For years, the Right dominated the dialogue on "family values." But what does it really mean to support families, especially in a time of economic hardship? Here's YES! Magazine's pro-family political platform:
SAFEGUARD OUR HOMES
Every family needs a place to live. When banks use our homes and mortgages to make bets in the global casino, we wind up with predatory lending, financial bubbles, crashes, and foreclosures:
• Shared Equity Home Ownership is a way to make homes permanently affordable. Community groups or local agencies invest in homes and share the equity with homeowners. When a homeowner sells, the agency shares in any gain, recycling the funds to keep homes permanently affordable. The foreclosure rate in Community Land Trusts, one example of this model, is 1/8th the national rate.
• Protect families from foreclosures by allowing judges to modify unaffordable loans.
Government stimulus spending should be aimed at a recovery that can support families, communities, and the natural environment. Green and locally based jobs are our best bets:
• Fund job programs that create and retain jobs at the local level. Give preference to communities with high unemployment and to green jobs.
• Increase the minimum wage so that those who work can support their families and increase local economic activity. (In most of northern Europe, the minimum wage is $12 an hour or more.) And end pay discrimination against women, people of color, and single moms.
PROTECT VULNERABLE FAMILY MEMBERS
Many families care for disabled children and spouses and elderly parents. Here are ways we can support them:
• Protect Social Security from those who would like to cut it to pay for tax cuts for the rich.
• Help the elderly and disabled live at home by financing upgrades that make homes more accessible and weatherproof.
• Provide full VA benefits and protection from job discrimination for veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and other disabilities. Support community-based centers with services and mutual support for veterans.
• Support home caregivers through tax credits, payments toward their Social Security, and respite services.
BALANCE WORK AND LIFE
Time is essential to good family life. Children, couples, and elders need companionship, vacations, and time to respond to life's crises. In Europe, workers have at least four weeks paid vacation, and in Germany and the Netherlands, they have the right to switch to part-time hours:
• Make part-time schedules available with equal (pro-rated) wages, benefits, and opportunities for promotion. Part-time work spreads jobs and income around and allows time for family.
• Make paid sick leave available to all, and allow parents to use it to care for ill family members. Give both parents paid leave following the birth or adoption of a baby.
GIVE KIDS A BREAK
One in five children live in poverty in the United States. Many children attend failing and even dangerous schools. Our kids deserve better:
• Fully fund Head Start and K-12 education. And give kids opportunities for exercise, art, music, and self-expression--don't let tests rule.
• Strengthen community colleges and the Pell Grant system so all qualified young people can go to college and contribute to the future of their families and our nation.
• End the "cradle-to-prison pipeline" through local collaborations that intervene when young people get into trouble. The funds saved by lowering the rate of juvenile detention can be invested in substance-abuse treatment and education.
• Protect our kids from advertising, especially in schools, that promotes an unhealthy, consumer-oriented lifestyle.
PROTECT OUR HEALTH
Health and health care costs are big worries for American families.
• Extend Medicare to everyone 55 and older, to pregnant mothers, and to children. Better yet, extend Medicare to all.
• End tax write-offs for advertising fatty, sugary foods that are making Americans sick.
• Fully fund domestic violence shelters, which are in high demand during the recession.
• Protect families from exposure to cancer-causing contaminants. Use precautionary regulation, which forces manufacturers to prove chemicals are safe before putting them in our homes, workplaces, and schools, instead of the current approach, which puts the burden on consumers or regulators to prove harm. Give special attention to vulnerable groups--like children, farmworkers, and those in cancer "hot spots."
• Fund research into safe alternatives to toxic chemicals.
Making our tax system more equitable could bring down the deficit; sustain family-friendly local, state, and federal government programs; and help reduce vast inequality, which threatens the health of all families, rich and poor.
• Make the first $20,000 of income free from payroll taxes. Make up for it by applying payroll taxes to incomes above $250,000. Tax capital gains at the same rate as other income. Under President Eisenhower, the top marginal rate was 91 percent; today, it is just 35 percent.
• Bring Back the Estate Tax on estates over $2 million ($4 million for a couple).
• Close offshore tax havens that corporations use to hide profits and evade at least $100 billion in taxes each year. Share the revenues with struggling state and local governments for programs that support family well-being.
PROTECT OUR FUTURE
Our children, grandchildren, and great-grand-children deserve to inherit vibrant ecosystems, a strong democracy, and opportunities for a good life
• Transition to renewable, clean energy. Invest massively in energy efficiency. Build infrastructure--like bike lanes and efficient transit--that makes sense in a time of energy constraints and climate disruption.
• Free elections from wealthy special interests. Start by overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns.
• End subsidies to Wall Street. Invest in local jobs and sustainable communities.
• Protect our heritage of diverse species and healthy habitats.
SUPPORT MARRIAGE ...
... by making it available to all committed couples, gay or straight.
• Hospital visits, family leave to care for an ill partner, spousal health care, and pension benefits should be available to both straight and gay couples.
• Reform immigration law and stop separating families through detention and deportation.
Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for "What Happy Families Know," the upcoming issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is YES! Magazine's executive editor. Editorial interns Tiffany Ran and Alyssa Johnson contributed research to this article. Citations and additional resources can be found here.
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