9 Kick-Ass Things Obama Should Do In a Second Term
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To help win WWII, America created the massive Manhattan Project to build the first atomic weapons. To help win the Cold War, American created NASA and won the race to the moon. To win the battle against climate change, we’ll need a similar effort to create the next generation of renewable energy technologies to replace fossil fuels. Not only would such a project lead to a new, clean energy infrastructure, but the knowledge gained along the way would invigorate nearly every industry in our economy.
5. Financial transaction tax.
How do we pay for free higher education, a million more teachers, universal healthcare and a Manhattan Project for renewable energy? Place a small tax on each and every sale of stocks, bonds, futures and derivatives. That’s the most efficient way to move money away from the wasteful financial casinos and move it to more productive sectors of the economy. At the moment, the vast majority of all stock market trades come from speculators, especially from high-frequency traders. It’s time they made a contribution to the rest of society. A relatively small financial tax could generate $150 billion a year.
6. Break up the big banks.
President Obama and his key financial aides spent most of his first term preserving our banking structure. Yes, there are more rules (which are far too weak), but the too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger now and everyone knows it. Everyone also knows that we’ll bail out the bastards yet again whenever their gambling threatens the system. It’s time to end this sham: No bank or hedge fund shall have more than $10 billion in assets. Instead of a handful of major banks, we’d have hundreds of smaller ones. I know, I know. It’s hard to imagine Obama and Geithner having the nerve to push such a program. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn't push them to the wall on this issue.
7. Fifty-percent income tax on all income over $5 million a year (with no loopholes).
Under Eisenhower, the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent. Today the effective rate on those making a million bucks or more is 23 percent -- and the richest 400 families pay barely 16 percent. For Mitt Romney, it’s only 13.9 percent. Instead of haggling about raising the top rates on those earning $250,000 or more, President Obama should target the big fish – those who have walked off with our nation’s wealth. He should remind the public that the Wall Street scamsters (who milked the housing bubble and then ran for cover) did not have to give back their fictitious gains. He should remind the nation that the bailouts saved these millionaires’ butts. It’s time to pay us back.
8. Get behind a constitutional amendment to end the buying of elections.
Our political financing system is a total, unmitigated disaster, made even worse by the Supreme Court. Every politician is up for sale and Americans are disgusted by it. The only reform that will work is a constitutional amendment that eliminates big money from politics and replaces it with a sane system of public financing. This issue should be a no-brainer for the president to embrace.
9. Legalize pot/empty the prisons.
By any measure, we lead the world in people who are in prison, on parole and on probation. More than half of the “criminals” in our federal judicial system are there because of drug-related crimes. Since the war on drugs took off 25 years ago, our penal population has risen from 300,000 to more than two million, making the prison system the biggest growth industry in the country. And urban minorities are disproportionally represented. Prohibition didn’t work on booze and it doesn’t work on drugs either. It’s certain the president understands this issue. But does he have the courage to speak out?