A few weeks ago I mentioned that we’d be discussing public policy topics on the blog (as opposed to ‘politics’). I felt duty bound to broach the subject after the events of January 2, 2021, in the nation’s capital.
Never one to go at things in half-measures, I’ve decided to announce the creation of a new American political party. Just how far this endeavor will proceed in the real world is anyone’s guess, as I know little about politics but have just as many opinions as anyone else. My only credential is that I am right an overwhelming amount of the time.
My other great virtue is that I really don’t care that I’m right most of the time: I just want to help people. More specifically, I want to infuse and nourish this great country with some fresh if not entirely original ideas about how we govern ourselves and how we shape our society.
I have little interest for myself: I’m comfortable, independent, and have no axe to grind. I enjoy a pleasant amount of notoriety: some people know who I am, but I can still walk down the street without being bothered. Because my wife and I have no children, I cant’ say I’m motivated to save the world in order to make it safe for the next generation. The most logical position for me to take would be to simply continue to enjoy my life in Paris, in private, and hope that the global wheels don’t come off in the next thirty years while I’m (hopefully) still alive.
But that’s not acceptable. I wasn’t raised that way. If you see a problem and know that it’s a problem and have some ideas or resources that might help solve that problem, then you have to address that problem. And we, boys and girls, have a problem. More than a few, actually. And I feel duty bound to address them.
So starting my own political party seems like the perfect combination of–and balance between–the tremendously ridiculous and the absolutely necessary. The Republican and Democratic political parties may roll out their principles and platforms–and even advocate for some of those positions and policies on occasion while making laws–but they are by and large corporate -owned entities.
This isn’t only my opinion. Professors from Northwestern University and Princeton University did a study in 2014 analyzing data and trends about American democracy. They determined that it was not a democracy at all. What they actually said, was this:
“What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule—at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
You can read their entire statistic-&-graph-filled abstract HERE if you like, or just take my word for it.
My position, and the foundation for a new platform and a new country going forward is two-fold and pretty simple: we’ve got to get the money out of politics (campaign finance reform and regulatory reforms for what candidates and elected officials can and cannot do while running for office or while holding office) and we’ve got to recognize that there’s a moderate, reasonable, logical, and practical way to address most of the issues we face as a society. We just have to back of the rhetoric for a hot minute, look at the problems, look at the options to solve the problems, and make common-sense decisions about how to address the problems.
In other words, stop the corruption of public officials and realize that there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fix a pothole. And most of our problems in America today are ‘potholes in the road’ that simply need to be fixed. How do you fix a pothole? You walk into the road, pour some concrete or blacktop into the hole, smooth it over, and let it dry. The best way to fix a pot hole is probably known by professionals who work on roads day in and day out. So you get their opinions, listen to them, get a budget for the pothole repair, and fix the damn pothole.
You don’t appear on cable news and decry the moral character of the pothole, blame wind turbines for causing the pothole, or demand an investigation into why the pothole wasn’t fixed by the previous administration.
With regards to getting money out of politics, Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed legislation to do just that. You can read about her ideas HERE. She proposed these reforms as a senator, but the Republican controlled Senate would not let the legislation move forward. (Who knows, it may not move forward in a Democratic Senate.) The link presents these measures as part of her presidential platform, but the rationale remains: if candidates need millions of dollars to run campaigns and big donors are able to give millions of dollars to campaigns directly or indirectly, candidates will be beholden to big donors to get in office, and will serve their masters once they are in office. Hence our problem.
I’ve chosen the term Moderates for a reason: extreme policies one way or the other in public policy are almost always a mistake. Dogma is dangerous. Being a fanatic about something is fine as long as it’s about your sports team. When you spend a little time working in the world and really looking at it from a few different angles, you’re going to see a certain validity to everyone’s opinion (most of the time: sometimes they’re just lying, self-serving, full of it, and smooth in their delivery of the pile of manure they’re peddling.)
You’re also going to see the value in measured, deliberate change as a way to introduce new ideas to people without them freaking out and without doing unintentional harm. Very few public policy experts know all of the unintended consequences of new policies they propose. So it’s best to be moderate in your approach, most of the time, so you can make change and progress and limit the collateral damage.
There are, of course, circumstances that require the bold move. Climate change may be one of those. As the saying goes, We don’t have a Planet B. And as my saying goes, if you’re denying climate change, you’re a paid hack or an idiot because it’s a proven fact that it’s happening, it’s dangerous, and humans are responsible.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me summarize things up to this point and say that I’m very passionate about being rational. And, like I said, I think that if we park our egos and attitudes at the train station and then all get on the Reason Train together, we can hash out policies that work for everybody–rich and poor like–and make progress.
Oh, by the way, my definition of ‘progress’ is a society that offers opportunities and rewards to innovators and investors (often the rich, well-connected, talented, and educated), as well as providing social benefits and access to upward mobility tools to the working class and poor. The key concept to understand in my model of ‘progress’ is that nobody gets a free pass. Everybody is a member of society. Everybody takes responsibility for their actions. Everybody gets a voice and a vote. You’ll see more of what I mean in some of the policy ideas I itemize below.
First, infrastructure. We need to initiate longterm nationwide rebuilding of our schools, hospitals, highways, and train systems. Urban public transportation should be a priority as it impacts working people’s ability to get to where the jobs are reliably and economically. A high speed cross country rail system should be planned and implemented to reduce the environmental impact of commercial air traffic. (Many of the people now working for airlines and at airports could realistically transfer their skill sets and work for railways and at railway stations, I think.)
Second, the environment. We need a national campaign to reduce our impact on out planet. Of course there are carbon reduction policies already in progress, and green energy is already on the horizon. We need to expand our efforts and reduce, regulate, and eliminate harmful pesticides, and factory farming. Meat processing is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases. Regulating it, taxing its products, and encouraging more sustainable alternatives is necessary if not imperative. We also need to ban entirely the production and sale of single-use plastic bags immediately.
Healthcare. Harry Truman first floated the idea of a national healthcare system in the 1940s, so it’s not a new idea. It’s just a good one. It makes sense. It’s also the moral, ethical, and I would even say the Christian thing to do: make sure that your neighbor doesn’t die just because he or she can’t afford to pay for medical care. I’m not being dramatic, as this is exactly what happened to one of my high school classmates. She had some personal problems. She was unemployed for a period of time. She got sick. She couldn’t afford a very simple procedure that could have saved her life. And she died. And several of my other classmates–rock-ribbed Republicans one and all–had some very serious soul-searching to do after her funeral. The most shallow argument I’ll make for having a national healthcare system is that every other developed nation in the world has one and we as Americans look like barbarians because we don’t have one. So let’s just keep up with Joneses, the Jacque’s, the Johann’s, and the Juanita’s and get one of our own, even if it’s just for the sake of appearances.
We can start the process by simply giving kids (under the age of 18) access to preventative healthcare, like paid dental visits for twice a year teeth cleaning, eye glasses, and regular GP check ups . We’ll call it MEDI-KIDS, which I like. And at the same time, we’ll reduce the qualifying age for Medicare to 55. We’ll roll out universal coverage in 5 year increments over a 15 year period (eventually reaching universal coverage) to give our public officials time to tax marijuana in order to pay for some of this program, and give insurance companies time to adjust and begin to offer supplemental policies to augment the public healthcare coverage as it slowly comes into affect. We might even offer the option of the uninsured 18 to 55 set to pay extra income taxes if they want the government to cover 50% of their healthcare costs during that age window. Or they can fend for themselves if they get sick, like they’ve always been doing.
Education. It’s no secret that this is a big issue for me. Getting an education is the single biggest factor in economic stability for individuals, and overall productivity and livability for societies. You can make a billion dollars in America, but if a majority of the people are uneducated, your quality of life is not going to be that high. Uneducated people act crazy because they don’t have good jobs, don’t see a future for themselves, don’t understand why they don’t understand, and therefore are ready to throw a brick through a window at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, they don’t earn enough to support a consumer economy (which we have) and can’t save enough to invest in start-ups or stocks (which we need). So increasing teacher salaries (and requirements) is on the list, as is investing in schools. For profit colleges would be on my target list, as many are predatory. If you want to go to college, you can work for the money to pay your tuition, or get a scholarship. Student loan reform would be on the agenda, as would limiting how much any university could increase their tuition over a certain period of time. I’d also advocate for making all donations to colleges and universities anonymous. This way, the idiot sons and daughters of the rich couldn’t be admitted just because Daddy had donated. Ditto for the children of alumni. Until that’s resolved, affirmative action in admissions stays in place.
I’d also advocate for uniforms in elementary, intermediate, and high school. I don’t care about your ‘rights’ to express yourself as a student. You’re there to learn. And parents will thank the Moderate party for requiring uniforms. They’ll be uniform, duh, make back to school shopping quicker and cheaper, and they’ll save the “You are not wearing that to school” arguments that so many parens have with their kids. Kids are in school to learn. Not to participate a fashion show. Blazers, khaki pants, button down shirts, brown lace ups or loafers, and neckties for one and all. This will also keep kids safer, as anybody who isn’t dressed in a uniform will be noticeable: are you a teacher? Then what are you doing here?
Anti-trust laws will be reinstated, especially for big tech. Google and Facebook are now basically public utilities. They’re not going to regulate themselves, regardless of what they say. It’s time to look at the monopolistic practices and positions of these companies, as well as big oil and big media, and break ’em up. Why do I say this? Because I’m a capitalist and I like competition. All the CEOs of these companies should be cheering along with me….right?
Corporate tax reform. Parking your cash overseas or incorporating in a tax haven is un-American. Pay your fair share, especially if you’re making billions of dollars off American customers. And let’s roll back the tax cuts for the 1%. Please, give me a break.
Start up incentives or enterprise zones for small businesses. We need to innovate and expand these programs to stimulate small business creation and growth. People in poor neighborhoods need fresh fruits and vegetables, not another liquor store. Federal policy should support ideas like that with loans, rent subsidies, and tax breaks for community enriching new businesses.
Steer drug dealing online. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Drug dealing is what it is, which is pretty much permanent. Some people just want to get messed up. While we do our best with law enforcement and the judicial system, the real collateral damage hits the neighborhoods where drug dealing happens in the street. Violence and related gang activity, namely. We can steer drug dealing toward the Dark Net and away from the street corner. It’s still going to happen, and we can still prosecute dealers and rehabilitate users. We just won’t have the ravaged communities we have now. I need to talk with law enforcement experts as to how this can most effectively be done.
Punish white collar crime with draconian measures. I’ve written about this before, half-seriously advocating for the return of the guillotine for those who embezzle and perpetuate fraud. Why? Because causing the destruction of a building by lighting a fire (arson) is nowhere near the destruction of causing a financial crisis or savings and loan crisis or some other scheme that devalues or destroys the savings and pensions of millions of working class people. White collar crime is infinitely more damaging.
Furthermore, the people who commit these crimes are not usually poor or even middle class. They’re almost always affluent and just greedy. So the crime is not committed out of desperation. It is committed with calculation. So let would-be white collar criminals calculate this, since so much of business is based on the ratio of risk to reward: if you get caught committing a white collar crime, you go to jail for 10 years, minimum. No presidential pardons. You forfeit 100% of your assets and 75% of your entire family’s assets (wife, kids, grandkids…nobody walks away with a trust fund or offshore bank account). Everybody ends up broke and in pain, just like the victims of your crime. No possibility of parole, no early release, no ‘just pay a fine’ business. Harsh? You bet. Effective? I think so.
Foreign policy. Simple: let diplomats do their job. Follow the advice of professionals who’ve committed their lives and careers to interacting effectively with our allies and adversaries alike. One modification: I would advocate for a strong stance against China and Russia in all matters. We must constantly massage and strengthen our relationships with our European allies and develop new alliances in Africa. We don’t need a bigger army. We need a bigger presence. We need to take a stand that transcends our economic interests. (Right now I’m thinking about the tragedy in Hong Kong, but there are many other examples around the world.)
Finally, we have the most dangerous threat to our democracy, gerrymandering and voting restrictions. Gerrymandering is redrawing the lines of representatives’ districts in order to effectuate different outcomes from the same election. Voting restrictions are exactly what they say they are: an attempt to create an American Apartheid by disenfranchising otherwise qualified voters through punitive, targeting laws, or by making the physical act of voting more difficult.
This is going on nationwide in statehouses across America right now, perpetuated exclusively by the Republican party. Sorry to call you out, guys, but it is what it is, and what it is, is ugly. You don’t have any new policy ideas that I’m aware of, demographics are changing, and you’re painfully aware that if you don’t stop, discourage, or limit people from voting, you know your time is up. Even if the process is gradual, it will be permanent. President Biden has taken action to counteract this campaign, but more legislation is necessary to ensure that every American has equal access to the polls, and right now, they don’t.
So, that’s a start, huh?
I’m very interested to hear everyone’s opinions on the policy platform of the newest American political party, The Moderates.
Have a nice Sunday.