Good evening! My name is Aaron Camp. I am a 24-year-old resident of the small town of Westville, Illinois, and, since nobody else is delivering the progressive response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, I’d figure that I deliver the progressive response to the State of the Union.
Our State of the Union is currently one where it is becoming increasingly harder for the American people to be properly represented by their elected officials. Republicans were able to maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 via gerrymandering of congressional districts to benefit Republicans in dozens of states, many states have made it harder for people to vote, and the culture of big-money politics has never been at its worst. Every state should implement same-day voter registration, motor-voter registration, online voter registration, and non-partisan, independent redistricting. Additionally, the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision needs to be overturned via a federal constitutional amendment, and all efforts to implement Voter ID laws need to stop immediately. Furthermore, federal constitutional amendments implementing instant-runoff voting for all single-member elections and single transferable vote for all multi-member elections, requiring that all polling places use hand-counted paper ballots, implementing a national popular vote system for elections for president and vice president, and granting the District of Columbia and U.S. territories representation in both houses of Congress should be enacted. Also, state laws should be amended to give minor political parties the same rules for ballot access that major political parties currently enjoy. Finally, stricter campaign finance laws, such as hard caps on self-funding, stricter caps on campaign contributions, requirement of full disclosure of all campaign contributions, and stricter laws prohibiting illegal coordination, should be implemented, and federal and state public campaign financing systems, in which candidates for public office can get $4 in public funding for every $1 raised from individual contributors up to a certain amount, should be implemented.
Our State of the Union is currently one where the economy is going through a sluggish recovery from a deep recession caused by a major banks getting too greedy, and one where income inequality is rampant. The progressive economic plan would focus on several ideas to get the economy moving and make America a better place to live:
- Extend unemployment benefits
- Raise federal income taxes on the wealthiest Americans to as high as 70%, and eliminate federal income taxes on the poorest Americans
- Implement a national public works project to repair and replace crumbling roads, bridges, rail lines, and other forms of infrastructure.
- Replace the current inefficient system of corporate welfare, which mostly consists of corporate tax breaks and loopholes, with national and state economic development banks designed to issue and/or guarantee loans to businesses and student loans.
- Increase funding for elementary, secondary, and higher education to provide a better education to our country’s future workforce, and look for ways to reduce the student loan burden on those who are currently attending college or have graduated from college.
- Implement a nationwide “Steel Interstate” system of high-speed and other passenger rail lines criss-crossing the United States
- Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, and index it to productivity
- Expand social security benefits and eliminate the cap on the amount of payroll subject to Social Security taxes
- Invest in solar, wind, geothermal, and other forms of clean, renewable energy
- Prohibit all forms of discrimination in hiring, including sexual orientation, military/veteran status, and employment status
- Repeal all free-trade agreements currently implemented, and stop all efforts to implement new free trade agreements.
- Protect and expand the Affordable Care Act by implementing either single-payer health insurance or public-option health insurance, as well as allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for Part D plans.
- Require that all gas stations provide charging stations for electric cars.
The progressive economic plan, if it were to be fully implemented, would revitalize the American middle class, create thousands upon thousands of new jobs, reduce income inequality, put more money in the pockets of poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans, decrease dependence on safety net programs, and put many Americans back to work.
Our State of the Union is one where we have made quite a bit of progress on some social issues, but one where we’ve gone the wrong direction on other social issues. Marriage equality is now law of the land in many states, and two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for recreational use. However, many states have made it harder for women to seek an abortion and obtain contraception, and a bill that would require universal background checks on gun sales failed to pass a Congress that is beholden to a gun lobby that is pushing a dangerous agenda to proliferate guns in nearly every part of American society. I would like to see federal constitutional amendments granting full reproductive rights to women and granting same-sex couples the same right to marry that heterosexual couples currently enjoy implemented, and I’d also like to see federal legislation legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for recreational use implemented. Furthermore, I would like to see a federal constitutional amendment granting equal rights regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation implemented, and I’d like to see federal legislation closing the gun show loophole and requiring background checks on all gun sales implemented.
It’s time to make the State of our Union stronger and more progressive.