Sixteen Bold Moves We Can Use
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If you are like me, you just get weary listening to the weaselly crap both Republicans and Democrats peddle daily to us in the hopes that something they say will "resonate" with one demographic or another.
I was listening to Hillary Clinton's tortured logic earlier this week as she tried to explain to Democrat activists that she was against what Bush is doing in Iraq, but is also against setting a date for withdrawal. But what's she " for?" Hell if I know -- or, at this point, even care any longer.
So I was moping around this morning, feeling lower than the axles of a tricked-out low-rider, when it occurred to me that I am probably not alone... not by long shot. What I want more than anything else these days is for someone -- I don't even care which party they are in -- just someone, to take genuine bold action.
Bold. Not parsed to the Nth degree. Not Bermuda-triangulated to cognitive oblivion. But bold. The kind of stuff that makes you shoot coffee through your nose when you read it in your morning paper.
So I cooked up a wish list of bold positions that I want to see in my paper in the coming weeks and months. I don't care what order they arrive. I'll take any one of the following announcements on any day.
Health Care: Acknowledging that only a single-payer health insurance system can be both profitable and cover everyone, Congress passes America's first national universal health insurance system. The new entity would be a public/private partnership run by the private sector but regulated and underwritten by government, much the same way Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae serve the residential marketplace as GSEs -- "Government Sponsored Entities." (Minus, of course, the fat-cat abuse recently discovered at those two GSEs.)
Illegal Immigration: Forget the fence. Congress increases funding and staffing for a national network of workplace immigration auditors. Businesses are provided online tools to verify citizenship, much likeÂ the national database that gun shops are now required to use before selling someone a firearm. Businesses with more than 100 employees will have their employment records audited without notice at least once a year. Penalties for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants will be enforced, and violators listed publicly on the Web.
National Energy Policy: Congress funds "Manhattan Project II" - aÂ 10-year crash program to replace oil and coal with renewable, sustainable, non-polluting energy sources. The Manhattan II Project would be funded by a 50-cent tax on all gas and oil products, except for those used for home heating.
Campaign Reform: Since the Supreme Court has ruled that money, in politics, is equal to free speech, Congress passes a constitutional amendment requiring that all national campaigns for House, Senate and Presidential be funded solely from a special, federal campaign fund. The money in this fund would come from a small surtax on all individuals, businesses and corporations, and the money distributed in equal amounts to any candidate that gathers at least 10 percent of the primary votes. Â
Lobbying Reform: Congress passes a total prohibition on all forms of lobbyist-provided gratuities, including trips on private planes at below-market ticket prices. Any "fact-finding" trips sponsored by interest groups must first be approved by the House and Senate ethics committees, and listed on a public website at least 30 days before departure to allow for public comment and/or protest.
Open Government: Congress passes an open government law modeled after California's Brown Act, requiring that all the public's business be conducted in public, excluding only matters involving personnel, national security and Supreme Court deliberations. (Under such a law, Cheney's energy task force meetings would have been illegal.)
Budgeting: Congress passes a balanced budget amendment requiring that the nation's annual budgets be in balance, except in time of congressionally approved war or formally declared national emergency.
Taxes: Congress repeals the Bush tax cuts for the top one percent of earners, and shifts those savings to individuals earning under $30,000 a year (or couples earning under $60,000.) For wage earners, these tax savings would be reflected as a cut in their payroll tax.
A Livable Wage: Congress mandates an increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour --Â and (this time) indexes the minimum wage to inflation so it will never again fall behind.
National Security: Congress formally adopts my "Don't Do That" national defense strategy.
Iraq: Congress ties further funding for the war in Iraq to a blueprint that requiresÂ the president to begin to disentangle the US from its presence in that country. The planÂ begins with a six-month deadline to move all US troops to Iraq's borders to provide border security, air and logistical support for the emerging Iraqi security force. Six months later, US troops must begin an orderly withdrawal from Iraq with all troops out of that country by the end of 2007.
General Motors: The company announces that the "GM" brand will no longer stand for General Motors, but for "Green Machines."Â In the 2008 model year, GM will begin a company-wide transition away from the internal combustion engine. Until better technologies are mature, GM will begin by producing only hybrid non-commercial vehicles. Ultimately the company's announced goal is to,Â within a decade, be the first auto company to offer a full fleet of fuel-cell/electric-powered vehicles.
Iran: Congress announces it will refuse to support any Iraq-style preemptive military action on Iran and instead sends the White House a copy of the "Don't Do That" strategy.
Venezuela: Butt out.
Cuba: Butt in -- but in a nice way for a change. Lift the travel ban and embargo.
Gitmo: Close it. Transfer the prisoners to a maximum security prison in the US and begin a 90-day review of each case, after which each prisoner must be either formally charged, provided a lawyer and tried, or released immediately and returned to their home country. Those that can make a case that they would be harmed if forced to return to their home countries could apply for temporary residence in the US and would have their petitions heard within 60 days of release.
As I said above, any one of those things would be a rare shaft of sunlight into what has become a very gloomy and dispiriting picture of America's leadership. If all of those bold moves came to pass, it really would finally be "morning in America."
Politicians misread Americans. We are not only ready for bold ideas, but starved for them. We don't lack bold ideas, what we lack are bold leaders. Which is why none of the above will come to pass, and why it is likely to instead remain ' mourning in America," at least for the foreseeable future.
Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," which was nominated for a Pulitzer.