And a new day dawns…I hope

Kamala Harris Endorsed Joe Biden This Morning – Mother JonesAs I write this, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States.  Hopefully, the day’s proceedings will continue to be completely uneventful and we can start getting things back on a more normal footing.  That said, however, there are some things that need to change…and this is where it gets interesting.  Not everyone is going to want the same changes…or like the changes that eventually do get made…or even agree that we need to change anything at all.

Still, I’d like to take a minute and throw out my own personal list of “Things That Need To Change” as an open letter to our incoming President and Vice President, Speaker of the House Pelosi, Senator Schumer and Senator McConnell, Senator Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Representative Rashida Tlaib, Representative Ilhan Omar and the rest of Congress.

Current Events

Anyone who participated in the insurrection and attempted coup on January 6th, 2021 should be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  This should include any and all Elected Officials who helped instigate the unrest by attempting to overturn a lawful election.  Any Senators and Representatives involved should be ejected from Congress and put on trial immediately.  And frankly, they should be held to a harsher accounting than the people who actually stormed the Capitol.  Our Elected Officials MUST be held to a higher standard.  They profess to be our “Leaders”.  Time to put up or shut up.

Former President Trump should be impeached and held FULLY accountable for his actions in instigating the Capital assault and for his inaction in trying to halt it – see my previous comments about Elected Officials, Leaders and higher standards.  Furthermore, he should be stripped of any and all benefits that a former President would normally receive and he should be barred from ever holding public office again.  Finally, any protections he might get from Civil or Criminal prosecution should be removed.  If he broke the law, he should be held accountable.

Put simply, we can not…MUST NOT…have one set of rules for Elected Officials and another set for everyone else.  This is America, where “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and everyone is held equal under the law.

And I don’t want to hear about forgiveness and moving past all this and letting bygones by bygones.  If someone steals a car, they should be charged with stealing a car.  If someone murders another person, they should be charged with murder.  If someone takes up arms against our government, they should face appropriate charges for that, too.  I trust I won’t have to dredge up the old medical maxim about having to cut out the infection before healing can begin.  But the goal here must be equal justice under the law, not revenge.

The Past

I used to be a Republican.  I registered as a Republican when I was 18 so that I could vote and that’s how things remained until a few years ago when I changed the party affiliation on my voter’s registration.  No, I did not register as a Democrat.  I registered as an Independent.  My wife, formerly a Democrat, also changed her affiliation to Independent. 

There were several reasons for this: Democrat Super Delegates who ignored the will of the people and cast their votes for Hillary Clinton, the DNC’s unfair treatment of Senator Sanders in that same election, Republican scare tactics and denial of scientific fact and their absolute refusal to deal at all with anything proposed by President Obama and so much more.  What it all boils down to is partisan politics at the expense of the American people and the United States as a country. 

My wife and I were not the first to do drop our party affiliations…and we most certainly will not be the last.  In fact, we seem to be part of a trend.  The Democrat and Republican Parties are suffering a death of a thousand cuts…and they are doing it to themselves. A weekly Gallup poll running since 2004 spells it out.  Both major parties are losing people.

‘My way or the highway’ politics needs to end.  Extremist politics from either party needs to end.  Self-serving politics at the expense of the American people and the country needs to end.  Moderation, working together, compromise and cooperation, whole-hearted, devoted service to your constituents and your country – this is the only way forward.  Anything else is a National suicide pact.  I would remind you that a synonym for holding elected office is “Public Service”.

The Senate Oath of Office reads, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

The House Oath of Office reads, “I, <name>, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Members of Congress, can you honestly say that you are honoring your oath?  Can you honestly say that you are serving the people you swore to represent?  Can you honestly say that you are putting the welfare of your constituents and your country ahead of your own ego, personal welfare and power?  Honor, integrity, personal accountability and personal responsibility are not just words.  They are the cornerstone of public service and they are principles that helped found and form this country.  If you cannot honestly answer all three of those questions with an unreserved “Yes” then you need to look in the mirror and examine the soul of the person looking back at you.

The Future

This is the important part…where do we go from here?  If we don’t learn from the past and put aside our partisan ways, the only direction we will go is down.  Personally, I would prefer to avoid that.  But there’s no easy path to a better tomorrow.  There are a few things we can do to get started though.

Put an end to partisan politics.  That has done nothing except bring us to the brink of ruin.  We have to work together if we want to get anything done.  We have to be willing to compromise.  We’ve just had four years of “the only way I win is if everyone else loses” and look where that left us.  How about we try a little something I like to call Bipartisanship?  Maybe if the Democrats and the Republicans work together we can get something permanent and positive done. 

Partisan politics gives us a few years of one way followed by a few years of the exact opposite.  Two steps left, two steps right and you end up right back where you started from with no one any better off.  Two steps forward followed by two more steps forward sounds like a much better idea.

Embrace science.  Don’t base policy on internet memes and gut instinct.  Science is a thing.  Science is real.  It works.  It’s proven.  It helped make America great in the first place – you remember…that whole man on the moon, “One small step” thing.  But this means accepting a few truths like: global warming is real, vaccines don’t cause autism, face masks work.  It also means that we need to…

Educate our children.  Raise education standards, never lower them.  Increase funding to public schools so that school systems can hire more teachers, make classrooms smaller, raise salaries and provide teachers with the materials they need to do their jobs. 

Make higher education free to everyone – whether it’s college or trade school.  You don’t have to have a college degree to get a good job.  If we don’t have plumbers, electricians, welders and carpenters, where will the college graduates live and work?  A functional society has to have a strong mix of both blue and white collar jobs.

Cancel student loans.  When I started college in 1978, my first year’s tuition was around $500 or $600 total.  That covered in-state tuition and books.  I was living at home so I didn’t have to pay for housing but friends who did have that extra expense still weren’t going into years of massive debt.  A summer joe-job would take care of most of it. 

My sons both paid somewhere north of $15,000/year for in-state tuition and housing.  This required student loans.  Books and meal plans took the totals even higher.  Both boys worked part-time jobs while they were in school.  Also, my wife and I pitched in with Parent Plus loans – I should have them paid off a couple of years after I retire.  My kids hope they’ll have their loans paid off by the time they retire, too. 

Just a final note about this…it’s kind of hard for a young person just starting out to save up to buy a car and a house and a big screen TV and etc. when they’re paying so much in student loan payments they can barely afford to pay their bills and buy food.  So if you want the economy to work better, this might be a place to start.

Fix taxation.  Right now, there are American companies that have moved their headquarters to other countries to avoid paying US taxes.  And I don’t think that should be against the law…as long as the entire Board of Directors of said company is willing to give up their US citizenship, move to the preferred foreign country and forfeit all their financial holdings in the US to pay for the privilege.  Oh, and I almost forgot…forced corporate divestiture of all US assets at 10% of market value.  There’s an old saying – “You’ve got to pay to play”.  So some other company that is willing to pay their taxes can buy up the assets and make a pile.

Consider putting tax rates from the Eisenhower administration back in effect for personal income tax.  All the dot-com billionairs would still have more money than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes.  But all that money put back into the economy would do the rest of the populace (and the economy) a world of good. 

And while we’re looking at Eisenhower era policies, how about setting the rules back so that companies that plow profits back into the company (instead of into shareholders pockets) don’t have to pay taxes on those profits.  Throw in some verbiage about domestic vs foreign assets and a lot of those jobs lost to overseas sweatshops will come back home which means lower unemployment and higher GDP.  

Fix insurance and health care.  Yes, I mean Socialized Medicine and Universal Healthcare.  No, I don’t mean turning us all into good little communists.  So first off, stop conflating Socialized Medicine with Socialism and Communism.  We already live in a Social Democracy.  We have public libraries, roads, schools, fire departments, colleges, universities, police departments, military, welfare, unemployment and more, all funded by public funds.  Funding Universal Healthcare won’t change who we are as a nation anymore than funding public schools did.

In all honesty, I feel I should point out that a healthy populace where everyone has the health care they need actually will change us.  For one thing, it will save us an estimated $99 Billion dollars each year…and since that estimate is from 2001 I’m going to guess that the number is a bit higher now.  Plus, wouldn’t everyone sleep better if they knew that no one would die because they had to choose between buying food or buying insulin?

Some of the costs for Universal Healthcare could be taken care of with a couple of simple policy changes.  Just as an example, let Medicare/Medicaid negotiate for drug prices.  That’s just sound capitalism.  If the government told private industry that they couldn’t use competitive bidding for their purchases, how long until the entire economy collapsed.  The entire government already uses competitive bidding.  Why can’t Medicare?  And please do not give me an answer that boils down to, “Because big Pharma would lose a buck”.

Most of what I’ve said up to now had been aimed at Congress.  But I don’t want this to be one-sided so I have some suggestions for the President, too. 

Don’t govern by fiat Executive Order.  Yes, I know that they’ve been around since George Washington and yes, I know that sometimes they’re necessary.  But Executive Orders are NOT laws.  They’re not permanent.  We’ve just had four years of Trump reversing Executive Orders enacted by Obama.  And you’ve already said that you’re going to reverse some (all?) of Trump’s.  Just remember that whoever comes after you is likely to reverse yours.

Instead, why not work for bipartisan solutions that will have backing from both parties to put permanent changes into effect.  Since Vice President Harris is the swing vote in Congress, this should be easier for you than it was for President Obama.  Of course, this will require bipartisan cooperation from Congress so it’s not all on you.

Install Department and Agency Heads that actually know how to do the job.  And avoid anyone with industry ties that will lead them to make policy benefiting business at the expense of the citizens.  I’ll point out the recent heads of Education and Communications as the type of candidate to avoid.

And don’t skip a good candidate just because they are from the opposing party.  If the best candidate for a given post is Republican, show some of that bipartisanship I mentioned earlier and give them the job.

Continue to diversify the government.  Your choice of Vice President Harris as your running mate is an encouraging first step.  And your choices for some of your cabinet would indicate that this is your policy and not just paying lip service. Keep up the good work.  But try to get more young people involved in your administration.  Frankly, I’m sick and tired of seeing nothing but a bunch of old white guys in government…and I’m an old white guy.

Final thoughts

Who am I kidding.  These aren’t my final thoughts on this subject.  I’ve had four long years to think about this plus I can armchair quarterback our government as well as any American.  So I’ll  probably circle back around to this at some point.  That’s for later, though.  For now, I’ve rambled enough.  But I will be watching and hoping…and expecting our President, Vice President and Congress to do everything they can to live up to their oaths.  They have a responsibility to US…and to the U.S.  And we have a responsibility to make sure they do their jobs.

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