By Roger Hickey
The Resistance Movement could well be Donald Trump’s greatest legacy. Led by women and people of color, Americans have built a vibrant citizens’ movement in all parts of the country that is standing up to Trump and defending the people and democratic rights he has attacked. It is also exposing how Trump, in office, is now doing the work of the corporate, big money Republicans, and pursuing policies that abandon a good portion of those who voted for him. This Resistance movement could help Democrats take back the House (and perhaps even the Senate) in 2018 and win the White House in 2020. But many in the movement know they need an agenda that goes beyond resistance. We are now pledging to build a movement to rebuild America.
More than 70 prominent Resistance leaders have signed a public pledge declaring:
“Resistance is not enough. We Pledge that:
⯈ We will fight for good jobs, sustainable prosperity and economic justice.
⯈ We will work to build a movement that can make that agenda a reality.”
The initial signers of the Pledge (full list here) include Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, economists Thea Lee, Robert Pollin and James K. Galbraith, black activists Rashad Robinson and Janet Dewart Bell and Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, feminist leaders Gloria Steinem, Nita Chaudhary and Toni Van Pelt, think tank directors, Heather McGhee, Dorian Warren, Chuck Collins, and Angela Glover Blackwell, environmental activists Bill McKibben, Annie Leonard and Michael Brune, labor leaders Leo Gerard and Larry Cohen and Randi Weingarten, business leaders, like Leo Hindery Jr. and Charles Rodgers, activists and public intellectuals, like Manuel Pastor, Robert Borosage, Maria Echaveste, Jeff Faux, Heather Gautney, Eddie Glaude Jr, Zephyr Teachout, Richard Eskow, and Naomi Klein – and leaders of resistance movement groups, including MoveOn, People’s Action, Democracy for America, Solidaire, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Center for Popular Democracy Network, Public Citizen, Working Families Party, Ultra-Violet, Progressive Democrats of America, and Our Revolution.
As one of the principal authors of this pledge, I have spoken with virtually all these leaders of the resistance against the dangerous policies of Trump and the GOP, and I can tell you that all of us we would rather be devoting our collective energies to rebuilding our country – and working for sustainable prosperity, opportunity and justice. Signers of the Pledge explain:
“Real change begins with a clear and coherent vision of a better America, and with citizens’ movements dedicated to bringing that world into being. We offer this agenda for economic change in that spirit. We invite you to discuss and debate it — and, most of all, to join us to fight for it.”
Resistance Is Not Enough.
We Pledge to Fight for Good Jobs, Sustainable Prosperity, and Economic Justice.
Signers don’t just pledge to work for jobs, prosperity and justice, they also publicly embrace a 11-point economic agenda to achieve those goals.
1 – Jobs for All – Created by Rebuilding America
2 – Invest in a Green Economy
3 – Empower Workers to Reduce Inequality
4 – Opportunity and Justice for All – With Focus on Communities Harmed by Racism
5 – Guarantee Women’s Economic Equality
6 – High-Quality Public Education – Pre-K to University
7 – Medicare for All – And Shared Economic Security
8 – Make Corporations and Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share
9 – A Global Economic Strategy for Working People
10 – Close Wall Street’s Casino
11 – Rescue Democracy from the Special Interests
These progressive activists would be fighting for this economic agenda even if Hillary Clinton had been elected president. Signing the Pledge as individuals, these leaders also know that we cannot blame all of our country’s problems on the orange narcissist. He and his allies just make our problems much worse. Our statement bluntly asserts that the economic system has been rigged against working Americans for many decades – and that elites in both political parties have “failed to stand up to big money or fight to redress the economic and social calamities suffered by working Americans of all races, ages and religions, who have seen their lives upended by a series of economic crises, the steady disappearance of good jobs, and rising economic inequality.”
Trump ran as a blatant racist, sexist and xenophobe. But he managed to get enough votes in key states by also striking a populist pose that challenged the establishment of both political parties – and by promising to make things better for working people. It was Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who first declared “the system is rigged against working Americans.” Trump stole that message – and at least the top lines of their program, promising “to make massive investments in infrastructure,” “to negotiate trade deals on behalf of American workers – not on behalf of global corporations,” and “protect Social Security and Medicare.” During the campaign he even promised to “stand up to the big banks and Wall Street to protect the interests of working families.”
Now that Trump is in the White House, some “liberals” are attacking his populist goals. Some condemn the idea of a new trade policy, thus embracing the corporate trade agenda that has destroyed jobs and harmed the environment for decades; some also attack Trump by telling us we can’t afford to invest in infrastructure – and we that must cut “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare in the name of “fiscal responsibility.” And some even condemn Trump as irresponsible when he occasionally attacks the big Wall Street banks.
We need a better strategy: show Americans how Trump has abandoned his populist economic agenda (and his working class voters) and demonstrate the many ways he is now a puppet for corporate America and the super-wealthy. Trump’s first year in office has been dominated by the Russia investigation, his regular attacks on women, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants and all manner of belligerent postures (which some Republicans would prefer him to avoid or keep under wraps). But the other big story of Trump’s new administration is the way in which he has capitulated to the economic agenda of the corporate donor class that owns the Republican party.
- The oil and gas industry controls his energy policy, promoting polluting industries and getting Trump to job-creating renewables.
- Big business lobbyists are running a massive deregulation campaign that is marching through the agencies, once again giving free reign to the big banks, the developers, the polluters, and the companies that want our public parks and our natural resources.
- And Trump even seems to have pulled back on trade in deference to his Wall Street advisers.
- They tried, and sort of failed, to get rid of Obamacare, all the while doing great damage to Medicaid, Medicare and even the funding for Social Security.
- And when it came to Trump’s top policy priority, taxes, he abandoned what he called the “forgotten Americans” and let the swamp creatures representing corporations and the super-rich write the $1.5 trillion giveaway to their clients and then grease the passage through the House and Senate with campaign contributions (and threats to finance challengers to terrified incumbents).
During the campaign, Trump promised one initiative that even progressives could have supported: what he called a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure. But now that he has gotten around to it, the rich and the corporations have already taken away that much and more by cutting their own taxes. And Trump and his Republican allies are now only talking about $200 billion to “leverage private sector investments in infrastructure (to be devoted to building privatized toll roads and bridges). And on the heels of a White House budget that slashes infrastructure spending (including Amtrak, water systems and more) – a budget that also calls for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – nobody knows where even the $200 billion will come from. Meanwhile, the corporations and the super-rich, counting their tax windfalls, are telling Trump how wonderful his infrastructure plans look, just as the courtiers to the legendary (naked) Emperor praised the beauty of his new clothes.
But even as infrastructure goes nowhere, the strongest political message of the Trump-GOP to 2018 voters is “The economy is booming, Americans have never had it so good.” Yes, the Obama stimulus plan, passed in the wake of the great recession has slowly gotten the economy and job creation going for one of the longest economic recoveries on record. But recoveries don’t last forever, and Trump’s failure to re-appoint Janet Yellen as Fed Chair, could mean that the new chair, eager to prove he is an enemy of inflation, could raise interest rates and choke off that very long-in-the-tooth economic recovery and pitch the economy into a recession.
Trump and the GOP do have a mechanism they claim will get us economic growth and continue the recovery: give lots of tax cuts to the rich and America’s giant corporations. But, as we have seen after other “trickle-down” tax cuts, wealthy people, who already have more money than they need, do not buy stuff but will likely put their windfalls into savings. And corporations do not invest in jobs or new technology until they see customers buying their products. What the tax cuts (and the promise of tax cuts) have created: a big bubble in the stock market. Investors, believing the Trump administration is “pro-business,” have put their money from tax cuts into the market, bidding up stock prices well beyond their real value. The result: an historically large stock market crash just a week ago. It might be called a “correction,” but it was also an agonizing reminder that what goes up will eventually come down – with devastating impacts on people’s life savings, jobs, and incomes. But what we know is that Trump and the GOP are locked into their trickle-down theory of growth – and many economists think it is more likely to fuel continuing bubbles rather than rebuilding the strength of the American economy.
What do Democrats, progressive activists have to tell Americans about how to achieve economic prosperity, sustainable growth and jobs? Clearly they will say Trump’s trickle-down plan won’t work and takes the country in the wrong direction. They will also make the case that Trump’s attacks on our “justice agenda” are bad for the economy:
- Cutting back on immigration limits our ability to grow the economy.
- Trump’s use of racism to pit Americans against each other cripples economic growth.
- Does anyone believe Trump’s attacks on women and opposition to equality in good for the economy?
- Cuts to education and privatization policies undermine our commitment to an educated workforce.
- The Trump-GOP attacks on health care and social insurance makes Americans less secure, less willing to take a risk to start a new business or make investments in the future.
- Worsening inequality through tax cuts for the rich is bad for growth, and takes money from investment.
All this is important. Our “economic justice agenda” is better for the economy. But the signers of the pledge argue we also need to fight for a large direct program for growth and sustainable prosperity.
The first two planks of the platform call for large scale public investment:
#1) create good jobs and rebuild US infrastructure and
#2) build a sustainable green economy by retooling the US energy system.
Drawing from the work of economist Joe Stiglitz and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, Jamie Gailbraith and others, the group rejects the Trump strategy of tax cuts for the rich and giant corporations; they instead advocate a plan to address “secular stagnation” and to get the US economy ready to stimulate growth when the Obama/Trump recovery finally stalls. And, guided by the work of economist Robert Pollin, they stress that stopping global warming will require a massive program of public investment to retool our economy system to achieve 100 percent renewable energy system – and growth and jobs based on new energy technologies and conservation.
And to pay for this long-deferred investment, plank #8) calls for reversing the Trump tax cuts and making corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.
The group argues that their entire platform will reduce inequality – but they place major emphasis on targeting investment and achieving economic justice
#4) for communities harmed by racism and xenophobia and
#5) for women in the economy, in the workforce, and in the home.
The platform also calls for #3) raising wages directly and establishing the rights of workers to form unions – and by curbing giveaways to CEOs and the top one percent.
A major part of the agenda aims at protecting and extending the New Deal – by establishing the social democratic reforms already won by other democracies:
#6) much-improved public education and free college for all;
#7) Medicare for All and a strengthened social safety net and retirement security;
The progressive platform also addresses two of the big causes of the great recession of 2008 and 2009, which was the result of runaway corporate globalization and a deregulated financial system that created a global speculative bubble which crashed the world economy when that bubble burst. The platform therefore calls for #9) a global economic strategy for working people and
#10) banking reform to close the Wall Street casino.
Finally, the group argues that addressing all their proposed economic reforms will require fundamental changes to #11) rescue democracy from the special interests.
The authors of the Pledge and the economic agenda do not make a claim to great originality. Indeed, the ideas they are advancing come from the work of economists, policy experts and organizers working in all 11 areas of their program. They just a few steps beyond the remarkable policy consensus that emerged from the 2016 primary process and produced the 2016 Democratic Platform – but which got lost in the general election debate that focused on how bad a person Donald Trump is. The signers of the Pledge welcome the support of people who supported Bernie Sanders AND people who supported Hillary Clinton. We are not interested in re-fighting the 2016 election. Instead our goal is to declare ourselves (and the rising number of signers of this Pledge) as a force – part of the large and growing social movement that will shape the debate about the future.
It is very important that we resist Trump and his corporate allies. But we know we can’t beat Trump only by opposing him. Most Americans want to hear a plan for sustainable prosperity. And they want to know the strategy for getting a majority in Congress to rebuild our country. That’s why signers are pledging to devote some of their time and efforts to building a movement for jobs, growth, and sustainable prosperity.
Roger Hickey is co-director and co-founder of the Campaign for America’s Future and the Institute for America’s Future. Over the history of CAF, Hickey has played a leadership role in major efforts to protect and expand the US social insurance system. He helped to lead a series of coalitions devoted to defending Social Security and Medicare from those who would privatize or cut those important programs. And he was one of the founders of Health Care for America Now!, a broad coalition that won the first major reforms aimed at quality affordable health care for all. Hickey was a founder and communications director of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that looks at economics from the point of view of working Americans. He was also a founder of the Public Media Center in San Francisco, which helps advocacy organizations come up with media campaigns that will successfully effect social change. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Hickey began his career in the 1960s as an organizer for the Virginia Civil Rights Committee. Hickey has been a frequent guest on television news programs and on such prominent websites as The Huffington Post and TPMCafe.