In a nonstop post-election rush (hoping to get all this off my chest before ideas completely calcify in Washington), I have been posting a series of proposals and concepts that may be worth implementing because they -
(1) are good for the nation,
(2) are good for the people who chose a new majority party,
(3) keep faith with the spirit of a better 21st Century.
Alas, with Democrats in the Senate well-short of a 60-vote moderate cloture-majority -- and presidential vetoes almost certain -- it seemed prudent to divide my suggestions into three groups.
Actions that Congress can accomplish, even without passing a law.
Simple bills that the GOP and Bush might have to let pass, or else suffer mortal political wounds
Ambitious legislation that the new majorities should try-for... even knowing that passage must await the next president and Congress, in 2009.
All right then. Time for category three.
* THE SECURITY FOR AMERICA ACT will ensure that top priority goes to America's military and security readiness, especially our nation's ability to respond to a wide range of unexpected threats, including natural disasters, surprise attacks or other emergencies.
Reversing a trend that has demolished readiness down to Pearl Harbor levels, our military and other reserves will be augmented and modernized, with emphasis on both agile preparediness and opportunities for enhanced citizen involvement.
When ordering a discretionary foreign intervention, the President must report probable effects on readiness, as well as the purposes and likely duration of the intervention. If those purposes change, the President must state the reasons in clear writing.
Without impeding in the President’s powers as Commander-in-Chief of active-duty military units, this law requires that no reserve unit shall be sent overseas without submitting to Congress for a certified state of urgency. This certification must be renewed at six month intervals. If at any point this state of emergency expires, reserve units shall return to their states within a month, to resume training and preparation for future emergencies.
Furthermore, members of the active duty Officer Corps and non-commissioned officers shall be regularly consulted by an ombudsman’s office, reporting confidentially to Congress on the morale of troops and their level of confidence in their political leaders, as well as contemplating suggestions that are offered, confidentially and respectfully, by skilled professionals.
Keeping with longstanding American tradition, in which past generations of the wealthy always willingly helped pay for urgent wars that must be fought by other peoples sons and daughters, an automatic surtax shall set in, one year after any foreign intervention is ordered by the President, without declaration of war. This surtax will apply to the top 10% of tax brackets, and remain in effect until the previous year’s intervention costs are paid for.
The Commander-in-Chief may not suspend any American law, or the rights of American citizens, without submitting the temporary suspension to Congress for approval in closed session, and setting a clear time limit.
(Comment: Difficult to get past presidential veto? Sure. But, parts of this bill might prove possible, even now. The rest can at least get put on the record. At least it would highlight the fact that reserves are supposed to be mostly held in... reserve! In case of the unexpected. Also we be seen reaching out to the long-suffering men and women in our active-duty and reserve forces...)
* THE SUSTAINABILITY ACT will make it America's priority to pioneer technological paths toward energy independence, emphasizing economic health that also conserves both national and world resources.
Ambitious efficiency and conservation standards may be accompanied by compromise free market solutions, with the goal of achieving more with less, while safeguarding the planet for our children.
Yes, this topic is already on the table... and obvious to any sane and/or patriotic American. Alas, nowadays, when the real rulers want high oil prices and a nation of feulish addicts, it will take more electoral revolutions in order to see much progress made in this area.
* THE TAX REFORM ACT will simplify the tax code, while ensuring that everybody pays their fair share. Floors for the Inheritance Tax and Alternative Tax will be raised to ensure they only affect the most wealthy. And the wealthy will be asked to pay to help defend a civilization that defends their privileges.
Again, much of this is already on the table... and only snippets stand a chance of passage or surviving veto. The neo-feudalists hope that they can retake Congress in 2008 in order to make their ripoff cuts permanent. We need to look long term. As they clearly do.
*THE AMERICAN EXCELLENCE ACT will provide incentives for American students to excel at a range of important fields. This nation must especially maintain its leadership, by training more experts and innovators in science and technology. Education must be a tool to help millions of students and adults adapt, to achieve and keep high-paying 21st Century jobs.
Here is an area where standard politics does not make any sense at all. Obviously some increased standards and testing were needed, in order to increase accountability. The “right” was right to demand more accountability and the “left” was wrong to resist it. At the same time, “teaching to the test” is poisoning one of the things that American education always did well, encouraging vivid creativity at the level of individual students, teachers and classrooms.
We need more experiments and less dogma.
*THE MEDIA FAIRNESS ACT will restore the Fairness Doctrine - or antitrust rules that forbid a given media organization from controlling more than 30% or so of its market. Other measures will help correct a drift toward dogmatism in “news.”
They will fight this, tooth and nail, of course. It goes to the very roots of their power. Don’t bet on even a smidgen surviving vetoes.
A HEALTHY CHILDREN ACT. The blatant blunder of the early Clinton Administration was attempting to create a vast bureaucracy in order to solve health insurance all at once. This paved the way for Newt Gingrich’s first wave of neocons to take over Congress in 1994, which opened the door for worse monsters, later on.
In contrast, if they had simply done it incrementally, by saying “let’s insure all children, first,” who would have dared to say no? Not a majority of Americans! Citizens who have time and again proved much more willing to think “socialistically” (e.g. public schools) when it comes to kids than regarding adults. (In the frontier tradition, grownups should fend for themselves, and never whine about it.)
Yes, this too is at last “on the table.” Howard Dean spoke of seeking insurance for “all Americans under age 25.” Even if it’s 18 years at cutoff, the effects would be remarkable ... and probably insanely popular. Even though actual passage would have to wait till 2009.
And at last I am done...
... well, almost. Obviously, there are lots of areas where I haven’t opined. Like raising the minimum wage (obvious) or trade policy (unbelievably complex) or immigration policy (too emotional for anyone to even begin to be rational.) Hey, there are limits, even for me.
Was it arrogant of me to offer this shopping list -- my own set of wishes for a new and better era?
Sure! But that’s citizenship, for you. And the more of it, the better! As one of those who can claim to have “foreseen” the Web and the blogosphere and all the new media, all I can say is “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Most of my suggestions are aimed at enhancing this trend toward vibrant participatory democracy and unleashed citizen sovereignty. That one common theme may be one that I beat too hard, like a tired drum. But I think a case can be made that it is our only realistic hope. And, maybe, it will get me forgiven for “arrogance”, after all.
Next time I will follow up with some proposals and warnings that come under the category of general political advice. Notions having more to do with Big Mistakes that we have made that have less to do with law and policy, and more to do with bad 20th Century habits.
Bad habits we should shrug off and leave behind..
==Return to Part 1 of this series