Friday, January 16, 2009

Open Letter to President Obama

 I wrote a while back to Howard Dean, after he became head of the Democratic National Committee. I was hoping to see a renewal of Democratic Party principles. I am still waiting. It is clear to me that we have principles, and that they need to be asserted boldly and repeatedly. I am now hopeful that our incoming President Obama will do what Howard Dean failed to do—assert real principles and then act on them. I am repeating now what I asked of Dr. Dean. Perhaps President Obama will take up the banner and return the Nation to its proper place among the world’s worthies.

President Obama, we must stand for balance in everything we do.

1.                In economic matters, extremes do not work. Under Bush, we shifted dangerously in the direction of a fascist state—that is, a state in which private owners of businesses dictate government policies. The inevitable result is Enron, et al, as well as the collapsed financial system. We have been drifting in that direction for quite some time now, even under Clinton. Everyone has been so concerned with government regulation, that they failed to notice that unregulated business is as dangerous as unchecked government. One gives you fascism; the other socialism. Private business interests must always be checked to assure that the public is protected. So too must government overseers. Balance in everything is the answer. But balance requires mental agility. The public has little patience—they want the world to operate on autopilot. They need to be convinced that a world in which competing interests are balanced is both an efficient world, and a world that is worthy.

2.                We need to pay for what we need. The Republican Party has been, almost as a matter of policy, fiscally irresponsible. They practice “charge and spend” politics. We will now have to pay for their profligacy. The public—the thinking public—needs to understand that we cannot continue on the course they charted and followed. Mainly the rest of the world will not allow us to continue on this course. They will simply stop buying our debt and then it will end, badly. Taxes are the way we pay for our policies.  Taxes are neither good nor bad, in the abstract. They represent the price of operating our country, or, perhaps, the glue of a civilized society.

3.                Organized religion has become dysfunctional. For reasons I cannot comprehend, religious leaders have lost their way on matters of intellectual thought. Science is now being posed as some alternative to faith—as though people of faith ought to be opposed to rational thought. There is no conflict and there never was. The public must be convinced that leaders who find conflict are charlatans interested only in enhancing their personal power. If God gave us this magnificent universe, God also gave us brains to ponder its majesty. Those who wish to stop science are trying to return us to the dark ages, where they ruled through fear. We dare not return there, but Bush and his coterie of 12th century leaders, opened the door to religious extremism, with all its fearful consequences.

4.                Terrorism continues to grow, and we currently have no effective way to check its growth. It is now clear that policies under Bush have been the growth medium. We are breeding terrorists, and every time we kill innocents, ten terrorists take their place against us. George Bush was presented with a golden opportunity, briefly, to resolve the Middle East mess. But he is an imbecile, and chose this idiotic course of war in Iraq. The Nation has finally kicked the Neo-Cons out of office, but we now need to reverse their disastrous course.  

5.                We must pursue policies that are aimed at preserving the Earth. We need to conserve. We need to pursue alternative energy policies. We need to use economic forces to create a demand for energy-efficiency and energy independence. Under Bush and Cheney, we have pursued policies promoting wasteful energy consumption, mainly because he and his advisers represent the extractive industries. We need to tax wasteful energy consumption, so as to encourage wiser use of Earth’s limited resources.

6.                We must pursue a policy of economic independence for all our citizens. During my career, I worked for seven organizations over a 45 year career. For 20 of those years, I worked for several large and small companies that contributed nothing beyond Social Security for my retirement. Bush and his republican allies have attempted on numerous occasions to threaten that reserve. If indeed we wish to get rid of Social Security, we do not need to “privatize” it. We need to pass legislation that forces every economic entity in the country to pay into a portable retirement system. TIAA-CREF comes to mind—the system used by most universities and non-profits. If the private sector would begin to live up to its responsibilities by a mandatory contribution system, we would not need Social Security. Take the system used by universities and non-profits and replicate it throughout the whole of the private sector. Do not allow companies to wriggle out by use of part-time workers. If they employ part-time workers, they still pay full retirement benefits.

7.                Similarly, we must pass a system of health care reform. Clinton had the best opportunity in 50 years and he allowed the Republicans to take it away.  When Republicans used demagoguery (what health care crisis, they argued disingenuously) we should have used data to demonstrate that, while republicans do not appear to believe that all Americans should have access to health care, democrats do. We need a single payer system.  We need to stand up for what is right here – 40 to 50 million people who have no health care is not right..

8.                Republicans, with their “no-Child-Left Behind” Act, were attempting to scuttle public education. We need to begin working with the states to work on the currently deplorable state of public education. In our area of North Carolina, they seem comfortable with a drop out rate of 35%.  Think of that. We can do better. Indeed, we are losing ground to the rest of the world, and we are at risk of becoming a country of stupid people.

9.                We must examine carefully the structure of government. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was an absurd idea—a solution in search of a problem. Think of it. The CIA and the FBI wouldn’t communicate and were demonstrably inept, so we forced the Coast Guard, FEMA, and the rest to become one entity. An idea only a truly stupid person could embrace.  Structure is not the answer when the problem is an absence of thoughtful consideration of available evidence. It is possible that Mr. Bush could have, indeed should have anticipated 911. He still needs to answer for that failure on his watch. New structures might be required, but Homeland Security and the Patriot Act are not answers to any problem we currently have.

President Obama, you have an opportunity to articulate a new vision of America, one that includes openness, an embrace of democracy through peaceful means, and an impassioned defense of rational policies that seek to better this once-proud nation and indeed the entire world. It is well to remember that societies will be judged ultimately by their treatment of those less fortunates who cannot care for themselves.  We stand for that principle against the forces of darkness unleashed by the neo-cons and the Bush Administration.

Our continued existence as a free society may now be in your hands. Do not waste this opportunity. There may not be another.

Post a Comment