With major issues facing our country and planet, which do not get the attention needed due to a myopic focus on the short-term by politicians, pundits and media, it would behoove us to fast forward to the year 2030 and look backwards. As the next fifteen plus years are so critical on a number of fronts, this exercise will help us vote for forward thinking, issue focused candidates. The solutions will also need to be well grounded as they need to live beyond the terms of this campaign season. As food for thought, here are the views of this independent voter.
These issues need to be top of mind for all due to their implications.
- Per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Union of Concerned Scientists and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and 97% of all scientists and research papers, climate change is a significant issue and man is influencing it more so than ever. We must move in a concerted fashion toward renewable energy sources. The time is well past to address naysaying and we need to be much more demonstrative in our eco-energy planning. Note, this is not an either/ or jobs issues as there are plenty of jobs today in the wind and solar energy industry and they are hiring today.
- To this same point, we are too pell mell into fracking, without recognizing the problems it is causing for the environment and usage of water. The industry speaks of how safe the process is and that they have been fracking for over sixty years. Yet, what they fail to tell you is they have been only fracking the way they are doing now for less than ten years and the process never really has been as safe as portrayed. The non-industry data documenting the air, water and environmental issues is just beginning to be noticed and will actually paint an even worse picture over time.
Economy and income inequality
The economy has gradually improved since the recession and we are on a much better track. Yet, we need more work force retraining for the newer jobs and to address the significant income inequality in the US, as we have a huge poverty problem.
- The economic recovery has not been felt equally by everyone. With the stock market rise, those with assets are doing much better than those with fewer assets. Coupled with more part-time jobs, the “have-nots” are still struggling. We need active discussion around an increased minimum wage and making it so that it adjusts periodically. We also need even more investment in workforce training building off of the federal, state and business partnerships in the community college system and high school apprenticeships that are occurring.
- We must also invest in innovation here. Innovation is portable, so if we don’t invest here or let our brighter minds depart, then the jobs will be created elsewhere. We have a terrific college/ university system. We need to pair it up better with business, community colleges and common elementary-high school standards to leverage that innovation. There are great examples where this has occurred like at Clemson University and surrounding community colleges and businesses working together to create jobs and internships, so we should leverage our assets more fully and share those lessons.
- The Affordable Care Act will help and is helping with our poverty problem, but it could do even more if states expanded Medicaid that have not done so. This program still needs some tweaking, but when reviewed backwards from 2030 it will be deemed to be more successful than its opposition would let people believe. Getting access to doctors to prevent the train wrecks from happening down the road, will also allow for more spending in other areas, as trips to the ER and medications are not inexpensive.
- We need to help people climb ladders out of poverty. We need to constantly evaluate how we provide support and various success factors, but we need for some to move away from the belief that many are gaming the system. While there are some miscreants, they are a very small percentage according to data. Like many areas, we need data driven solutions and not hearsay. With my volunteer work with homeless families, I constantly surprise people when I say our families have a job or two and yet still find themselves homeless. This is anecdotal, but it is at least evidence based.
Infrastructure investment and improvements
There is no better jobs program than to invest in our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, harbors, railways, cable lines, etc.). These are the words of Ray LaHood, a Democrat and former Secretary of Transportation, and Ed Rendell, a Republican and former Governor of Pennsylvania. Plus, if we don’t improve our infrastructure, especially making the harbors deeper for the larger ships from China passing through the deepened Panama Canal next year, we will see the distribution business sail right past us to Canada. This is one area where the Stimulus Bill actually helped and is still helping, such as improving railway in Virginia and North Carolina or repairing or replacing a significant number of bridges in Pennsylvania.
LGBT equality issues
The train for same-sex marriage has left the station. Nineteen states have overturned unconstitutional laws to deny same-sex marriage. Nine more states’ laws have been ruled by a judge to be unconstitutional and are awaiting for the appeal process to run its course. I liked the line from Ted Olson, who is a conservative attorney who argued the case in the Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8 restricting marriage to a man and woman. He said this should have conservative support as it is all about two people who want to commit to a relationship, want to raise a family and be part of the community. By 2030, all states will allow same-sex marriage as to do otherwise is discriminatory. Which side of history is the candidate on?
The recent influx of young refugees has heightened the issue, but this issue has been apparent for some time and it is time to act. You have church leaders advocating better immigration laws, you have the Chamber of Commerce advocating better immigration laws, and just last week Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates co-wrote a bi-partisan editorial that advocated the need for collaboration (in general) and better immigration laws, in particular the VISA programs where bright foreign students are trained and then leave the country. The Senate has passed a bi-partisan bill; it is well past time for the House to do the same and reconcile the two. Otherwise, we will continue with piecemeal decision-making rather than a concerted effort.
Global leadership on women’s issues to fight terrorism and poverty
Terrorism cannot be tolerated by any civilized regime or religion. Too many innocent people, especially women and children, suffer that it must not be condoned. We must push for diplomatic and political solutions based on outcomes based missions. We must also push for better treatment of women, as those countries that put down women are competing in a world with only half their assets. Plus, more women in leadership positions will only help getting to more diplomatic solutions and less aggressive posturing. I believe if we continually promote the education and better rights for women, it will benefit more regions economically. We can also start here at home by addressing violence against women on college campuses and in the military, addressing sex trafficking, stop getting in the way of women and their doctor and paying women more equally to men for equal work.
Trade-off between freedom and security
Since 9/11 the pendulum has swung too far in the minds of many toward data gathering and security. We need to have better dialogue on where this balance needs to be. Irrespective of how people feel about Edward Snowden, we are only now beginning to have that conversation. We need more transparent governance over these issues. If we tighten the screws too far against the liberty side, America will look much less like we want it to. We also need to treat our allies better and expect the same from them. With all technologies, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
Gun death issues
We lead the civilized world by far in gun deaths and children gun deaths. Yes, it is a complex issue with causes relating to the lack of civil discourse, entertainment violence, drugs and crime, and mental health issues, but make no mistake it is also an access to guns issue. I saw yesterday where a scientist is moving to Denmark to raise his family because he is worried about gun violence in the US. We are well past time in doing something about this issue. The NRA is powerful entity that plays both ends against the middle, but they do not speak for most gun owners. This a much more than a mass shooting issue. It is an issue that happens every day in America. And, what we don’t need is allowing for guns in bars, on playground and on college campuses. That is malfeasance, in my mind, but some states have passed such laws. And, Americans want better background checks and more elongated waiting periods. That is a start.
Debt and deficit issues
I left this one for last as it is important, but the discussion is constantly around either/ or issues – either raise revenue in taxes or cut spending. Per Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction plan, the answer is both. We were last balanced in 2001 before the Bush Tax cuts. The Secretary of Treasury was so adamant against these cuts, he was fired. His name was Paul O’Neill, and he only turned around Alcoa as CEO, so what does he know. We need both cuts in spending and increases in revenue. The infrastructure improvements is an example of where we need to spend, yet we have room to cut on defense and elsewhere.
These are key issues in my mind. We need more of collaborative people who seek data based solutions. We need less of “I win/ you lose” politicians, pundits and media. We need less of people who want to win their argument so badly, they do not look for or consider other points of view. If a candidate advocates my way or the highway, I would strongly urge we give them the highway.