A Political Platform Worth Fighting For

Stephen H. Unger
October 12, 2015
[Click [here] for a revised version with one added plank.]

As we get deeper into the election season, we are seeing more and more policy declarations by potential candidates, factions, and parties. These will eventually coalesce into candidate and party election platforms. Rather than trying to analyze the platforms of individual candidates, I'm going to construct a platform that I would like to see implemented.

Of course a platform should not be the sole criterion for judging a candidate; we must also do our best to evaluate the character of the candidate. There are actually politicians who, after being elected, appear to forget the positions they took during the election campaign!

I've partitioned the platform planks into 8 sets, with one section devoted to each set. Where it may not be obvious, I added brief justifications for the planks.

The rich and the poor

  1. Raise the minimum wage to $15/hr (with appropriate provision for further increases as the cost of living increases.)
  2. Preserve the jobs and income of American workers by using tax laws and other means to discourage the export of US factories to low-pay countries [1].
  3. Revive steeply graded income tax.

    Taxes paid by poor and most middle class people should be reduced, while those in the highest income brackets should be taxed more heavily. Taxation on top brackets should exceed 90%, as was the case when Eisenhower was president.

  4. Enact a new tax on stock market sales.

    A very small tax, perhaps 50 cents per $1000 on stock transactions would have no significant effect on normal stock trading operations. But it would raise a great deal of money from the high speed trading carried out as a gambling game, while discouraging high-speed trading, which serves no useful function [2].

  5. Break up the big banks and revive regulations that prevent banks from engaging in speculative activities.
  6. Revise labor laws so as to encourage the formation and operation of real unions [3].
  7. Encourage both worker and consumer co-ops [4].
  8. Greatly increase public works programs, such as improving water supply and distribution systems, improving public transport systems.

Protect the environment

  1. Enact laws and regulations to sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Enact measures to support and encourage R & D on increasing efficiency of energy use.
  3. Enact measures to support and encourage R & D on increasing efficiency of relatively benign energy sources.

Make health care a top priority

  1. Enact universal health insurance, which exists in almost every other industrialized nation.
  2. Make the development and production of pharmaceutical products a public function.

    The pharmaceutical industry, is a prime example of an industry where the profit motive is in conflict with the real needs of the general population [5].

  3. Increase substantially public support for health-related research.
  4. Discourage for-profit hospitals.

Terminate efforts to dominate the world militarily.

  1. End military actions in Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa, etc.
  2. Dismantle our overseas military bases.
  3. Drastically cut the military budget.
  4. Stop supporting oppressive governments (e.g., Saudi Arabia).

Civil rights

  1. End arrests for "crimes" that harm only the perpetrators.
  2. Scale down prison sentences--increase reform efforts.
  3. Shut down private prisons.
  4. Demilitarize police.
  5. Stop police abuse of blacks.

Civil Liberties

  1. Stop the massive violations of the 4th amendment by the NSA (National Security Agency).
  2. Stop the harassment of American Muslims by police and other government agencies.


  1. Greatly increase foreign aid programs that directly help poor people in their own countries.
  2. Cut immigration sharply [6].
  3. Strongly discourage illegal immigration.
  4. End birthright citizenship

The 14th Amendment confers citizenship on everyone born in the US. It was intended to ensure that American-born former slaves would be considered as citizens. Using this provision to confer citizenship on any person whose mother gave birth in the US while here as a tourist, or as a temporary worker, or as an illegal immigrant, makes no sense. Apart from the US, Canada, and most other nations in the western hemisphere, only Fiji now grants birthright citizenship [7]. Note that the argument against open borders is not based on a claim that many groups of potential immigrants are somehow unworthy, but rather on the detrimental effects of immigration on people already here, including many who are themselves immigrants, or children of immigrants [8].

Upgrade election procedures

  1. All political elections should be based on the use of hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballots--not voting machines.

    There is no known practical method for ensuring that the results of elections based on the use of voting machines of any type cannot be corrupted. Serious inadvertent error is also quite possible. Given the ugly history of election fraud in the US (e.g., think Boss Tweed) it is important to avoid the danger posed by voting machines, which can easily be rigged in ways almost impossible to detect. On the other hand, with reasonable care, elections using manual methods can produce reliably accurate results. This approach is routine in Europe, and in large areas of several New England states [9].

  2. Approval voting, should be used in all single-winner elections. It differs from conventional plurality voting in that each voter can vote for any number of the candidates; the winner is the one receiving the most votes.

    This method, while very simple, gives every voter more power to express his or her choices [10].

Some closing thoughts

The platform planks presented here, while doubtless an incomplete set, can serve as a useful basis for evaluating candidates and parties. Using it as a yardstick will make it clear that both major parties are far from seriously considering anything like the changes necessary to avoid the multiple disasters that loom on the horizon. The growing lack of enthusiasm being displayed by voters for both Democrats and Republicans is an indication that the time has come for some basic changes.


[1] Stephen H. Unger, "How to INsource American Jobs", October 14, 2010

[2] Lee Sheppard, "A Tax to Kill High Frequency Trading", Forbes, Oct. 16, 2012

[3] Stephen H. Unger, "The Demise of Unions and Why We Need to Revive Them", Ends and Means, September 11, 2013

[4] Stephen H. Unger, "Worker Co-Ops: A Plausible Solution to Some Big Problems", Ends and Means, July 11, 2011

[5] Stephen H. Unger, "How Pharmaceutical Products Differ From Tennis Balls", Ends and Means, July 2, 2014

[6] Stephen H. Unger, "The Immigration Issue: Good Folks on the Wrong Side", Ends and Means, October 19, 2011

[7] NumbersUSA, "Nations Granting Birthright Citizenship", 8/24/15

[8] Roy Beck, "'No'" To Immigrant Bashing", NumbersUSA, 2015

[9] Stephen H. Unger, "Forward to the Past: Junk the Machines, Count Votes Manually", Ends and Means, 8/5/08

[10] The Center for Election Science, "What is Approval Voting?"

Comments are welcomed and can be sent to me at unger(at)cs(dot)columbia(dot)edu

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