I'm Ben Turner. If I ran for office, this would be the basis for my platform. This is how I want to make our country happier, simpler, prouder, more efficient, logical. And thusly more productive, more powerful, more flexible towards the next grand challenges.
I don't know all the answers, obviously, and with good statistical data or new side-effects discovered from policies, I could switch my stance. I do want to be transparent. As an example, read the first version of this page, written many years ago, containing some pretty bone-headed ideas. I'm sure some of my prescriptions are still pretty bone-headed, I admit.
My core concern is that America is not capable of changing and re-inventing itself in order to keep up with modern challenges. I have faith in the American character and tradition, so I'm not worried the way many traditionalists or constitutionalists are. What I worry about is imbalance between the government, the people, and the market. Currently the imbalance is government-endorsed corporate dominance with little public/citizen involvement. At other times, the imbalance may fall towards the government too much and everywhere else not enough. The point is that, all the hyperbole aside, corporate influence does distort government decision-making away from benefit to the public, such that banks fare well after a banking crisis, national security contractors benefit from stirring up security paranoia, and energy companies dissuade shifts to alternative energies.
In other words, while some people are successful as a result, many others are not. Status quo is continued at any cost, in order to benefit a few. This does not seem to me to be capitalism, or a free market, or a trait of the best country on earth (American exceptionalism). Maintaining the status quo is not pursuing objective truth through scientific reasoning. It's pure power and money. Which was what our Constitution was meant to protect against.
Here are some basic tenets of my platform.
The Internet is good.
Fair markets are good.
But pure profits are also good.
Life learning is good.
Cosmopolitanism is good.
Community is good.
Progressivism is good.
Government as an incubator is good.
Government protection of peoples' rights is good.
Rule by and for the people is good.
Eudaimonism is good.
Multi-culturalism is good.
But naturalization is also good.
Transparency is good.
Re-affirm the invulnerability of the Constitution's and Rights Bill's visions. The Bush Administration has neutered habeas corpus, freedom of the press, criminal justice, the right to privacy, the right to happiness. These ideals should be sacrosanct and untouchable. We cannot lead the world by example if we are hypocritical in our actions. We cannot fight on terrorists' terms -- we should be morally incorruptible, even if it means we do things like obey Geneva Conventions that many believe don't apply to enemy combatants. It is the principle of being just, not the technicalities of law or the savagery of war, that is important.
I do believe in cutting down waste, increasing efficiency. I believe government-funded projects are best utilized when building infrastructure for other organizations to put to good use, or when used to directly help the people. Government subsidies for uncompetitive markets are a waste. Protectionism is a waste. I see the government as making sure the tools for success are available, incubating small business and innovation. Tax credits encourage development. Government program costs I want are off-set by cutting down on wasteful, unproductive allocations of money. If run efficiently, with plenty of government investment in the right areas, I believe the budget can still be dramatically reduced or be made more efficient. At the very least, money can be re-prioritized towards a constructive future instead of plugging up the dam's holes with our fingers. I do believe that reducing social benefits is not a good way to reduce waste, nor does it actually reduce any deficits that much. Human capital is not 100% quantifiable or qualifiable yet. There are larger, non-dangerous areas of waste to attack (transaction costs of paperwork, non-competitive bidding for security projects, etc.).
Gradually increase taxes on gasoline while increase funding for alternate sources of energy. Gasoline symbolizes reliance on the past, on countries who send people to kill Americans, on pollution, on unchecked consumption. We need more diverse sources of energy, to remain flexible and powerful for the rest of the century.
Next-generation solar energy should be the U.S.'s national project. Oil and petroleum dominate not only the American way of life but international affairs in general. America's rise to power through Saudi oil, taking the throne from England, led to cheap food, cheap oil, unholy alliances with Sunni kingdoms who finance our most-hated opponents, etc. A grand project involving private companies, NASA, the Department of Energy, etc. would give the country a common purpose, to figure out human civilization's latest challenge, its dependence on limited resources for continued survival. It is the new Moon landing. We do not want to lose to China on this one, in the same way that Sputnik lit our asses on fire.
Solar energy on a far more productive scale would change many things: it would radically change power source availability from a centralized one to massively decentralized individual homes and communities. This may bring with it some security dangers. It would reduce the American need to remain affiliated with petro-states such as Saudi. Open sourcing the technology would reduce Eastern European (among others) reliance on Russian natural gas and oil. Pollution would be something to be attacked in a unified public policy way, instead of how it is now, with greenies fighting against oil lobbies incessantly.
Why would America, the country of ideals, hope, and grand ideas, not try to pursue an infinite energy source that could potentially reduce conflicts, improve international relations, and unlock innovation by freeing us from energy constraints and costs?
Pre-fab, green-design housing. Thermal water-piping to control floor and wall temperatures. White paint on roofs or solar paneling on parking garages and all bare surfaces. Combinations of different technologies to reduce energy footprints and reduce carbon-based energy usage. Federal buildings should be at the fore of architectural design, not only to provide a Roman sense of awe in design but also to show the way of the future: solar panels atop otherwise useless building roofs, thermal climate control using running water in walls, CFLs for light, chemical urine traps instead of flushing systems, et cetera.
Tax credits and other incentives would be put in place to further the switch from an oil-based economy to one drawing its power from multiple sources.
To fill the vacuum for countries whose whole economies are based upon exporting oil, programs to diversify their economies must be emplaced as a foreign policy and economic priority.
Mexico is America's geographical Achilles' heel. A long, geographically insecure border means that US demand for narcotics, slave labor, and illegal labor as well as the promise of American money and society for people trying to flee their previous lives, will continue to destablize the southwestern border of America's otherwise rock-solid geopolitical position.
The War on Drugs managed to temporarily relieve Colombia and re-route smuggling routes away from the Caribbean, but that led to a massive push of drugs through Mexico as Mexican drug-trafficking organizations took over not only the risk but eventually the product from the Central and South Americas. It has gotten so out of control now that not only the fabric of Mexican society is being ripped out, but also DTOs are expanding south into Guatemala, while Colombia is experiencing setbacks and massive drug corruption is beginning to be detected in Africa as DTOs seek new customers. DTOs have infiltrated major hub cities within the US as well.
I would venture to say that DTOs are the biggest blind side to American national priorities right now. While the US has ramped up its intelligence and direct action against DTOs, American society has very little clue about the degree of violence in Mexico, which is being called the first 21st century war, as bodies are being beheaded, dismembered, hung on bridges, sewn into soccer balls, put on display in public places along with narcomessages threatening opponents and YouTube videos taunting the enemy.
- Fully legalize marijuana, cocaine, designer drugs for consumption and distribution, but regulate and license sellers. Heroin as an addictive drug should remain illegal.
- Construct multi-tiered border wall defense, reinforced with UAVs, sensors, patrols, etc. But along with this, immigration must be opened to more people, allowing legal, verified entrance into the country. (see section on immigration)
- Provide needle exchanges, resources and centers for drug addiction rehab.
The effects of these solutions are force multipliers. Legalizing non-addictive narcotics will reduce the strain on jail populations and on police, while stopping more people from being doomed to prison life, where people often end up worse when they get out than when they went in. A stronger border defense increases accountability for people within the US, preventing illegal immigration, terrorists, and unknown border-crossing activity. Relaxed immigration will bring in more workers and more future American generations to provide economic growth and cultural diversity. Support programs would include treatment programs for addicts and those injured by drug use, while Americanization programs (English language, American systems, culturalization) would be used to welcome new immigrants and send them on the path to the American Dream.
International Strategy & Role.
The US has become wedded to its allies such that its allies have boxed it in. The US, if it wishes to provide a public good of international security, cannot allow itself to be boxed in. The US should interfere less with land occupation and disputes and take more to the seas, outer space, and the internet. The US's open seas navy is the most powerful in the world, giving it the ability to set up operations anywhere in the world for overflight, surveillance, fire support, or humanitarian missions. US naval capability allows it to extend the range of its other military branches. The open seas provide security without insurgency and minimizing issues of territory and sovereignty.
US intelligence, warfare, and logistics are heavily dependent on satellite support. The US should improve outer space satellite capability and defense. A US military without eyes and ears in the skies is a significantly weaker one.
Government handling of the internet has been hamfisted at best, handing the reins over to the NSA, which will always default towards more secrecy, less freedom of expression, and less privacy for American citizens. Meanwhile the US government is still a highly-valuable target of hacker attacks. There is no excuse for a knowledge-based economy and information-reliant country to have an outdated internet capability. The US, as an open government, should seek to improve resiliency and redundancy of internet architecture, instead of solely seeking more control over the internet.
Terrorism & the Middle East.
The US is friendly towards Sunni states which are home to the radical terrorists whom it fears. The US is hostile towards Iran, a Shi'ite country and former republic which in many ways identifies with the American way of life. This is a holdover from the emotions of the hostage crisis and attempts to deter Iran from gaining nuclear capability, which it sees as its only chip at the international table after decades of sanctions placed upon it.
Meanwhile the Palestinian issue turned mid-20th century Middle Eastern respect for the US into seething, self-destructive hate for the US.
Personally I don't think Israel provides much of a service to the US these days. It's far more of a liability. In the past, the US could at least use Israel to do its dirty work for it. Israel is a nation capable of taking care of itself, as it has proven many times in its short existence. US disengagement from Israel as an ally would improve its credibility within a skeptical Muslim world, which is the key towards reducing terroristic attacks against the west, as radicals see western encroachment upon Muslim culture in any American involvement in Muslim nations. What if we dealt more with Turkey and Iran to provide examples for a way out of the fear and humiliation within the Middle East? Peace will not come out of the Gulf states, despite their attempts to break the stereotype of the anti-American Muslim nation.
Saudi as a key ally to the US definitely needs to go by the wayside.
Could the US disengage from Israeli support and instead help to send in UN peacekeepers to establish security in the Palestine and Israel?
I would rank solving the Palestinian question up there along with Mexico security and energy innovation as our key requirements for national security right now. Solving any of these problems would extend force multiplier effects throughout the American economy, the international system, and American credibility abroad toward solving future problems.
The Interstate Highway program led to fast food, improved logistics, more commerce, more connectivity. The US's infrastructure is crumbling and is costly to maintain. It's time to build out a new infrastructure; construction is a sure way to create economic growth.
For one, the way of the car is on the decline. High-speed rail can be a reality. It already works great in the northeast, riding Amtrak between the great cities that make up the northeastern corridor cluster.
According to an article in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Bleha, the United States is the only industrialized
nation without an explicit promotion of broadband. 80% of Japan has access to ultrafast
Internet (100mb/s), and access to 26mb/s for around $22/month, whereas American providers
quibble over 1.5-3mb/s for $45-50/month. We have been squarely trounced in this arena.
The federal government should finance a large program for national wireless infrastructure. While a program to lay pipe across the entire country would not be cost effective for rural areas, improved wireless range and speeds could be the answer. LTE, WiMAX, etc. are the first generation of wireless to make regional/local wireless practical. The government could continue to upgrade the wireless without having to lay more pipe, by just upgrading its wireless hubs. While the government's internet would be tightly-controlled, it would provide basic internet access to devices, travelers, and stopgaps for when people are between their fat home internet pipes and their work sites. The US should be advancing any technology or infrastructure that reinforces the American innovation and knowledge economy.
The effect this would have on commerce, communication, emergency channels, education, and
progress would be immeasurable. People of all economic classes would have access to
unlimited, omnipresent Internet. Channels could be standardized, reducing conflicts and
signal noise. An always-on culture would spark ingenuity and creativity in all realms of
industry: household appliances could interact with the producer directly, entertainment
would be more of a social gathering, people would be able to find information faster. As
in Neal Stephenson's Metaverse, a parallel, massively profitable world would spring from
no where. Other nations would marvel at the U.S.'s advanced communications.
After the interstate highway program came the golden age of fast food burger chains,
built along the new highways to feed hungry travelers, mainly in California. Shipping,
trade, and logistics easily transported goods to feed a booming economy. Imagine that now
on the Internet, the cornerstone of the Information Age.
I do believe the federal government should endorse the hourglass shape of internet architecture. Thin internet protocols, thick client and server ends. This also includes discussion of net neutrality. While I do think telcos do have some claim on the pipes they build, this should also mean they can't contest competitors laying pipe in the same area, the federal government building out national pipe, and the growth of wireless providers. Currently the telcos want to control their pipes AND lock out competition, which does not benefit any sector of American society except for the incumbent telco. Un-American.
The US should adopt an immigrant-friendly policy. While I propose stricter border entry, I think it will only work if the floodgates are opened and far more people are welcomed into the US annually. Not only should H1B Visas be issued on a grander scale, but I agree with the common refrain that every PhD (and maybe Master's) should come with a Visa.
I also think that to some degree, service should bring a higher degree of citizenship. The most obvious form is to reward not just military service with citizenship but also other forms of service like civic duty positions, Peace Corps, etc. This might be too much -- at the least, our government representatives should be required to have served in one of these posts. Chickenhawks with multiple deferments/slips from home to get out of military service, and then sending children to war should not be allowed. Not from leaders.
I do believe that having a volunteer military shifts responsibility away from the citizenry as it is not being held accountable for letting its leaders take the nation to war. There should be no exceptions for service in a time of war. No age, gender, education restrictions. If we can spare bodies, then maybe we shouldn't have gone to war.
Web applications and Internet accessibility are still being improved, but they have reached a level where online voting is feasible if taken out of the hands of incompetent contractors. Online commerce thrives and people insist that voting online is impossible. What if people could log in to their page and see all the districts', state's, and federal government's candidates that they're eligible to vote for? What if people could vote in online referenda for any issue? This would bring in an element of a direct democracy. It would also be possible to bring voters closer to their representatives and to awareness of more sides of political issues, using this system.
At the very least, voting system contracts should be removed from companies who refuse to fully disclose the internals of their products, to avoid the Diebold debacles in Florida and Ohio. The 2008 election is using the same broken Diebold machines as it was in 2004. WHY? A system should have an easy-to-understand interface, a link to the Internet for peer review and faster vote-counting, and a hard-copy tabulation for representatives of different parties or organizations for confirmation. Are you telling me that we can't figure out a secure voting system yet trillions of dollars are traded online every day without a blip?
No brainer. All men are created equal. Equal rights for civic institutions (including marriage), equal protections from hate and discrimination. Gays should be fully allowed into the military, not just having Don't Ask Don't Tell repealed.
Illegal immigrants providing labor for the American economy? The labor is great, and having more hard-working Americans is great, so streamline the process to add them, or remove the roadblocks towards them entering for work. Either way, preventing them from entering is 1) already proven impossible and 2) hurting employers and the base of people who want to work and make money in the US.
Freedom of expression online should be updated and protected, particularly in a way to protect companies and organizations who host such content. As long as it is not hate speech or inciting violence, as per usual.
The default for information should be open. While there should be copyrights, those copyrights should be flexible (like Creative Commons). While there will be copyrights and private radio spectrum frequencies and owner's rights to distribution, there should also be more public spectrum freed up for public experimentation and innovation, overhauled copyright law to reflect digital and internet transactions (e.g. mashing up music is not copyright infringement as long as credits are given), etc. Patenting human genomes or critical seeds (Monsanto) are at odds with an open government that should be seeking to end human suffering instead of prolonging it through stovepiping intellectual property and protecting patent holders through legal intimidation.
All the different government agencies collect copious amounts of data which are not
linked together or easy to access, as they've been recorded in various formats. An
effort to collate all this data into one system, much like "Snow Crash"'s national intelligence
database, would unlock extremely valuable connections in all sorts of fields because
of the vast increase in readily accessible statistical information.
For America's information economy, it needs a digital infrastructure that can handle the load. Government records are overwhelming the National Archives and all the people who use them (or try to access them via FOIA requests). Medical records are still done by hand, and often lost. Our citizen's records are not unified online, allowing smart, easy, redundant access to our most dearest of identification files. We're lucky to have PDFs of the forms we need to turn in, which take weeks to turn around. We can do better. The federal government should take the lead and standardize digitizing all government processes online.
It'd be even better if the government took the lead in making an open web of linked data, the next generation of the web as proscribed by Sir Timothy Berners-Lee.
The reason Congress is so loathed and so useless is because its incentives are towards re-election and towards pet pork projects.
- Term limits (1? 2?)
- Only public financing
- High salaries for members of Congress
- Mandatory public service
Congressmen are easy victims to lobbying (legal bribery), pandering to constituents, and bandwagoning. Term limits are a pretty normal aspect of democratic systems, stopping individuals or entities from creating entire operations dedicated towards imcumbency and re-election via corruption. Private funding of campaigns has been a recent issue thanks to the Supreme Court, but allowing corporations to finance campaigns as individuals corrupts the role of government in balancing the needs of the public with those of the private and of the state. Financing for campaigns should come from a public and transparent source, to make elections fair for those who aren't millionaires, corrupt, or both.
Finally, higher salaries lessen the need to rely on bribery and lobbying for extra funding, even though this is not foolproof. Neither would be mandatory public service, but seeing how many Congressmen have only sought law degrees, high-paying jobs, and power, we deserve the people we have now. We should at least have Congressmen who have had to offer true sacrifice to our nation instead of calling public office a sacrifice. Public office is not a sacrifice in the United States; it is currently a viable realm for the elite who still want more power and money.
These incentives do not create great leaders or statesmen. Let's reform Congress incentives so that we get leaders the people justifiably respect.
We deserve officials who are informed about and experienced in the world. We should hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. We deserve officials who didn't just major in politics. We deserve officials who are aware of long-term American strategic interests and not just winning the next short-term election with mudslinging ads.
One key notion of a successful democracy is respect for transparency. It's something we clamor for in struggling nations but recent administrations (particularly the Bush one) have shown little respect for it in their own dealings. All government workers are servants of the people, humble and forthcoming when asked by the people to take accountability.
National security and effective operations have been cited as reasons to not disclose information to the people, and indeed much more information has been kept out of public sight or even re-classified in recent years. Scandals have emerged demonstrating a pattern of contempt for public knowledge.
The people deserve to know just about everything, particularly if the material is not immediately time-sensitive. The media plays an important role in this and should be given access without intimidation or blackmail. Government organizations like the Government Accountability Office should be respected. The Freedom of Information Act should be fully carried out, and not be selectively acknowledged when convenient. Requests for information from our government should not be ignored, delayed, partially filled.
I propose increased governmental support for the Government Accountability Office to investigate all levels of federal government and examine what could be cut down or made more efficient. An index of how efficient each arm is would be very useful. The GAO has been a rare beam of light in the darkness as of late -- we should give it credibility and respect and follow its recommendations while preserving its non-partisanship and commitment to public service.
Military Servicemembers' Rights.
You can die for your country but you can't drink until you're 21? Either we lower the
legal drinking age or we make exception for active-service teens if they stay on post
while they drink.
Make sure veterans are integrated back into society; homeless ex-military and high suicide rates indicate failure on our parts.
I used to list "Don't Ask Don't Tell" repeal and GI Bill reforms, but thankfully, both of those have been addressed. :)
Murder, Abortion, Capital Punishment, War.
Let's just get it out there. You can certainly say abortion is murder. Okay? So? Steven D.
Levitt describes in
Freakonomics his highly contentious
claim that the precipitous drop in crime just when experts predicted massive chaos and destruction
was caused by the Roe v. Wade decision; that is, mothers who did not want their children got
abortions, vastly reducing the numbers for the statistically most crime-prone demographic, children
born to broken families with single mothers who could not afford to properly raise them.
Abortion isn't about murder -- the framing of it as such is irresponsible. The basis for the pro-life movement is that those children were innocent and didn't have a choice, whereas criminals who
are executed had a choice. But at the same time, much of the pro-life movement is also pro-war,
and it takes a giant leap of faith to not see that putting soldiers with guns into any
highly-populated area will result in innocent civilians dying.
Murder is a cop-out, an exaggeration, when it comes to abortion. I don't have a problem with
people aborting fetuses they didn't want. That's their choice. As public policy, we should ensure
safety for our citizens as a priority, not try to push moral stances that are highly contested
and always will be. Yes, you may not support abortion. But many do. How do we co-exist?
That we see abortion as murder is arbitrary and illogical in terms of public policy.
And unless you're a pacifist who believes any life taken is bad, then you're not making much sense
Capital punishment is not always bad. But it's mis-used. It should be used as prevention.
Prevention for future crimes. So the test is whether a criminal has repeatedly committed
a crime over several instances. Not only does it self-validate the guilt of the accused,
but it also determines that the accused has pattern-behavior that he can't/won't control.
Therapy has failed by this point. The chance that this person will rape another person,
or commit a more serious crime, becomes rather high.
Thus capital punishment would be just. As it stands now, people are executed for one instance
of violence. They sit in the system for a long time as their guilt is put into question.
Why do prosecutors set the victims' families up like this, and why do they allow a defense
to prolong the process by choosing flimsy cases? Why do judges allow juries to employ this
severe punishment on less definite cases?
I don't have a problem with murdering terrorists either. I joined the Army to hunt them.
I don't have a problem with killing people. But the difference is that I am consistent in
my application of the right to life.
Americans are fat. Americans don't exercise. Americans eat too much. Americans live in community-destroying suburbs and single-passenger car culture. Whatever the cause, we are disgustingly obese and have lost our sense of self-respect. Combining more responsibility from companies for nutrition, adding parks and bike trails and public gyms, and giving people tax credits based on their percentage of fat are ways to curb this burden on the health care system and on our conscience. What message does it send when other countries see so many fat Americans living up to stereotypes?
Transparency as a Cultural Virtue.
The society as described in Bruce Sterling's "The Transparent Society" is a welcome one. People complain about the balance between privacy and security. But why must there be a conflict between the two? Open, transparent societies thrive while closed, controlled ones languish. Just compare the U.S. stock market, where almost everything save for insider trading is public information, to China, where strict limits are placed on daily price movement, transactions, and ownership of businesses.
Mostly this would affect intelligence. Why do we so closely guard our secrets? By
keeping things secretive, we make them valuable. Does it benefit us to keep our methods
secret? A common example is the Administration's giving away of our technical collection
capabilities that allowed bin Laden to get the heads-up that he was being surveilled.
But should we play dumb? Should there not be open safeguards so that innocent people are
not surveilled? Any professional terrorist or intelligence person or notable figure worth
his salt would know to avoid certain things to evade detection. Anyone with any common
sense knows that something sent over the air can be captured.
As for encryption? Of course encryption should remain secure, but it should be open
for scrutiny. Closed encryption systems are less reliable because they depend on
security through obscurity -- the fewer details are released, the less a cracker has to
work with. But open encryption allows for people to try to break the encryption and
then tweaking the algorithms until it's more secure. Secure transmissions are the future
of commerce, communication, all the things that enable trust and therefore prosperity.
The sooner you accept the fact that you already have no privacy, the sooner you'll realize
that what we must do is set up a transparent system where no one has any privacy in terms
of monetary transactions or professional relationships.
Immigration and a Border Wall.
It's worked dramatically in Israel in reducing suicide bombings. Build a great wall along both the Canadian and Mexican borders. Not only is it a step in the right direction towards national security, but it also greatly reduces illegal immigration. I have nothing against people who are willing to risk death to come to the U.S., so registered alien entry and quotas would be made much more lax. I want them all to come here! I see illegal immigration as a sign of the U.S. being a healthy country, that people want to come here. As the land of opportunity for foreigners. I feel it's hypocritical to not allow people to come in yet to employ them to basically support entire industries (like California's agricultural industry). I'm a first-generation American and my family lived the American dream. I want that for everyone. I just want to make the process more legitimate and more accurate, so current illegal immigrants can be accounted for within domestic statistical data.
If we're going to be serious about protecting ourselves, we need to do it right instead
of half-assed policies (no-fly lists that haven't caught anyone) and bloated organizations
(the dreaded TSA) that can't pass basic security tests.
Immigration should be opened up. We should accept "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." In particular we should provide safe haven towards Afghans, Arabs, and Iraqis who have contributed to translating and interpreting in Iraq and Afghanistan with us and are no longer safe in their own countries. Once they come back home after being gone, they are suspected of working with us and are often killed or intimidated. For their service they should be given amnesty in the United States as a reward.
Legalize Prostitution, Soft Drugs, Gambling.
These are massive black markets unaccounted for in the American economy. They will always
exist. Through legalization there can be controls, cheaper products, less foreign influence, and more safety.
It also greatly decreases the burden on the jail system, law enforcement, and societal disconnect with government. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, 12.7% of state inmates are serving time for pot offenses. Billions of dollars are spent in criminal justice costs for pot-related criminal justice costs.
I don't smoke pot or buy hookers but clearly many like to and many will continue to,
because they don't have the same moral agendae as those who oppose them. And should poker
really be illegal online? You can't even play Texas Hold 'Em in Texas, as Kinky Friedman pointed out in his Texas gubernatorial bid.
I understand the arguments for and against the FairTax, but I like the change in thinking it introduces. Instead of taxing income, it taxes consumption. Somewhat like a VAT. It's not a perfect situation, but it does introduce a stronger case for not taxing basic necessities, rewarding education instead of punishing it, promoting stable marriages, etc. There's still a strong case for progressive taxation, as I believe one of the major goals in national public policy is to reduce income inequality to create a strong middle class, and progressive taxation is a solid way to do so.
Whatever the result, the tax code needs to be simplified. Certainly more automated, with your tax records being mailed to you by a central database, requiring you to just correct anything needed, and sign. Too much money is spent just calculating taxes.
The FairTax Book by Neil Boortz
and John Linder explains the FairTax proposal in detail.
Socially Responsible, Yet Competitive Health Care.
Health care is inefficient in the US. Yet if you can afford to pay, you get some of the best care in the world. Unfortunately, many aren't covered because they can't afford it. Isn't there a middle ground?
Basically I see health care as a capital investment. Yes, most of our costs are going to pay for the poor or people below poverty or even the lower middle class. But if we have a healthier workforce, then that workforce will work more productively and earn more money for their families, and in the long run reduce costs all-around.
David Cutler is one person who's working on returning competition to the health care industry, unleashing innovation and basic economics into the ever-expanding health care expenditures in order to bring them down.
Somewhat related is the desire for a revision of the social contract in America to address growing income inequality and a threat of disengagement by the US from globalization. Says a study by the Financial Services Forum, "Among the Proposals: Raise taxes on winners to share benefits of globalization more widely. Replace TAA and unemployment insurance with a big new program for displaced workers that offers wage insurance to ease the pain of taking a lower-paying job. Provide for portable health insurance and retraining. Create a way for communities to ensure their tax base against big factory closures. Eliminate tax hurdles for businesses that do what International Business Machines is proposing: Offer 50 cents for every $1 (up to $1,000 a year) that workers set aside to pay for training."
A Revamped Education Program.
New ideas. Experimental ideas. Why not? What do we have to lose? Literacy rates are
abominable for the United States. Children do not test well. They are being taught but
are not being prepared for joining the work force or living life in general. There are
new programs out there encouraging a more interactive, team/project-oriented curriculum.
There are efforts being made to provide healthy, home-cooked meals to students instead
of junk food diets that students love. (sure, hot meals are available, but students will
take french fries, onion rings, and buy an ice cream as a lunch)
Less reliance on computers. There's no teaching infrastructure to support it. The
computers are wasted. It would be better to have thin clients for students to use
the ubiquitous wireless internet. The internet should be used by schools to reinforce
what is being taught. For instance, by the means of research projects, penpal programs
with those in other countries, online social networks, stock market simulators.
A new emergence of language requirements, both spoken and programming. Students should be fluent in at least three languages by the time they leave high school, most of it being picked up when they're in kindergarten and early grade school. Students fluent in multiple languages in other countries are more likely to contribute globally and have more awareness of the world around them.
Education should be a national virtue. Take China, for example. Education is paramount. It is the way towards individual freedom. The way to honor one's family in China is to achieve much as a student. We must instill a culture of studying and scholastic achievement in our children. Not only that, we must impart upon our schoolchildren a sense of civic duty and responsibility.
When students graduate from high school, there should be more options exposed to them. Traditionally college is the only option, but some aren't ready yet. What if instead of the maligned military recruiters, Peace Corps recruiters also had a chance to enlist students? Expand our programs that not only generate welfare abroad but also enrich and expand our students' understanding of the outside world.
Increased pay for teachers. Salaries are a drop in the bucket compared to the wasted
annual budgets for education. Put money back where it counts: teachers. Make the
teaching profession competitive and offer bonuses and discounts and tax-free status.
Here's my thing about education. I know people who are talented, hard-working, well-connected, all the things people say one needs to be in order to be successful. And these people aren't recognized. I'm sure you know people like this. Their talents are squandered, wasted, sometimes even quashed intentionally. A lot of success comes down to being in the right place at the right time, being able to take an opportunity when it comes, and having the security to weather the bad times. Education is the single biggest thing a society can do to provide this for people. Security, opportunity, flexibility.
Federal Programs for Civic Planning and Public Arts.
A nation-wide program to give cities grand, distinct looks like the glory days of Greece
and Rome. Allow amateurs to beautify public areas, including graffiti artists. More
vegetation, more color, more art, more classic design. American cities should be marvels
of the world that people come to see for a cultural experience, not just for one or two
Suburban sprawl must be stopped. The federal government can provide leadership in regional planning, setting standards for how communities are designed so that suburban sprawl is discouraged instead of tacitly approved of as it is now. Build traditional neighborhoods with mixed-use homes and businesses. Reduce the size of streets, increase urban density. Create lasting, economically valuable communities that people want to live in. Not only will people be able to walk to work and school and the store, but they will also reduce their driving per day. Seeing as car accidents kill far more people than most of the lethal problems we lament about, reducing the need for driving is one quick way to make our country safer.
Let's bring back downtowns that people want to go visit. Let's get rid of barely functional suburbs.
Freedom from Advertising.
In an ideal free market, according to economists, consumers will make the best decision
on what to buy according to their own needs. However, advertising and marketing have
defused that thinking process. What people think they need is shaped almost entirely
by corporate messages. Hence, addiction to shopping, poor self-image, credit card debt.
Companies need to be held accountable for their advertising and marketing. And they
should not be protected by government if they falsely represent their products.
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