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Democrats Won Big. But the Question Is Whether They Can Now Be Bold.

| November 14, 2018

Kyrsten Sinema can't believe it: she is the first woman to be elected Senator from Arizona, the first Democrat to be elected from Arizona in 23 years, and the first openly bisexual member of the Senate. (Facebook)

Kyrsten Sinema can’t believe it: she is the first woman to be elected Senator from Arizona, the first Democrat to be elected from Arizona in 23 years, and the first openly bisexual member of the Senate. (Facebook)

By Sam Pizzigati

Tony Maxwell, a retired African-American naval officer, was trying to get his Jacksonville, Florida neighbor to go vote with him. The young neighbor, a high-school-dropout, had no interest.

“Voting,” the young man declared, “doesn’t change anything.”

Can Democrats use their newly won House majority to reach that dispirited young man in Jacksonville? That all depends on their eagerness to think big and bold — and to challenge the concentrated wealth and power that keeps things from changing.

Of course, big and bold new legislation will be next to impossible to enact with a Republican Senate and White House. But just pushing for this legislation — holding hearings, encouraging rallies, taking floor votes — could move us in a positive direction and send the message that meaningful change can happen.

This sort of aggressive and progressive pushing would, to be sure, represent a major break with the Democratic Party’s recent past. The reforms Democrats in Congress have championed have often been overly complicated and cautious — and deeply compromised by a fear of annoying deep-pocketed donors.

other-wordsThat fear may be easing. A number of leading Democrats with eyes on 2020 — and the party’s growing progressive base — have advanced proposals that could spark real change in who owns and runs America.

Senator Bernie Sanders started the big-and-bold ball rolling in 2016. He’s still adding fresh new ideas to the political mix. This past September, he introduced legislation that would discourage corporate execs from underpaying workers.

Under this new Sanders proposal, corporations with 500 or more employees would have to pay a tax that equals the cost of federal safety-net benefits — from programs like food stamps and Medicaid — their underpaid workers have to rely on.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, unveiled this August, would refocus large corporations on serving “not just shareholders but their employees and communities as well.” Warren’s bill would set 40 percent of corporate board seats aside for directors elected by employees.

Warren is also thinking big and bold on housing. Her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act would invest $450 billion over the next decade in affordable housing for working families. To offset the price-tag, Warren’s initiative would increase the estate tax on the nation’s 10,000 wealthiest families.

Senator Cory Booker is looking at establishing a new “baby bond” program to “make sure all children,” not just kids from wealthy homes, “have significant assets when they enter adulthood” — as much as $50,000 for kids from poorer families. A big chunk of the dollars for Booker’s baby bonds would come from raising the tax rate on capital gains, an income stream that flows overwhelmingly to America’s rich.

Senator Kamala Harris is advocating a tax credit that would increase the income of couples making less than six figures up to $500 a month. “Instead of more tax breaks for the top 1 percent and corporations,” says Harris, “we should be lifting up millions of American families.”

Other ambitious ideas are coming from progressive activists and scholars.

Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project has proposed an “American Social Wealth Fund,” an independent public investment enterprise that would take in “regular injections of cash from the government” and “make regular dividend payouts to its shareholders — all American adults.” Funds for this solidarity fund would come from a variety of corporate taxes.

Meanwhile, my colleague Sarah Anderson notes, five states have introduced legislation that limits or denies tax dollars to corporations that reward top execs at worker expense.

The new Democratic House could give ideas like these an airing and debate. And new leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez certainly have the charisma to attract wide swatches of America into that discourse.

If all this action materialized, would large numbers of our politically dispirited sit up and take notice? We’ll never know unless we try.

Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He co-edits, where a longer version of this piece first appeared. 

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17 Responses for “Democrats Won Big. But the Question Is Whether They Can Now Be Bold.”

  1. mausborn says:

    Floridians living up to the stereotype that they are just stupid swamp people. They were probably infected with hookworm when they were children.. The US economy will slide into a recession in mid-2019 and may be followed by a Major depression. The GOP tax cut bill, now a law, will not be for middle and lower incomes in 2 years time. Wages have been stagnant for too long and do not keep up with inflation or higher prices.
    The Trump administration is the Worse thing that could have ever happened……………………..

    “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
    – 1984, George Orwell

  2. Veteran says:

    Won big? Republicans gained seats in senate and lost relatively few in house.

  3. jake says:

    If all they plan to do is “investigate”, they should have stayed home, that accomplishes nothing. Be productive, bring solutions to the table for what you would like to see changed, enough of the hatred.

  4. Richard says:

    The only way the newly elected house democrats can be bold for the future is to legislate and not investigate. If they choose the latter they are doomed. They need to provide POSITIVE change for the people of THIS country. America FIRST and the world second. If nothing positive gets done over the next two years people will revolt and demand change. They are FED up with the status quo.

  5. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Ummm…Veteran, “lost relatively few”? Republicans lost over 30 seats and the House leadership with it. You know the U.S. House, where budgets are formed and laws are written. Kind of a big deal.

  6. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Richard…the status quo is Trump. Positive change will be no Trump. Yeah…we can do that.

  7. Keep Flagler Beautiful says:

    The Democrats “won big”??? That’s some headline. They failed in their attempt to take over the Senate and they will lose both the Senate and governor’s races in Florida, once all the fake ballots have been scrutinized for minute pinpoints that might be interpreted as “votes” have been counted. I hear that an alligator coughed up a box of ballots this morning, all showing Republican votes. Sadly, that box of ballots will arrive too late to be counted, but the laughable supervisor of elections in Broward County will keep on “discovering” new Democrat ballots, and they’ll be allowed. What an embarrassment we are to the rest of the country, and what a new low for the Democrats. Truly disgraceful.

  8. Dave says:

    Dems def won big time in the mid term election all across the country, from no offshore drilling and no more dog racing and felons rights restored in Florida, to legal marijuana in 3 states and LBGT winning elections across the country. Dems picked up and took over MANY seats in the house.

  9. Dave says:

    Keep flagler beautiful, the country is much bigger than just Florida, take a look around at all the progressive changes happening in spite of the commander and chief.

  10. Pogo says:

    Q: Democrats Won Big. But the Question Is Whether They Can Now Be Bold.

    A: Time will tell.

  11. gmath55 says:

    @ Dave – I would like to know how amendments have anything to do Democrats or Republicans?

    There is help for you Dave

  12. Keep Flagler Beautiful says:

    Dave, I’m aware that there are 49 other states, and I’m not a fan of the Cheeto-in-Chief, the truth be known. I’ve lived in quite a few other states, including California, which has become an unlivable cesspool. Trust me, you would not want to live in San Francisco. The citizens there are getting fed up with streets littered with bums, tents and piles of excrement. Every day, 5,000 Californians relocate elsewhere, mostly to Texas. Frankly, I don’t care what happens in the welfare states nearly as much as I care about what’s going on right here. I’d rather focus on what’s happening in Florida, since we have some hope of being able to control what goes on at arm’s length. I’d like to see Florida take care of its own, including the newly arrived Puerto Rican population, who need our help. I’m happy to pay my fair share to see that happen.

  13. Capt says:

    The Demo’s have a little wiggle room and some momentum , in two years unless the Demo’s screw it up, they own the Senate and the House since Trump would have destroyed anything good in this country.

  14. Dave says:

    Keep Flagler Beautiful, I actually love it in San Francisco, everytime I’m there it is an amazing cultural experience. From what I saw the citizens were fed up with all the big companies and businesses gentrifying the locals forcing local families to sleep in tents and what you refer to as cesspools. People are leaving because there is no water do to climate change and over farming. Focus on Florida but dont forget whats happening across the nation effects everyone. Pop the bubble

  15. gmath55 says:

    The San Francisco housing market is so dire that people are leaving in droves — here’s where they’re headed.

    You be a fool to live in California!

  16. Dave says:

    Yes gmath higher housing rates are causing locals to have to leave while big money buisness moves in. It is sad for the locals but yes California is one of the most beautiful and cultural diverse places in our country. From Joshua tree to Yosemite, Tahoe,to the redwoods .

  17. Sherry says:

    Dave. . . couldn’t agree more!

    I lived near Sausalito, in the San Francisco bay area, for 20 years and absolutely LOVED it! The cultural diversity and art scene is amazing! The good jobs, wonderful restaurants, fantastic wine region, the gorgeous scenery, the great universities, mild weather. . . there is no other place like it! The reason it is so expensive to live there is because every successful business and intelligent person with ambition or of means wants to be there.

    If your cup of tea is only white folks with conservative views, then California, and especially beautiful San Francisco, is not for you.

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