By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Housing is the biggest expense for most American families. Many can’t afford to buy homes; others can barely afford to rent. Despite this, housing is hardly on the political agenda. We need to bring it back to the fore by addressing the following needs and committing the resources that it will take. One primary goal is to expand homeownership, particularly among the working poor, through tax credits and down-payment assistance. We need to provide housing subsidies for the poor as an actual entitlement program. (Now only one-quarter of the poor receive housing subsidies.) We need to develop mixed-income rental and cooperative housing — both in cities and in suburbs — instead of building more housing projects that ghettoize the poor. We need to transform government housing projects into communities, reinventing them as mixed-income, resident-owned cooperatives. Finally, we need to help residents rebuild the social fabric of troubled neighborhoods by supporting community organizing and self-help groups. To this end, Congress should enact a National Tenant-Landlord Relations Act patterned on the National Labor Relations Act to allow renters in large buildings to elect tenant groups to represent them to owners.
U.S. immigration policy isn’t working: It exists in a vacuum that ignores the international flow of workers together with capital and goods. Simply repeating an amnesty program like that of 1986 can’t solve the problem. We need to move on several fronts. We must develop a transnational worker visa that acknowledges the U.S. need for foreign workers, while at the same time protecting a worker’s right to change jobs and to organize and join a labor union. We should establish family-unity visas to enable families to be together legally. We oppose employer sanctions, favoring instead enforcement of existing U.S. labor laws, which would make imperceptible the differences between immigrant and native-born workers and would raise the standards of all workers. Finally, we have a situation in which a whole category of residents is taxed without representation. We need to examine ways of expanding civic participation for foreign-born workers who pay taxes here, including voting in local and statewide elections.
The first rule with regard to Social Security and Medicare is: Do no harm. We reject the idea of privatizing Social Security or turning Medicare into a voucher system. We must stand firm and resist those who would dismantle two programs that are basically working. It was once said that the Social Security trust fund would run out of money by 2030. That estimate has been pushed back now to 2037. With a strong √§ and growing economy, that date can continue to be pushed back and may never be reached. So the best thing we can do for Social Security is to keep the economy strong. We must also fine-tune Social Security to remove inequities for women who are divorced or widowed. Medicare needs strengthening. Prescription-drug coverage needs to become an integral part of Medicare. We need to commit to fully funding Medicare and then move on to other forms of social insurance, like national health insurance for all.
Universal Health Insurance (ideas suggested by E. Richard Brown, director, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research):
We must commit to universal health coverage for all Americans. The simplest way in the end to accomplish this is to strengthen Medicare with prescription-drug coverage and reduced cost-sharing and then to extend it to the entire population.
Welfare and the Poor(ideas suggested by Frances Fox Piven, professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and co-author with Richard Cloward of Regulating the Poor):
There are serious problems created by greatly narrowing or eliminating the income support of people who don’t get unemployment insurance. The reports that celebrate welfare reform note that 60 percent of onetime welfare recipients are working, but neglect to note that many of them do not have full-time jobs, that many work for $6 to $7 an hour, that more than half have no child-care, that many have been cut off from food stamps. Moreover, the number of people who have gone off welfare is what would be the case anyway with unemployment relatively low. We don’t know how the 40 percent formerly on welfare who don’t have jobs are getting by. We do know that shelters and food pantries and soup kitchens report an increase in the number of people who use their facilities. Many people newly eligible for welfare are no longer getting into the system. What we need to do is, first, restore income supports for women, because the work that women do while on welfare — caring for their children and their parents — is valuable work that we should support and celebrate. Second, if we think as a matter of policy that these women should be doing wage work, we must ensure that they receive a living wage, health care for themselves and their children, and decent housing that they can afford. People will go to work if they have some assurance that their kids will be taken care of.