The media remains obsessed with Donald Trump and whom he will insult next, about Hillary Clinton's e-mails (why does the media get consumed with such excruciatingly boring and trivial stuff?), about the ups and downs of a presidential campaign more akin to a circus freak show, and now (speaking of circuses) what will happen next in the House Republican caucus. But right under the surface, there is something exciting going on, a political and policy movement bubbling up that historians may well someday look back on and call the most important development of 2015. A revitalized progressive movement is forging a new economic agenda that is energizing and mobilizing activists all over the country.
Today, American Family Voices, an organization whose board I chair, is releasing a video telling the story of this agenda and the growing movement around it. Featuring Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Congressman Raul Grijalva, progressive movement leaders, and business people, this video details a long-term economic agenda that ends corporate welfare and creates a tax code that means the wealthiest will start paying their fair share again; increases wages and strengthens the rights of working people; protects the dignity of retirement by expanding Social Security and Medicare; invests in infrastructure, education, and green energy to create more jobs; and tames the power of Wall Street, Wal-Mart, Big Oil, and other huge special interests.
Contrary to the current trickle-down economic orthodoxy, our economy will only grow and strengthen over the long run if we focus on helping more poor people climb the ladder into an expanding and more prosperous middle class. More and more organizations and political leaders are embracing these ideas. Since the beginning of this year, we have seen numerous progressive economic agendas emerge:
- the AFL-CIO hosted a major policy conference on raising wages, featuring Elizabeth Warren
- the Center for Community Change, with an impressive coalition of groups including the Center for Popular Democracy, Jobs With Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Working Families Organization, launched the "Putting Families First: Good Jobs for All" campaign
- Alliance for a Just Society, Campaign for America's Future, National People's Action, and USAction hosted the Populism 2015 conference on "Building a Movement for People and the Planet"
- the Roosevelt Institute and Joe Stiglitz put out a new report, "Rewriting the Rules," that debunks trickle-down economics
- Mayor de Blasio organized a broad coalition of opinion leaders and organizations under "The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality" campaign
- MoveOn.org and Robert Reich teamed up to produce a video series called "10 Ideas to Save the Economy."
It is important to note as well that more and more of the business community is embracing these kinds of ideas. Later this week, AFV will host a conference bringing thoughtful leaders of the business community- including American Sustainable Business Community, the Main Street Alliance, Small Business Majority, Amalgamated Bank, American Income Life, Credo, several different green energy companies, and small business owners from around America- together with many of the top leaders in the broader progressive movement to talk about how we can work to pass this kind of economic agenda and strengthen each other institutionally.
All of the policy proposals in these different projects are highly overlapping, and they share this core message: we need to make our economy grow from the bottom up and middle out, rather than from the top down. The progressive movement encompasses hundreds of organizations and millions of people, and it is growing with strong political leadership. The ideas we are all talking about are going to change America in the not-too-distant future.