Social Justice and Community‐Based Economics
Social Justice (see below for Community-Based Economics)
Social Justice is one of the “Four Pillars” of the Green Party worldwide. This is a core value to all our work. Our Maryland solutions are:
1) Having a home – we support reversing poverty with a new requirement that all public housing, and housing with state funds, be “rent to own”. Current renters would have past payments credited towards the purchase of their home, and all future payments will go towards ownership. This will build more stable neighborhoods, and allow people to build their capital resources. There is no reason the state government should be a landlord for poor people, extracting more wealth from the poor when they cannot afford it, keeping people poor, even while the country’s official public policy has been to increase home ownership, with all its many personal and community benefits since 1935. A second program will propose a “fair mortgage” for private mortgages where the owner gains equity at the same, steady rate each month over the life of the loan, parallel to the banks gaining their profit at a standard rate. The current mortgages pay the banks nearly all their profit in the first half of the loan, and the owner only builds significant equity in the later half. That is not fair to owners, and is another way of “vacuuming up” wealth from the middle class to the upper 1% and the banking system.
2) Reparations – there are several proposals for reparations to heal some of the inherited damage and loss of wealth from generations of slavery and Jim Crow. I will establish a commission to examine these proposals, and bring one or more to the state legislature for action during my first term. The American Civil Liberties Union has helped introduce a bill in the US Congress, H.R. 40, for this on the federal level. I will model the Maryland Reparations Commission on this approach (https://www.aclu-md.org/en/reparations).
3) Stopping bail bond exploitation – the for-profit bail system must be eliminated. The current system is a cycle of indebtedness for people needing bond that keeps poor people who use them in debt even after they have been cleared of charges. This system is underwritten by nine insurance companies, and a form of it has been declared unconstitutional in onen county in Texas. The industry makes a mockery of our national value that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Instead, the bail bonds companies support keeping poor people in jail while presumed innocent, while wealthier people can walk free, arrange their defense, and continue working while waiting for trial and presumed innocent. Our core values are not just for the rich. Numerous national groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change advocate for this major change, and Nancy and Pat support this reform whole-heartedly. See this report for more information and recommendations.
4) Free college and forgiveness of student debt – See our Education page for more proposals and our commitments on improving educational access to become income-blind and available to all. We lift up families and neighborhoods as well as the individual student when we open educational opportunities to all.
5) Protection of Black cemeteries and historical communities – we have many cemeteries throughout Maryland that testify to the vibrant Black communities of the past two centuries. These lives deserve equal respect in their memorial places as all other Maryland residents. Yet they have often been overrun by real estate development and fraudulent land grabs for expanding suburbs and farmettes. Their memories have been erased, in our minds and off our zoning maps. We need to support the identification, restoration, and memorialization of this fundamental part of our state history, cherish the contributions of these communities, and include the disinheritance of valuable property ownership in our reparations commission mission.
One of the Green Party’s 10 Key Values is Community Based Economics and Economic Justice. We recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable, community-based economic system that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people, while maintaining a healthy ecological balance.
We are all painfully familiar with the facts of the disappearance of the middle class, the increasing gap between rich and poor in the US, and the hopelessness of young professionals facing crushing student debt. One percent of the US population owns 60% of our wealth. I propose ten concrete steps to rapidly reverse this impoverishment of 99% of the American people:
- Raise the minimum wage to $17.07 per hour ensure self sufficiency of full time workers. This level is the minimum wage of 1964 simply adjusted for inflation! This is the actual minimum wage required in Montgomery County, MD for self sufficiency for one person, as calculated by the Center for Women’s Welfare based on careful research(1). This simply allows a single person to live without being dependent on any public funds. Seattle, Washington has enacted a similar minimum wage.
The erosion of this standard over the past 40 years by the same parties that enacted it must be reversed. Small businesses should be assisted by the Small Business Administration during their adjustment period, using efficiency and business process reengineering consulting to maintain profitability.
- Free health care for all Americans, through single payer health care programs. Since the major reason for housing foreclosures is medical debt, free health care will reduce poverty and stabilize communities, as well as improving America’s health. We can make Medicare available to all, and transfer the 31 cents every health care dollar currently spent on paperwork, spent instead on real health care for sick people. This saves lives, saves families, and focuses on health, instead of health insurance corporate profits as the Affordable Care Act does. During the Great Recession in 2009 while 18,000 families were being evicted from their homes each week, many for health care debt, the Chief Executive Officers of the 10 top health insurers paid themselves salaries averaging $28 million each for one year.
- Free community college, implementing Thomas Jefferson’s original envisioned for public education. This is simply a logical continuation of our K-12 public education system. This will eliminate the second major source of debt.
- Require rent-to-own for all public housing to build home ownership in our poorest communities and create stable neighborhoods for children and families.
- Strongly encourage employee ownership of businesses with a state outreach program to help businesses convert to worker-owned or cooperative structures. It is not enough for Americans to have the opportunity to own stock in corporations, the original “share the wealth” approach. It has not worked overall, and the gap between rich and poor, rich and middle class continues to widen. Employee ownership is a proven way to help working Americans have more income for the same labor, and these businesses thrive and grow under the new energy and creativity provided by its worker-owners. Many successful examples of this may be found throughout the US, including King Arthur Flour nearby in Pennsylvania.
- Promote local, small, community-centered businesses by re-orienting our Maryland Department of Commerce to these businesses as the top priority. All grants, funds, and tax breaks should be provided only to small businesses, and businesses which are headquartered in the United States. Priority should be given to businesses that focus on delivering products and services based on local products and current local labor. This approach also lowers the carbon footprint of our state economy, helping fight climate change.
- Re-establish the capital gains tax and inheritance taxes of the 1970s. Removing those limits on the accumulation of excessive wealth has been a significant enabler of the current extreme wealth gap in our country.
- Use our billions in state contracting dollars to decrease the wage gap and rebuild the middle class. Prioritize bidders for state contracts that have the lowest wage gap between top executive salary and lowest paid worker, as defined by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Companies which have not published this wage gap should be barred from bidding. This would include all military contracting, which will provide major transparency for many companies so state governments may also then use the same standard for their contracting. The Obama Administration delayed three years before even issuing implementing regulations for this visibility of American corporations’ exorbitant executive salaries.(2)
- Stop overriding US laws protecting workers with global corporate treaties. I believe our state’s position should be to withdraw the United States from NAFTA, CAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Fast Track, and other corporate globalization treaties. All these treaties override US laws protecting our workers, including overtime, environmental health, women’s equal pay, and occupational safety that millions of Americans won with hard fought victories over the past 100 years. The Democratic and Republican approval of these treaties is a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of all Americans. It is also a fundamental abuse of our democratic process, where anonymous corporate-run courts override legitimately elected representatives’ decisions.
- Support establishment of state public banks. A state-level public bank will direct local profits into local economic development(footnote 3). These banks receive state tax payments, and partner with local small banks to provide loans to the community to advance our public welfare. The interest on the loans then is returned to the citizens of the state through the public bank, and provides additional funds for helping our communities. This model has been extremely successful in that “hotbed of radicalism”, North Dakota, for the past 90 years. A good source of more information is Ellen Brown’s book The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity.
- Change our Department of Commerce economic metrics to support a steady state economy(footnote 4), not physical growth. This includes published reports and metrics to the public and legislators. While our profitability and productivity can grow, further physical growth is ecologically unsustainable, as our diminishing wetlands, agriculture, and aquifer recharge zones attest. We should concentrate our metrics on improving our quality of life, not corporate profits. The metrics should support sustainable economic goals, emphasizing ingenuity, efficiency, increased productivity, ethics, and creativity as the drivers of increased profits and wealth.
Resources for you on Community-Based Economics and Economic Justice
There is an amazing grassroots economic revolution going on in the country, building on the union movement of the 1930s, the cooperatives movement of the 1970s, fair trade in the 1980s, the local farming movement of the last 20 years, and the sharing approach using technology-based communications of the last 10 years. These are all blossoming into something called the New Economy.
New Economy Coalition: http://neweconomy.net/
Here’s just a partial list of economic structures which give workers and communities a fair deal. You can patronize them locally as customers, join as workers and members, and advocate for adoption in your business:
- credit unions, administered by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA) – learn more
- employee-owned businesses, National Center for Employee Ownership
- local currencies like Baltimore’s BNote, http://baltimoregreencurrency.org
- public banks, Public Banking Institute
- producer cooperatives, part of the larger cooperatives movement, Grassroots Economic Organizing
- community-supported agriculture (CSAs), Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association