Incorporated in 2010, Progressive USA (PUSA) describes itself as “a grassroots organization promoting progressive values through organizing and advocacy” in the areas of “social justice, health care reform, environmental protection, economic fairness, civil rights, better public schools and more.” To combat “the flawed policies and hypocrisy of the radical right” with “sensible policy solutions,” PUSA engages in canvassing, campus organizing, Internet organizing, coalition building, and research projects. Since its inception, PUSA’s activism has focused chiefly on four major issues:
1) Ending Gun Violence: Asserting that “there have been more than 70 mass shootings since … January 8, 2011,” PUSA stated in early 2013: “We lose on average 32 people a day to gun murders in the U.S.” This “epidemic of violence,” says the organization, is due largely to the influence of “powerful lobbying groups like the NRA” [National Rifle Association], which seek to “allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution’s intended purpose of the right to bear arms.” To address this problem, PUSA urges Congress to pass “common-sense gun-control legislation, including a ban on assault weapons [i.e., semi-automatic weapons] and mandatory background checks for all gun purchases.” In early 2013, PUSA hired door-to-door canvassers, paying them $9 to $11 per hour, to walk the streets of Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District and spread its anti-gun message via face-to-face conversations and printed literature.
2) Protecting the Vote: This PUSA program is designed to combat the “concerted effort by far-right extremists to suppress the vote through unlawful purges of voter rolls, voter ID laws, and intimidation tactics.” In 2012, for instance, PUSA objected strongly to efforts by Florida officials to remove, from their state’s active voter rolls, the names of at least 53,000 deceased individuals and an estimated 182,000 non-citizens. By PUSA’s telling, such “purges” were likely to “disproportionately and unfairly targe[t] Latino voters and other minorities.” Moreover, PUSA contends that laws requiring voters to present a valid form of identification at the polls (or when registering) constitute right-wing “voter suppression efforts” designed to interfere with “the right to vote for every eligible citizen.”
3) Stopping the War on Women: This PUSA initiative accuses “right-wing extremists” of “continu[ing] to wage an all-out war on women” by depriving them of “the right to make decisions regarding their own health”; “restrict[ing] a woman’s right to choose” abortion; “limit[ing] access to birth control”; “redefining rape to only cases of ‘forcible rape’ [in order] to deny access to women’s health services”; and voting to defund Planned Parenthood.
4) Ending the Bush Tax Cuts: Enacted in two phases (in 2001 and 2003), the tax cuts signed into law by President George W. Bush significantly lowered the marginal tax rates for Americans in all income brackets—i.e., from 15% to 10%; from 28% to 25%; from 31% to 28%; from 36% to 33%; and from 39.6% to 35%. These tax cuts not only sparked robust economic growth that delivered record-high tax revenues to the federal government, but also resulted in high earners shouldering a greater proportion of the nation’s total tax burden. Notwithstanding these facts, PUSA characterized the tax cuts as inequitable schemes that disproportionately benefited “the wealthiest 2%” while forcing “the poorest and most vulnerable” to “pay the price.” Claiming that Americans “can’t afford” to continue under such an arrangement, PUSA exhorted voters throughout 2012: “Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative that enough is enough! We must let the Bush-era tax cuts expire and bring balance back to our tax policies.”