Lambert's got a post up about how we would change things if we had the power to do so. And do I have some ideas for you............
(Quin- this is what i meant by a wiki think tank- jump in!)
1. Corporate Taxes: One of the most profound things I ever read was in a biography of the first socialist Swedish Prime Minister, Tage Erlander. Horribly paraphrased, his idea was that a company that could not afford to pay it's employees a high enough wage that the employees could then pay income taxes, was a failure as a company. Business's 1st and most important function for the state is the taxes it brings in, either through straight corporate taxes or the payroll taxes its employees pay.
We've fucked up that idea somehow and forgotten that both business and government work FOR the people, not the other way around.
So I would eliminate all corporate tax deductions except: living wage rate wages paid to employees (not including CEOs) and deductions for materials, etc that are made in the US. We shouldn't be giving tax breaks on money spent or kept outside the country.
I don't have any illusions that all employers would pay their employees enough to live on, but this would give employers who treat their employees fairly a competitive edge and an incentive to give raises.
2. Fair Trade: Once we've cleaned up our own abysmal pay problem, we allow free trade only with other countries that have living wage rules in place. For poor countries that are trying to enact progressive labor policies, we give liberal trade assistance to get them up to speed faster.
There is little likelihood that we can keep jobs in our country as long as there is cheap labor to be had around the world, but we don't have to be complicit in the downward pay spiral. Countries that do not and will not set fair wage laws will be charged import tariffs on any goods and services brought into this country.
3. The Social Safety Net: I would eliminate Welfare and Unemployment and roll them into Social Security. The I would put in place a mandatory minimum income (indexed to inflation) that gives anyone whose income falls below the poverty line enough money to make up the difference. I would use the IRS and a person's tax returns and eliminate the nanny state investigations of the poor. I would also include the ability use this safety net for parental leave or FMLA reasons.
4. Universal, quality childcare. Maybe using the French model so that families have a range of options from straight up preschool to subsidies for inhome care.
5. Universal higher education with subsidies to poor students for living expenses and extra classes, tutoring as needed. With the loss of manufacturing jobs there is no way to earn a living in this country without a college education and we are desperately in need of doctors, nurses, and other high skill professionals. The people to fill in these positions could come from the uneducated ranks with a little extra help.
That's all I've got on a day with no coffee. What's your big idea?
ETA- Oh Oh Oh DAMN me and my non caffeinated brain. I forgot bodily autonomy.
New constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to control your own body. This includes access to abortion but also an end to pointless drug laws. Free up the prison and put the money into treatment for those that choose it. I'd also structure it so that giving someone false information that results in bodily harm (say abstinence education or falsified drug research) is a criminal act and a violation of civil rights.
And for Lost Clown- Of course there would be universal healthcare.