Economic Democracy

STATE BANK 

Create a state-owned bank to finance public projects and private businesses at lower cost than private banking. Between 35% and 40% of the cost of public projects is interest on borrowing. When the state owns the bank, it gets this interest back, which it can use finance more projects at less cost than borrowing from private investors. The state bank would be capitalized by the deposits of state tax revenues, a portion of state pension funds, and private individuals, businesses, and pension funds that want to invest in the future of New York. This capital would then be invested in productive ventures in New York State that benefit the people.

The state bank would partner with local community banks and credit unions in financing infrastructure projects and businesses, with a priority on cooperatives. It would also refinance the mortgages of homes facing foreclosure on a reduced-principal, fixed-rate, long-term affordable basis.

The Wall Street financial oligarchy uses its power to promote public austerity while it makes super-profits from public borrowing. Money is created by banks when they make loans. We can generate the credit to finance New York prosperity by forming our own state-owned bank. The Bank of North Dakota, the nation’s only publicly-owned state depository bank, has proven this model works. It has returned the state a profit every year since it was formed in 1919.

WORKER AND CONSUMER COOPERATIVES

State policy should support the development of unionized worker- and consumer-owned cooperatives in place of corporate welfare giveaways to investor-owned businesses. Cooperatives distribute the net income (“profit”) created by the co-ops' members in proportion to each members contribution. For worker co-ops the contribution is labor. For consumer co-ops the contribution is purchases. Co-ops therefore create a just and fair distribution of the net income of the business in contrast to investor-owned businesses where the investors capture all the profits.

The state bank should have a technical assistance arm to provide business planning, technical assistance, and mentoring for the development worker and consumer cooperatives.

The state should partner with labor unions in creating unionized co-ops that combine worker or consumer ownership with collective bargaining in a way makes the workplace more participatory and accountable to workers and protects the needs of workers as both owners and workers of the co-op.

Cooperatives are how we can own our own jobs because they locally owned, democratically controlled, and have no incentives to move jobs and capital out of state. Co-ops will uproot today's extreme income inequality where it is first generated, at the point of production in capitalist firms where owners and management take the net business income that workers created with their labor. 

PUBLIC ENERGY SYSTEM 

Investor-owned utilities and energy suppliers have utterly failed over the course of repeated energy crises since 1974 to convert to sustainable, locally-produced, clean energy. It is time to democratize the utilities and fossil-fuel industries under public ownership and democratic control.

The road to solar power is public power. We need a public energy system to realize the goal of 100% clean energy by 2030.

It is time to convert investor-owned utility companies, power providers, and fossil fuel distributors into a publicly-owned, democratically-managed, locally-based system of public power and fuel companies that are federated at the state level for statewide planning. The boards of local public utilities would be elected by the public (2/3) and their workers (1/3). The local utility boards would elect the state board.

The mission of the public energy system would be to convert to a clean renewable energy system for the least cost instead of for profit maximization. It would operated at cost for public benefit instead of for profit maximization for investors. The revenues from power and fuel sales would be reinvested in renewable energy production, conservation, and a just transition of income and benefit support and retraining for workers displaced by the phase out of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

UNIVERSAL BROADBAND AND DIGITAL DEMOCRACY

High-speed Internet service – also known as broadband – is a basic public necessity like electricity, water, and transportation infrastructure. Too many New Yorkers do not have access to affordable quality broadband services. Instead of a digital democracy, we have a digital divide where many, particularly in low-income communities, are unable to access the political, economic, and social resources of the Internet. People who do have broadband connections pay more for much poorer service than people in other developed nations. U.S. broadband quality, speed, and adoption rates are far lower than Asian and European nations. South Koreans have Internet speeds 200-times faster than we have for only $27 a month.

Because the U.S. broadband market is dominated by a small number of giant telecoms, broadband service here is slow, expensive, and inaccessible to many people. The telecoms are also using their political influence to destroy Net Neutrality and prevent competition from municipally-owned broadband systems.

Net Neutrality prohibits Internet service providers from discriminating against users based on the type of content they are seeking to access. Net neutrality is essential for the free and open communications necessary for a democracy. All people in a democratic society must have equal and open access to information and the means of communication. Democratic media in the digital age means that everyone should have access to all forms of electronic and digital media.

In order to provide universal access to affordable, quality broadband, New York State government should take an active role in promoting municipal broadband and Net Neutrality, expanding the spectrum available for unlicensed public use, and opposing monopolization of the telecom industry.

  • Municipal Broadband and Free Municipal Wi-Fi

New York State should provide financing and technical assistance to help local governments build municipally-owned high-speed fiber-optic networks and free public Wi-Fi networks that provide affordable Internet, TV, and phone service for all with Net Neutrality. Municipal networks in the U.S. typically provide a superior and less expensive option to private networks operated by Internet service providers like Comcast and Time Warner. More than 400 towns and cities have or are building municipally-owned high-speed networks. Businesses as well as consumers benefit. Companies are moving to places like Chattanooga, Tennessee, for its public, high-capacity connectivity that is 50 times faster than corporate ISPs for under $70 a month.

  • Expand the Open Spectrum Commons

New York State should urge the FCC to expand the high-quality spectrum available for unlicensed, public use. Expanding the open spectrum of public airwaves will make affordable public Wi-Fi possible, spurring innovation, unleashing the mobile Web, bridging the digital divide, and providing universal, affordable Internet access for all.

  • Stop the Comcast/Time Warner Merger

The Governor should urge the Public Service Commission to stop the merger between Comcast and Time Warner, the two largest telecom companies in the U.S. The merger would give one company too much market power to raise prices and too much control over what information, news, shows, movies, and sports people can access on TV and the Internet. Such power increases the threat to Net Neutrality, which they oppose because they want to set up multi-tiered levels of service for the Internet like they do for Cable TV.

  • Restore Net Neutrality

New York State should urge Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to restore Net Neutrality by designating broadband as a common-carrier telecommunications service under the law. This designation is the only way to establish the FCC's right to regulate the Internet and protect Net Neutrality.

In January 2014, a federal appeals court in Verizon v. FCC struck down rules that prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from restricting access to legal Web content because the FCC had not designated telecommunications services as common carriers. The court decision empowered ISPs to block or slow down access to its competitors, to bottom-tier users, and to websites whose political opinions it disagrees with. But the court also said that the FCC could set new Net Neutrality rules if it decides to reclassify ISPs as a "common carrier" telecommunications service like telephone lines instead of as an information service.

However, in May 2014, instead of designating ISPs as common carriers, the FCC proposed rules to allow discrimination online by ISPs. Giant telecoms like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon would be able to set up multi-tiered Internet service provision. Big internet content providers like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix would pay higher fees for the fastest service and other users would be relegated to slower service tiers.

In order to restore Net Neutrality, the FCC, or Congress by an act of law, must designate Internet service providers as common carriers.

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