With the major party conventions soon upon us, each will be confirming its party’s platform or vision of our troubles and how its solutions are better for America. As a member of a growing body of independent voters, I would like to offer my set of views on the troubles we face and some potential solutions. My goal is to brief, as I mentioned in greater detail some of my thoughts in two earlier posts – “Independent Rebuttal to the State of the Union” back in January and “My BIll is Better than your Bill” in July. I have also been influenced by many wonderful bloggers, who if I started to name would invariably leave off a key influence to my thinking. So, for what it is worth, here is an Old Fart’s Independent Voter Platform.
Economy and Budget
We must make long term changes, but we cannot cause the slow recovery to fall off the cliff at January 1, 2013. We also have 45 million Americans in poverty and the highest by far ratio of CEO pay to the average worker pay at 475 to 1 as compared to Great Britain at 22 to 1, Canada at 20 to 1 and Germany at 12 to 1. These are not misprints. (thanks to http://www.hughcurtler.wordpress.com for his blog “The Rich Get Richer.”)
– Extend the ill-conceived, but still with us Bush Tax Cuts for one more year ending them December 31, 2013. The price for the full extension is to increase the minimum wage requirement to the single person Living Wage in each region (just under $10 an hour in many places). If you do not like this idea, please refer to the 475 to 1 ratio again.
– Extend the 2% FICA payroll tax reduction one more year ending December 31, 2013.
– Adopt the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan effective January 1, 2014, with limited if any changes. This will increase tax revenue (critical) and address spending cuts to defense (critical) as well as social programs (this includes Social Security, Medicare changes). As noted in earlier posts, we are one of the least taxed countries in the world and dwarf others with our defense spending.
– Be mindful of what and how far we cut. For example, Planned Parenthood helps many people in need and increased family size is a highly correlated with poverty.
– Let Simpson-Bowles replace the sequestration due to the Congressional Committee’s failure to reach compromise, but let the agreed upon defense and other cuts in the budget go through as they were agreed to.
– Finally, continue to incent the movement of manufacturing jobs back to these shores. The Stimulus Bill worked per America’s top economic forecasters saving us from a free fall, in spite of what one party likes to say (see Michael Greenwald’s article in Time magazine called “Barack Obama’s New Deal”) and if we could provide further stimulus, so much the better.
This is a major area of concern for our country. If we do not get this right, we will be like Grisabella, the tattered old cat in “Cats.”
– Advocate for the use of year round schools. The models can allow for sufficient vacation breaks for the families, but there is too much memory loss from one school year to the next and data shows this affects impoverished kids more as they have less access to camps, trips, etc.
– Enhance the emphasis on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes along with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing. We are 23rd and 27th in math and science in the world rankings.
– Give license to principals and teachers to devise tailored flexibility in our curriculum. Give power to the principals to govern ineffective teachers and help them improve or exit them. And, let’s pay our teachers better – this our children we are talking about.
Energy and Environment
Of all my fears, this is the greatest one. If we do not get this right, the other stuff will not matter. I cannot shout this loudly enough, but the data is overwhelming from independent scientists – global warming is here and it is man-influenced. So, we must do something about now, or per a former Shell President, the US will be a third world energy power in ten years. Germany and China dwarf us in eco-energy plans. The US is only as high as third in alternative energy because of a confederation of local and regional efforts, coupled with the mpg standards and some alternative energy incentives put in by Obama.
– We must have a bi-partisan plan to address our Eco-energy solutions. It has to be bi-partisan as it must be a living document that lasts beyond the terms of the incumbents who pass it. Germany will be 80% alternative energy powered by 2030.
– The plan must reflect water usage. Water is the new oil and will become even more dear. Certain energy retrieval processes take a huge amount of water – fracking for natural gas, e.g., so we have to factor this in (note the frackers and farmers are fighting over water in Kansas as of this writing).
– The plan must embrace the movement away from fossil fuels and include the immediate, interim movement to cleaner versions of fossil fuels such as “Cleaner Coal” (note: there is no such thing as “Clean Coal”). This must be a phase out measure, though. The plan needs to embrace multiple solutions, as we should take advantage of our resources in a clean, efficient manner.
– Wind energy is being done in 38 states with Texas, Iowa, Minnesota and California leading the pack. Wind is in abundance here and is a key part of the future. Let’s incent this and disincent fossil fuels, unless it is a move to cleaner versions.
– Solar energy is critical and continues to get cheaper down from $9 a watt to $3 a watt. There are exciting stories in the US, Portugal, Morocco and Germany that are replicable. A Morocco solar initiative will power 20% of Europe in the foreseeable future. Again, let’s incent solar along with wind and other measures such as biomass, tidal and river currents, etc.
This is a major issue with 45 million uninsured Americans pending full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
– Let Obamacare continue with targeted and select changes regardless of who wins the White House. To repeal it would be a disservice to Americans. It also would avoid the GOP being hypocritical as Obamacare is largely a Republican idea.
– We must come to grips with Medicare, so changes are in need as the cost is not sustainable. There are some good and bad things about the Ryan proposal, but we need to come up with a bi-partisan solution that wraps around continuing Obamacare.
– Let Michelle Obama keep on focusing on eating healthier and exercising more. The defense department has said American obesity is a threat to national security and we are the fattest country in the world according to the World Health Organization.
We have more guns and kill more people than any other country. We have 20 times the gun deaths than the 22 next wealthiest countries combined. We have 87% of all the gun deaths of children of the top 23 wealthiest nations.
– We need to reinstate the Brady Law which expired in 2004. This will disallow the use of assault weapons and require five days for background checks.
– We need to follow a law enforcement recommendation to encode all bullets to make them traceable. This will help solve crimes, but the NRA is against it.
– We need to listen less to the NRA as they have one purpose – perpetuate the sale of more guns. With 300 million guns in a country of 260 million people, how many guns do we need?
A Permanent Mixer for Congress
An easy set of ideas mentioned by former Congressman Mickey Edwards makes total sense and will force the mixing of ideas. His new book which is encouraging the political parties to “Be Americans First” has a few quick changes that may make a world of difference.
– Take the separate lecterns away and have one for all parties.
– Co-mingle the seating of the party members – when you walk in the room, you are an American first.
– Eliminate separate cloak rooms for the parties. When you are in that building, you are Americans first. You can make your party specific phone calls outside.
He had other changes, but these could be done tomorrow. The idea sharing would be leveraged further and we could eliminate all of this across the aisle bullshit.
Well, that is all I had for the Old Fart’s Independent Voter Platform. I would love to hear your ideas and comments. You will note, I purposely did not include social issues with the exception of funding for Planned Parenthood, which I view as an organization helping low-income people in need with family planning, birth control, mammograms, etc. This organization gets a bad rap by Conservative groups, which is very unfortunate.