In Massachusetts, like throughout America, politics has become more about power than anything else and about representing connected interests who play by a different set of rules than the rest of us.
In many ways, the partisanship of our times is an illusion, which melts away when there is money to be made or a connected donor to serve. What we’re left with is a system that’s predictable, frustrating, and uninspiring.
Because of this, voters are leaving the traditional parties in droves, hungry for something *new*.
In Massachusetts, 53% of voters are what is known as "unenrolled"- people who are neither Democrats nor Republicans. Despite being the majority, these voters do not have any representation in the State House. 100% of the people elected to state office are either Democrats or Republicans.
In a certain way of thinking, the system is working. The trouble is, it’s working to keep things pretty much as they are.
We founded the United Independent Party because we were tired of hearing people say “there’s nothing anyone can do to change things.”
Developing, supporting and electing authentic leaders
In 2012, a group of like-minded people founded the United Independent Party. They weren’t political insiders; just people who wanted to build a better future by doing the hard work of creating it.
From the beginning there were people who said it couldn’t be done, but we succeeded in taking the first, tough steps to get this movement started. Still, there’s much work to be done.
We at the United Independent Party believe it’s time to replace elected officials – at all levels of government – who aren’t doing the people’s business. This will take smart, independent-minded candidates, as well as the people who support them.
If you don’t think it’s possible to change the system, we are not for you. But if you believe that a motivated, determined and dedicated group of people is what it takes to make things happen – we welcome you.
Massachusetts law gives huge advantages to candidates supported by official parties. If you want to change the system, there has to be a party to do it.
This is where your membership matters.
Under Massachusetts law, 43,000 people (1% of voters) must be enrolled in the United Independent Party by November 2016 for it to retain its official status. Joining the UIP means you’re playing an integral role in keeping this status and ensuring the UIP is a permanent part of the political landscape.
Building a future that has real choices, authentic political debate, and meaningful change starts with your enrollment. It’s easy and takes just two minutes. Learn more at www.unitedindependent.org/enroll
What makes us different?
You may not agree with all of our positions and ideas – but you’ll know what they are, and why we hold those views.
There are no big-money donors or connected groups driving our agenda – it’s based on confronting the reality of an issue, learning what experts and stakeholders believe are the best answers, and working to build consensus on the best solutions. It’s the kind of thing that rarely happens in politics, but we know that the same-old tired ideological debates aren’t the way to build the future.
This is what the United Independent Party is all about.
Our Vision: An Economy that Works
The American Dream is about working hard and aspiring to a better standard of living than the generation before you. That dream has been slipping away, gobbled up by a relentlessly increasing cost of living that drains families’ wallets, and businesses’ ability to grow and prosper.
Big, politically connected businesses have done well in this environment. Mortgage and student loan companies, health insurers and hospital systems, banks and pharmaceutical companies all have prospered under policies that undermine small businesses, families, and people trying to get by. The inequality plaguing our economy today is a natural result of government policy that favors these connected groups.
“An Economy that Works” means knocking down the entrenched powers that have created a rigged version of the free market. Our program is to significantly reduce the cost of living and the cost of doing business. More money in every family’s pocket means more money to build a thriving, vibrant economy. Hard work should be enough to save, to buy a home, to pay for your kids to go to college, and to have a comfortable retirement.
It’s how our economy used to work, and it can work that way again.
Here’s how we will get there.
Reduce healthcare costs. Ending monopolistic hospital mergers, and implementing a fee schedule for hospital care would save nearly $2 billion dollars a year. This represents almost $2,000 in savings a year for a family of 5.
Zero-based budgeting. The state’s budget needs a complete top-to-bottom review. People responsible for every line item should justify what they are doing, why they do it, and what resources they actually need to do it. This discipline will support important reallocations of money, and root out waste and corruption. If just 5% of tax money is wasted, that’s more than $1 billion a year. That’s money that can go to cities and towns, to programs for seniors, veterans, job training, transportation and other priorities.
Dramatically increase construction of middle class homes. Younger people starting out and baby boomers looking to downsize don’t have many choices. Homebuilding and local zoning are overly focused on big homes and luxury condos. It’s time to re-focus on building starter and multi-family homes, especially near public transit and in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Tens of thousands of new homes like these will make homeownership and renting more affordable, attract people of all ages to stay or move here, and help build even more dynamic, thriving communities.
A transportation system built on a vision for the future. Our transit system must support the development of thriving communities and neighborhoods. The MBTA and regional transit authorities must be reliable and resilient, and fares must be affordable so people actively choose public transit. Aid to cities and towns should favor communities that choose to build homes and neighborhoods in areas near transit, and planning should encourage connections of local and regional bus routes that feed into rail lines. Drawing more people – with more disposable income – into communities will drive higher levels of economic growth.
Re-imagined education. We must re-imagine education to make it about 21st century skills – creativity, critical thinking, determination and grit. The over-reliance on standardized tests robs kids of the opportunity to learn these skills, and takes from teachers the opportunity to teach. One of the barriers is money - cities and towns rely on funding from the state to support their schools, and that funding has been insufficient for too long.
- Relief from student debt. Students who graduate from a Massachusetts high school should be able to attend community college or a vocational school for free. Schools of public higher education must reduce their administrative costs by at least 10%, and must aim for year over year reductions in tuition and fees, not continued increases. The Commonwealth must implement programs for relief of onerous student debt.
Families and businesses struggle every year under higher and higher healthcare costs. There are a lot of reasons why this happens, but the biggest cause is rising prices. That’s right, health care is getting more expensive because the people who sell it keep raising their prices. And the biggest players in this manipulation of the market are the big hospital systems.
Giant hospital systems are gobbling up hospitals across the state – nearly 75% of the market is under the control of these systems. We believe these monopolistic systems, which use their power to push through the price hikes that lead to skyrocketing premiums for consumers, must be stopped, plain and simple.
The second part of our plan is to create a fee schedule that applies equally to all hospitals. Higher-quality and more specialized hospitals should, logically, be paid more for the service they provide. But in a system driven by market clout, the differences between hospitals in big systems and those that are not are often too great for those smaller hospitals to even stay in business. Eliminating this kind of distortion in the market – even if only saves 5% of health care costs – would save two billion dollars a year.
Third, we should accelerate the shift of health care risk to providers, as a way to truly align financial incentives with providing high quality care. Incentives in our current system are geared towards filling beds, doing diagnostic testing, and delivering care that is often highly fragmented. Prevention, coordination of care, and providing the right care to each and every patient ought to be at the center of how our health care system is designed. Without fundamental changes to the economics of our system, these purposes will continue to be frustrated.
Housing and Thriving Communities
Building lots of homes creates jobs, increases tax revenue, and if done right, helps build thriving neighborhoods. Massachusetts lacks a comprehensive vision for developing neighborhoods, and empowering cities and towns with the resources they need to create new economic opportunities and support the growth of the middle class.
It is time to enact long-overdue zoning reform that would empower communities to design and develop modern neighborhoods and middle class homes being built. Significant increases in local aid – particularly in funding for education – will make it in the financial interests of cities and towns to build denser, walkable, neighborhoods near transit. A more regional approach to planning, tied to the creation of a state Office for Commonwealth Development, would ensure that planning and investment in transportation, economic development, housing and other areas are coordinated with private investments in a way that serves the public interest.
We have proposed a Thriving Communities Action Plan, which details the specific ways in which these important and practical goals can be fulfilled.
We are at a crossroads when it comes to our education system, and there is a critical opportunity to build our future educational system while improving our current one.
First, we must revise the Chapter 70 funding formula to reflect the reality of educating students in the second decade of the 21st century. Rising healthcare costs, greater special education needs, and increased use of technology and many other factors have made educating students more expensive - but funding has not kept pace.
Second, our leaders must lead and provide a serious dialogue and concrete plan of action on re-imagining our educational system. Students need math and science, but they also need civics and history, language and creative arts. More than this, they need the 21st century skills that will serve them throughout their lives, no matter what profession they go into. Skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, determination and grit – these difficult-to-teach skills ought to be central to our educational system.
Charter schools are part of the educational landscape, and parents must have the ability to choose where to send their children to school. With that said, funding rules can leave traditional public schools worse off financially when students leave for a charter school. Fixing the rules so that traditional public schools are not made worse off if a student leaves is critical so that students, families and teachers are not pitted against each other.
Although Massachusetts was once rightfully called “Taxachusetts,” taxes have been reduced in recent decades and today the story is different.
- Massachusetts state and local taxes are just below the national average.
- The state’s income tax is one of the lower rates in the country among the 41 states that have an income tax.
- The income tax rate in Massachusetts has been cut from an average of 6.3% in the 1990s to 5.15% today.
The tax system in Massachusetts is generally regressive – people with lower incomes pay more of their income in taxes than people at the higher ends. This is because while our income tax system is progressive in its effect (because of deductions and exemptions and tax credits), once sales taxes and property taxes are taken into account, the overall system is regressive.
Political debates about taxes focus on high taxes vs. low taxes. Instead we should focus on creating a vision for what we want our tax code to accomplish. Our tax code must fund our government in ways that are as efficient as possible, and geared to a modern economy. Unfortunately, today’s tax code, with its roots in a 1915 constitutional requirement for a “flat tax” does not have the flexibility to address a 21st century economy. We support amending the state constitution to repeal this amendment.
Voters don’t feel they’re getting a good value for their taxes, so it is critical for our elected leaders to earn that confidence, through the kind of disciplined, line-by-line, zero-based budgeting approach we call for. In the meantime, we must begin to build a more modern tax code. Taxes should be progressive – those who earn less should pay less than those who earn more. For example, a 1% surtax on income over $1 million would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue that could be used for important priorities like ensuring all veterans have jobs and a home, that seniors have the services they need, that student debt is minimized, that the MBTA and regional transit systems actually work, making sure every business that needs skilled workers can find them, and other important priorities that today do not get the funding they need.
Once it was possible for many students and their families to pay for college. Today, students graduate with often crippling debt, and enter a job market where it is difficult to earn enough to pay back loans and save; where home prices are increasingly out of reach; and where in very meaningful ways they end up being able to aspire to a lower standard of living than what their parents aspired to. Reducing the rate of interest on this massive debt helps, but it isn’t enough.
A four-year degree is valuable for many people, but not everyone wants to pursue that path. Many students want a community college or vocational education, but our system pushes students in one direction. The state should pay for the tuition and fees for any graduate of a Massachusetts high school to get a community college or vocational education. This is an investment in the future of people in our state.
The cost of public higher education must also be seriously controlled. Massive increases in money-making student loans have backed massive spending at colleges and universities for construction of new buildings and hiring of highly-paid administrators. Rather than simply pushing these costs onto students, the state must take an active role in reducing the cost of higher education. The leaders at state-supported colleges and universities must be tasked with much more than simply slowing the increase of tuition and fees, and instead with reducing those tuitions and fees. Tying executive compensation at these institutions to success in cost reductions is an important part of this effort. Our goal should be nothing less than an educational system in Massachusetts that makes it possible for every student to graduate with little or no debt.
Transportation / Infrastructure
The 2015 collapse of MBTA service was the predictable result of decades of underinvestment in our transportation infrastructure and of poor management. Multiple reports have documented these failings, but strategies to actually deal with the problem have not been implemented. A vision of a modern transportation system that recognizes the critical importance of public transit in supporting a 21st century economy is needed. This includes much more than just the MBTA, but also roads and bridges across the state, and regional transit authorities.
For example, in western Massachusetts, new passenger rail service from Springfield to Hartford can strengthen the economy and cultural vibrancy of the region, but only if decisions on transit are not viewed in a vacuum. In Connecticut, rail service planning includes ensuring bus connections to local communities are in place and leverage this public investment to support growth in cities and towns along the rail line. This type of regional, transit-oriented planning and development would benefit communities in Massachusetts.
The MBTA has to be fixed. The Legislature should restore direct control over the MBTA by the Secretary of Transportation and the Governor, and empower them to take the steps necessary to make the MBTA work. A plan must be implemented to address the billions of dollars in service backlogs and repairs, which could include moving debt currently on the books of the MBTA onto the Commonwealth, or otherwise refinancing that debt to reduce the amount of money spent on debt service. One way or another, additional funding will be required to address these critical needs if we are going to avoid another collapse of the system.
The Secretary of Transportation should also appoint an independent Accountability Task Force. The purpose of this group will be to conduct open hearings and private investigations of management and labor practices at the MBTA. The task force should be empowered to receive confidential and anonymous testimony and to otherwise encourage honest reporting on practices at the MBTA. The task force would investigate all such reports and report regularly to the Secretary and the public, not with a view to providing reliable information on the good, the bad, and the ugly of what is happening in that agency. Serious reform requires confronting difficult challenges, and a transparent and independent view into the MBTA will facilitate this kind of change.
Helping small businesses grow and prosper should be the driving force behind the state’s economic development efforts. Small businesses are what drive growth in a modern economy, and reducing the cost of living and the cost of doing business will drive growth for those businesses. In addition, state government has an important role to play in ensuring that broadband internet access is available in all communities across the Commonwealth,
In addition, an exemption should be created for businesses with less than $5 million in taxable income that would result in them paying 10% less tax than businesses with a higher taxable income.
Massachusetts is overly reliant on natural gas, which leaves families and businesses especially vulnerable to price spikes and supply disruptions. Some say the best solution is to double-down on our existing problems by building more natural gas capacity and pipelines. We believe there is a better way, more aligned with short-term needs and long-term realities.
Massachusetts has been a leader in the development and deployment of renewable energy. Our standards for renewable energy purchases by utility companies should be increased from the current target of 15% to a new target of 25%. Combined with increases in net metering and related supports, installation of more solar and wind generating capacity can provide needed additional capacity to drive down energy prices. For the foreseeable future, we will need base load generating capacity, and natural gas plants are ideally suited for this purpose. In these circumstances, building more renewable generating capacity will make it possible for our existing gas infrastructure to better serve our needs.
Over the longer term, the future of energy generation is in people making their own power at home, sharing it over local grids, and storing it in local batteries. While not all of the technology exists to run this kind of generating system on a large scale, the direction is clear. State regulators must be working with utility companies and others to ensure that our power grid is preparing for this future.
Climate change is real, and we must respond to it.
First, we must harden our infrastructure to ensure it is resilient enough to withstand stronger and more frequent storms, as well as other natural and man-made disasters.
Second, we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels – particularly natural gas – by pursuing aggressive goals to generate more than 25% of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2020. A diverse mix of energy sources – such as wind and solar – is a critical part of responsible planning given the environmental, political and other uncertainties this century brings.
Massachusetts veterans have bravely served us around the world. We have to make sure that our policy-making matches with the same level of enthusiastic support for vets that you see on holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
For example, we must ensure that veterans have access to health care, jobs, education or job training, and housing as a way to fulfill our obligation to them and show our gratitude. Ensuring they have access to the services veterans need and deserve should not be on the negotiating table.
We must do more to help heal the mental and physical wounds of war.
With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, limits on the influence of big money in political campaigns were largely swept away. This influence is undermining the principle of one-person-one-vote, and eroding trust in our democratic process.
We believe the U.S. Constitution must be amended to overturn Citizens United. There are only two ways to do that. One is for Congress to pass a proposed amendment - something which is very unlikely to happen. The second way is for 2/3 of states to pass legislation calling for a constitutional convention. Already four states have called for a convention for this purpose. We believe Massachusetts should join these states and take a leadership role in this issue.
In the meantime, we can still act.
Public funding of elections is, in this environment, a necessity. Any candidate who makes the ballot must have access to sufficient public resources to support a viable campaign. For example, a candidate for state legislature can, for a few thousand dollars, run an effective campaign. Public funding can be in the form of a basic grant to the candidate committee and also a significant match, for example 5:1 or 10:1 for money raised by the candidate. Public financing will not provide enough money to match the amount of money raised by well-financed candidates, but providing enough funding from public sources will at least give candidates a fair shot. In a time when a majority of state legislators run unopposed, supports like these are necessary to kick-start competition in our political marketplace.
Our schools, businesses and other places open to the public need to be accessible to everyone, period. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for all who require them, and do more to ensure that children with learning disabilities are able to get the kind of education that will help them as they develop and grow.
We believe workers have a right to join unions, and to use those organizations to negotiate their pay. The kind of hard bargaining that happens on both sides of a labor-management negotiation may not always be the easiest thing in the world, but is how the process is supposed to work.
In the case of public-sector unions, the question of whether an employer has unionized workers does not relieve the employer or the workers from providing the kind of high quality services taxpayers expect. When there is a breakdown in the delivery of high-quality service, both management and workers must be held accountable.
We are pro-choice.
Women must have access to the full range of reproductive health services, whether primary care, birth control, reproductive health care or cancer screenings.
People over 65
So many people over 65 have worked hard their whole lives, played by the rules, and now find a new set of unexpected challenges. According to AARP, over 90% of adults 65 and over want to “age in place” in their own homes and neighborhoods. Many would like to downsize into a smaller home or apartment but find few options. Our plan for construction of middle class housing will help meet this important need.
Some 70% of seniors will need some sort of long-term care, care that can cost as much as $100,000 per year, and for which few people have insurance. Today, Medicaid often is the source of coverage for long-term care needs – but only after a person has exhausted their savings and other assets. We propose a Long Term Care Insurance Pool. Through this model every taxpayer in Massachusetts would be required to pay a $5 a month premium into the pool, with the state matching this amount. The money in that pool would be off-limits except to pay for the cost of long-term care for people in Massachusetts.
Equal means equal – for everyone. We are committed to ensuring the law applies equally to all and that everyone’s civil rights are protected.
We will also work hard to eliminate the discrimination, bullying, and demeaning of people based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Artisans of all kinds drive economic growth by making our communities into something more than just places with a predictable collection of shops and restaurants. By bringing their individuality and creativity, they transform communities into places where something is “going on,” where interesting, unpredictable and unexpected things are created and happen.
The creative arts also must play a more important role in the way we educate our kids. It is important to learn the skills that a STEM-based curriculum teaches, but the greatest set of tools we can give students are the skills of critical thinking, independence, resilience and “grit” – the belief that they can overcome any obstacle they face. The creative arts are one of the most powerful ways to teach students these skills. We strongly support efforts to transform STEM to STEAM.
Decades of “tough on crime” approaches to criminal justice haven’t worked. The root causes of the problem – all of the social and economic and educational problems that lead to crime – must be dealt with directly and strategically.
The “war on drugs” has been a failure. It is the next governor's job to re-frame this discussion, as well as take immediate action to fix our broken sentencing, parole, probation and bail systems. To do this we must apply existing data and evidence-based solutions to reduce recidivism, ease re-entry into communities, and extend educational and economic opportunities to eliminate the pathway that can sometimes lead young people to crime.
Discrimination against women is still very much a part of the landscape. Our lawmakers, and our society as a whole, must do much more to combat pay inequity, discrimination in the workplace, sexual harassment, and physical intimidation or abuse.
Women are paid less than men, even if you can argue about the what the specific pay gap is (77 cents? 91 cents? Either way, it's unacceptable). Some of this gap is because of illegal discrimination; some of it has to do with career choices driven by inadequate childcare options (with women often the default caregiver for kids); and some of it has to do with social norms about the kind of work women "should" do.
Fixing this problem starts with confronting the uncomfortable reality that it exists. An important step would be to provide much-needed funding for childcare and early childhood education programs. Services like these improve the lives and futures of the kids they serve, and would make an important difference in the lives and financial futures of women. It's a tremendous opportunity for the growth of our economy. We risk missing out on if we don't start to do things differently.
In addition, there is an opportunity to leverage the creativity and resources of the private sector by creating, in tandem with state government, a "Workplace Equality Seal of Approval" which businesses could earn. This would demonstrate established fair pay standards, active and continuing efforts to educate personnel on sexual harassment and physical intimidation, and their work to ensure equality of opportunity in their workplace. Businesses that contract with state should be required to earn this seal.
Americans have a 2nd amendment right to own firearms. Our government can regulate that right. The important question becomes: where do we draw the line? The government has a responsibility to protect the rights of lawful gun owners, and to ensure public safety.
The serious challenge is how to deal with the epidemic of violence that impacts communities and families, and takes the lives of young people. No matter what laws are put in place, people who want a firearm to commit a crime are able to get their hands on one. Doing more to see that young people find different, constructive paths for their lives should be a greater priority than more regulations on firearms kept in a safe or used by a licensed sportsman.
It is possible that in 2016, voters will repeal the prohibition on marijuana in Massachusetts via ballot initiative. Under these circumstances, lawmakers must begin serious discussions on key questions regarding taxation, regulation, barring underage use, and strengthening public health and education efforts.
Because so many people in our Commonwealth have been affected by the illegal market for marijuana, as the legal market develops, we have a particular responsibility to not only maintain careful oversight of this industry, but direct a portion of today’s proceeds toward common-sense, needed services - including job training and programs to assist reintegration for people previously incarcerated for drug-related offenses.