What’s Next? The New Progressive Agenda


Domestic Policy Panel Write-Up

The upcoming election is “our opportunity to present a new vision of ambition and scope to the nation that addresses the great challenges of our times, from the threats of Islamist terror and global warming, to the transformations of the global economy and the aging Baby Boom,” said Kenneth Baer, co-editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, at a Center for American Progress event Thursday. The event, moderated by Baer, featured a morning panel of experts who discussed their domestic policy ideas for a new progressive agenda that tackles the specific challenges that America faces today.

Lael Brainard, vice president and director of global economy and development at the Brookings Institution, proposed a “new economic safety net.” The economy has undergone vast changes over the last seven years, “exposing American workers to the bracing winds of global competition and technological advance as never before,” said Brainard. The United States therefore needs a comprehensive economic security program to aid U.S. workers during the unemployment process.

The program would be built around three main pillars: “Making sure workers and communities have the tools to re-skill themselves; providing health insurance for periods of unemployment; and offering insurance against big drops in income and loss of health care as they transition back into employment.” Brainard added that the program would address the nation’s job-sector safety net, which remains very weak among advancing economies.

Another idea, put forth by Jason Bordoff, policy director of The Hamilton Project, is “Pay-As-You-Drive Car Insurance.” Insurance costs under this plan would vary by the amount of miles driven. This would incentivize driving less, “thus decreasing the harm that more miles have on society,” said Bordoff. The communal benefits of Pay-As-You-Drive would be approximately “$30 billion per year, mostly from reduced car accidents and congestion, as well as reduced local pollution,” and carbon emissions plus increased oil security.

Unlike frequently proposed policies such as gas taxes and congestion charges that shoot up the cost of driving, Pay-As-You-Drive represents a “win-win policy—good for society and good for most drivers—that makes significant progress on climate change …while reducing insurance costs for the majority of drivers,” said Bordoff.

Shirley Sagawa, a Visiting Fellow at the Center for American Progress, shared her plan for strengthening the nonprofit sector. “Non-profit sectors are America’s best hope for solving the pressing problems facing its communities,” she said. Yet too many non-profit organizations have all the passion, and none of the resources and strategy. “There is no help for struggling non-profits,” said Sagawa. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides critical training in technology implementation, which is something “non-profits could use both internally and in serving clients.”

Sagawa explained, “A ‘nonprofit SBA’ could support a national volunteer reserve list of AmeriCorps alumni and other skilled Americans ready to help when needed.” It could also provide financial support that would, “enable nonprofits to rebuild or scale up quickly after a crisis.”

Foreign Policy Panel Write-Up

“In the 10 years after World War II we had a burst of institutional creativity […] we’ve reached another point after the end of the Cold War where we need to take a new look, not just at our policies, but at our basic institutions,” William Galston told the audience at an event at the Center for American Progress on Thursday. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, participated in a panel discussion about progressive foreign policy proposals that respond to the challenges of our time.

The debate was moderated by Kenneth Baer, co-editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and included Galston, Economic Policy Institute research and policy director John Irons, and Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb. The panelists presented creative ideas to improve America’s public diplomacy, limit carbon dioxide emissions, and protect America from man-made and natural disasters.

Galston argued that America’s “low standing” in the world is a result of “inept articulation” of its ideals. He proposed a dedicated, cabinet-level Department of Global Information and Communication that would conduct public diplomacy with an annual budget of $10 billion.

The State Department currently conducts public diplomacy with a budget of $1.6 billion, but Galston asserted that, “what we’re doing right now isn’t working, and it isn’t going to work.” A cabinet-level position is necessary for public diplomacy, he said, because “if you’re not at the table, your chances of getting what matters to you on the table are virtually nil.”

Irons proposed an innovative “cap-and-lease” approach to limiting carbon dioxide emissions, in which tradable carbon “leases” for future emissions would be allocated by auction, while still requiring per-emission payments from polluters at a set price. “This idea might be wrong, it might be obvious, or it might be brilliant, but I think that the key insights are going to have to hold true no matter what system we pick,” he said.

He argued that “the two leading ideas” for combating global warming—a carbon tax and a carbon cap-and-trade system—are both flawed. Carbon taxes often fail to achieve emissions reduction targets, while cap-and-trade plans do not provide the price certainty essential to long-term business planning. Additionally, he said, both carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems are vulnerable to political pressure.

By combining elements of the two systems, Irons argued, “the cap-and-lease program really does blend together the best features of what’s out there.” Irons also predicted that, “Whatever we design at home has to be, in the long-run, something that can be integrated into a global system.”

Korb presented his plan for the creation of a “Home Guard,” which would supplement a National Guard stretched thin by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “The all-volunteer army was not designed to fight long wars,” said Korb, and as a result the National Guard “becomes not a strategic reserve, they become an operational reserve.”

Korb noted that the response to Hurricane Katrina was hampered by the fact that the Louisiana National Guard was deployed to Iraq at the time of the emergency. Even if the National Guard had been present during the emergency, Korb cautioned, “If I’m training and I’m a specialist in counterinsurgency, I might not have the engineering skills I need to repair a break in the levee.”

The Home Guard would be composed of part-time volunteers under the command of state Adjutants General, and would be trained to respond to natural and man-made disasters in the United States. To finance the Home Guard, Korb said that, “the cost of one month in Iraq would be enough to get people where they need to be.”

He said that the Home Guard would allow citizens to become involved in the war against terrorist networks and would especially appeal to “people who want to do something, but didn’t want to make a military commitment.”

12:00-1:15 p.m.
Domestic Policy Panel:

Shirley Sagawa, Visiting Fellow, Center for American Progress
"An SBA for Non-Profits"
Jason Bordoff, Policy Director, The Hamilton Project
"Pay-As-You-Drive Car Insurance"
Lael Brainard, Vice President and Director, Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution
"New Economy Safety Net"

1:15-2:30 p.m.
Foreign Policy Panel:

Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
"A Home Guard"
William Galston, Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution
"Public Diplomacy Cabinet Post"
John Irons, Research and Policy Director, the Economic Policy Institute
"Cap and Lease Carbon"

Moderated by:

Kenneth Baer, Co-Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas


Center for American Progress, 1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC , 20005

Additional information

A light lunch will be served starting at 11:30 am.