President Biden has trailed the idea of a Freedom Agenda as the central theme of his re-election campaign. (“The freedom for women to make their own health-care decisions, the freedom for our children to be safe from gun violence, the freedom to vote and have your vote counted. For seniors to live with dignity, and to give every American the freedom that comes with a fair shot at building a good life.”) It of course harkens back to FDR’s Four Freedoms (“the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear”).
What would a Bidenish Freedom Agenda look like if I were designing it for the 2024 campaign? Here’s my first very tentative stab at a draft. It’s not as pithy as FDRs!
- Freedom to vote. End political gerrymanders. Require states to enact policies that provide sufficient polling places and times to ensure fair geographic access, allocate resources designed to cut waiting times at polls, and set times to vote that fall outside working hours. Stronger rules, at least for ballots with federal elections, designed to minimize partisan meddling with vote counting and reporting.
- Freedom from tyranny. Protection against tyrants foreign and domestic. We need to be vigilant against domestic militias and other insurrectionists. We should continue our support for Ukraine and Taiwan lest we embolden their neighboring tyrants. Meanwhile, we should reduce our support for autocrats who abuse their people, and support pro-democracy movements, whenever strategically possible.
Personal Autonomy and Empowerment
- Freedom to control your own body. National legislation to overturn state laws telling people what they can do with their bodies, notably most forced birth legislation, and also most limits on what parents can do in directing their children’s care.
- Freedom to breathe. A strong clean air and clean water environmental agenda. Seek to remove the vast majority of man-made toxic–and especially carcinogenic and hazards to reproduction–out of our air, water, and food. Revisie our public health system to prepare for the next pandemic, so we don’t have to be afraid of each other’s breath.
- Freedom to learn. Public college should return to its history of being very low cost, or maybe even free. We could start with community college and the first two years of a four-year degree in state college. Plus,
- Freedom to read. Stop book-banning in schools based on parental vetoes that extend beyond their own children, while still leaving space for educators to select age-appropriate books for curricula and school libraries.
- Freedom to know. Stop textbook censors who are blocking mention of historical facts such as race discrimination, civil rights, and the Holocaust.
- Freedom to age in dignity. Solve the social security funding crisis even if it means new revenue source including removing the cap on social security taxes. Do not require people to work until they are older to retire, nor to survive on less when they do.
- Freedom to compete. Revive strong anti-trust enforcement, and re-tool it for new digital markets. Market power is too concentrated in a large number of industries. Part of this is the rise of network industries, and the so-called ‘winner-take-all’ economy but a lot of it is just due to lax anti-trust enforcement. When competition falls to monopolies, capitalism looses its dynamism, and owners and managers of dominant firms accrete more wealth and power than is healthy for society along with the ability to acquire (and sometimes choke off) innovative potential competitors. At its worst we get ‘too big to fail’ firms that can extort government support with insufficient consequences for management and shareholders when the firms make bad decisions.
- Freedom to organize. Revise state and federal laws to remove anti-union bias, including so-called right-to-work laws. It’s clear that unions do more for wage equity than any other single thing.
Missing from the above is something about global warming. “Freedom from roasting” doesn’t sound quite right….but “Freedom from climate change” or “Freedom from Carbon” sounds like a pipe dream.
Not on ver 0.1 of the list but maybe belongs on it: Freedom to travel Gun control. Better policing, which protects the innocent while not committing violence on them; probably this will require setting up new kinds of paramedics and social workers to take on dealing with people whose primary issues are due to illness and other factors.
Important issues that may not lend themselves to this treatment.
- Taxation/deficit issues in the shadow of inflation.
- Immigration reform.
- Basic structural reform of the national government:
- Ethics rules and term limits for the Supreme Court;
- Restructuring the Senate so it more closely reflects the national population — currently most states have smaller populations than LA County alone, but they each have two Senators. Something is wrong there. but ‘freedom from the dead hand of the past’ is not a good slogan…..