I am now throwing my hat into the ring as a self-proclaimed "dark horse" Democratic candidate for President of the United States. I have no "experience," domestically or with regards to foreign relations, but I have a great deal of experience in critical thinking, which seems to be in short supply in the White House these days. Maybe it's time we had another President who comes from so far out of the beltway that he may as well hail from another planet. Someone for whom the common American is the foremost "special interest."
I like to think my view on some issues of the day is slightly skewed from the average, at great odds with the status quo. If I didn't, I wouldn't bother with this at all. But there are matters that I believe need to be addressed and if I'm the only one who'll address them, so be it.
My policy positions are as follows:
The War on Terror: A nation cannot win an ideological war by creating more enemies. We can never kill everyone who would wish to do us harm, all we can do is minimize the damage they can do and negate as much of the threat as we possibly can. It is my contention that attacking the Arab and Persian world in an attempt to rid them of the influences of people like Osama Bin Laden can only ultimately result in failure because our actions only prove to justify their enmity toward us.
To secure ourselves we need to address not only what things there are that make us most vulnerable, but also those things that provoke such a bitterly violent reaction from those who are so apparently ideologically different from us. We need to make reparations for some of the ill we've done, as best we can, and look toward ways of preventing it from being such an issue in the future.
We need to stop propping up tyrannical regimes world-wide, politically and economically. Our reliance on oil has become a great burden on us, and on the rest of the world. Because of this addiction, we've allowed ourselves to become a greedy, grasping giant making deals with some of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the world. It is of great interest to me that nearly ALL the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, a nation in which only a fraction of its people, primarily those in power, profit from our co-dependence.
It has been, in my opinion, a far more effective strategy to treat terrorists as criminals and use our connections in the world-wide police and intelligence communities to hunt them down and prosecute them than it has been to invade two countries and inflict vast amounts of damage on both infrastructure and populace in an effort to "control and contain" terrorists. They are neither controlled nor contained. We simply increase their numbers using this tactic.
After 9/11, there were mass protests all across the Middle East, protesting not the United States, but what had been done to us. THIS, in the long run, would have been to our advantage. Pressing two foreign wars of aggression (and looking seriously at a third) has had quite the opposite effect.
We have allowed our government to take a grave misstep on the international front, and we should act immediately to repair what we can of it. It is as dangerous to American interests abroad to prop up an inept and failed regime as it is to support a tyrannical one such as that of Saddam Hussein, Ferdinand Marcos, or any other tinpot dictator that happens to share one aspect of our ideology. The measure of a tyrannical government is not its ideology, but the treatment of all of its people. Our inability to recognize this fact has been one of our greatest foreign policy failures of the twentieth century, and one we should NOT carry forward into the twenty-first.
International Trade and multinational corporations: It is one thing to license corporations to operate legitimately within our borders, utilizing our resources and labor, and quite another to allow them to set up shop in other countries with our blessings, and act to undercut America's ability to compete on the world market by producing inferior goods for greatly reduced costs and use our economy as a dumping ground for these products with no concern as to how it effects our economy in the long term.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with opening up production centers in other countries in order to produce products to market to those countries themselves. But when they do so with the specific intent of exporting those goods back to America and thus competing with American-made products made by Americans, it strikes to the very heart of our economic stability. Because of these practices, America's primary exports have become cultural, not manufactured goods, and untold numbers of decent-paying American jobs in manufacturing have been lost, doing considerable damage to the sustainability of our middle class.
Not everyone, it seems, can work in the movies. And replacing manufacturing jobs with jobs in the service sector may look good on paper, but it is not a trend that will work well for the greatest number of Americans in the long run. There are those who like to work with their hands, and, in fact, thrive in such an environment. Our trade practices have severely damaged the future of these industries and something has to be done to stop this downward spiral.
As much as they'd hate to admit this, corporations are licensed to provide a public service. They are allowed the right to operate within our borders on the basis that they will serve the public good by providing jobs and thus strengthen our economy. When they take a good part of their manufacturing base overseas and simply use America as a dumping ground for their product, they are, in fact, betraying that public trust.
There are a couple of different ways to deal with this. One is simply to ban importation of goods manufactured by American concerns that compete with products that can be made locally. This is heavy handed and unlikely to work well in the long run. The other is to impose tariffs on goods made by American companies using factories and workers abroad that would be equal to the amount of money they'd have to spend had they manufactured the goods here in the United States. These tariffs would provide a much needed shot in the arm for our flagging economy and would, in fact, be a great boon for our tax base.
We have to realize that large box-store concerns paying cut-rate costs in third world countries and importing their goods here to distribute through large box-stores are costing us on many levels. They drive local business under, steal American jobs, and export staggering sums to offshore accounts rather than reinvesting them in America itself.
Something MUST be done. A balance must be attained that protects not only American workers now, but the American economy over the long term.
Healthcare: One of the highest costs of doing business here in the United States for not only THESE corporations, but the smaller "mom and pop" concerns, is the necessity of providing medical insurance for their employees. An extremely large fraction of the American populace is either un-insured, or under-insured, literally one unexpected medical bill away from a lifetime of debt or bankruptcy. The present healthcare situation in this country serves no one well but the insurance industry itself. The large corporations are not well-served, small business is not well-served, and the American people themselves are not well-served.
This is why it is vital to look toward the creation of a universal single-payer healthcare system here in this country. Though its detractors decry it as "socialism" and say that it will grant the government far too much control over healthcare decisions, this is a deliberate misreprentation by those who are too heavily invested in the current status quo and suffer the least from its lack of viability over the long haul. HMOs and insurance companies already interject themselves into that which should rightfully be between a physician and patient and make medical decisions based upon accounting practices rather than medical necessity.
A single-payer system set up through the government would, like in Canada and most of Europe, simply pay a reasonable rate for the medical care of all American citizens, would actually be ideal. It would then be possible to focus on preventive care and health maintenance rather than emergency care for illnesses and conditions that could be easily prevented or easily treated with early detection. It would require a total shift in focus, but it would be better for the long term health of Americans and the American economy.
Education: As citizens we are confronted with more and more information on a daily basis than any human being has ever known in the history of the world. For many of us, information is available twenty-four hours a day as necessary. The trick, it seems, is separating, as they say, the wheat from the chaff.
Teaching our children with the stated purpose of taking and passing tests is counter-productive to the development of critical thinking skills. Rote memorization of data with no consideration of context is not education. Teaching meaningless facts and figures for regurgitation on command does not teach our children how to make use of that information, where it comes into play in their everyday lives.
Our children should graduate school with the ability to read, examine what they read to determine whether it's logically consistent, do basic mathematics, balance a checkbook, understand interest rates, grasp the fundamental concepts behind not only American history, but world history, operate modern computing equipment, and SEEK out desired information in any number of formats. They should know how to use a library, understand public health hazards such as STDs and sources of food poisoning, and recognize how our political system works. They should be able to grasp basic scientific principles and understand the difference between fact and entertainment.
OUR SCHOOLS ARE NOT DOING THIS.
We need to design and implement an effective system for teaching these things.
Immigration: America has been held up to the rest of the world as a beacon of opportunity for at least as long as the oldest living human has been alive. It should come as no surprise that citizens of our economically disadvantaged neighbors are trying to flee, legally or illegally, into the arms of this "land of opportunity."
The source of this problem is multi-leveled. On one hand you have a nation controlled by a handful of families, rife with government corruption, and exploited by multi-national corporations for cheap labor and basically useless environmental regulation. The average person gains very little at all by way of this arrangement, but the oligarchs and the influential gain much.
They flee to America, often risking their lives in doing so, in the hope that they can build a life for themselves and their families that offer hope for the future. When they arrive, they are given work, even undocumented as they may be, often by the same multi-nationals that are exploiting their homeland. If they are caught by the authorities, they are often deported, but very little is done to punish their employers for exploiting this opportunity to circumvent the labor laws of this country.
The key to solving this dilemma, in my opinion, is not in building a wall between us and Mexico, but in actively investing in Mexico to help create opportunities there that currently do not exist. It may mean negotiating with city or provincial governments to establish a low-corruption area in which long term opportunities may be created that improve the day to day lives of the local people. It means taking away as much of the benefits of overt exploitation on the part of the multi-nationals in order to create a more sustainable future for Mexican citizens.
The way to prevent, or at least curtail, illegal immigration is by making Mexico a better place to live and work, and by punishing those who would exploit illegal immigrants here in the United States.
Corruption in government: Public financing of elections, to avoid quid-pro-quo arrangements with powerful lobbying interests, is a must. As long as we allow campaign contributions to be a factor, and make the size of the campaign coffer one of the most important factors in any political race, we're simply handing off the whole thing to the monied interest and making corruption an unavoidable fact of political life.
I'm not willing to do that. Are you?
The Drug War: In view of the incredible amount of wasted money in lives in this debacle they call the "War On Drugs" I hereby recommend a completely new approach. Harm reduction. We currently incarcerate a larger portion of our population than any other nation on Earth and this practice has done NOTHING to curtail the drug trade. We can't, in truth, even keep drugs out of our prisons. The drug war has made it so lucrative to sell drugs that there isn't a single geographic area in our country that hasn't been infected by this problem.
And there's literally no way to win. Incarcerating dealers only opens up a spot for someone else to take their place in the supply chain. Going after users doesn't seem to work any better. Drug use statistics may waver, but they've stayed pretty much in the same general region since the Drug War began.
We should start by simply legalizing marijauna. Despite the rhetoric of the drug war crowd, there is simply no evidence that it's anywhere near the public health menace they'd like to believe it is. Investigating and prosecuting marijuana cases is an unnecessary drain on public resources. It should be taxed, licensed, packaged, and sold to adults in much the way alcohol is, with similar and stringent punishments for distributing to minors and other, secondary offenses involving the drug. Use of the drug itself should be legal, but only within certain perimeters. Just like alcohol.
The money we save, as well as the tax money garnered from the sale of cannabis products, can be used to step up education as to the dangers of other drugs, and to help fund MEDICAL treatment for those addicted. It has been counter-productive for these past several decades to exaggerate the dangers of cannabis to our children when they could plainly see, for the most part, that what they were being told simply wasn't true. It led them to believe that the dangers of such things as cocaine, meth, and other drugs were similarily exaggerated. To some extent, this may have been the case, but not nearly to the extent that marijuana was exaggerated.
If we lie to our children, how can we expect them to trust us when we DO have dire warnings to impart?
It has also been counter-productive to place non-violent offenders in what amounts to criminal academies. Prisons should, for the most part, be reserved for those who offer a real danger to the community. They should not be used as holding pens for political and ideological undesirables.
The Environment: Our environmental protection laws are a joke. If it costs less for a company to pollute and be fined for doing so than it does to enact legitimate policies to prevent themselves from polluting, what's the point? It's our children, and our children's children, and their children after that who have to continue to breathe the air and drink the water we're contaminating with our chemicals and other pollutants. We're poisoning the air, the water, and even the food we eat and it's all in the name of short term profit.
The vast majority of scientists agree that global climate change is a fact and it's imperative that we do something to at least slow down this change that we are undoubtedly contributing to. The havoc that will be created across the globe if we do not will place a burden on our progeny that we can scarcely imagine.
Environmental protection begins now, and it begins with all of us.
Technology, energy policy, and space exploration: If we have one, humanity's future is OUT THERE. Most of the resources we have dangerously depleted here on Earth are available in space, many of them within our own solar system, and if we are to survive as a species, it is imperative we go out there and GET THEM. Not only can we replace some of what we've lost here on Earth, we can also manufacture materials in space that are impossible here within the gravity well of our planet. This is why I'm calling for special funding for both space exploration and alternative energy. These are the two things I believe are necessary for the continuation of the human species, and the restoration of much of what the Earth has lost during our admittedly inept stewardship.
It would be my intention to subsidize both the exploration of new sources of energy, as well as new storage devices for generated energy, AND industrial exploration and exploitation of space. We need people out there willing to take risks for the long term benefit of us all. And, as much as I hate to say it, that means private industry.
I believe it's our only long-term hope of survival.
At least I know my Mother-In-Law would vote for me. How many of YOU can say that?Sure, some of my stances might be a little kooky, but, well, I can say they're no kookier than some. And I'll debate anyone, anywhere. Why the hell not? What have we got to lose, right?