Draft Copy of Democratic Party Platform

I've been given a copy of the most recent draft of the Democratic Party's platform. I'm told that this is getting close to the end. There is good stuff and bad stuff. Here are my thoughts and please feel free to raise your issues and thoughts on whatever sections you find relevant.

I've posted the whole thing here (if I knew how to upload it on this site, I'd do so...).

Here are my initial, quick thoughts about some of the economic-related language.

The Good:

There is very strong language about the right to organize and other similar worker protection issues. And it is quite good that the language is inserted under the heading "Good Jobs With Good Pay":

That is why we support the right to organize. We know that when unions are allowed to do their job of making sure that workers get their fair share, they pull people out of poverty and create a stronger middle class. We will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions and fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. We will restore pro-worker voices to the National Labor Relations Board and the National Mediation Board and we support overturning the NLRB's and NMB's many harmful decisions that undermine the collective bargaining rights of millions of workers. We will ensure that federal employees, including public safety officers who put their lives on the line every day have the right to bargain collectively, and we will fix the broken bargaining process at the Federal Aviation Administration. We will fight to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so that workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods. We will continue to vigorously oppose "Right-to-Work" Laws and "paycheck protection" efforts whenever they are proposed.

The platform also attacks the Bush administration for suspending Davis-Bacon provision, and other unfriendly worker acts:

Suspending labor protections during national emergencies compounds the devastation from the emergency. We opposed suspension of Davis-Bacon following Hurricane Katrina, and we support broad application of Davis-Bacon worker protections to all federal projects. We will stop the abuse of privatization of government jobs. We will end the exploitative practice of employers wrongly misclassifying workers as independent contractors.

The Bush Administration Department of Labor has failed in its obligation to stand up and protect American workers. Our Department of Labor will restore and expand overtime rights for millions of Americans, and will actively enforce wage and hour laws. Our Occupational Safety and Health Administration will adopt and enforce comprehensive safety standards; he Bush Administration is the only administration that has never voluntarily issued a significant final standard for workplace safety. Right now, far too many workers-especially those in the construction and mining industries-risk their lives every day just by going to work.

One of the greatest sentences in the platform is this one (on page 22):

We recognize that Social Security is not in crisis and we should do everything we can to strengthen this vital program, including asking those making over $250,000 to pay a bit more.

Finally, the first step in defeating the idiotic repeated theme by the media, politicians and elites that Social Security is in crisis. IT ISN'T. I consider that sentence to be a huge victory--if we can now get people to repeat it.

A big gripe about the health care section. In the Fiscal Responsibility section, the platform clearly states that:

Instead, we must strengthen our public programs by bringing down the cost of health care and reducing waste while making strategic investments that emphasize quality, efficiency, and prevention.

And, yet, if you go back to the long section devoted to health care, the platform calls for an "affordable, comprehensive alternative"--yet does not make a call for single-payer, "Medicare For All". This is going to be a tough fight, in my opinion. The words "universal coverage" and "affordable" are all in the eye of the beholder. And the languauge is being shaped now to convince people that we can truly get real health care for people with the involvement of the private insurance industry. That is a lie. Very disappointing.

On trade, it's a mixed bag, better than half a loaf but a long way to go:

Smart, Strong, and Fair Trade Policies

We believe that trade should strengthen the American economy and create more American jobs, while also laying a foundation for democratic, equitable, and sustainable growth around the world. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development but we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few rather than the many. We must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably.

Trade policy must be an integral part of an overall national economic strategy that delivers on the promise of good jobs at home and shared prosperity abroad. We will enforce trade laws and safeguard our workers, businesses and farmers from unfair trade practices-including currency manipulation, lax consumer standards, illegal subsidies, and violations of workers' rights and environmental standards. We must also show leadership at the World Trade Organization to improve transparency and accountability, and to ensure it acts effectively to stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and non-tariff barriers on U.S. exports.

We need tougher negotiators on our side of the table-to strike bargains that are good not just for Wall Street, but also for Main Street. We will negotiate free trade agreements that open markets to U.S. exports and include enforceable international labor and environmental standards; we pledge to enforce those standards consistently and fairly. We will not negotiate free trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety or the health of its citizens, give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors, require the privatization of our vital public services, or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications. We will stand firm against agreements that fail to live up to these important benchmarks. We will work with Canada and Mexico to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement so that it works better for all three North American countries. We will work together with other countries to achieve a successful completion of the Doha Round Agreement that would increase U.S. exports,support good jobs in America, protect worker rights and the environment, benefit our businesses and our farms, strengthen the rules-based multilateral system, and advance development of the world's poorest countries.

Just as important, we will invest in a world-class infrastructure, skilled workforce, and cutting-edge technology so that we can compete successfully on high- value-added products, not sweatshop wages and conditions. We will end tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas, and provide incentives for companies that keep and maintain good jobs here in the U.S. And, we will also provide access to affordable health insurance and enhance retirement security, and we will update and expand Trade Adjustment Assistance to help workers in industries vulnerable to international competition, as well as service sector and public sector workers impacted by trade, and we will improve TAA's health care benefits. The United States should renew its own commitment to respect for workers' fundamental human rights, and at the same time strengthen the ILO's ability to promote workers' rights abroad through technical assistance and capacity building.

So, is this good or bad?

First, the good stuff. I liked the making of the connection between trade and an overall national economic strategy that "delivers on the promise of good jobs at home and shared prosperity abroad." This is important in making it clear that, when we go after bad trade deals, it's with the thought in mind that this isn't just bad for American workers but bad for workers elsewhere to.

The declaration that new trade agreements won't undercut strong standards on a whole host of things is a step forward. I think we should really underscore the "end tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas".

A lot of the tone of this, though, makes me a bit uneasy. If I had my wishes, and I know this would be unrealistic in the current environment, I would eliminate the words "free trade" from the entire thing. As regular readers know, I believe "free trade" is just a marketing phrase that covers up the real content of trade agreements. I fear that as long as we continue to let those words be used, it wires the political framing in such a way that we are always at war with something that sounds "free"...and if you've ever been in a line at a store offering something "free" (I avoid them but watch TV) people love "free". This is a messaging issue.

I also question the truth of this sentence: "We must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably." I certainly like the second part after the comma but it's an open question, in my mind, whether open markets--if we mean "liberalization"--has created more wealth. As I wrote a year ago, my colleagues Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot explored the notion that open markets has been a good thing. They wrote:

In other words, even ignoring the re-distribution of income in the last few decades, the U.S. economy during a period in which it was mostly a closed economy (1946-1973) vastly outperformed the increasingly open economy that we have had over the last 33 years, in terms of raising living standards.

Finally, do we really want to work to complete the Doha round? The Doha Round collapsed--and I want to kill it outright. It's very nature--the way rules are negotiated--are polar opposite, in my view, to the earlier idea that trade is supposed to bring prosperity here and abroad. But I imagine this was something that was unavoidable in the current Democratic Party culture.

And your thoughts?

UPDATE: I'm also told that the deadline for changes in the platform is 4 p.m. Friday at the Pittsburgh meeting. Here are emails for some key platform members if you want to email people: