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Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2004, 03:31 pm
Progressive Values Coalition

We lost the election. It happens, I'm not as upset as I thought I would be, and I think it's time we all move on to plan B.

Here's what I want to see happen, soon, to keep America healthy after a very right-wing government has moved into place.

Economic conservatives say that it is the consumer's responsibility, not the government's, to ensure that the marketplace is moral. Consumers can select which companies they want to patronize, and can therefore force bad businesses like Exxon-Mobil and Wal-Mart to either change or go out of business. What the conservatives do not understand are some very basic sociological concepts that play into system. The most obvious is apathy. Probably the most problematic barrier that prevents consumers from changing the market in ways they might want to is the fact that poor people will continue to shop at Wal-Mart even when doing so creates bad economic conditions for them, because such people tend not to have the educational background to dis-believe Wal-Mart's insistence that that the international big-box chain is good for the local economy. It's not as if businesses openly disclose their negative effects on living wages or the environment. And consumers don't always do what's best for them when they're hurting finantially, making a bigger, more competitive company look more appealing, and consumers can't see how their choices come back to effect them.

But the Progressive Middle Class has more market power than the Progressive Poor, because the Progressive Middle Class has and spends more money. There are enough of them who are responsible to make an impact on the market, if the right organization is there to help them do so. What I want to see is a coalition of responsible businesses with clear-cut standards of ethics and responsibility so that Middle Class consumers can more easily see what they're patronizing. I want it to be called either the Coalition of Progressive Values or the Coalition of Responsible Business, or something like that. It will be governed by a body that is not invested in any of the businesses in order to keep the message pure, but there should be a great deal of dialogue between the leadership and businesses within the coalition to keep all sides reasonable. Here are some of the things I'd like to see these businesses do in order to call themselves part of the coalition:

Pay workers living wages, which might be different in different places. But living wages is key. Minimum wage is not good enough.

Give health insurance and retirement benefits to employees (basically anything a union contract would achieve).

Give the same employee benefits to same-sex couples that are given to heterosexual couples.

Fulfil rigorous environmental requirements pertaining to pollution, resource use, recycling, greenhouse gas emission, and investment in environmentally-friendly technology. Requirements can be adjusted based on what industry(s) the company is a part of.

No outsourcing. Numbers of employees based in a foreign country must be proportional to the consumer base the company has in the foreign country.

Practice honest advertising. If the coalition member is a news publication or is involved in media, grant advertising only to responsible businesses. If the coalition member is advertising somewhere else, ads must be realistic and not misleading. Help high school newspapers and charitable events by sponsoring them and advertising there. Small businesses should be active members of the local community.

Have a liberal nondiscrimination policy. The reason for this is obvious.

My hope is that such a coalition could build up a strong enough name for itself that being a member is worth all the expenditures of following the rules. The coalition can establish itself with willing existing businesses and hopefully lots of new businesses will form in it and grow more quickly because of the coalition's consumer appeal. I want it to be revolutionary, pushing the limits of what companies usually do. Remember, regulations must be set by an outside party who understands business but has nothing invested in it. I wouldn't want the coalition's standards of responsibility to be lowered to accomadate the interests of leadership that undermines the existence of the coalition for profit.

Standards can be loose at first and then tighten as the reputation of the organization grows. Or, standards for new individual members can be loose and tighten as each company establishes itself and grows. Personally, I would patronize businesses that are part of this coalition as much as I could, even if it's more expensive to do so. I would patronize it exclusively if possible. I think that many others would too.

John Edwards talked about the "Two Americas" when campaigning for President. He was referring to rich and poor, but we can also create "Two Americas" by forming a liberal economy to balance our conservative economy. Yes, I want the coalition to someday be THAT BIG that it even acts as it's own separate market. It might seem like a pipe dream, but I think that there are enough willing people in America that we can do it. It might be small at first but it can grow. City Councils in urban areas tend to be friendly to radical ideas, and would help out with zoning and infrastructure. Progressive stores would be placed in progressive "new urbanism" neighborhoods where residents are likely to be liberal. That way, all or money isn't going to Borders and K-Mart, or to companies that donate heavily to the Republicans. It would be going to our separate economy. It could work.