On today's BradCast, students are mad as hell, for a lot of very good reasons, and now they are taking things into their own hands, not a moment too soon, by threatening to vote. Where Republicans appear to have little interest in helping them, Democrats certainly can and should, but they'll need to step up with a clear, progressive agenda to do exactly that in advance of the 2018 mid-terms. [Audio link to show is posted at end of story.]
First up today, there was another Special Election on Tuesday in another deep "red" district, this time in rural Kentucky, where Democrats picked up their 37th "red-to-blue" state legislative flip since the 2016 Presidential election. The GOP believes the "odd" circumstances around this particularly election make it an outlier (the Republican preacher who held the seat killed himself in December, following allegations of sexual misconduct with a 17-year old), and show little concern that Democrat Linda Belcher reportedly defeated her Republican opponent by some 36 points in a district that went to Trump in 2016 by 49 points. (That's a huge 86 point swing towards the Democrats, for those keeping score at home!)
Meanwhile, high school students across the country walked out of class on Wednesday to hit the streets in a call for gun safety legislation following last week's school shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School pressed lawmakers at the Florida statehouse in Tallahassee, where Republicans quickly voted to shelve the possibility for any major gun reform before the end of the legislation session early early next month. At the nation's capitol in D.C., among other places, students also marched and promised to vote out legislators who clung to support from the NRA while rejecting calls to reform our nation's permissive and deadly gun laws.
But while Democrats, in this environment, would seem well positioned to take over the U.S. House in this year's mid-terms, a recent series of Dem-sponsored focus groups reportedly finds voters complaining that while "Republicans have the wrong agenda, Democrats have no agenda."
We're joined today by ERIC LEVITZ, Associate Editor of the Daily Intelligencer blog at New York Magazine, to discuss that problem, by way of his recent article highlighting a new research paper [PDF] from the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College. The authors of the report found that, rather than blow a $1.5 trillion hole in the national debt with tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, as recently passed by the Republican Party, we could have completely wiped out every penny of the nation's collective and sky-rocketing student debt for the same or less cost. And that money, as Levitz reports, would have "benefited all Americans by increasing economic growth and lowering unemployment" by allowing young Americans to purchase new homes, cars and make other investments which would also help to raise middle-class wages.
Levitz describes the student loan debt as a real "crisis", which has spiraled wildly out of control since the 1990s. "You've got 44 million people saddled with these debts, and that's limiting their ability to participate in the economy. All of these wages that would be going into local businesses, and circulating throughout the economy, and creating markets and stimulating demand is going to either private lenders or actually the government," he argues, charging that the government could "just completely eliminate all that debt, which just so happens to be roughly the same price as the GOP tax cuts."
In another crazy idea cited by Levitz, the federal government could offer free tuition to public colleges and universities for the same cost we currently spend on grants and tax breaks for students, without saddling them with debt for decades. That's right, it would cost the federal government zero dollars to make tuition free at our public colleges and universities.
Isn't it time Democratic officials and candidates told voters what they are for, instead of only how much they are against Donald Trump and the Republican Party, by spelling out a clear, forward-thinking progressive agenda for the future? Just asking for a friend.
On that, however, Levitz does see some reason for some optimism in the spate of 2020 Democratic Presidential hopefuls who are finally embracing progressive ideals like healthcare-for-all legislation and even vowing to reject "dark money" from corporate PACs. (Oh, and here's Levitz' excellent article about Donald Trump's obscenely hypocritical plan to have Big Government tell poor people what they can eat, which I only had time to quickly reference on today's show.)
Finally today, a bit more encouraging news on the gun legislation front, as a Parkland father who lost his daughter in the shooting last week faces off at the White House with Donald Trump, and as a major GOP donor says he will not give one more penny to any politicians who fail to support a ban on military-style assault weapons...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)