Laws the Democrats could pass right now

There are many laws I wish the Democrats would pass, which have heavy lobbying against them, and would be opposed by many conservative voters. I wish these bills would pass, but they probably wouldn’t. And if they did pass, Dems would have to spend political capital to get them through.

But there are other proposals that Democrats could pass tomorrow, which have few opponents and would improve Americans’ lives immensely. You could think of them as “freebies”. Some of these would be opposed by lobbyists, but I think they could still pass if the Democrats kept the bills terse and pitched them to the public as simple, understandable good governance laws.

Here are the freebies I can think of:

  1. The IRS should do your taxes for you, and send you a summary; you can disagree and do them yourself, or just give them a thumbs up. This would be a very popular proposal, and is really only opposed by Intuit and H&R Block, because they know it would be popular and effective. It would also increase EITC participation by like 25%, because millions of people eligible for the EITC don’t file for it. These added payouts to poor people would cost a little, but the Dems could get out of addressing that because it’s not officially new spending, it’s just applying existing law.
  2. Make an expedited drug approval process for drugs already tested extensively in other countries. Sure, we want our rules applied and not other nations’ rules. But if a vaccine already went through a very similar EU approval process, we could just decide what it would take to make up the difference and ask the drug company to do that, instead of starting from scratch. So you could pitch this as just applying the rules consistently, and getting the government out of the way of family doctors.
  3. Proactively open all foreign policy and domestic surveillance archives pre-1990, except for info that could be used to identify agents still in the field. Would anyone really oppose doing this? You might think we already know most of what there is to know, but you’re wrong, and it’s important to remember how much we know has come from people illegally stealing information from the FBI/NSA/CIA; the system of revealing government abuses given enough time is not working.
  4. Deregulate predictive betting —let people make money by sharing what they understand better than others with the world, and make analysis more accessible to a more diverse group that has real-world expertise, rather than who gets a prestigious unpaid internship with a gatekeeper. Do the Koch brothers really think that it’s just as likely that the next 5 years will be colder than the previous 5 years, than that they will be hotter? They can either put their money where their mouths are (and let people take it), or be exposed as closet believers in the scientific consensus on climate change. In this way, prediction markets move power from people who lie to the public to people who tell the truth. Several of these markets have been operating without problems for several years, one in the US (at the University of Iowa) and one in New Zealand (PredictIt)— but they are forced to limit the betting to small amounts.
  5. Require prisons to allow unannounced spot inspections by federally approved NGOs. This would cost next to nothing, immediately improve prison conditions, and not provoke conservatives because it doesn’t actually add amenities or protections, it just relies on the rule of law.
  6. Remove the 5-year statute of limitations on federal crimes and civil offenses that erode the public trust, such as fraud, taking bribes, embezzlement, perjury, and false representation. Everyone agrees that these crimes are socially destructive, and by their nature, hide the evidence of the crime; they don’t deserve to be excused just because they were successful at the crime itself.
  7. Direct the Justice Department to conduct investigations of justice officials without regard to whether those officials are still in their roles; e.g., a judge who defrauded the government or took bribes should not be able to avoid an ethics investigation just by retiring early, as Donald Trump’s sister did.
  8. In cases where the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has passed, make it possible for prosecutors to still bring cases to determine the truth, even if the result cannot mean punishment; since persons of interest are not being charged, they can be legally compelled to testify in open court. If someone is credibly accused of a crime that hurts others, they should at least have to answer questions on the record.

Again, there are many other laws I wish would get passed — police reform, dismantling the prison-industrial and military-industrial complexes, campaign finance reform, green energy, gender equality, racial justice, health care improvements, universal basic income. I’m just trying to name bills that I think would elicit little opposition, especially if they were pitched in a crystal clear way to the public.

Independent programmer, chatterbox. http://techno-social.com

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