Four Things Obama Could Do About Inequality Without Congress

Four Things Obama Could Do About Inequality Without Congress

I've got a new story up at Salon, "How to beat GOP on inequality: Key reforms that don’t involve Congress"--their title, not mine, since one of the actions--a veto threat--clearly does involve Congress, but it doesn't depend on them. A president who firmly declares his veto intentions and sticks to them has enormous power from doing that. A president who doesn't has substantially diminished his own power. This all becomes much clearer when you turn to specific sets of related policies and see how they knit together. Here's how my story begins:

How to beat GOP on inequality: Key reforms that don’t involve Congress
If President Obama is serious about economic progressivism, here are four dramatic actions he can take on his own

“A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.” So said President Obama in his recent speech on increasing economic inequality, which he said “challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.”

Perhaps one might agree with Paul Krugman that it’s a hopeful sign, with Obama “finally sounding like the progressive many of his supporters thought they were backing in 2008.” But what about the next thing Krugman said, on his column’s final sentence: “This is going to change the discourse — and, eventually, I believe, actual policy”?

If Obama were really serious, he could have announced significant policy changes as part of that speech — and even woven them into its very texture. True, congressional gridlock remains a dominant factor in Washington today, but there are things Obama can do on his own, as well as ways that he can seek to reshape political discourse over the long haul. By taking decisive action on the former, he could have given a lot more weight to the latter, particularly since he was speaking a week before the new budget deal was announced — an advantage he has already squandered. Had he really been serious, here are four dramatic actions Obama could have taken to begin translating his words into deeds:

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The four actions I propose are:

  1. Ensure a living wage for federal contract workers:
  2. Preannounce a veto of any cuts to food stamps or unemployment insurance
  3. Aggressively prosecute and suppress labor law violations that cost low-income workers billions of dollars annually. (wage theft & worker mis-classification)
  4. Abandon secretive job-killing trade deals: (most notably, the TPP)

This is not rocket science folks. There's nothing terribly complicated or mysterious involved.

Read the whole story at Salon here, where I flesh out the details of the proposals, why I proposed them and what they entail.


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