A New Mission for Americans: How the People Can Clean Up This Mess
By John M. Kelley
2,000 American soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis have died in a war that we all now know was based on a lie. The President of the United States is arguing for the right to torture people and I read an article that Senator Kerry had written that he thinks we ought to continue the war in Iraq with a few cosmetic changes. How sad can it get? This is so typical of the failed so-called Democratic leadership in this country. We have Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry and a bunch of other warmed over Republicans running to be the next Democratic candidate for President on centrist platforms that would be the envy of John McCain.
Iraq is representative of a whole host of issues that the Democrats are offering no real alternative to. Solving Iraq is not a problem if you just want to fix Iraq and dont have any ulterior motive or empire based hubris about it. We are spending in excess of $5 billion a month to enrage the Iraqis against each other and ourselves. Pull out tomorrow and offer to give them the same amount if they meet certain goals. These could include 1) democratic principles of government that treat the Sunni minority and women equally, 2) fair distribution of the revenue from oil resources amongst its population, 3) a peaceful role in middle eastern affairs.
Let the IraqiҒs figure out the how to do it for themselves, theyre smart people and it would be their solution not ours. For us we need to make restitution for this fiasco and get out of there at the same time. We can do that cheaper then war, restore positive relationships with the Arab world and foster peace if we get out of the way. Our spending so far of $300 billion boils down to over $14,285 for every man, woman and child in Iraq. Unfortunately most of this has been used to destroy Iraq, fund defense contractors and Haliburton. For the promise of that kind of money, it seems to me that IraqiҒs could solve this thing on their own.
In the meantime the Bush administration is flailing around like a chicken with its head cut off (if Rove is indicted this may be the perfect analogy). It is facing multiple indictments, caught in a quagmire in Iraq, a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, an overall foreign policy that has made us hated the world over and spent more on defense and homeland security then any administration in history while making us all more at risk. It has fumbled national disasters so badly that the Presidents brother is trying to take some of the heat off by taking the blame. In the meantime we are all being forced to watch as the administration hands out no bid contracts to his friends and gives the environment over to corporate multinational rapists.
The economy is headed down the toilet for working people who are getting ready to take a cut in salary, lose their health benefits and pension funds. Retirees are looking towards eating dog food to avoid freezing this winter while being forced to subsidize the drug companies with a deduction from their social security checks for the Medicare prescription package. The RightҒs own coalition of corporate interests, neo-cons and religious nut cases is coming apart over the Supreme Court nomination, the deficit, immigrants and Iraq. Right now the administration couldnt win a campaign for dogcatcher and yet sadly the best the Democrats can offer is Republican lite.
Instead of a Party Platform Unify the People With a Mission
If Democrats want to win back the working class, take back the White House, State Houses, Senates and Houses all over the country I’ve got a few suggestions. No they are not tongue in cheek, they are real. They are real things supported by working people on both sides of the aisle that can unite enough working people on both sides of the aisle to win elections. Hey Hilary, Joe, John and the rest of the pack, listen up.
1. Universal Healthcare. This is a no-brainer, Dan Quayle couldnҒt screw this up. The vast majority of the country supports it period and every study shows it. Studies from the University of Boston School for Public Health show that there is enough money in the system to pay for everyone to have decent healthcare and give doctors a raise, simply by going to a single payer system. You still get to choose your doctor, you doctor doesnt work for the government and we will have rational healthcare reimbursement for appropriate services.
Our car insurance will go down, our homeownerҒs insurance will go down, our business liability and workers compensation insurance will go down, tort reform will no longer be an issue over who is going to be richer, trial lawyers or corporate lawyers and we can get our bunions taken care of. Its simple, stop kissing up to your campaign contributors and represent the interests of the American People.
2. Expand Social Security to provide a decent Disability Pension and Retirement for every one. This is impossible right? Wrong! Take the upper limit off from income taxed for social security and expand it to dividends and capital gains. In addition requiring the payment of a real living wage would raise tremendous sums due to additional social security contributions. While this would raise the price of some goods and services, there would also be some offset in costs due to retirement, medical and disability no longer being a cost to business Phase out or convert private plans, thats what business is doing anyway without any safety net. People who have more then the conversion would pay get to keep the difference in a private account.
3. Support the growth of local economies and small business. The government could invest the money collected for social security and disability in community owned, controlled and operated credit unions that would loan the people money to start small businesses. The credit unions could recruit scores of retiring executives and business people to mentor, educate and guide small business development. Given access to expertise and capital, workers who are held in bondage to healthcare and pensions would desert corporate slavery corporations in droves to set up small local businesses. Small town America would thrive again, local economies would grow as a result of keeping money in the community as opposed to sending it to Bentonville, Arkansas every night.
4. Invest in Infrastructure. If there ever was something to invest in to help every American it is modernizing the infrastructure. We need leadership to think on the scale of Eisenhower. The coming wars in the world will be economic not military. We are in perfect position to win a conventional military war but will lose the coming economic ones if we donҒt change. How do we win? Expand and modernize and nationalize transportation, energy production and communication in public bond financed corporations funded by the new social security investment funds along with private capital. Run them like rural electric cooperatives with returns benefiting public accounts and private investors.
The government should be investing heavily in modernizing the rail systems, if necessary reclaim through condemnation the railroad right of ways that have been abandoned and use the current interstate highway infrastructure to build high-speed rail service for both passengers and freight across the country. Put in spur lines to every community. It is the cheapest, fastest and most fuel-efficient way to move people and goods. The rest of the world knows it and we got behind being sidetracked by cars. Give the contracts to American auto and defense companies to build the next generation of equipment and rails on a competitive bid basis.
Contract with companies to install free wi-fi everywhere in America, make it interactive with mobile phones, sit back and watch technology boom, the same with the airways and bandwidths. Open a certain percentage to citizen media and supply the technology and equipment for citizen use and watch the corporate media change. This would also give small businesses the opportunity to advertise and trade nationally and internationally directly with consumers instead of through corporate middlemen.
Supply state and national funding only for land use that promotes energy, environmental and people friendly growth in building and infrastructure development. Regulate energy for efficiency, conservation and environmental cleanliness. Discontinue the moon and Mars missions and the anti ballistic missile plans to help pay for it and redirect research efforts. NASA should become internationalized and concentrate on missions that focus on solving energy problems and improving the human condition for everyone.
5. Invest in Education. Universal education through college or trade school for every American with the opportunity to return to school to upgrade skills for free. Education is the core of democracy and the key to human freedom, to deny it to anyone is to sentence them to economic and political slavery. We pay for it by restoring tax cuts and the estate tax. Education is the biggest subsidy we provide to businesses, why are we charging someone for something that is primarily used to profit someone else.
We need to pay teachers well, give them more planning time and less time testing and filling out irrelevant paperwork. We need to give teachers more power to innovate, they will and they will improve the system if we let them. We need to have fewer students in a classroom, smaller schools and upgrades in what we think education is all about. We need to have more teachers and fewer lawyers.
6. Democratize the Electoral Process. Pass verifiable paper trail voting, ban laws making it difficult for third parties to get on the ballot, have a national holiday on voting day, have instant runoff elections, allow public financing only, over a limited time period and do away with the electoral college. Last but certainly not least dont allow people to move from government into lobbying for at least five years after they have completed service. DonҒt allow lobbyists to move into government service at all.
7. Mandatory Public Service. Do away with every branch of the military except a beefed up Coast Guard and a missile service. We have over 20,000 nuclear weapons that can wipe any country in the world off from the map and put us into a nuclear winter that may destroy civilization itself. Have universal training for every man and woman for two years after completion of high school. They would learn both defense and disaster management skills. Young people would gain national pride, tolerance, cooperation, and work skills.
Professional National Guard officers, police officers, firemen and EMS personnel would serve as leaders for these forces. After their two years of service they would be part of a national guard that would defend the country in case of invasion using their knowledge of the terrain and guerilla tactics to bog an enemy down forever. It worked in the Revolutionary War and has worked against us every since (including Viet Nam and Iraq). Any country invading us would have to deal with a sniper rifle in every closet and this would end all of this idiotic argument about the 2nd Amendment.
The same people trained in disaster relief could be mobilized during hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes and other national disasters. A portion could seek foreign service in a revitalized Peace Corps that would help to restore our image abroad and give people the opportunity to become part of the international community.
Pay for it by reducing the National War budget of one half trillion dollars a year on expensive high tech equipment that doesnt work half the time, goes unused most of the time and is the biggest welfare subsidy for corporations going. It also is an ineffective approach in a world where no country can afford war. The costs of destruction and economic isolation are too high.
8. End the Idiotic War on Drugs. We have spent 500 billion dollars for no gain. Decriminalize drugs. Allow them to be sold legally through doctors for addicts. Regulate marijuana use like alcohol. Most people know that marijuana is much less destructive than alcohol and is only a gateway drug because users have to come in to contact with people who sell harder drugs to obtain it.
Drug addiction treatment is cheaper and more effective than enforcement and incarceration, takes the profit out of trafficking and releases resources for better use. Along with this effort should come treatment and rehabilitation for non-violent offenders in prison to reduce the prison population and restore people to society. It is illogical, discriminatory and expensive. We have a per capita incarceration rate that rivals North Korea and other oppressive states; it is insane and needs to end.
9. Preserve the Environment. All the polls show Americans cherish clean air, clean water, wild things and wild places. They understand not only is every life endangered by ravishing nature, the spiritual quality of life is diminished when we donҒt honor our place on this small planet.
10. Reform Corporate Law. Polls show that the one thing people trust almost as little as politicians are corporations. Require that corporations charge the full price for their products, not privatize profits while passing the costs to the taxpayer. Take away corporate rights as people. Hold corporate boards and officers criminally liable for their malicious actions. Revoke their charter for fiscal and community negligence or deceit.
There is no great disagreement among the majority of working people on these issues. People who will let themselves be swayed on a single issue such as abortion are a minority and probably cant be changed, forget them and gather the greater masses behind things that we have in common. The public is awaiting leadership; unfortunately it probably wonҒt come from with in the party machinery of either the Republicans or the Democrats. We need more Bernie Sanders in the world.
The problem is that our current political set up of two parties, both lap dogs for corporations, no longer serve the people. Neither will take up the gauntlet to meet the task at hand. They have become victims of a consumer culture that is self-destructing on greed, waste and the encouragement of divisiveness to maintain or gain power. The only thing that will correct this situation is a great movement of the people.
The reality is that the parties have acted in concert to block third party candidates and parties from challenging their stranglehold on governance. So what do we do? We take the Democratic Party away from the current leadership. What is needed is for people to get involved in politics at the basic level. Go to precinct meetings, vote in resolutions that you believe in, support only candidates who will sponsor and promote those resolutions, run for office yourself. If the system doesnt respond, hit the streets, organize unions and power groups to take action to stop the system. History tells us that progress is only made when a sufficient amount of people take matters into their own hands and demand change. The question now is, will we rise up and take control of our own destiny before it is too late.
John M. Kelley is a teacher, philosopher, writer, artist, political activist, singer of ballads, rebellious Irishman and agent for change who worries daily about the world he is leaving for his grandchildren. His blog is at www.mytown.ca/johnkelley