06 November 2008

VCBC's Political Platform

A Work in Progress
2004, revised 2008

It is not enough to criticize Republicans (the party of rural districts) and Democrats (the party of urban districts). One must offer a positive agenda. I steal from both camps to gather the planks our DogPAC Political Platform, which I offer to any party that has the imagination to take them on.

Abortion. Write and pass a law providing limited use of abortion similar to the provisions of the Roe v Wade decision. This would move abortion out of the realm of mere judicial opinion, and free up the minds of Congress, the President, and the public to examine other criteria in the appointment of federal judges.

Affirmative Action. Bring it back, but base it on socio-economic class rather than race. This makes it fair, broadens its base of support, and plays to the American spirit of wanting to give the poor of any race, both native-born and immigrant, a leg-up into the middle class. To the extent that it works, it will also help poor people "buy into" middle-class American values.

Balanced Budget. Establish a feedback system for Congress and the White House in which the elected officials and their staffs forgo their pay when appropriations bills are late, and get pay cuts or bonuses depending on whether the federal budget shows a deficit or a surplus.

Bi-lingual Education. Bring it back, too, but stand it on its head. Require that every school-child demonstrate competency in at least two living natural spoken languages, one of which must be English, in order to advance beyond 6th grade. (If an immigrant kid is older than 6th grade, require that he or she demonstrate competency in English to advance beyond whatever grade he or she is in.) Use English-Immersion to teach immigrant kids (because it works best with most kids), with English-as-a-Second-Language classes available for those who want it. This will make America more immigrant-friendly: if you need a translator, just ask a kid. It will also make America more cosmopolitan — our whole population will be able to listen to and read non-English news broadcasts. We will also gain a broader class of international business people, and more people to work in foreign intelligence and defense for national security.

Defense. We need to execute the next revolution in military affairs — we need to build Thomas Barnett's "sysadmin" force that can move in and run a country after our Rumsfeldian fast strike force has knocked down its military and government. And we need to augment that force with a policy change — leave as many employees and administrators of the old system in place as possible, and supervise their training of replacements for the people that can't be left in place. We also need to change our policy of war and peace: we need to get involved in fewer wars, and to be much more forceful when we do get involved. Ever since WWII the US has fought wars by doing the moral equivalent of punching a man in the face hard enough to knock him down, and then helping him get up and waiting around until he hits us back. We need to do the equivalent of stepping on his neck, and then telling him to do what we say. This will be expensive, because we will have to invest in people - both in terms of a larger military and in terms of paying the locals until their tax base can support them.

Energy and Environment. Create a long-term bipartisan energy policy that provides progressively more energy for more Americans with fewer environmental consequences. Part of this means an all-out effort to solve two problems: the efficient conversion of sunlight to electricity, and the efficient, safe, and economical storage of hydrogen as a pollution-free fuel to power cars. How to distribute hydrogen? Don't! Distribute electricity generated from nuclear and solar power and use it to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen at the pump. That way we can cut pollution, decrease the human contribution to global climate change, and get the price of oil to fall — and as the price of oil goes down, the level of freedom in the Arab world will go up (because the governments there will have to turn to their populaces for money), which in turn will improve the quality of Islam and the peace of the world.

Free Trade. US jobs go overseas not because US wages are too high, but because non-US wages are too low. The American Labor Movement needs to internationalize itself and organize labor worldwide. The US government may be able to smooth the way a little, but the drive must come from labor itself.

Health care. Streamline the laws, regulations and procedures in order to reduce the administrative overhead costs of health care, and to reduce the time and cost of the process to develop, approve and distribute new medications. We need to develop a free market in health care by making most health-care outcome statistics (by facility, by practitioner) easily accessible public knowledge. We also need to develop an "assigned risk pool" in which all health-care insurers must participate in order to do business in this country. And yes, it needs to cover the cost of health care and mental health care for the indigent, the working poor, and aliens, legal and otherwise. It's just bad public health policy to let groups of people be sick — i.e., reservoirs for emerging diseases. We should also develop a list of diseases endemic to the developing world, that major pharmaceutical companies must work to cure or prevent, in order to participate in the US market, and encourage all other countries to do the same. Also, a technical detail: we need to develop a uniform electronic medical care record that will follow a person anywhere in the world.

Homeland Security. Let's encourage cities to figure out how to help neighborhoods defend themselves (with the aid of the police and other departments) and use federal funds to propagate the successful models (community policing, Neighborhood Watch, etc.). Let us reinforce the practice of busting local criminals on local charges who may be involved in supporting or committing terrorism. We also need to leverage work to reduce the consequences of natural disasters (epidemics, etc.) to "shrink the targets" we present to international terrorists.

Homelessness. Put more money and people into setting up and running group homes with psychiatric and social services. This is what we said we would do in the 1950s when we began shutting down large state-run mental institutions. We did not follow through. The result was a surge in both the homeless and the prison populations. Of course we would need to require that residents get and stay clean of drugs and alcohol.

Illegal Drugs. Legalize them just like we legalized alcohol, in order to drain the profit out of the drug trade. But create a "bottom tier" of health care for people who are addicted to them. This would emphasize drug and alcohol rehab and palliative care, the goal being to minimize the lifetime cost of care.

Immigration. We need to work with the government of Mexico to create a special status that recognizes and helps the population that washes back and forth across the US-Mexico border. We also need to work with US and Mexican employment agencies to arrange transportation, housing and employment for temporary (or guest) workers. That way the employment agencies pocket the money that currently goes to criminal organizations that smuggle people into the US. In other words, we should try to regulate the flow of immigration, which could be profitable for all concerned, rather than to stop it, which could be both costly and impossible.

Nuclear Weapons. We need to recognize that the abolition of nuclear weapons will not make peace, rather, making peace will lead to the abolition of nuclear weapons. To test this proposition, let's start by working to end the decades old state of war on the Korean peninsula. And until there is peace on earth, let us commit to keeping the US nuclear arsenal safe, secure, and sustainable.

Space. Return the US space program to exploring our solar system using robots and space-based robotic telescopes. Redirect the manned space program to spend most of its efort developing (both internally at NASA and externally by means of grants and competitions) a way to get humans safely to Low Earth Orbit and back to the ground for less than $100 US per pound of body weight. This would re-vitalize space science, spur developments in robotics, and make manned space exploration commercially viable.

Welfare to Work. Its a great idea for many people, but let's streamline it so that it gets people on their economic feet without wasting their time trying to figure out the bureaucracy. Let's also make sure that the bureaucracy provides "one-stop-shopping" for access to all the support a prospective or beginning wage-earner needs: including but not limited to child and elder care, health care, help with managing and planning finances, arranging transportation, social services, psychological services, marriage counseling, parenting counseling, drug rehabilitation services, etc. Let's remove all disincentives to getting and staying married, while we are at it.

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