The following are 16 things that I would like of the government. I am not a liberal or a conservative, democrat or republican. I’m not an independent, a liberalist, an anarchist, or a member of any other political category. I’m just a frustrated citizen. I want good education for all children, affordable healthcare for everyone, an even playing field in economics, and a society where the general-will of the people does not come second to profit. I made this list, and though my opinions on some issues change from time to time, it represents the core of my political/social/economic understandings. Feel free to disagree, to argue these points with me, but first contemplate the content I’m presenting. I don’t want this to be a cut-throat society, where less fortunate people are punished for circumstances that are well beyond their control. I don’t want to live in a society where there is only the illusion of choice.
- Stop subsidizing multi-billion dollar corporations. If their products are unaffordable otherwise, and people stop buying them, isn’t that the free market that so many people scream about? Eh, check out this site: http://thinkbynumbers.org/government-spending/corporate-welfare/corporate-welfare-statistics-vs-social-welfare-statistics/
- Invest in infrastructure: roads, bridges, dams, family-owned farms, telecommunication services, electric railways. That’s a lot of decent, full-time jobs folks, and beneficial to everyone that enjoys eating, travelling, and discussing eating and traveling on the internet.
- Encourage journalistic integrity. Though it is arguable if the media can ever be entirely objective, it should still be the goal. It shouldn’t be made public if the facts aren’t correct, and it’s a public disservice to serve up political propaganda as breaking-news (especially when it contradicts scientific facts and encourages artificial divisions in service to profit margins). The control of the media (newspapers, magazines, television, etc.) is held by too few people, and these people have economic/political agendas that serve profit rather than social welfare. These companies should be busted up, and each industry should be held to a higher standard (labeling opinion as such, rather than masquerading propaganda as news). Besides, echo chambers give me a headache.
- Raise the minimum wage. It can, and has been argued that raising the minimum wage will lead to inflation, but before that happens it will promote a greater standard of living for low-wage workers, giving them more dollars to spend, allowing for growth in other businesses (a healthier economy overall). One could also claim that the lending practices of banks will, and has increased inflation, and that it is inevitable. See this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI9aDHLptMk
- End the for-profit prison system. Its business model relies on human suffering (much like slavery—except that the people being held against their will need only serves as a number on the bill to the American taxpayer), and it leads to ethically untenable practices in our courts. Some contracts with institutions like C.C.A. and Wackenhut require that a certain number of people be imprisoned, leading to harsher sentencing in the court system. Here is an interesting link to a document provided by The Sentencing Project: http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_prisonprivatization.pdf
The for-profit prison system has also lead to corruption in the courts, the most glaring example being the “Kids for Cash” scandal: http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/4/kids_for_cash_inside_one_of
- While at it, the prison system should conform to a philosophy of “paying a debt to society” and “prisoner reform” rather than taking people out of the populations the way a bruise is cut out of a banana. So many people leave the prison system permanently tagged as felons, which makes it incredibly difficult to find sustainable careers, to receive grants for higher education, or benefit from social safety nets. When someone has served their time, for all intent and purposes, they should walk out of prison with a clean slate. When we give up the notion that people go to prison for more than just punishment (but to learn from their mistakes, and become better people) then we support a social dichotomy that keeps certain people permanently impoverished, and far more likely to commit another crime, which is then used as proof that these certain people belong behind bars. There is nothing like the convenience of self-fulfilling prophesy. Interesting facts from Public Eye: http://www.publiceye.org/defendingjustice/pdfs/factsheets/11-Fact%20Sheet%20-%20Poverty.pdf
And it has led to a startling statistic, The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2012/us-incarceration.aspx
- Stop the war on drugs (as we currently understand it). Prohibition has failed. A large number of people enter into the above mentioned prison system in their youths and never manage to overcome the stigma associated with it. The general population, by in large, knows that marijuana isn’t the dangerous gamble that the propagandists would have us believe. I mention marijuana first because it is currently a hot-button issue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/drug-war-mass-incarceration_n_3034310.html But the attitude toward other drugs is also a pressing matter. Treatments such as rehabilitation have been shown to be more effective than incarceration: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Prisons_and_Drugs#sthash.tln6YHfK.dpbs
and do not brand drug users as felons (which perpetuates the cycle of poverty in the ways described above) but as recovering addicts. It still doesn’t sound pretty, but doesn’t make more sense to help these people rather than force them back into the same sort of circumstances that led to behavior to begin with? Ending the war on drugs wouldn’t only provide state, federal, and private revenue that would bolster the economy—it would save more than $51,000,000,000 in U.S. spending: http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-war-statistics
- Improve public education. Here is a wild idea—teachers probably know more about teaching than government officials. I’m not going to say that there shouldn’t be standards to which students should be held, but creating rigid tests to determine a school’s funding turns beacons of education into a fight for basic resources, a fight that is often already biased toward schools that already have the resources to instruct students that will then perform higher on tests. I’m not saying that resources from some schools should be reallocated to others, but that the funds for less-privileged schools should be raised so that their need is met—otherwise, it seems like less-privileged students are being denied the means to succeed, damning them to poverty. The evaluation of students should be measured by their performance in the classroom over the course of the year, under the tutelage of teachers that have been trained to teach students according to their individual needs. There is little that can compare to the social benefits provided by teacher allowed to approach teaching creatively, inspiring students to learn instead of teaching them to sit still and fill in bubbles. These creative teachers should be paid according to the work they do and the service they provide via well-educated citizens. Check this out: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/22/948224/-Are-you-sick-of-highly-paid-teachers
- Better-fund higher education: http://www.asa.org/policy/resources/stats/
- Reverse the rulings that grant corporate personhood. Corporations are not people, my friend. Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyncSd-UtB4
Laws have been established that protect “rights” for corporations the same way that rights are protected for individuals, but limit the corporations’ obligation to social well-being. In fact, laws on our books protect corporate persons from the same laws that would put an actual person behind bars. A finger cannot be pointed at a corporate person, so no one goes to jail when the air, water, or earth is polluted, the banking system runs into the ground, or when actual people (or groups of them) are wronged. They are allowed to amass the funds necessary to out-gun social movements in court (At most leading to fines that can be written off as the cost of operation), to ruin local economies (like Wal-Marts tactics in ruining privately owned businesses), to lobby indiscriminately for policy that is a detriment to public well-being, to influences elections that ultimately lead to government puppets (who go on to support this terrible system claiming fear of economic effects), and to exist as entities that are not beholden to any particular nation and no set of laws. These private corporations collectively represent the greatest influence on the lives of the citizenry, but are not accountable for the general well-being. They systematically take control of resource distribution (food, energy, transportation, telecommunications, etc.) which all but gives them the reigns to society (and all they want is profit—which more often than not comes via the labor of the people or the swindling in markets).
- Invest in science and common-held technology. Some of the greatest inventions in modern technology: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/technology/1110/gallery.government_inventions/2.html
Our way of life has been irrevocably changed by inventions such as the microchip and the internet, but without a collective desire for these potentially life-improving advancements (government will) we would not have them. The technology of the future should not be owned by people who would use it as a means of profit, but by the masses who could use said technology for the betterment of mankind (besides, common-held technology prevents monopolization). Science, on the other hand, is an inherently common-held commodity. The scientific process demands evaluation, and through these evaluations, all people become privy to our advancements in knowledge. Science should be promoted, held as a virtue rather than an opinion. Science has been our best means for explaining the phenomena that is life, the challenges we face, and with hard work the solutions to those problems. Investing in research creates technology, jobs, and a fuller understanding of ourselves and the universe we inhabit—and making it a priority would quiet the voices that would promote ignorance and human suffering (such as those that spread misinformation about vaccinations)—and this research could be done by some of those people who got an education and didn’t end up in prison.
- Promote small-scale, organic farming. I know that I mentioned this in NO. 2, but this is too important for just one slot. Organic farming is not a new practice—in fact, it has been the norm since the agricultural revolution. The fact that we have to mark products as organic is silly, as G.M.O.s and the use pesticides are relatively new. Organic food doesn’t have the negative effects of hormones: http://www.sustainabletable.org/258/hormones
or the cancer-promoting pesticides that pollute our water: http://www.toxicsaction.org/problems-and-solutions/pesticides
In this way, organic farming is more sustainable in the long run, and it takes the legs out from under corporations such as Monsanto. Corporations should not hold a patent on life, especially being as it cannot be controlled. Accidental cross-breeding between “conventional” produce (notice the word conventional is used by the media to describe this relatively new trend) and organic produce occurs, and as the law stands, the farmers who didn’t want their products tainted in the first place are losing their livelihood: http://www.dailytech.com/Monsanto+Defeats+Small+Farmers+in+Critical+Bioethics+Class+Action+Suit/article24118.htm
This allows corporations (with all their legal might) to control the American food supply without proper regulations. If we were at war and a soldier purposefully tainted the Army’s food supply, he/she would be convicted of high treason – why aren’t we applying the same standard to the food our children eat? By subsidizing the small organic, farmers, eliminating subsidies for major corporations, and funding higher education (agricultural education, in this case) we could create a greater food infrastructure. More local farming would provide sustainable employment, a healthier way of life for farmers and consumers, would diminish our need for cross-country transportation of goods (and our reliance on some fossil fuels). Ecologically, it would improve our water tables and soil, and this infrastructure would allow greater amounts of food to be grown/raised with greater care—and if a catastrophe were to strike, losses could be replenished.
- I hesitate to even mention this on my list, but all persons should have equal rights and protection under the law, no matter their race, age, gender, sex, or sexual orientation (or any other distinction that can be made, assuming it isn’t harmful to others). This should be a no-brainer, and I suspect (cause sometimes I get paranoid) that denying women equal pay, gays to marry, or any other issue of kind is used as a red herring. These become pressing issues when not addressed, but as long as they are not addressed, they garner a good deal of attention (and rightly so). Still, there are other issues of well-being that should have our attention, like the other issues above. Gay marriage, equal pay, race inequality—these are problems that can, and should have been solved long ago, but as long as they are not addressed they serve as distractions. Easy solutions—Pay women for the work they do, the same as you would pay a man; sexual orientation isn’t even an issue, if two consenting adults want to make love or marry, that is their business not yours; allocate the same resources (educational and otherwise) to impoverished areas and stop unfairly sentencing African-Americans and Hispanics to the prison system, removing the barriers to success just might—wait for it—lead to success! This is the deal folks: if you believe that you deserve rights and fair treatment—then you have to believe that everyone else does too. The can be no double standard here—because if everyone doesn’t have rights and fair treatment, you can scarcely say that anyone does.
- Reduce military spending to levels that have been proven sustainable elsewhere in the world. Just look at this: http://pgpf.org/Chart-Archive/0053_defense-comparison. I understand that the U.S. has become the de facto policeman of the world. The argument has been made that international policy couldn’t be enforced without the intervention of the United States, because the U.N. lacks the ability to do so—but much of our military spending is being wasted, and worse, spent to serve the interests of the elite. In many cases (cough cough, Afghanistan and Iraq) we haven’t even been upholding U.N. policy, but seeking gains of imperial scope. We have used this economic might to support our own agenda in every corner of the world. I’d say that we shouldn’t support interests that damage our reputation abroad for the sake of short-term gain, especially not when it forces us to make tough choices about how to spend the remaining money at home. If a product cannot be brought to us without the full might of the world’s most expensive military, then maybe we don’t need it. Scale back military expenditures (what’s on the books and what’s not) and we’ll see if the world falls apart. Many would claim that the military-industrial complex employs such a significant number of people, that to reduce it would leave a last negative effect on the economy—but that is only true if these industries could not be revamped to produce something else, such as cars, alternative energy equipment, etc. The workforce would already be in place.
- Improve healthcare. We should have the same universal healthcare that the rest of the industrialized world enjoys: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/29/most-efficient-healthcare_n_3825477.html
We pay more, sometimes going bankrupt to do so, for care that isn’t even on par with universal health programs elsewhere in the world. People have to choose between healthcare and debt, which ultimately costs the taxpayers more (certainly more than preventative care, and more than other systems.) Allowing the healthcare system to be governed by the collective will of the citizenry would give us leverage in buying the resources (equipment, medicine, etc.) needed. As it stands, medical companies can charge whatever they want for resources because individual companies don’t have the bargaining power to lower costs. This leads to uneven costs of healthcare nationwide—in some places creating healthcare deserts for people who can’t afford to pay. With one, single buyer the costs would become level and more affordable. Universal healthcare would also make a universal information system possible that could record the medications, allergies, and whatnot of everyone so that abuses with prescription drugs could be eliminated and life-saving information would be on hand for people who aren’t in their usual hospital. Laws already exist that would exclude people outside of patient care from accessing this information. It would replace tort reform with a system of universal accountability—which could determine whether a surgery gone wrong or misdiagnosis was criminal or not, and could gauge compensation if need be. The savings from avoiding the death-grip, red-tape of insurance companies, emergency care defunct, and preventative healthcare would allow more money to go to medical professionals and into the coffers of the system itself.
- Eliminate the two-party system and dissolve the Electoral College. I realize that this might seem controversial. Whether you understand the dichotomy to be democrat/republican or conservative/liberal or whatever—I would ask you to think of the plausibility of there being only two ways to view politics without being some kind of whack job. There are hundreds of elected officials throughout the country, and each of them has his/her own perspective, none of which can be completely fit into one of two categories perfectly, at least not without some sort of manipulation (or a complete lack of values, leaving the politician a fun-house mirror image of the perception of republican or democrat). As it stands, we have a system that, in part, relies on primaries, where politicians must appeal to the most concentrated idealists of their restricted parties—then, once selected by their party, they must contort their image to appeal to the broadest scope of the American people in order to capture as many independent votes as possible. This compresses the issues of the day into a very small range, and often defeats the primary political philosophy held by the majority by way of spoiler candidates. First, the election must become populist—removing the Electoral College. If electing a representative, said politician must represent the people, not the select few whose votes are the only ones that count. We have the technology to do this, and the result would be the end of the red state/blue state system. Second, we would establish the Borda Count. This describes the Borda Count: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIxfg5pVyjk. On paper, it seems complicated, but through the use of a ranking system on a computer screen, it would be simplified so that one would simply need to rank their favorite candidates from most favorable to least favorable, the counting of votes would be done automatically. If there were, say, ten candidates, the one you found most favorable would receive ten votes, the second would receive nine, the third would receive eight, and so on. By counting votes this way, no two parties could likely become dominate over any others, and the candidates would be forced to stand upon their own principals rather than relying on the support of the ideology of a party. We would have to pick between the worst of two evils. Instead, we would rank the candidates by their adherence to the policies that are most important to each of us. The winner, the candidate with the most overall votes, would theoretically represent the greatest number of voters choice, as even though your first choice might not have won, there would be a chance that your second choice (the woman or man who you would have selected if not for the presence of your first choice) would still have a likely chance of winning. It would become more difficult for private interests to dominate the electoral issues because their money would have to be spread quite a bit thinner. There would be less time for ads bashing a candidate—and less time for unnecessary praise. The candidates would have to use their time to state their case, and little else.