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Progressives Hit Grand Slam in Massachusetts

Bay State Democrats Approve all Four Resolutions Proposed by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Nothing changes a baseball game like a Grand Slam. With one mighty swing, a batter drives in four big runs. They were in Lowell’s Tsongas Arena–not Fenway Park–and they weren’t wearing Red Sox uniforms. Even so, PDA National Director Tim Carpenter and Mass. PDA members did their best David “Big Papi” Ortiz impression as they hit a walk off Grand Slam, dramatically changing the Massachusetts Democratic Convention.

Commonwealth Democrats convened this weekend to adopt an “Action Agenda” for 2012. PDA activists guaranteed that agenda will address issues most important to the people of the Bay State. PDA activists put Massachusetts Democrats on record supporting Single payer healthcare, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s People’s Budget, green jobs, clean energy, and a Constitutional Amendment asserting Corporations are not people with First Amendment rights. PDA-backed resolutions also condemned the attack on union collective bargaining rights, and called for phasing out coal use and restrictions on hydraulic fracturing–known as “fracking.”

PDA won overwhelming passage for all four amendments which are now part of the “Action Agenda” that will serve as the “blueprint for success” heading into the 2012 elections. Tim Carpenter declared, “These resolutions point the way to restoring democracy and balance to Massachusetts and America and reversing the rapid erosion of our quality of life.” These efforts entailed careful drafting of the four resolutions, energetic coalition-building and mobilization to secure the needed signatures, designing and printing leaflets to gain support of convention delegates, and then a mad dash to win the majority of votes. On second thought, PDA’s effort was more like a frenetic inside-the-park home run than a majestic “Big Papi” blast.

Running to First: the “People’s Budget”

PDA led off by mobilizing Massachusetts Democrats to endorse the People’s Budget, authored by Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Raul Grijalva and Rep. Keith Ellison. This resolution put Mass Dems on record accounting for the costs of war, stating: “Congress has appropriated over one-trillion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, $33 billion from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” The resolution identified costs to the “education services, medical care, housing, other essential public services, infrastructure repairs, and family and private sector financing throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [which] have been substantially reduced [and] diverted from the constructive economy to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Noting that “in 2005 the Massachusetts Democratic Party voted to oppose the continuing occupation of Iraq, and a resolution to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan has been proposed … at the 2011 Massachusetts Democratic Convention,” the resolution asserted that “the People’s Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus calls for ‘ending overseas contingency operations emergency supplementals starting in Fiscal Year 2013 (while) providing $170 billion in FY2012 to fund redeployment’, cutting the US military budget, and ending tax subsidies for the very rich and large corporations as a means of funding ‘job creation, education, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing, and research and development’.”

PDA’s efforts gained convention support for a resolution insisting “that the Massachusetts Democratic Party Action Agenda, which will serve as our blueprint for success as we head into the 2012 elections, shall include a commitment to the enactment of the People’s Budget.” Pleased with this result, Carpenter said, “The People’s Budget eliminates the major sources of fiscal irresponsibility and closes the budget deficit, producing a budget surplus by 2021. In addition, passage of the resolution provides a focus for the Action Agenda to fulfill core values of Massachusetts Democrats: peace, economic justice and fiscal responsibility.” PDA remains a national leader advocating for the People’s budget as the only sensible approach to fiscal policy which would balance the budget while protecting essential priorities, expand the economy, and create good jobs for Americans.

Rounding Second: “People’s Rights Resolution”

Continuing their efforts championing people’s rights against powerful special interests, PDA pushed convention delegates to approve the “People’s Rights Resolution” which demands Congressional action reversing the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. That dubious Supreme Court ruling allows unlimited corporate spending to “buy” elections. As part of PDA’s new campaign to check corporate power, activists put the MA Democratic Party on record condemning the Citizens United decision as “a serious and direct threat to our republican democracy.” The  convention resolved that, “the Action Agenda … shall include a recommitment to call upon the United States Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United v Federal Election Commission and to restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the United States.” The MA action supports proposed Constitutional Amendments currently in Congress.

PDA is leading a growing wave on this issue. In May, nine Massachusetts towns–Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Chatham, Brewster, Dennis, Orleans, Great Barrington, and Williamstown–passed resolutions supporting an amendment to reverse Citizens United. Sen. Jamie Eldridge’s S.00772 in the Massachusetts legislature–and similar resolutions in the Vermont, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington legislatures–also support Congressional action to reverse Citizens United. Ratification of such a constitutional amendment would be a first step in reforming the corporate domination of politics responsible for the financial meltdown, the decline of the middle class, the continuing recession, the most expensive–but far from most effective–health care in the world, global warming, and other ills plaguing America.

Corporate contributions to political campaigns overwhelm union contributions by up to 15 to 1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics ( Total spending on federal elections since 1998 exceeded $20 billion! Financial, health insurance, Big Pharma and energy special interests spent more than $23 billion on lobbying during this period. Meanwhile unions spent less than $500 million, also according to the CRP. PDA’s efforts in Mass. and nationally lead the way opposing corpocracy–the rule by corporations. “Unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns are a dagger pointed at the heart of our democracy,” said Carpenter. “The Citizens United decision will only accelerate the trend we have seen over the past two decades of corporations pouring money into campaigns and lobbyists to secure anti-environmental and anti-worker legislation and huge tax breaks for themselves, even as the middle class is called on to sacrifice Social Security, Medicare and forward-looking jobs and economic development programs for the sake of a ‘fiscal responsibility’ fantasy.”

Touching Third: “Healthcare Resolution”

PDA continued its successful efforts for Healthcare NOT Warfare, leading MA Democrats to pass a “Healthcare Resolution” supporting enhanced Medicare for All. The U.S. spends by far the most per capita on healthcare, but fails to provide care to millions of Americans. Even after the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, millions will remain uninsured and under-insured. People with insurance routinely suffer and even die when denied coverage for necessary medicine and treatment. To address this ongoing tragedy which kills up to 45,000 Americans each year, and bankrupts countless others, PDA worked to put the convention on record acknowledging “health insurance costs are at an all time high” and–despite the implementation of Romney Care–“Massachusetts has the highest rates in the nation.”

PDA led the convention recognizing “the Massachusetts General Court is considering the wrong-headed path of forcing unionized workers to bear the brunt of the excessive insurance costs and has moved to limit the rights of workers to bargain collectively over healthcare” while noting “the Platform of the Massachusetts State Democratic Party supports the establishment of the single payer (enhanced Medicare for all) system in the Commonwealth.” The PDA-led initiative committed Commonwealth Democrats to assert “healthcare should be a human right, not a commodity to be rationed, bought and sold” and resolved that “the Action Agenda … shall include a reaffirmation of our commitment to the passage of single payer (enhanced Medicare for all, H-338, S-501) legislation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Aware of the short-falls and flaws in the Romney/Obama for-profit insurance-based approach, Massachusetts Democrats have long supported a not-for-profit approach: expanded, improved Medicare for All–also known as a “Single Payer” healthcare system.

Tim Carpenter said, “For-profit corporate healthcare spends $billions in overhead–nearly 40 cents of every dollar goes to waste.” He added, “Single-payer systems have overhead as low as two percent, and have been successful here in America (Medicare) and in every other industrial nation.” PDA will join National Nurses United, Healthcare Now! and many others rallying for expanded, improved Medicare for All and other needed reforms Tuesday, June 7th in Washington, D.C.

Crossing Home: the “Clean Energy Resolution”

Not content with three bold progressive initiatives, PDA worked to guarantee a clean, empowered Massachusetts, persuading the convention to adopt a “Clean Energy Resolution” in which Mass Dems warned, “coal-plant pollution causes 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital admissions and an additional 550,000 asthma attacks nationwide every year” and “nearly 1 out of 10 adults and children in Massachusetts has asthma.” Recognizing these health threats, the convention recognized, “House Bill 2612, the Act to Phase Out Coal-Burning in Massachusetts, sets 2020 as the deadline for either retiring all coal-burning facilities in Massachusetts or repowering them to cleaner energy” and “the bill would establish a Community Repowering Fund to provide resources for the employees and affected communities to help in the transition from coal to clean energy.”

The resolution noted, “if a company chose to repower from coal to natural gas it would be subject to the provisions of the accompanying House Bill 3055, the Act Relative to Hydraulic Fracturing,” and added, “prior to 2005–when the Republican-controlled Congress carved out an exemption–hydraulic fracturing was subject to the provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.” In this resolution, Mass Democrats asserted, “the Act Relative to Hydraulic Fracturing would require companies using natural-gas to generate electricity in Massachusetts to certify that the natural-gas extraction process complied with the pre-2005 federal Safe Drinking Water Act.” This PDA-powered resolution formally committed the Action Agenda to support passage of House Bill 2612 and House Bill 3055.

“The Massachusetts Democratic Party showed its determination to combat global warming and to building a post-carbon economy for Massachusetts,” said Carpenter, “one step forward on the jobs front and another step forward in the struggle against climate change.” PDA’s efforts ensured Mass Democrats will embrace clean 21st century energy policies, and parallels PDA’s national leadership addressing global warming, protecting the environment, and promoting jobs through development of clean, renewable energy sources–rather than dirty, dangerous fossil fuel and nuclear power.

Celebrating Victory: Is this the Start of Something Big?

Thanks to PDA’s efforts, Democrats from the home of Sam, John and Abigail Adams, the Kennedys, and Tip O’Neill reaffirmed their commitment to progressive ideals. Massachusetts Democrats raised the bar for their party, and provided a true “blueprint for success” in their Commonwealth, and nationwide. From the home of the original Tea Party comes a clarion call: Adopt the People’s Budget and reject the “Trickle Down” Ryan Budget. Promote clean energy, phase out coal, and stop “fracking.” Enhance Medicare and extend it to everyone-not kill it as the Republicans are tying to do. Reaffirm the rights of We the People to rule ourselves rather than serve the nearly-omnipotent corporations. Hopefully Democrats across America will take their cue from Massachusetts and PDA, campaign on these sharp distinctions between the Donkey and the Elephant, and win a people’s mandate in the 2012 elections.

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