Working Class Issues In 2004—Where the Parties Stand

The official parties’ nominees for President are as good as picked: Bush and Kerry. Nader is making another run, this time as an independent. Let’s take a look at where these candidates stand on five of the most important issues for the working class—war, jobs, health care, Social Security, and education. We also will examine how these positions compare to the program of the Labor Party—which has no candidates and is focusing solely on debating issues.

War In Iraq
"We will stay the course in Iraq and finish the mission we set out to accomplish."

Kerry: "John Kerry will work to expand participation and share responsibility with other countries in the military operations in Iraq. Kerry will also increase the size of the U.S. Army in order to meet the needs of a new century and the new global war on terror."

Nader: "The quagmire of the Iraq war and occupation could have been averted and needs to be ended expeditiously, replacing US forces with a UN peacekeeping force, prompt supervised elections and humanitarian assistance..."

Labor Party: "The Labor Party opposes the launching of military force against Iraq. We re-affirm our stand against appeals to ‘homeland security’ as pretext for attacks on the rights of immigrants, working people and their unions. We endorse U. S. Labor Against the War and urge all Labor Party members, affiliates and endorsers to support and participate in this national union coalition opposing the Iraqi war.

"We call upon our brothers and sisters to rise up in defense of our country by opposing the pernicious doctrine of preemption and this war without end."

Creating Jobs
"The President’s Jobs and Growth Act of 2003 will create jobs and grow the economy by:

*Speeding up the 2001 tax cuts to increase the pace of economic recovery and job creation
*Encouraging job-creating investment in America’s businesses by providing dividend and capital gains tax relief and giving small businesses incentives to grow
*Providing $20 billion in aid to States for necessary services."

Kerry: "Some may be surprised to hear a Democrat calling for lower corporate tax rates. The fact is, I don't care about the old debates. I care about getting the job done and creating jobs here in the United States of America...

"We won't do it through government make-work, but by making our economy work so that businesses put Americans back to work."

Nader: "By requiring equitable trade, investing in urgently needed local labor-intensive public works (infrastructure improvements), creating a new renewable energy efficiency policy; by fully funding education and redirecting large bureaucratic and fraudulent health expenditures toward preventive health care we can reverse this trend and create millions of new jobs."

Labor Party: "First and foremost everyone, both in the private and public sectors, needs a guarantee of a right to a job at a living wage — one that pays above poverty-level wages and is indexed to inflation. And in today's world that comes to a minimum of about $10 an hour. We want this right written directly into the U.S. Constitution...

"We call for amending the federal labor laws to:

*Define the normal work week to 32 hours without loss of pay or benefits
*Provide a minimum of double-time pay for all hours worked over 32 hours a week and 8 hours a day
*Forbid compulsory overtime
*Mandate one hour off with pay for every two hours of overtime
*Require twenty days paid vacation for all workers in addition to the federal holidays
*Provide one year of paid educational leave for every seven years worked.

"Taken together these proposals will create millions of new jobs and allow us free time we need to care for our families and to participate in our communities. More family time and more community participation should be the fruit of increased labor productivity."

Health Care
Bush: "The President’s plan proposes to address this problem through over $117 billion in initiatives to make good health care coverage more available and affordable:

*The President’s plan lifts the excessive restrictions on Medical Savings Accounts which will allow many more Americans to set up tax-free accounts to protect themselves from high out-of-pocket costs.
*The President supports legislation that would make it easier for small employers to pool together to offer their employees better health coverage options, like many large corporations are able to offer.
*The President’s budget proposes $89 billion in new health credits to make private health insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income American families who do not have employer-subsidized insurance."

Kerry: While there is much hype about expanding affordable health care you will have a tough time finding a useful summary of Kerry’s plan. From various bits and pieces on Kerry’s web site we learn:

*he’s committed to private health insurance;
*he favors the tax payers picking up all individual medical costs exceeding 50,000 dollars;
*he proposes various tax credits and "bonuses" for employers.

Nader: "We need to get the insurance companies out of administering health care, increase patient choice, expand coverage and save money. The United States spends far more on health care per capita than any other country in the world, but more than 45 million Americans have no health insurance. A single-payer program, with full medical coverage, should provide health care that provides comprehensive benefits with quality care and cost controls to all Americans throughout their lives."

Labor Party: "Just Health Care is the Labor Party's proposal for national health insurance: a public insurance fund and a private health care system with free choice of doctors, hospitals and clinics.

"Instead of over 1,000 insurance companies creating mountains of paperwork and wasting our premium dollars, one insurance plan will cover everyone.

"Think of it as a health insurance policy that provides guaranteed, lifetime health care coverage, whether you have a job or not.

"Just Health Care covers all appropriate care, including:

* doctor visits
* nursing home and long-term care
* hospitalization
* preventive & rehabilitative services
* access to specialists
* prescription drugs
* mental health treatment
* dental & vision services
* occupational health services
* medical supplies & equipment

"Only taxpayers with incomes over $183,000 will pay more income tax. By eliminating premiums, co-payments, deductibles and most out-of-pocket costs, 95% of taxpayers will save money under Just Health Care.

"A Just Transition will guarantee displaced workers full income, benefits and tuition as they make the transition to alternative work."

Social Security
Bush: "Because there will be an expanding number of retirees for Social Security to support in the future, we must apply the power of savings, investing, and compound interest to the challenges of Social Security by introducing personal retirement accounts into the system. Americans would own these assets. After all, it is their money. They would see more retirement income, and that's necessary as people live longer lives. And, as importantly, they would be able to pass these accounts on to their children."

Kerry: "If elected president, John Kerry pledges that Social Security will not be cut to erase the nation’s burgeoning budget deficit."

Nader: An extensive section of Nader’s campaign web site deals with "Restoring Retirement Security." However, it deals only with private employer pension/401(k) issues. Social Security is not mentioned.

Labor Party: "Labor Party opposes all efforts to privatize Social Security in any manner

*Labor Party opposes any effort to cut benefits or increase eligibility thresholds and the Labor Party opposes any effort to use trust fund surpluses for any tax cut
*Labor Party supports examining increases in employers’ tax rates and eliminating the payroll tax earning cap as the only acceptable method to improve the Social Security system, provide a guaranteed living income and insure the long-term financial viability of Social Security
*Labor Party [will] wage a vigorous campaign of public hearings and education among our constituent bodies and an intensive training developed by our party and that our education campaign be extended to the community at large."

Public Education
Bush: "The President’s No Child Left Behind Act was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and is already showing results for America’s children."

Kerry: "John Kerry believes that the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act -- ensuring that all students learn to high standards and closing the achievement gap -- are the right ones for America’s children. However, to date we have fallen short of these goals due to insufficient funding and problems with the law. Kerry will make important changes to the No Child Left Behind Act to help students reach high standards."

Nader: "Education is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments. The federal government has a critical supporting role to play in ensuring that all children -- irrespective of the income of their parents, or their race -- are provided with rich learning environments and equal educational opportunities and upgraded repaired school buildings."

Labor Party: "Ensure Everyone Access to Quality Public Education
We are a nation of educational haves and have nots. The rich protect their children in elite private schools while our children suffer in increasingly crowded, dangerous, and under-funded public schools. The rich send their children to the best colleges and universities, while more and more of our children are denied higher education due to rising tuition costs and deep cutbacks in our state universities. This two-tiered educational system must end. We call for a renewed commitment to high quality public education for all, not voucher systems and other privatization schemes that further reduce resources for our public schools. We call for: National financing of all public education (instead of property taxes) so that each child, not just those of the rich, has the resources necessary for a good learning environment. National legislation and funds to reduce the student-teacher ratio to 15 to 1 in all public schools. National legislation and funding to extend public schools for pre-K children starting at age 3 on a voluntary basis. Parent education at public schools to help parents from all backgrounds learn more about how to help their children learn at home. Free public university and technical education of all kinds for everyone who wants it. Each of us should be able to go to school as far as our abilities can carry us. Like the GI Bill of Rights, everyone 18 years or over should receive a minimum livable wage for four years when attending a post-secondary educational institution."

Official Web Sites

Labor Party