection of energy, environmental, climate and behavioural economics and policy analysis. Melanie currently lives in New Zealand where she assists the private and public sector in transitioning towards a low-emissions economy. In the past Melanie has contributed to Social Policy on the topics of rooftop solar policy and, through her work as an intern with ACORN International in 2011, microfinance and fair trade. 

Adapt to Changing Work and the Role of Unions in the Work: By David Graber

The Union agenda on Biden’s website is good. Biden addresses the issues we see all the time at Local 100—captive audiences, underfunded OSHA/DOL, wage theft, anti-labor consultants—with more policy than lip-service.

My main gripe is Biden’s over-reliance on simply undoing Trump's work. Most of what Trump did to labor was cut funding to the DOL and scrap Obama-era policy, so it’s concerning that Biden expects plaudits for merely winding the clock back four years.

Biden is specific where policies are overdue, such as raising the federal minimum wage and strengthening bargaining rights, but vague everywhere that some foresight and some courage are needed. There’s not much evidence that Biden will stay a step ahead of the changing labor landscape and the current realignment. We saw in this election how Proposition 22, which exempts gig drivers from employee status, passed in blue California, while Florida went for Trump but supported raising the state minimum wage to $15. What are Biden’s plans to recapture that electorally essential bloc of economically progressive social conservatives, which make up a good deal of the working class? What will Biden do to confront the inertia in our economy that’s leading to more workers each year making a living as gig workers rather than as employees with durable jobs?

Aside from policy related to the questions above, Biden should add policy that would deal with the dearth of education about unions, their role on the worksite and their historical contributions to democracy and material welfare. It would be great to see Biden reinstate the FCC fairness doctrine that required holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. (Scrapped by Reagan.) For example, if, a strike occurred across Amazon distribution centers, CNN could not only interview the strikebreaker Jay Carney, currently head of Amazon public relations and former press secretary under Obama, but would be required to also host the head of the strikers’ union in the same segment.

I often send Local 100 stewards excerpts of labor news and history, whatever I’m reading at the time. Most recently it’s been passages from Jeremy Brecher’s Strike!, about the solidarity of whole cities and the clashes between police/feds and working people. The typical response I’ve gotten from stewards is “Wow, I didn’t know we could do that.” Think of what we can accomplish once everyone knows we can do anything, once there's fair coverage of unions both on the worksite and in the media.

David Graber is a Union Representative, Local 100, United Labor Unions in Louisiana.

End the Sex Obsession. Advance Social Justice Feminism: By Janet Jakobsen 

The sex obsession in U.S. social policy is created by an oscillation between the over-valuing and under-valuing of sexual politics. In conservative circles, normative gender and sexuality are treated as sacred realities that must be defended, as when the Lieutenant Governor of Texas said in 2017 that the “spiritual war” over transgender students is “the biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of the public schools.”

In response to this over-valuing of sexual politics, advocates often argue that gender and sex should be put aside to focus on what really mattered, as Bill Clinton ostentatiously did in his 1992 campaign slogan, “it’s the economy, stupid." Yet this very slogan was actually tied to sexual politics when the Clinton Administration and advocates in Congress pursued “welfare reform” as a major economic policy change. The Congressional record of the debate over “welfare reform” is not dominated by talk of making an historic change to the 1935 Social Security Act, but by talk of “teenage mothers.” Senator Bill Bradley was one of the few who directly criticized this policy, calling it a “racialized political football” that was “a politician’s dream and a poor person’s nightmare.” Racialized sexual politics were the disavowed motive force driving an expansion of the market and retreat of government-supported social welfare programs broadly conceived.

 If he hopes to fulfill any commitment to social justice, Biden must resist the obsessive conservative focus on gender and sexuality by actively supporting reproductive justice and refusing bans on public access for gender non-conforming people. He should also refuse the conservative Christian claim that their “religious freedom” requires limits to the freedom of others. Indeed, the Biden Administration could question how social policy is so often motivated by gender and sexuality, even when it appears otherwise. Why, for example, is the institution of marriage one of the major ways people get access to health insurance?  The fact that some people get married for the sake of health insurance makes vividly clear the social costs of a privatized healthcare system entangled with sexual politics.

 The new administration can also directly commit to supporting issues related to gender and sexuality now ignored or actively devalued. The COVID-19 pandemic has, for example, demonstrated that caring labor is essential labor, whether done by members of a household or home health care workers. Yet this work is either entirely uncompensated because it’s done by wives and mothers, or paid a wage so low that workers are barely above poverty levels. So, too, Certified Nurse’s Assistants, housekeepers, and hospital cafeteria workers are at the very bottom of the pay scale. Caring labor is so radically devalued in part because it is raced and gendered, often done by African American women, immigrant women and other women of color. The Biden Administration could, if it chooses, reverse this reality. The incoming President should champion essential pay for essential labor no matter who is doing the work.

Janet Jakobsen is a scholar of gender and sexuality. She is Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College and Director of Barnard’s Center for Research on Women.

At The VA, Why Not De-Fund Privatization?: By Suzanne Gordon

In his 2020 campaign, Joe Biden insisted that he, unlike Donald Trump, did not “under any circumstances support moving to total privatization” of veterans’ healthcare. As president, he vowed never to “defund” the public hospital system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) because its nine million patients receive care that is “specialized, supportive, and second to none.”  To help fill thousands of VA staff vacancies, Biden promised to boost salaries for doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who serve veterans—and end the Trump era assault on their unions and workplace rights.

At the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute, we strongly support all of those goals. But VA unions and veterans’ organizations must keep the pressure on Biden to undo all the institutional damage inflicted by a four-year Republican wrecking ball. During his campaign, the new president also pledged to maintain “the right balance” between “VA care and purchased care”—the latter being a euphemism for out-sourcing. In a Military Times candidate forum fall, Biden even criticized his opponent for not enlisting enough private doctors and hospitals as non-VA providers.

As VA patient and Biden Transition Team advisor Kayla Williams points out, Trump’s “goal of shrinking the VA by expanding access to community care and closing VA facilities” was “a terrible idea”—not one that should have been implemented faster or on a wider scale. This was confirmed in early 2020 when COVID-19 cases quickly overwhelmed the U.S. health care system. Last March, even Trump’s pro-privatization VA Secretary, Robert Wilkie, was forced to announce a 90-day “strategic pause” in referring veterans outside the VA for non-emergency care, because the private sector lacked sufficient capacity to absorb new patients.

As COVID-19 cases surged in late 2020, Wilkie again acknowledged that “a lot of private sector venues that we would use for veterans have just dried up. They’ve stopped taking veterans…” Meanwhile, he told Military Times readers, “veterans are choosing to come with us at record rates” because “they’d much rather be in a VA [hospital] than in the private sector.” Wilkie estimates that 40 to 50 percent of the veterans found in the lobby of a VA medical center are not even there “for any medical appointment. They’re there to talk to people who share their experiences. And in that sense, we’re very different from the private sector. We offer a home away from home for veterans…”

In the face of on-going healthcare challenges like the pandemic, the Biden Administration has good reason to stop diverting billions of federal tax dollars from the VA to costly, less qualified, and, now not even accessible private care-givers. It’s time to strengthen and improve the preferred choice of most veterans, their “home away from home,” which is the VA.

(For more details on VHPI’s policy recommendations for the new administration, see:

Suzanne Gordon directs the Veterans’ Healthcare Policy Institute and is the author of Wounds of War: How the VA Delivers Health, Healing, and Hope to the Nation’s Veterans.

Biden's To Do List: Win Over Rural America By Jim Hightower

Democratic Party leaders keep bemoaning the fact that rural America has turned right-wing Republican, and they’re wondering how to get “those people” to vote for Dems again. Suggestion to Biden team: Start standing up for them –i.e., the family farmers, workers, communities, and the environment throughout rural America that are being wantonly bankrupted, exploited, plundered, and polluted by profiteering corporate executives and absentee owners. Channel your inner-FDR to use all the tools at your disposal – including antitrust and anti-pollution laws, as well as constructive rural development and cooperative empowerment programs – to support the people’s needs and democratic aspirations that have long been ignored by aloof Party officials hooked on corporate campaign donations. If Democrat’s won’t stand for rural people, why would the people stand for Democrat? As we saw in November, they won’t. To change that in 2022, 2024, and beyond, Democratic policies have to change, substantively and visibility. Whose side are you on?

Jim Hightower is a former elected Commission of Agriculture in Texas and produces the regular Hightower Reports in print and radio.

Engage Cuba Tied to Ending Military Ownership of Institutes, and Move Florida, Too: By Joey Carey

The incoming Biden administration has an opportunity to build a new relationship with Cuba based on mutual benefit and respect. A quick return to the policies of the Obama-era seems unlikely and ineffective in pushing the Cuban government to implement much needed economic and political changes. Biden’s policies must focus on meeting short-term goals with identifiable results and lay the foundation for long-term cooperation. An effective start would be a renewed commitment to engagement in the areas of travel, remittances, and consular services. Shared long-term goals for greater economic exchange could be tied to the end of military ownership of the Cuban banking system and state-owned tourism entities.

The first step the Biden administration could take is to restore full diplomatic relations and services in Havana and Washington. For this to happen, Cuba must reaffirm its commitment to protect the diplomatic community from the mysterious health issues known as “The Havana Syndrome.” As a sign of good will, Biden could reinstate previously approved “people-to-people” travel to Cuba and reauthorize commercial airlines to fly into cities across the island, eliminating the current policy of restricting flights to Havana alone.

Biden could remove limitations on remittances sent to family members in Cuba. A dialogue regarding any proposal to lift wider economic restrictions would provide an opening to address US grievances surrounding Cuban financial entities owned by the Cuban military. The goal would be the separation of Cuban state-owned financial institutions from the military in exchange for the US removing these businesses from the State Department’s “Cuba Restricted List.”

The ultimate goal is ending the US embargo against Cuba, but this can only be authorized by Congress. An evenhanded opening towards Cuba, with common goals and oversight, can lead to a relationship of cooperation. The success of Biden’s policies to build the private sector in Cuba and achieve greater political rights for Cubans is vital for the Democrats’ electoral success in Florida. The ability in the short-term to show the Cuban-American constituency these positive political and economic gains will help protect the opportunity for the long-term work necessary to build a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship between the US and Cuba, and ultimately the end of the US embargo.

Joey Carey is a New York-based filmmaker with strong family ties to Cuba where he has spent most of the pandemic.  He produced “The Organizer” documentary.

Restoring Executive Order: By Joseph A. McCartin

Whatever happens in the Georgia senate races, the Biden administration will face huge obstacles to enacting an ambitious legislative agenda.  Considering Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to filibuster reform, even if the Democrats sweep Georgia, Republican senators will still be able to block bills they dislike.   Yet this doesn’t mean that Joe Biden’s hands will be tied.  He can accomplish bold changes through executive action.  Indeed, he must do so if he hopes to rally a progressive legislative majority in this crucial decade of the 2020s. 

Arguably, every major legislative or constitutional advance in workers’ rights was first preceded by presidential executive action.  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation led directly to the Thirteen Amendment ending slavery.  Woodrow Wilson’s creation of a National War Labor Board during World War I set the precedents for the New Deal’s Wagner Act and the National Labor Relations Board.  FDR’s 1941 executive order creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee (under intense pressure from union and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph) anticipated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  JFK’s Executive Order 10988 in 1962, which granted federal workers limited collective bargaining rights, led to state laws that allowed millions of state and local government employees to organize unions in the 1960s and 1970s.  Each of these presidential actions was arguably timid, calculated in part to head off more radical alternatives.  Yet each unleashed social forces that made more progressive breakthroughs possible.  

Like Lincoln and FDR, President Biden confronts a crisis that demands executive leadership.  His actions can help catalyze bigger changes.  Here are three actions that could help:

1) He should immediately direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to announce a national temporary emergency standard setting up guidelines for COVID-safe workplaces.  That order should mandate that all businesses create safety committees that include elected worker representatives who are empowered to inspect facilities, investigate violations, and recommend penalties to be ratified by OSHA investigators.  By doing so, Biden could make workers co-enforcers of labor standards and introduce some democratic accountability into workplaces.  

2) He should use the government’s procurement power to shape a standards-lifting, worker-empowering economy.  The federal government is the largest spender in our economy with approximately 20 percent of all U.S. workers employed by companies that contract with the federal government.  He should issue an order requiring all federal contractors, down to food franchises on federal properties, to pay living wages, offer paid sick days, and respect the union rights of all their employees and subcontractors, and present climate change plans.  That act would ripple through the economy. 

3) He should invite the nation’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, to meet with representatives of his workers at the White House to open negotiations with them.   Even if Bezos rejected the invitation, the symbolism would help energize the organizing now underway in Amazon facilities.  

Even if the Supreme Court overturned the first two actions, the mere drawing of these lines will activate struggles that can help change our politics.  It’s time to be bold.

Joe McCartin is a professor of history at Georgetown University whose research focuses on labor unions in the United States. He also serves as the executive director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

Democracy Reform: By Daniel Cantor

This one's straightforward. The Biden Administration should use power to build power. Meaning, do what it can to strengthen and improve democratic practice and structures in America so that low- and moderate-income citizens and their allies can continue to improve their lives, because they'll have the power and organization to do so. 

Specific moves? Start with undoing the crasser, grosser aspects of the Trump years: invest in the postal service; fund and strengthen the Election Administration Commission; enforce the remaining parts of the Voting Rights Act; appoint a Democracy Czar (not just an Ethics Counsel); invite all of the Secretaries of State to a State Dinner and ask them what they need to have a high-functioning, inclusive, safe electoral system; put some muscle behind H.R.1 (the omnibus pro-democracy legislation). 

Feeling even more ambitious? Broaden democracy reform to include other aspects of social and economic life. Pass new rules that give the non-wealthy more power in housing, energy, and other markets, like Peter Dreier's idea of a National Tenant Relations Act. Start talking up the need for Public Service and Public Utility Commissions to add new criteria to their decision making, like jobs, climate and equity. Repeal right-to-work (for less).

The American right's project is minoritarian, and they make no apologies for it. We're majoritarian, but the rules are rigged. Unrig them. 

Daniel Cantor was a founder of the Working Families Party, a ballot line party in New York State, and continues to help direct the expansion of this community-labor party nationally as well.

Repeal and Replace: By Neil Sealy

The first thing that president Biden should do is begin to repeal and replace all of Trump's horrible executive orders on the environment, immigration, fair housing, fair lending and the list goes on.  The next first thing is to move economic relief to people -- unemployment assistance, a comprehensive moratorium on evictions and rental assistance.  Over the next four years: cancel student loan debt and make higher ed affordable, expand access to health care, push for legislation to make all medicine affordable and increase funding for education and housing.

Neil Sealy is the executive director of Arkansas Community Organizations.

After This Plague: Reflections On Healthcare: By James B. Lieber

Last February I was in New York City for my daughter’s birthday. My wife and I stayed in Brooklyn. The party was at a restaurant in lower Manhattan. After we walked across the Manhattan Bridge and entered Chinatown, we noticed that some Asians were wearing masks. The protective measures were entirely voluntary and probably based on historical memory of the earlier SARS epidemic and the limited news coming out about COVID-19 which the President was pooh-poohing. No non-Asians that we saw were masked. Certainly, we weren’t.  Sometimes I wonder how much infections and deaths would have been reduced if everyone had started masking last February.

Our nation was not prepared for the pandemic or any public health crisis. Personal protective equipment and tests were in short supply. Soon we would be sewing our own masks.

America’s patchwork, haphazard response to the pandemic was the worst in the world. How many will die? How many will be infected and have lasting complications? Your guess is as good as mine.

One reason why our performance was so dismal is that public health became politicized during the AIDS crisis, and I believe it eroded even earlier with tobacco.  We did pretty well with measles, syphilis, polio and the flu, but somehow public health ceased to be a consensus goal and it needs to rebound. What would that take? First, we need to build constituencies in favor of public health at every level: municipal, state and federal. It would be favorable for Washington and state governors to lead, but we can’t count on not having know-nothings or liars in power during the next crisis. Every political subdivision can and must do better. All candidates must be vetted and questioned to see if they will support public health at least in a crisis.

What would that involve? As soon as one of these hyper-contagions emerges, the search for a vaccine must start. I’m sorry but 5-6 months later is not warp speed. Likewise, massive instantaneous testing must be stock-piled and available. Ditto for protective gear, hospital beds, intensive care, and ventilators. Plus, PAY INFECTED PEOPLE TO QUARANTINE.  Societies that did these things in conjunction with controls on gatherings, masking, and social distancing saved thousands of lives compared with us.

COVID is horrible but it will probably be the fourth worst cause of death in 2020 following cardiovascular disease, cancer and medical errors.  COVID hopefully has taught big pharma, federal agencies and universities methods that would help them manufacture and distribute rare, sophisticated and absurdly expensive cancer drugs on a mass basis.

COVID no doubt has had a poor effect on medical safety as providers have been overworked, inadequately protected, and under resourced. Ironically, we now have the technology to prevent or reverse many medical errors, even in real time.

Great strides in the fight against these awful mistakes have been made in the past forty years. Lucian Leape, M.D. and his team at Harvard showed that errors could be systematically identified and counted. Peter Pronovost, M.D. led efforts at Johns Hopkins to create “checklists” to implement best practices for numerous procedures that, when followed, dramatically dropped error rates sometimes to zero. The Obama administration funded a mandate to make medical records electronic. It was done poorly with a lot of unnecessary pork for big tech companies which led to “interoperability” problems meaning that the records from different hospitals couldn’t “talk” to each other, but at least it was done.

Today, the great leader in medical safety is David Classen, M.D. of the University of Utah. Classen developed “global trigger tools” – algorithmic software, that when applied to electronic records reports errors autonomously to providers, patients, families and government authorities and doesn’t rely on physicians, nurses and pharmacists to blow the whistle on themselves. Trigger tools can prevent or correct many errors early including faulty prescriptions, failure to implement infection controls, and wrong site or organ surgeries. With transparency, these tools can show which doctors, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes are unsafe, a tremendous boon to consumer patients.

The triggers find a lot of errors. In a recent Zoom presentation, Classen said that about a third of hospital patients experience a medical error. Indeed, the use of these algorithms finds ten to twenty times more errors than humanly reported previously in the same institution.

So what could go wrong? Healthcare is competitive. An unsafe hospital with human reporting may look better than a relatively safe hospital with trigger tools. As Classen said, some hospitals with trigger tools recently have torn them out in order to report fewer errors and seem safer. So it goes in healthcare.

Like electronic medical records, global trigger tools must be made mandatory and publicly funded  if necessary. With privacy overlays smaller hospitals could double and triple up on their purchases and operations of these instruments, which like all automation should amortize over time especially since they prevent so many costly injuries and deaths.

Autonomous global trigger tools are the next wave. The last wave began decades ago. Since the 1940’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proven and published hundreds of universally tested and accepted standards for preventing infection in every medical instrument, air and water source, and cleaning methodology in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Unfortunately, these standards are guidelines. Every two to three years the Joint Commission, a private consortium is paid by hospitals and other providers to inspect them for compliance but does little. Hence the derisive nickname “Joke Commission.”  The inspectors almost never shut down a dangerous facility.

It is time to make the CDC guidelines into rules and give the Agency inspection and enforcement powers before and during outbreaks. The CDC could and should fine a facility for having an unsterilized scalpel or Legionnaire’s Disease germs in its air conditioning. Perhaps more importantly the CDC could close dangerous units and move patients to safer treatment venues.

During COVID nursing homes turned into killing fields and accounted for about forty percent of known deaths. Poorly funded, demoralized, and understaffed local enforcement agencies generally were ineffective. Imagine if the CDC had been able to move and distribute patients away from infected facilities before and during coronavirus surges, and then led rigorous disinfection efforts of the empty sites before they were re-populated.

There is a lot more to say. Healthcare should be a universal human right. In the wake of COVID, to jump start a safer, healthier, less lethal existence in the United States we need to revitalize public health, adopt global trigger tools, and convert CDC guidelines into enforceable regulations. We need a serious public health agency with genuine teeth.

James B. Lieber, a Pittsburgh-based attorney, is the author of four books including Killer Care: How Medical Error Became America’s Third Largest Cause of Death and What Can Be Done About It (OR Books 2015).

Keep It Simple, Build Grassroots Infrastructure to Compete: By Pat McCoy

In a post-election conversation among Slate writers, one suggested that the Democrats print millions of bumper stickers that read: HIGHER WAGES, MORE HEALTHCARE, LEGAL WEED. And leave the messaging for the next two years at that.

 Would that it were so simple, but the point is well-taken: Create a priority list that is not exhaustive and exhausting, make a best guess on what the sweet spot between progressive principle and political pragmatism will likely be, aim a bit higher than that spot out of the gate, and buckle in for the wild ride within the Big Tent party, never mind dealing with the Republicans’ Grim Reapers. 

Some broad-consensus priority issues are pretty clear: COVID relief and recovery; climate-wages-infrastructure as a package deal benefitting both inner-city communities and rural areas; more healthcare access, with an emphasis on racial and gender equity, and lower drug prices; criminal justice reform; and DACA and reintroducing a modicum of humanity in our immigration policies, for starters. Devil’s in the details, of course.

Polling, and ballot initiative results, almost always show that Democratic policy positions at all levels of government—even those more progressive—are preferred, often overwhelmingly. Taxing the rich and corporations more heavily should be a gimme, for instance, but it’s not.

 We all lament getting beaten on messaging over and over, and the usual tsunami of ads in the run-up to the election does little to win hearts, minds or votes. So, the partisan seesaw shifts back and forth more due to undecided voters’ exasperation with the party in power, or their aversion to the candidates on offer, than it does with what the parties really stand for. And in fairness, even those of us who do politics for a living struggle to understand what they stand for.

 Biden and the Ds need to get clearer on that, keep it pretty simple stupid, and then carry the message out in a way that builds stronger relationships and loyalty. You know, consistent contact and real conversations. Organizing 101. Why the party spends billions on outreach in 2-3 months before Election Day and next to nothing for the rest of the year makes zero sense.

The Rs have famously built stronger grassroots infrastructure than the Ds over the past couple of decades. Thank goodness the Ds’ have the more popular policy positions, because it would probably a bloodbath every election otherwise. But we want to get off that seesaw, and spend our time pushing the Ds forward towards our progressive racial, gender and economic equity agenda, rather than just using our weight to keep them from sliding backwards any further.

It’s only at the local level that we can beat the nationalization of politics, and that means 365 work by the Ds as well as by the progressive organizing sector. Yes, we were frustratingly constrained this year, but rather than lament what might have been but-for the pandemic, let’s learn the lesson organizers always understand: There is no quick, easy or cheap way, because people only trust and stick with those with whom they have an authentic connection. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if a con artist rises all the way to the top, and wreaks so much havoc below.

Pat McCoy is the executive director of Action NC, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A Biden/Harris “Real Deal” Urban Agenda for the First 100 Days: By Ken Reardon

Not since The Great Depression has our nation faced such critical environmental, health, economic, racial justice and governance challenges. Among the places where the human consequences of these problems are most visible are our older industrial cities such as Philadelphia, Newark, Youngstown, Detroit, and Milwaukee.

The Biden/Harris Administration has the opportunity to implement our first national urban agenda since the Clinton Administration to significantly improve the quality of life in urban areas where 83% of Americans live. Among the policies the Biden/Harris Administration should pursue as part of a first 100 days “Real Deal” (Urban Agenda) are: 

  1. A six-month extension of supplemental unemployment benefits to assist individuals through our current COVID-related jobs crisis.
  2. Immediate passage of an emergency stimulus package to maintain the service delivery capacity of our local health care institutions, public schools, and municipal and county governments and to support the small business sector, which generates the vast majority of jobs in our economy.
  3. Step-wise increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour between 2021and 2025, as advocated by Bernie Sanders and others, to lift low-wage workers out of poverty through the guarantee of a living wage.
  4. Reduce educational disparities by replacing the local property tax with a new Federal block grant program dedicated to funding quality lifelong public education as a right as proposed by long-time Civil Rights activist Bob Moses, that could be funded, in large part, through the elimination of Trump-era tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.
  5. Initiation of an ambitious urban infrastructure program focused on replacement of aging bridges, tunnels, dams, and levies; investment in pedestrian and bike-oriented transportation; subsidy for the construction of complete streets; financing of intermodal transportation facilities; support for green infrastructure projects; and installation of Smart City technology to effectively manage traffic in highly congestion areas.
  6. Require all local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies receiving federal funds to require police officers to complete a professional education program examining white privilege and unexamined racism using a curriculum developed by scholars working at the intersection of racial justice, law enforcement and judicial reform.
  7. Establishment of a national database featuring detailed information on all police-related deaths to provide policy makers with the information needed to undertake needed police and judicial reform efforts.
  8. Secure the passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act to combat the suppression of African American, Latinx, Native-American, and low-income voting, prohibited by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.
  9. Reinstate the HUD rule requiring municipalities to pursue Affirmative Furthering Fair Housing Plans to reduce segregation by race, which the Trump Administration suspended that has undermined the wealth building efforts of minority homeowners by restricting their purchases to neighborhoods with lower home values.
  10. Reimagine the Job Corps as an energy conservation partnership involving public utilities, labor unions, community colleges and community development corporations to train 1 million youth (ages 16-24) for employment in the energy conservation field supported by Federal resources currently subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. 

Ken Reardon, Professor and Chair, UMass Boston Department of Urban Planning and Community Development.

What WI needs from Joe Biden: By Richard Diaz 

Wisconsin, specifically its urban areas, are in dire need of infrastructure development funding. 

The most important infrastructure development should come in the form of:

  • Lead lateral replacement- Within Biden’s first week in office he should direct the replacement of every lead lateral in the most economically distressed areas.
  • Workforce Development & Wage Equity- Every inner city within America has been hit hardest by economic inequality that has plagued the US for decades. One of the biggest contributors to the economic downfall of less affluent communities is accessibility to skilled labor education. Most communities living in poverty are mostly made up of a service work labor force. President Biden needs to allow service workers to be paid at a livable wage, one that is equitable to the means of production and keeps up with the rates of inflation. 

Richard Diaz is a community and political organizer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Keeping it Real, and Repairing What’s Broken: By Zach Polett

We have to be real.  It’s great that Biden beat Trump, but there is no mandate. Biden’s margins in the battleground states were narrow and across the country down ballot Republicans did much better than in 2018, keeping control of state legislatures and gaining a net of between 9 and 11 seats in the House. Indeed, if the coronavirus hadn’t occurred and if Trump hadn’t so screwed up the response to it, Trump would have likely been re-elected, as unfit for the presidency as he is.

The country is deeply divided and Biden needs to recognize that as he attempts to govern.

His top priority needs to be successfully dealing with the pandemic: implementing an effective plan for delivering the vaccines; promoting mask-wearing while talking about getting the economy going; winning from Congress assistance to unemployed workers and impacted small business; getting resources to schools so they can re-open safely, etc.

After that he should focus on solutions to important problems with which the majority of Americans are in agreement – where he has the people on his side – including a significant set of Republican and independent voters.

Some examples:

** expansion of broadband internet, especially to rural communities, the way Democrats led on rural electrification in the 1930’s.

** infrastructure: it’s well-recognized that our nation’s infrastructure is outdated and crumbling and both Democrats and Republicans have proposed a national infrastructure bank as a tool to help fix this.

** climate change: not a branded “Green New Deal” but aggressive progress on combatting climate change including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement (which Biden will do), reforestation, reinstituting California’s clean car standards and pursuing trans-partisan measures to put a price on carbon.

** right to repair: a popular idea, not yet focused on by politicians, to stop manufacturers of everything from smart phones to tractors to motorcycles from preventing us from fixing the things we buy from them. Right to Repair stands up to corporate power and the tech industry and unites rural farmers and young tech users.

Zach Polett is Senior Vice President & Campaign Director for The Public Interest Network

Building Consensus through Community Building: By Larry Bailis

No one learns by staring in the mirror.  We all learn—and are sometimes transformed-by encountering differences that challenge our own experiences and assumptions…The challenge of leadership when trying to generate adaptive change is to work with differences, passions, and conflicts in a way that diminishes their destructive potential and constructively harnesses their energy.

               --Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky

As President-elect Biden and his staff work to create a to do list for their administration, the goal of “bringing the country back together again” should remain at the top of the list and supporting grassroots community organizing should be a key strategy to get there.  Simply put, we cannot expect to get the kinds of fundamental changes in American society that most progressives would like to put into effect without something approaching consensus among Democrats and Republicans.  Election results like 52% to 48%, or Vice-Presidential tie-breaking votes in the U.S. Senate won’t do the trick.

Despite reading countless analyses of American politics since the election, many of us still can’t understand how President Trump got over 74 million votes.   Siri tells us that “Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States” but, according to many polls, a majority of the 74 million Trump voters do not believe that the election was fair, do not endorse the progressive agenda, and they feel strongly about it.

So, what can be done to recreate national consensus and reduce the venom that is persisting, if not growing?  And what can any President of the United States do to make it happen?  President-elect Biden has already taken the first steps, by giving speeches saying that he wants to be President of all Americans, not just who voted for him.  But speeches alone won’t do the trick.  

First of all, the President-elect should call for and encourage funders to support research that spells out who the 74 million Trump supporters are and what motivates them.  A solid foundation for this has been done for the 2016 election in books like Why Irrational Politics Appeals, edited by Mari Fitzduff.  But the analyses need to be updated and better ideas identified in order to bring the 74 million Trump supporters and 80 million Biden supporters closer together. 

More importantly, there is a need to find issues and processes that bring people together on campaigns to promote jointly held beliefs and goals.  Academics and political party leaders undoubtedly have many ideas about these issues, but the best way to get a handle on them is going back to what Barack Obama used to espouse.  Not President Obama, but the Barack Obama who in 2008 wrote that “neither electoral politics nor economic development strategies offer lasting hope of real change for the inner city unless undergirded by a systematic approach to community organization.”

In short, we need to support existing community organizations and help to develop new ones that can identify and amplify issues that deeply resonate with vast numbers of men and women throughout the country regardless of their partisan politics and then encourage our political leadership to listen to and take action to support the answers that come up.   We can engage in what some people call “deep canvassing” in which people listen, engage, and find common ground.

At the federal level, the President-elect should work to re-instate program’s like President Lyndon Johnson’s Community Action Program and expand programs like VISTA that can provide support to community-building.  He should also build up the environment in local efforts to build consensus-can flourish.  One obvious idea is supporting the recently filed bipartisan bill in Congress called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act that proposes tax credits to support local newspapers.  

There are lots of steps that need to be taken in the coming months and years to fulfill the dreams of progressives that supported the President-elect.  But it is also critical build the consensus at the federal, state, and local levels that we need to make things happen.

Larry Bailis is an Associate Professor, Heller School for Social Policy and Management Brandeis University, Boston, Massachusetts

Take Religion Back from the Right: By Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons

President Trump said that a Biden victory would "hurt God" and that there "will be no God" during a Biden administration. This line of attack during the 2020 presidential campaign was one of the more outlandish. Joe Biden is a practicing Catholic and Kamala Harris is a practicing Baptist. While Republicans have dominated the discussion about faith and politics during my entire lifetime, progressive people of faith are organizing and reclaiming our voice in the public square. The Biden administration should make it clear how false the Trump fearmongering about faith was by engaging with religious communities while in office. My colleagues and I at the Center for American Progress have issued a set of recommendations for how the Biden administration can do this effectively.  

One of the administration’s first acts was to impose the Muslim ban, a clear attack on religious freedom. The administration should also work with Congress to pass legislation that will uphold true religious liberty that respects LGBTQ rights and reproductive freedom. This legislation includes the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act and the Do No Harm Act, which would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The administration should raise awareness of its commitment to religious engagement through two events early in the administration: a major speech by President Biden on religious freedom and religious pluralism, as well as a global gathering of religious leaders with Pope Francis to discuss climate change and refugee issues. These events would set a positive tone for the next administration by engaging faith-based organizations at home and abroad. The administration should ensure that its outreach efforts reflect the religious diversity of American communities and engage them around a wide variety of issues.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons based in Louisville, Kentucky, is a fellow in the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative with the Center for American Progress, and author of Just Faith:  Reclaiming Progressive Christianity.

A Letter to President Biden on Latinx Policy Actions Under a Biden Administration: By Gustavo Torres

Dear President Biden:

We write to provide recommendations to a potential Biden administration centering around Latinx community priorities, including proposed regulations and policy guidance. At CASA in Action, we believe that the United States can only truly be a more just society when we build power and improve the quality of life in our working class and immigrant communities, particularly those who have suffered harm at the hands of current and past administrations.

Advance the economic mobility of the Latinx community and close the racial wealth and income gaps

  1. Increase the federal minimum wage to $15.
  2. Ensure paid sick days and paid family and medical leave for all workers.
  3. End racialized wage theft.
    1. Enact the strongest possible Executive Order to prevent employers from taking advantage of vulnerable workers by violating wage and hour laws, misclassifying workers as “independent contractors,” threatening retaliation against workers for exercising their rights, or otherwise exploiting their employees.
    2. Invest significant resources in federal enforcement against wage theft and related worker abuse.
    3. Direct additional resources to state and local governments to combat wage theft.
    4. Invest in legal services to support individuals who have been victims of wage theft.
    5. Invest in community-based organizations to educate vulnerable workers about their rights to prevent wage theft.
  4. Enact a Federal Jobs Guarantee.
    1. Given that Latinx unemployment has surged to its highest levels during COVID19, enact policy that aims for full employment for those who seek it.
  5. Invest in workforce development
    1. Improve the workforce development system, focusing on high-density Latinx population areas, by integrating English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, citizenship services, and access to professional certifications.
  6. Provide a guaranteed income
    1. Provide direct cash assistance from the federal government on a regular basis, targeted at those who are unable to meet their basic needs according to place-based, self-sufficiency standards that factor in cost-of-living, including childcare, food, and transportation.

Improve educational outcomes and eliminate racial disparities

  1. Propose legislation that would significantly decrease and/or completely eliminate federal student loan debt.
  2. Provide funding for proper implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and guidance from federal level experts to close the achievement gaps between Latinx and English Language Learners and other students.
  3. Provide funding for stronger family-school partnerships and community engagement to support communities that are underrepresented and underserved.

Expand access to affordable healthcare and address glaring health disparities

  1. Enact legislation that provides comprehensive and affordable primary healthcare for all individuals residing in the United States regardless of immigration status.
  2. Remove all restrictions requiring “qualified immigrants” wait 5-years before being allowed to enroll in such lifesaving public benefits as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  3. Ensure the delivery of quality, culturally proficient healthcare in immigrant communities by supporting legislation making language interpretation mandatory for Limited English Proficient patients in all healthcare settings and not merely available for those who inquire.

 Strengthen our commitment to civil rights and constitutional protections

  1. End Mass Incarceration.
    1. End immigration detention and support comprehensive immigration reform that establishes a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and family reunification for those previously detained and deported.
    2. Abolish for-profit prisons.
    3. Eliminate mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses.
    4. Expand pre-trial diversion programs and provide financial incentives to states to reduce their prison populations.
    5. Invest in communities that depend on prisons for their economic viability to ensure that residents have alternative forms of employment.
  2. Stop the over-policing of communities of color.
    1. Support the use of body cameras and other mechanisms to ensure that police are held accountable for their actions and direct investment to state and local jurisdictions to incentivize their use.
  3. Protect the right to vote.
    1. Stop states from imposing barriers to voting, including voter ID laws, insufficient polling locations, “purging” voter lists, and excessive barriers for previously incarcerated individuals to restore the right to vote.
    2. Eliminate felon disenfranchisement
    3. Incentivize mechanisms that expand voting access, including vote by mail, early voting, and same day voter registration.
    4. Make election day a federal holiday.
  4. End the federal death penalty and take action to ensure that states also end the death penalty.

Prioritize environmental justice

  1. Ban fracking.
  2. Do not grant further permits for expansion of oil, gas and tar sand pipelines, or petrochemical plants.
  3. Revoke any and all permits for mining on public lands, Indigenous lands, or off-shore.
  4. Invest heavily in green resilient infrastructure to create union-wage jobs, healthier communities, and help repair the harms of past environmental racism.
  5. Invest in community governed or owned renewable energy and extend the Clean and Drinking Water Revolving Funds to these levels of governance.

 Ensure justice for Puerto Rico

  1. Repeal the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA).
  2. Cancel the debt of the Puerto Rican government and support an independent citizen audit to hold the people and entities responsible for the debt crisis accountable.
  3. Promote economic policies that allow Puerto Rico to have a fair chance of recovery, such as repealing the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which increases costs of goods and services and hurts Puerto Rico’s economy.
  4. Allocate resources to support a fair, meaningful, and binding self-determination process to address Puerto Rico’s territory status.

Promote respect, non-interference, and solidarity with the Developing World

  1. Actively work to reverse the stigma, damage, and policies of the “America First” ideology as it relates to the Developing World, specifically throughout Latin America, by pursuing international policies that respect the sovereignty of nations, forbid the neo-colonialist exploitation of their natural resources by American private industry, and address the rights of indigenous peoples.
  2. Enforce a policy of non-interference in the democratic processes of all nations and only recognize duly elected representatives of sovereign governments as the true emissaries of their country’s people.
  3. Close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, which continues to train troops loyal to dictatorial regimes.
  4. Divest from and sanction American industries trading in natural resources from developing nations which do not exercise fair trade practices.
  5. Lifting the embargo on Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and any other country that does not align with US policies.

Ensure housing justice for all

  1. Create affordable, community-controlled housing through rent stabilization policies that limit rent increases for low-income families.
  2. Support legislation to enact a federal rent control policy.
  3. Provide rental assistance to low-income individuals and families facing homelessness.
  4. Protect renters and mortgage holders by preventing landlords and lenders from displacing people and tearing apart communities in search of ever higher profits.
  5. Increase Latinx homeownership by providing direct down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers through grants or forgivable loans as well as low interest rate loans without mortgage insurance, similar to Veterans Affairs mortgage loans.
  6. Ensure that all protections and programs are accessible to people regardless of immigration status.

 Prioritize immigration reform and justice

  1. Protect Dreamers and reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
  2. Settle all litigation involving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and immediately issue DED for all countries whose TPS designation was terminated under the Trump Administration.
  3. Abolish ICE and dramatically reduce the immigration enforcement regime.
  4. End immigration detention, support criminal justice reform, and extricate the immigration system from the criminal justice system.
  5. Rebuild and protect due process in the immigration court system, including establishing independent immigration courts and instituting other procedural safeguards.
  6. Enact a moratorium on deportations.
  7. Decrease obstacles to civic engagement.
    1. Freeze all U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) application fees.
    2. Support legislation to codify fee waivers for immigration benefits such as citizenship into statute.
    3. Ensure USCIS processing backlogs are drastically reduced and USCIS is held accountable for mismanagement.
    4. Make automatic voter registration available to newly naturalized citizens on a voluntary basis after the oath ceremony.

Gustavo Torres is Executive Director CASA in Action, headquartered in Maryland.

Save the Planet: Empower NASA to Stop the Asteroids!: By Danica Remy

One thing we’ve learned from the COVID-19 crisis is the importance of taking the long view. A global pandemic was an inevitability. History has shown us it happens. In the same sense, an asteroid impacting the Earth is also an inevitability.

We do not want to be caught off-guard. And we don’t have to be. Data is one of the most powerful tools we have today. It is vitally important to take the long view on risks and invest in tools and technology to help predict, interpret and understand the future. At the Asteroid Institute, we are working to study and understand asteroid risks, develop strategies to reduce the risks, and foster a global community of academics, technologists and policy-makers.  Our primary goal is safeguarding humanity from this preventable existential risk while building a space map to enable the exploration of our solar system. We do this work through science and technology.

What started in 2002 as a visionary idea to develop the technology to deflect an asteroid has grown into a world-renowned organization and scientific institute with a key role in the emerging field of planetary defense. For years, B612, our partners, and a global community of dedicated scientists and researchers have advocated for increased asteroid detection, and many victories have resulted from those efforts. Asteroid detection is now debated seriously in scientific, governmental, and public conversations.

 We believe that it is vitally important that there is a call for Planetary Defense as national space policy.  It should be parallel with SARS-CoV2 policy; i.e. simple, low cost masks will save 1000s of lives: simple, low cost increment to NASA’s budget & mission will someday save thousands to millions of lives.  We believe NASA should be mandated to take Planetary Defense leadership and operations as a responsibility and have it incorporated in the NASA enabling legislation.  And as part of that mandate NASA should lead the initiative as a cooperative international (i.e. planetary) effort.

We challenge the incoming administration to enable NASA, our scientists and citizens to solve humanity’s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future. Asteroids impact Earth. Such events, without intervention, will cause great harm to our societies, communities and families around the globe. Unlike other natural disasters, we know how to prevent asteroid impacts. There are three million asteroids in our solar system that have the potential to strike Earth and destroy a city, yet we have discovered less than 25,000 — just one percent — of them. We have the technology to change that situation.

We challenge the Biden administration to fund and employ available technology to detect and track Near-Earth Asteroids that threaten human populations with a rapid hundred-fold acceleration of the discovery and tracking of Near-Earth Asteroids to 100,000 per year within the next ten years.

Danica Remy is President of B612, and Co-Founder of Asteroid Day and currently based in San Francisco, California.


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