National Journal‘s blog has a post outlining what it claims are Elizabeth Warren’s 11 Commandments of Progressivism, as she stated them at the recent Netroots Nation meeting. They are not really commandments, but more affirmations of belief. But this error is not Warren’s but rather that of the National Journal blogger who sacrificed precision to a catchy title. At any rate, here they are, with some added commentary.
- 1. “We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.”
This seems sensible, but it is hardly unique to progressives. Senator Warren should review the rhetoric David Bratt used (effectively) against Eric Cantor. On the flip side, not everybody who claims to be a progressive is good on this issue. If the rules are not strong enough, why didn’t the Democratic Congress enact stronger ones when they had the chance? And if the enforcement is not tough enough, no one could be to blame for that except President Obama.
- 2. “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.”
Everybody believes these things; the disputes are over the details of application.
- 3. “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.”
I’ll pass on this one.
- 4. “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”
This also means pricing some low skilled, and poor, people out of the job market. What about them?
- 5. “We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”
See my reply to number 4. Also, number 5 would also mean higher prices at fast food restaurants, higher prices that would be more burdensome to poor customers, who, by the way, might not be able to afford to eat out anywhere but a fast food restaurant.
- 6. “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”
This also means that somebody else will have to pay for that education. Since America has an elaborate system of free public education from kindergarten through high school, Senator Warren is evidently speaking of higher education. Can she explain why third parties are obligated to pay for someone else’s college?
- 7. “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.”
Everybody believes that these days. If Senator Warren says conservative Republicans don’t believe in it because they have proposed changes to those programs, then she is obliged, in fairness, to explain how to make them economically sustainable, or to explain why those who think they are not sustainable are mistaken in their fears.
- 8. “We believe—I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work.”
Almost everybody would agree with this, so please be more specific.
- 9. “We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America.”
See my comment on number 8.
- 10. “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.”
I don’t see the logical connection, and in fact I think I detect an implicit contradiction. If immigration has made America strong and vibrant, then why do the immigration laws need to be reformed?
- 11. “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!”
What does it mean that corporations are not people? Everybody knows that a corporation is not a natural person. But a corporation is considered to be an artificial person in the law. Does Warren want to do away with that status? Can anyone imagine a modern economy without corporations? Can Senator Warren give an alternative account of how our civilization could have risen to its present state of development over the last several hundred years without corporations with an artificial personhood recognized in law? Or, if she means something less radical, she must mean that corporations should have some rights but not others. Judging from her specific concerns here, she might be thinking of the claim of corporation to have rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and under the Free Exercise Clause. This leads to a question: If Senator Warren thinks corporations should not have religious rights, does she also think they should not have free speech rights? Probably. I suppose she dislikes the Citizens United decision about as much as the Hobby Lobby decision. If this is the state of her thinking, does she really think that, say, the New York Times–which is a corporation–has no free speech rights? Can she explain why some corporations have some rights under the First Amendment and others don’t have them. Is there a principle here, or just partisanship?