In Part 2 of his two-part series on the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms, Jim O'Connell reviews the platform statement of key principles and policies adopted by the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia.

Unlike the Republican statement, which emphasized market-oriented policies to promote broad macroeconomic goals, the July 21 Democratic statement calls for targeted government action to help raise middle class incomes and strengthen the social safety net. HR policy is clearly a top priority.  

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Democrats in Philadelphia: Highlights for Human Resources

Fri Jul 29, 2016

This blog is Part 2 in a two-part series on the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms. View Part 1.

The Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia nominated Hillary Clinton for president and, like the Republicans the week before, adopted a platform statement of key principles and policies.

Unlike the Republican statement, which emphasized market-oriented policies to promote broad macroeconomic goals, the July 21 Democratic statement calls for targeted government action to help raise middle class incomes and strengthen the social safety net. HR policy is clearly a top priority.

The contrast in political philosophies on display in Cleveland and Philadelphia could not be more stark. The Republican platform relies on the private sector and is generally skeptical about what federal policy can accomplish over the next four years; Democrats on the other hand have confidence in the public sector and believe the federal government must act to solve persistent national problems.

Democratic Platform Highlights

  • Minimum Wage. The first item on the Democrats’ priorities list is a call for a “living wage”—raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over time. Some states and municipalities have moved forward on the $15 minimum wage but Democrats advocate it as the new national standard.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act Overtime Rules. The Platform document makes clear that Democrats will “defend President Obama’s overtime rule, which protects millions of workers.” New federal government regulations would double the salary level threshold that automatically qualifies workers for overtime pay from the present $23,660 to $47,476. Over 4 million additional workers are expected to become eligible for overtime pay under the rule that will take effect on December 1.
  • Equal Pay. Referring to the “wage gap” between earnings of men and women, Democrats pledge that they will “fight to secure equal pay for women” and “combat the discrimination they face on and off the job.”
  • Mandatory Paid Leave. On the question of federal legislation to require employers to offer paid sick and family leave, the Platform is emphatic: “Democrats will make sure the United States finally enacts national paid family and medical leave by passing a family and medical leave act that would provide all workers at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue.” This would be separate from a push for additional legislation to “allow workers the right to earn at least seven days of paid sick leave.”
  • Social Security. On the hot-button issue of Social Security and the question of solvency in light of the program’s cash flow deficit, Democrats say they will not only “fight every effort to cut, privatize or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age,” but “expand Social Security so that every American can retire with dignity and respect.”
  • The Affordable Care Act. It’s not until page 34 of the 51-page document that the Democratic Platform reaches a Human Resources-related topic the Republican Platform also addressed: the future of the Affordable Care Act. While Republicans used words like “repeal,” “replace,” “reduce,” and “removed” in their posture towards ACA, Democrats offer an enthusiastic defense of the 2010 law.

Proclaiming they will “never falter in our generations-long fight to guarantee health care as a fundamental right for every American,” Democrats propose to add a government insurance plan option to the federal and state ACA exchanges instead of relying exclusively on private insurance. They would also allow individuals over age 55 to “opt in to Medicare,” the federal government health plan for seniors.

In short, the Democratic Platform would expand government-assisted health coverage in both Medicare and the Affordable Care Act and, by implication, increase government-paid subsidies to make premiums and deductibles more affordable

The election campaign that unfolds over the next 100 days will be marked by vigorous debate, including on policies affecting  human resource issues. This two-part blog series on the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms makes clear that the two parties offer competing visions.