A People Before Politics Platform that Makes Sense When Everything Seems Insane
By: Michele Woodward – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
I woke up this morning with the powerful need to write down what I want to happen in our country, politically.
I’m going to share these ideas with you not because I want you to agree with me, but because I want you to consider your own perspective on these issues and come to your own conclusions.
Then, take a hard look at the candidates on your slate next month. Where do they stand on the issue vs. where you stand? If it’s unclear, find a way to ask them.
Then, vote for the people who are closest to your point of view. They may not be 100% in alignment with you – but vote for the one who’s 80% there over the one who’s 10% with you.
I’m going to do these as a series, in no particular order. Ready?
- We need to prioritize repairing the world’s climate. While it’s true that weather goes in cycles, it’s also true that humans have amplified the effect of these cycles by the release of greenhouse gases, deforestation and other activities. The time has come to prioritize saving our climate. It’s more important for the future than any company’s profits or the returns of any shareholders. We must accept the science and then work in a community of nations to address and change the root causes of climate change.
- We need to create a fair and predictable tax system. Currently, Americans are taxed less than other developed nations (http://www.pewresearch.org/…/among-developed-nations-ameri…/). If we had a steady, predictable system then individuals and businesses could plan for the future. I have been told by more than one CFO that they keep higher than desired cash-on-hand just because the tax system is unpredictable and changes so frequently.
If our tax system was more in line with other developed nations, our federal government could operate more effectively and with more efficient technology. We could get better services and better results.
To achieve the end result – more consistent revenue – we need to return the IRS to full staffing and full funding. Conservatives in Congress were miffed when the IRS ruled that some religious and advocacy groups didn’t qualify for non-profit status so they systematically gutted the agency. Results? Fewer audits of sketchy returns and fewer prosecutions of scofflaws. Which effectively makes tax compliance “optional” and contributes to a sense that the rules don’t apply to everyone.
We also need to make filing taxes easier. Every January the IRS should send a statement to all Americans summarizing their earnings, payments and whether a refund is due or payment is owed. If a citizen disagreed, they could file a return by April 15th. But I’ll bet that most folks would happily get their refund and say Hooray. Accountants and Turbo Tax wouldn’t like it, but are we going to let them decide how efficient we can be?
- We need to raise the gas tax, which has not been raised in 15 years so that we can pay for improved infrastructure. Our crumbling bridges, highways and facilities need the injection of cash so we can support businesses and travel. Travel, by the way, generates 2.7 percent of the US GDP. So, improved infrastructure is critical to our economy.
When the gas tax was set in 1993, it was not indexed to inflation – if it were, we’d be paying a little over 32 cents a gallon today. Here’s a handy inflation calculator if you’re interested: https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl
Whenever I drive by the Roosevelt bridge, a major entry and exit point from Washington, DC – a world capital – I see the view in this photo. I can only imagine what international visitors think about us when they see it, too.
- We need to bring up the performance of our public schools, with a special focus on the schools that serve our poorest students. Education is proven to be a ticket out of poverty. Plus, our nation needs skilled and educated workers.
Just as we once decided as a society that students needed more than an 8th-grade education so we made high school compulsory and free, we need to make community college encouraged and free. The people who attend community colleges tend to be strivers who may find their inner scholar in the program. If so, they should be encouraged on to get Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhDs. If they simply seek good, consistent careers, let’s let community colleges help them become certified health care workers, technicians or any of the thousands of roles we need in the future.
Because the people who get Associate’s degrees are often those who can least afford the cost of student loans, the government should forgive all outstanding loans associated with community college. The effect on the economy would be immediate and long-lasting.
We need an educated workforce. We have the means to educate people. Let’s do it.
- We must close the budget deficit and reduce the national debt. People want services from the government, and we have a responsibility to one another to provide for the common welfare as outlined in our Constitution. It must be paid for, and if we address our tax situation (which I mentioned previously) we can eliminate the budget deficit and reduce the national debt.
We are the strongest nation in the world financially. Our dollar is the world’s currency. To protect this position, we must have our nation’s financial house in order. We don’t do this by starving government, or starving our people – we do it by having revenue match outlay.
If we want to question whether the government should be involved in… research and development, for instance, let’s talk about it. There are functions of government, however, which we have agreed upon as a people and if we are to have them, we must pay for them. Not borrow for them.
- The biggest threat to our nation’s security comes from cyber opponents. We need a strong and agile military but rather than recruiting grunts with guns, we need to find nerds with coding skills. Our next battles will be fought more and more virtually, so we need citizens who are prepared to fight that way. See my post about the importance of community college for more on where we’ll get those people.
The promises we’ve made to our military and their families need to be kept. People in uniform need the proper equipment, and they need best-in-class medical care when they are injured or age. Their families need to live on bases with adequate services and good schools. No service member or their family should have to seek food stamps or third jobs to make ends meet.
Our future may be less about warships and armored transports and more about preventing and detecting attacks on our infrastructure. We need to be ready for this and open our minds to the reality of what the future will demand.
- We need to fix our immigration system. Immigrants have made our country strong, diverse and growing. For too long, quotas based more in racial fear than in justice have driven our immigration process. Yes, we need to pave the way for educated, highly skilled immigrants, because we need them. But we also need to pave a way for political refugees and humanitarian refugees, because that’s what America has always done. It’s who we are. Realistic immigration goals by the country must be put in place, without exclusion based on how brown someone’s skin might be.
Immigrants from our southern border come to the US because their home countries are unsafe or are mired in poverty. We could create a humane guest worker program which allowed people to work here and return home to build their communities and countries.
Undocumented immigrants who commit felonies should be deported and not allowed to return to the country. We must create good relationships on either side of the border to quickly and honorably facilitate the transfer of people our courts have found guilty.
- We need to move beyond an employer-sponsored health care system in this country. With fluidity in work, it no longer makes sense for employers to shoulder insurance costs for employees.
The ACA was a good first step toward providing health coverage to people, like me, who are self-employed with pre-existing conditions. The flaws of the ACA are: high premiums, high deductibles and narrow networks.
The government should require that every health insurance provider chartered in the US offers exactly the same plans as federal government employees receive, with the same benefits, networks and deductibles. The premiums could be offset by the government if a person’s income fell below certain levels.
If employers were freed from paying for health insurance for their employees they could contribute per capita to an expanded Medicare-type program or national health service. Other developed nations have figured this out – so can we.
If we don’t address this issue, people will continue to unnecessarily die, go into medical debt and be unable to fill the jobs our nation desperately need in the future.
- Our nation’s natural resources are critical to our future. We need to fully fund, preserve and expand our national parks. Natural wilderness is as important to the kid living in an urban setting as it is to someone living adjacent to a park because green space is our nation’s respiratory system.
When people get out in nature, they are rejuvenated, awed and feel connected to something larger than themselves which is critical to well-being. Plus, our national parks are monuments to the majesty and diversity of our country’s geography.
We must also promote alternative energy sources, conservation and recycling – because when we do, we make it possible to preserve the pristine spaces we have, and make space for ingenuity and innovation.
- We must be an engaged participant in global affairs. We live in a seamlessly global economy and our trade policy and foreign policy must reflect that reality.
We should promote freedom, openness and self-rule across the world, and deal harshly with autocrats and tyrants who mistreat and abuse their own people or our nation. When I say, “deal harshly” I mean through international sanctions, trade limits and targeted military engagements conducted in coalition with our allies.
We are not the world’s police officer. We are, though, a beacon of freedom and hope for people around the world. We need to stand up, to show up, to be that beacon. We do that through strong and solid alliances with like-minded nations, humanitarian aid and encouragement of freedom wherever its light shines in the world.
- Gun violence in America must stop. I support a system by which anyone who owns guns in a certain class – sporting guns, personal protection handguns – must first take a safety class, pass a written and practical test, get insurance and repeat the process every five years, just like we do with automobiles.
The deadliest weapons must be banned.
Weapons seized by law enforcement must be destroyed after the court process is complete.
An education program, like what we’ve done with smoking and drunk driving, needs to be put into place to heighten awareness of the lethal nature of having a weapon.
No other nation in the world has the kind of gun violence we have. It’s within our means to curtail it and even stop it. We should.
- Roe v. Wade is settled law. And it’s a legal precedent which allows maximum flexibility. If you are a woman who’d never seek an abortion, then the law is not applicable to you. If you are a woman who morally, ethically, spiritually knows you need a safe termination of a pregnancy, the law provides for you.
It always makes me chuckle to see folks with “Don’t tread on me” on their license plates and an “Abortion kills” bumper sticker. You want no government restrictions on your rights but you stand ready to abridge the rights of well-meaning people who don’t share your opinion. That is hypocrisy in action, friends.
Your faith tradition may have teaching on abortion, and I so respect that, and you. Forcing all Americans to believe as you do, though, violates the spirit of our democracy.
I am pro-choice because I believe that stance gives the maximum freedom to the people. And I will honor your choice to do as you like, too.
- We must be a nation which ensures the civil rights of all citizens and treats all visitors to this country with courtesy.
That people of color are treated differently in our rich and diverse nation is an abomination. Police must be trained to do better. School administrators must be trained to do better. Bosses and hiring managers must be trained to do better.
We can do better, and we all must. All people, all colors, form the fabric of our nation. And we’re all equal, deserving of respect and inclusion.
Together we make a community. Apart, we will not survive.
Michele Woodward is an executive coach and writer who lives and works in Washington, DC. A self-described “recovering political junkie”, she worked in Presidential politics for a large chunk of her career before regaining her sanity and becoming a coach and consultant. She urges every American to vote in the upcoming elections.
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