A Proposal for a New American Deal

I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that America is firmly built on a classically liberal foundation. Any form of democratic socialism in the European sense of the word, will never happen here (forget Bernie Sanders, bro, historically socialist candidates fall flat in presidential elections). The question is now, how do we build a just society within a somewhat regulated capitalistic framework, which includes a robust social safety net for the poorest members of our society, and social, and health security in old age?

Are there any FDR/Harry Truman/LBJ New Deal paleoliberals (were once Democrats) left? Am I the only one in existence anymore? Harry Truman’s idea of a “Fair Deal” for the average poor, and middle American is the kind of economic, and political views I would espouse. I would also add I am somewhat supportive of LBJ’s Great Society ideas as well.

This kind of paleo-liberalism espoused by socially conservative, but economically social democratic Democratic, and Republican politicians (think LaGuardia, and Nelson Rockefeller for GOP) is a uniquely American solution to the social inequalities, and ills we face today.

If we are to tackle these issues, we must respect America’s classically liberal foundation of private enterprise, and property while balancing these rights with a just regulatory, and social welfare framework. I’d argue the youthful brand of populist socialism advocated by some on the American left is ill suited to America’s Constitutional framework, and traditions. The policies of FDR, Truman, and LBJ offer us examples of how to proceed.

Here are some of my proposals that will fit within this paleo-liberal framework. First, we must preserve, and sustain the remaining legacy entitlement, and social welfare programs of these three great Presidents. Second, Paleo-liberalism must respect the Constitution’s bill of rights, and to a more limited extent, federalism.

Paleo-liberalism recognizes the inherit God-given human dignity, and intrinsic value of every American person, regardless of their race, religion, sex, creed, social, or economic standing. We support a social safety net that protects our fellow aged, blind, and disabled Americans, and a just economic, and regulatory framework that allows the American worker to succeed regardless of their race, or economic origins.

For our most vulnerable Americans, the aged, blind, disabled, poor children, and pregnant women, I seek to preserve traditional Medicaid’s current structure, and financing. I support a winding down of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to able bodied adults. Medicaid was designed as a social welfare program under LBJ for these 5 categorial groups, not working age adults who are able-bodied.

The Medicaid expansion may appeal to modern political progressives, and social liberals as an easy way to increase coverage, however, the nasty truth of the expansion is that there are massive funding inequalities (100/95/90% Federal funding for the expansion population vs. average 57% for traditional Medicaid).

There are hundreds of thousands of disabled adults, and kids on Medicaid waiting lists nationwide for long term care services, and every dollar we give to the expansion is two dollars less states, and the Federal government have to spend on them.

The paleo-liberal Social Democratic traditions of FDR, Truman, and LBJ prioritize our resources on these three groups, the aged, blind, and disabled, as well as poor kids, and pregnant women. Our Medicaid policy should reflect these limits. My purpose is to preserve Medicaid for these traditional populations, and remove those who can work, and benefit from employer, and organized labor sponsored health plans from Medicaid.

I also want to protect SSI, and SSDI for the aged, blind, and disabled. I would argue that the asset limits for SSI, and Medicaid should be raised because they keep disabled adults in perpetual poverty. Raising the asset limit for SSI, and Medicaid will also encourage increased employment and savings among disabled people, thus increasing their independence.

While SSI would still be funded by the Federal government, and Social Security, it would look more like the food stamp program, with applications being processed by, and benefits being distributed on the state level. Applications for SSI benefits would be made to county, and or state welfare offices. States, and counties are more local than the SSA is, and they have the resources to screen for those who truly need SSI, and those who don’t.

State/county human services caseworkers would interview all SSI applicants in person, and review all applicable medical evidence submitted by the applicant’s physician, in conjugation with the State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, to give a timely notice of award decision to both Social Security, and the applicant themselves. More weight should be given to the applicant’s medical doctor’s opinion than the opinion of the doctors, and consultants hired by the State OVR office.

Initial Appeals for denied applicants would be expedited, and held either by phone, or by video on the state level by a review panel consisting of a rehabilitation counselor, a senior human services administrator, and a state administrative law judge.  The goal is to ensure that applicants who are truly disabled, and in need of SSI benefits receive a hearing in a quicker manner than they would on the Federal level. State, and local welfare offices can handle these processes in a more expedited fashion than the Social Security Administration can. Further appeals would move to Social Security’s normal appeal process.

Job training programs, and incentives for working age disabled SSI beneficiaries like the Ticket to Work program would be moved to the State level, and run by State VR offices, or Job agencies. SSI beneficiaries would not be required to work, but could be encouraged to join voluntary work, or education incentives in exchange for a delay of continuing disability reviews, which will also be conducted on the state level.

Social Security desperately needs an increase in the payroll tax cap limit in order to shore up the Social Security disability, and retirement trust funds. Raising the cap limit would ensure the solvency of the trust funds for decades to come.

For healthcare security for the aged, Medicare should be preserved without further cuts, while the amount of Medicare FICA taxes workers pay should be gradually increased. Premiums and deductibles should be higher for high income retirees. I would accept the retirement age being gradually raised from 67 to 69 for workers born after 2000.

As for the Federal government’s tax policy, a return to the income tax rates of the 1950’s would effectively solve our income inequality, and budget deficit problems. A return to these income tax rates would encourage the most well off members of American society to live more modestly, and with less excess. Corporate tax rates should be lower, and more in line with other developed countries.

Depression era laws like the Glass Steagall legislation should be passed back into law. I would like to see a Federal law passed allowing for the creation of guilds, and worker, and consumer owned cooperatives, thus providing ethical alternatives to for-profit businesses.

For the average American worker (22-69), I seek a revival of labor unions for as many of these workers as possible (by repealing Taft-Hartley, which would restore the NLRA to its original intent). My hope is, that by reconnecting the American worker with organized labor, most able-bodied workers in the lower, and middle classes would benefit from collectively bargained wage increases, labor union pension funds, and health and welfare plans instead of government benefit programs.

Unions must also get back to organizing. These “fight for $15” protests may look good on the news, but unless labor unions begin to organize individual fast food franchises, and other low wage workplaces, low income workers will not see a uniform rise in wages nationally. Collective bargaining agreements have the ability to raise wages, and benefits for workers in a political environment where a minimum wage increase is unlikely. Unions must realize this sooner, or later, and begin directing their energies, and money back into organizing.

Eventually, I would like collective bargaining to be done on a sector basis, with each industry, and business area and their employees being covered by a single collective bargaining agreement (much like France). One agreement for an entire sector will spread out labor costs, and take away the burden of bargaining, and minimize the cost of paying for employee benefits on smaller employers. Employees would benefit from sector labor agreements with regular pay raises, standardized job protections, universal access to union pension, and health and welfare plans, and much more (paid sick leave, and vacation!).

For young Americans I want to strengthen Federal public education funding (like fully funding IDEA, and a more generous school lunch program), while giving states the flexibility they need to implement educational reforms, and improvements in public education by respecting Federalism.

For young adults, I’d like to see a growth in the number of available apprenticeships, and trade school spots. Let’s face it, we have too many unemployed college students with bad debt, and not enough skilled craft, and trade workers. Not all paths lead to a liberal arts degree, and many fine, and upstanding people in American history entered a trade, or craft, instead of university. With an in demand skill, craft, or trade, someone could potentially make the same, or more than a person with a liberal arts degree.

For those students who do go to college, I’d like to see a modest increase in the maximum Pell Grant award amount. I want the Federal loan programs to be cut, and replaced by a program of guaranteed Federal full scholarships that are offered to the highest achieving low, and middle income students that can be used at any regionally accredited college, or university.

I’d also like to see the replacement of TANF with a new categorial grant program to the states for poor children called “Aid to Needy Children (AND).” Benefits in the AND program would be mandated to be spent on needy children, not caregivers, like parents. There won’t be any work requirements, or lifetime limits. So as to not encourage out of wedlock pregnancies and decline in marriage rates, benefits would be reduced, and eventually phased out entirely for any additional children beyond two kids for single mothers.

Local county welfare offices would be responsible for administering, and interviewing applicants for the AND program. Keeping oversight of the program locally will help accountability, and prevent fraud. While states would not be allowed to implement work requirements, or lifetime limits, they would have a degree of discretion at who would qualify. States would be encouraged to implement optional career training, and college degree programs that give rewards, and incentives to AND caregivers who move to self-sufficiency, and leave welfare.

Paleo-liberalism has a healthy respect for freedom of speech, religion, and peaceful assembly, as well as a strong stance in favor of civil rights for minorities. Any Paleo-liberal government must respect these three key rights. Our national policy must respect the religious liberty of people of faith, and discourage social engineering, like assisted suicide, and abortion.

Paleo-liberalism also favors an internationalist, and multilateral foreign policy. We must stand in solidarity with our allies in NATO, regional partners in Latin America, and Africa as well as Asia. We must continue to hold Russia, and China to account for their human rights abuses, especially when they cause international instability.

These are just my initial thoughts. I believe these are policies that could help the average working American. We need both a new, and fair deal. These policies from our past paleo-liberal Presidents will show us the way.

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