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A New Declaration of Independence: 10 Ideas for Taking America Back from the 1%

The weight of the 1 Percent has become intolerable. How can we take our country back? Here's a fresh draft.

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2. A substantial jobs program

Most American cities are filled with beautiful old buildings and monuments and parks dating back to the recovery programs of the New Deal, as well as increasingly decrepit bridges and roads and structures that have been neglected by the last couple of decades of shrinking infrastructure investment. A real, direct jobs program, done in the WPA style, would rebuild our cities and towns in addition to putting thousands of people back to work.

3. A healthcare public option

Medicare is probably the single most popular government program in the country, which is no surprise, because government-subsidized healthcare tends to be the most popular government program in every nation that has implemented it.

If a true single-payer system would be too disruptive, we can put the building blocks in place by giving people a public option. Expanding the pool of Medicare recipients to include healthy younger people paying into it would instantly improve the program’s fiscal outlook. Nationalizing the underfunded Medicaid system would instantly reduce the deplorable inequity of our healthcare system, too. If this new Medicare could negotiate drug prices — like the Veterans Administration, our wonderful, totally socialized healthcare program for one group of Americans — it would save even more. (Hey, why not combine the proposal with debt relief for young doctors?)

4. Reregulate Wall Street

Taking the “unsophisticated” broad view, it seems painfully obvious that Wall Street deregulation undid the stabilizing effects of 1930s-era Wall Street regulation. We’re on a boom-and-bust cycle, and a shrinking number of growing megabanks now regularly threaten the entire world economy. It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t be better off with a worldwide network of small, independent credit unions than massive financial institutions daily innovating new and more arcane methods of shifting vast sums of imaginary capital around, but in lieu of smashing the banks with brickbats why not just reinstate the rules that effectively limited their behavior for 40 years or so? Bring back Glass-Steagall. Pass the Volcker rule, too. Ban banks from trading derivatives. Limit their behavior and tax their earnings.

5. End the Global War on Terror and rein in the defense budget

Brown University estimates that our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have cost  236,000 lives and $4 trillion. Millions more people are displaced refugees. If 10 years of war have weakened al-Qaida, we should draw down. If it hasn’t, we should seriously rethink our tactics. Regardless, there’s no way the world’s sole remaining superpower can justify spending more than every other country on Earth combined on its military. There’s no coherent reason why the Pentagon’s budget should be rising inexorably every year, while the rest of the country grows shabbier and poorer. Spending more on defense now than we did at the height of the Cold War is insane.

The billions spent yearly to rain death on faceless strangers thousands of miles away should be the first program on the chopping block if we’re serious about tackling the deficit. That money could better be put to use both here at home and abroad. USAID and the State Department could surely do more to defeat those Who Hate Us For Our Freedom with that money than the Defense Department has so far managed to.

6. Repeal the Patriot Act

Speaking of expensive wastes of resources that are also in direct violation of the nation’s founding principles, let’s dismantle the expansive domestic surveillance state, hurriedly established at a panicky period of national crisis and then enshrined as permanent without a word of serious debate.

 
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