Democrats’ platform of opportunity

Party needs a coherent, future-oriented vision

THERE’S AN OLD QUIP that a camel is a horse designed by committee. In June, Massachusetts Democrats will affirm a new state platform – the camel meant to guide federal and state party officials from Massachusetts for the next four years, including the gubernatorial candidates. Like 2013’s version, it will be a laundry list, not a vision.

Here is the horse that Massachusetts Democrats should ride forward instead:

The Democratic Party stands for optimism and opportunity. The Republican administration wants to build walls – physical walls around the country and psychological walls between groups of Americans – because they are pessimistic. They see “carnage” everywhere, so they retreat to their tribal corners to preserve what is theirs instead of expanding opportunity for all.

The Democratic Party is optimistic about the future of America and of Massachusetts. Speaking to the median-aged Bay State resident, who is 39, we can tell you how we are going to expand opportunity for you, for your kids, and for your grandkids.

For you: Housing, transportation, and health care are curbing opportunity by reducing your economic mobility. The Democratic Party will reduce the cost of homes near good jobs by loosening zoning restrictions in suburbs and by subsidizing housing, instead of vehicles, in urban cores. One third of metropolitan land is set aside for parking; autonomous vehicles and congestion pricing will reduce that footprint and allow for more walkable, affordable development.

The revenue from congestion pricing, which is the only proven method to reduce traffic, and from an increase in the gas tax, will be directed towards multi-modal transportation improvements that aim for two metrics: reduce your commute to fewer than 40 minutes and your annual transportation budget to less than $8,000.

Improving housing and transportation reduces the geographic barriers for you to find good work. But employer-provided health care, if you have it, still reduces your economic mobility by tethering you to your job; if you don’t have it, you lack the basic security you need to take risks and seize opportunity. The Democratic Party will improve the Affordable Care Act so that every American, regardless of employment, buys health insurance through a regulated market that encourages competition without excluding the poor or infirm.

Still, not everyone can find a good-paying job. If you are working or seeking work, the Democratic Party will guarantee a decent standard of living by radically expanding the negative income tax, which economists on both the left and right agree is effective in reducing poverty and incenting work without burdening job creators. For everyone else, the efficient and equitable progressive consumption tax will replace the tangled US tax code.

These measures will increase opportunity for you and for your kids. For your kids to really do better than you did, though, they must be more productive than you are. Productivity – the value of output per worker per hour – is what drives standards of living.

In order to ensure that the next generation does better, the Democratic Party is committed to a program of productivity. We will increase public funding for research and development, while reforming the patent system to prevent trolling, so that we plant the seeds and harvest the fruits of innovation. We will invest in human capital during the cognitively critical early years by expanding early childhood programs; during K–12 by deepening STEM instruction and by promoting choice in education with more charter schools; during and after secondary education by widening the access and accreditation of technical and vocational education; and during college by limiting student loans according to future income and streamlining the online path to a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to investing in your children, the Democratic Party will charter a public-private infrastructure bank to invest in the public capital they need to be productive. Boston to Washington, DC, should take 90 minutes by train. Western Massachusetts should have the Internet access it needs to attract business. And Massport should be ready to handle the logistics of globalized e-commerce. Technology already clears the way to all three objectives; Democrats provide the will.

Meet the Author

Jake Auchincloss

City councilor at large, Newton
The next generation, moreover, will prosper without damaging the planet for their own children. The Democratic Party is committed to addressing climate change, primarily through the reduction of carbon emissions across industry, agriculture, and transportation.

Be optimistic. It is an age of accelerations, yes, but slamming on the brakes will put opportunity out of reach. The Democrats will put you in the driver’s seat.

Jake Auchincloss is a Newton city councilor-at-large. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.