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Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 13, No. 8, August 2017
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Book Summary of

The New Enlightenment ~
A Twenty-First Century Peaceful American Revolution


Robert Bivona

July 2017


Editor's Note: Given that the USA is a significant factor in the world economy, this book provides examples of policy reforms that other countries may want to consider. In response to the global social/ecological crisis, each nation will have to undertake reforms that reconcile internal needs with the common good of the international community. It is noteworthy that the book encourages active citizen participation in the political process.


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LINK TO THE BOOK
The New Enlightenment details 34 public policies that will if instituted: Lift tens of millions of Americans out of poverty to a standard of living that now exists in the middle class; substantially improve the standard of living of tens of millions more; fundamentally improve our election, lobbying and media systems; enhance democracy with an innovative, new democratic system, and congressional rules reforms. Costs or revenue gains resulting from instituting each policy is included.

Our nation was born in the Age of Enlightenment when extreme economic and political inequalities motivated revolutions. Today, through peaceful means, we again require radical change for similar reasons. The book begins by describing some of the injustices that require revolutionary transformations such as, productivity has doubled since 1979 while wages have stagnated or declined for the majority in a process directing vast wealth to a small elite dominating our political system.

The public policies proposed in The New Enlightenment will, if instituted:

  • End unemployment (or reduce it to historic lows) mainly by reducing full-time work hours 10%, to 36 hours per week—less work time per worker requires more workers. In 1850, the average number of weekly workhours of an industrial worker was roughly 66 hours or 11 hours per day, six days per week. Productivity advancements allowed popular movements to be successful in establishing a 40 hour a week national standard about 75 years ago when productivity was about one-fifth what it is today. We are past due for a popular movement demanding full-time work hour reductions again. A reduction to 36 hours per week is a conservative first step toward more substantial reductions.
  • Create a minimum tax free annual income of $34,980 for full time work. Expanding and reforming the EITC and raising the minimum wage will accomplish this. Economic stimulus effect will increase demand for workers, further reducing unemployment. Despite 10% fewer work hours, and consequently as much as 10% lower compensation from the workplace, people’s take-home income whose income now is under $160,000 will rise, and rise proportionally more the lower the income due to lower taxes, the EITC or the higher minimum wage.
  • Eliminate the worker half of payroll tax. This alone will almost sufficiently raise take-home income to compensate for workplace income reduction resulting from the full-time work hour reduction for workers covered under the work hour reduction policy. Also, eliminate the income tax on incomes under $50,000.
  • Raise the minimum wage to $11.10 per hour (which increases the income of the lowest wage full-time worker to the maximum income where the largest EITC will be applied). Several prosperous, advanced countries have a minimum wage higher than $11.00 per hour (Australia’s is $16.88). The effective hourly minimum wage will be $19.40/hour after the EITC, tax-free.
  • Transform the economic system to one where most economic activity will be performed by worker owned and controlled businesses at the end of a 20-year transition period. Loans, grants, tax benefits, subsidies, and education assistance within several programs will accomplish this. By extending democratic practices into workplace, and substantial capital ownership to the workforce, income and wealth inequality reduction, productivity enhancements, and other significant benefits result.
  • Eliminate the dominating importance of money controlled by national public office candidates and their allies in elections, mainly by instituting a TV and radio station license requirement to offer generous allotments of airtime free of charge to four qualified candidates per national public office contest within a thoroughly detailed system. As a result, no reasonable need for the purchase of airtime will exist. All airwaves are publicly owned, so they should best serve the public. Also, support qualified candidates with large postal and newspaper space subsidies and institute a new Fairness Doctrine.
  • Enhance democratic functioning with new, innovative democratic forms. Average citizens in deliberative groups involving 0.1% of the citizenry will develop some public policies.
  • Institute a license renewal requirement for worker ownership and control of air media companies. Loans, grants, tax benefits, and subsidies will support the ownership transfer. Motivate ownership and control by workers of other kinds of media businesses through loans, grants, tax benefits and subsidies. Media ownership and control by workers will eliminate important media content selection biases resulting from the character of current media ownership and management, and result in other important benefits. A new and vigorous media culture more responsive and accountable to the majority will result.
  • Eliminate tuition for public colleges. This will help meet our stated ideal of equal opportunity for all and help create the well-informed citizenry needed for a well-functioning democracy and economy while removing an unjust burden from future college graduates whose education serves the national interest.
  • Increase social security payments by $500/month to all recipients, and provide it to some currently ineligible. The United States ranks 30th among 34 developed countries in the percentage of a median worker’s earnings that our public-pension system replaces, and private pensions are becoming less common and generous.
  • Summary of policies that generate sufficient revenues to support the above policies, and create a $500 billion annual surplus. Most of the following policies also provide other benefits:

  • Institute much more progressive income tax rates with a 55% maximum rate, on income above $410,000 and eliminate the special treatment of capital gains and “carried interest”.
  • Institute a small, highly progressive wealth tax (0% less than $1 million, 1.0% between $1 million to $10 million, and 1.5% over $10 million).
  • Institute pollution taxes that will both raise revenue and reduce pollution.
  • Reform the corporate tax system to one that inherently will end tax haven abuse.
  • Replace the estate tax with a progressive inheritance tax that increases taxes on large wealth transfers without forcing the sale of inherited family farms and other businesses.
  • Institute a financial transactions tax.
  • Reduce military and other expenditures.
  • Eliminate the cap on the employer social security portion of the payroll tax (employees at all income levels will pay no payroll tax).
  • The New Enlightenment fully supports its policy proposals on economic, moral and other grounds.

    The book promotes the formation of The New Enlightenment Citizen’s Union (that may evolve into a new political party) as the organizational structure of the required political movement for the New Enlightenment transformations.


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Robert Bivona has a degree in physics, did graduate work in physics and engineering, and has decades of professional experience in physics, math and engineering. He applied his analytic skills to his lifelong interest in public policy because our nation urgently needs fresh policy solution ideas from outside professional political and economics orthodoxy. Our political problems and resulting economic problems—largely caused by current political and economic professionals—are resulting in great injustices and unnecessary hardships for tens of millions of our fellow citizens, and are an existential threat to our nation.


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