Can you see a world where energy usage is taken seriously, where sustainability and ecological impact are considered and where transportation and other energy uses are covered by energy processes that do not adversely affect the environment?
Can you imagine a world where food is safe, where it is responsibily produced so it is as healthy and nutritious as possible?
Can you imagine a world where people are not imprisoned for victimless crimes like smoking marijuana
I can. That's what OpEdNEws.com is all about. If you believe in our work, please support us with a generous contribution to start off the new year.
The question approach used here is inspired by the OpenFocus approach pioneered by my old friend and colleague of 30+ years, Les Fehmi. I recommend his book highly. It's amazing what you can accomplish once you begin imagining what's possible.
And here's another article that I wrote about nine years ago, in October 2003. A few of the items on this list, which was not aimed at listing moderate goals, are a bit further out there, but most are also very moderate and reasonable, not at all extreme. I feel pretty good about this list, still, nine years later.
Right wingers repeatedly say liberals focus on the past and only attack republicans. Rush Limbaugh says that Liberals live and function in the past, just reacting to republicans, that we liberals have no vision for the future, how to make the world better, no plans, while he and George Bush are the ones who envision the future. Now that's a frightening thought, only mollilfied by the reality that it is highly likely that Bush's Brain handles more than the next fumbling words out of his mouth.
We on the left certainly have positive visions and plans. But it is true that these are not always articulated in any clear organized way. One reason is that the left does not have the equivalent of the conservative right's powerful, heavily funded policy promotion organizations, usually misleadingly labelled as thing tanks (like the Project for the New American Century, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Judicial Watch and others.) And the DNC has failed to put forward such a positive vision. Their emails are routinely proof of the Republican accusations-- reactions to Bush and republican "transgressions." And this writer and the opednews.com website is also often guilty of putting a lot of energy into attacking the right, and Bush. So this OpEd is an effort to pull together a lot of positive visions into one somewhat coherent collection of positions. It's just mine. It's surely susceptible to lots of criticism, especially since it's a first draft. And it definitely includes some personal positions that may not, almost definitely will not fly among the vast majority of democrats. But it's a statement, a list that covers a lot of bases and it proves that we on the left do have positive visions. I'd like to see a lot of these lists-- blog after blog and maybe even candidate after candidate with positive vision lists of the future of America and of the world. Surely, it is reasonable to expect this from every candidate for president. As a person who works in the world of positive psychology, I believe that any leader who offers the hope of a positive future must first envision that future.
My experience of the political left is that it is full of visionaries who are creative, who not only see positive futures but they are actively engaged in creating them. The liberals and progressives are the people in this world who are envisioning the positive stories of America's and the world's future. It is the conservative right that is mired in the past, in maintaining the status quo, in building further walls on the castles to protect the wealthy and the aristocracy.
So I decided to start jotting down some positive visions. It's just a first pass, and it represents some of my personal biases, but it is a positive vision and it is about the future. I'd love to hear from people who have additional suggestions, who disagree and why. Here's the list.
- Health-care for all, Preventively oriented, Make the economics of health care reward those who take personal responsibility, and encourage health care providers to empower patients to be personally responsible rather than dependent on the doctor and the system. This can be done with higher prices to people who do not take responsibility for their health with regular checkups, exercise, healthy diets (tax unhealthy fast foods, snacks and give coupons when people buy healthy meals-- coupons that can be applied towards taxes.) The medical business-- insurers, clinics and pharmaceutical companies-- have encouraged "patients" to be passive recipients of health care. They should be clients, not patients, and they should be empowered to take as much responsibility as possible for their own health. This will require a bigger budget for education, coaching and training.
- Health policies will be re-evaluated to save more lives, not just the lives of the richest who can pay for weeks or months in intensive care. Our current system chooses to allow many to die so a few wealthy lives can be prolonged a few months.
- Drugs shorter patents and tougher requirements to have patents awarded. Support of lots of competition. Kicking some sense into the FDA so it encourages import of drugs that will compete at better prices. Laws that make drugs more accessible and affordable, and that prevent pharmaceutical companies from profiteering in the war on disease.
- Workers: treated well, with respect and fairness. Protect them from job health hazards.
- Jobs protected because NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are abolished and replaced by global trade agreements that encourage free trade, protect laws that are enacted democratically and that prevent international corporations from seeking lowest wages and worst treatment of people and ecology.
- Big Corporations that are out of control will lose personhood rights and be treated as the inhuman, soulless, potential dangerous things that they are. They will be taxed and regulated to protect and favor humans.
- privatized industries and resources will be evaluated and many will be de-privatized and reinstated as government owned-- owned by the people, not a handful of wealthy individuals, or worse, soul-less corporate holding companies.
- The Wealthy will pay taxes for the privilege of becoming or remaining wealthy in the US. They don't do it themselves. They do it because of the US's economy, resources, laws and government.
- Inheritance Taxes big-time increases on the wealthiest families only-- over X million dollars-- so most . The idea of "death taxes" is a lie. Birth is not a privilege. If your parents are rich, you'll benefit as a child. After they die, estates that are greater than 98% of other people's estates should be taxed at a very high rate. That will still leave descendants as millionaires, but not so powerful that they can corrupt democracy.
- Farming: Small farmers will be helped, with cooperation encouraged. Big farm combines and corporations will be at a tax disadvantage. Small businesses are the future. Big businesses are a danger to democracy, to humanity. They must be restrained and phased out, to be replaced by tamed versions-- small businesses that join together as cooperatives. If human cloning is a potential threat to humanity, massive businesses are real, living threats already causing massive damage to humans and the earth.
- Ecology we will take a long term vision, focusing on life, and people, not companies. Like the space program, an ecoeconomy program will be developed that actually saves money and builds a new technology arena that creates jobs and contributes to the economy. Taxes will created that tax ecology abusers and reward ecology benefactors. This will be done in tandem with a renewable energy initiative.
- Energy Creation of an Apollo project (like the moon landing program Kennedy started) to develop a range of technologies for establishing reliable, robust sources of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels. This will create new industries, new jobs and enable the US to lead the world as the source of the technologies that provide energy for the future. The US will replace OPEC as the world's provider of energy by using our people's brains and creativity rather than weapons and the lives of our young. This will be paid for by taxing purchases of gasoline over 5 gallons. People who can't afford the taxes will fill up often and get high mileage cars. People in a hurry and with gas guzzlers will pay taxes on each gallon over five on every fill-up.
- Technology Small business funding encouraged-- more funding for Small business innovative research (SBIR) grants. Big companies rewarded for investing in small. Acquisition and consolidation discouraged, Cooperation encouraged. Establishment of and increased funding support for more business and technology incubators.
- Education encourage competition that leads to creating excellence, not the cheapest cost per student. Allow use of vouchers but require those who accept them to accept all students, not just the cream, as most religious and private schools now do. Re-evaluate the educational model. We no longer want rigid schools that produce obedient, unthinking factory workers and soldiers. We want schools that unleash the potential of all the students.
- Media: Diversity and balance are the first rules. News programs must actually do the news, not just celebrity, tabloid entertainment and partisan opinion. No company should own as many stations as Clear Channel.
- Religion support religious freedom and respect spiritual differences, but protect the state by enforcing laws of separation of church and state.
- Military establish oversight managers to make military more accountable, obedient and multi-purpose.
- Violence establish a national institute of peace and non-violence, as described by Dennis Kucinich to promote peace, to prevent violence in families, in crime in countries.
- Crime America has more prisoners than any other country and imprisons a huge percentage of African American men. We need to de-criminalize use of drugs and other acts that do not harm others. By eliminating the expenditure of billions of dollars on drug arrests, investigations, etc. Some of that money can be spent on programs that treat and prevent drug and alcohol abuse. Use drugs and surgery to treat crimes of violence, rape and sexual assault and abuse. At the same time, beef up laws against corporate and white collar crimes so more corporate criminals are caught, tried and convicted (I.I.I.= Investigate, Indict and Incarcerate, starting with Bush and Cheney.) Establish corporate execution laws so repeat offenders lose their right to exist.
- Taxes Make them fair and make them lean more heavily on the people who benefit the most from living, working and doing business in the US-- the wealthy and big business. Tax the things that people buy that end up costing other people money-- cars, roads, high risk health endangering personal sports like skiing, rock climbing, scuba diving, substances that increase health risks, like cigarettes, alcohol, recreational (decriminalized drugs,) fast foods and junk foods.
- Guns start enforcing existing laws. Strengthen laws that guarantee the right of all non-criminals to possess and use guns for protection and hunting. Ban ownership of dangerous military weapons like automatic and semi-automatics. Start developing technology that personalizes gun use so only the person the gun is issued to can use it. Then eliminate other guns.
- Foreign Policy Envision the USA as a strong, maternal leader-- in charge, nurturing, punishing when necessary, protecting our friends and democracy, freedom and fairness. Rebuild damaged friendships. Establish new friendships with economic ties and partnerships. End US association with organizations and regimes that rape and pillage poor countries resources, economies and that impose dictatorial or totalitarian rule. Establish rules for doing business that prevent US corporations from interacting with these entities.
- Nuclear Proliferation Economically starve it with multinational alliances. Polilce rogue states agressively, using economic means to cut them off and if necessary, block their shipping and highways.
- Terrorism is criminal. Kill it. Terrorism's spawning ground is hate, fed by injustice, tyranny, monarchy, corruption and ignorance, with the few getting wealthy at the expense of the downtrodden. But terrorism is also perpetrated by wealthy or comfortable people who are outraged by some perceived injustice or who are seeking revenge for personal losses. The killing of innocent civilians must come to be seen as despicable as child molestation. Meanwhile, the USA must protect itself and its allies and support allies efforts to defend against terrorism. The following position may lose some liberals, but it faces the hard truth of the most horrific form of terrorism. Since suicide bombing is a form of terrorism that starts in the home, that is, generally supported and applauded by the family, the homes of suicide bombers should be evacuated and destroyed. Those who hide or protect terrorists should be treated as terrorists. It is also essential to differentiate between people fighting for freedom and terrorists. One way is to define any act that kills or hurts innocent bystanders as terrorist in nature.
- Travel revise tax structure to reward travel that is energy efficient, that uses safer vehicles. Tax more roads. Use EASYPASS technology to charge for use.
- Real Estate Taxes Once you buy a property, your taxes should go up as little as possible. Taxes should go up as new owners buy properties, including heirs, but heirs get some break over new buyers. When property is sold, the profits should be taxed, after a certain allowance that is tax free. This was a republican giveaway that discourages investment in other areas of the economy that can build more jobs.
- Investing: discourage gambling, playing the market, Encourage support of ethical, good companies and companies that show promise of contributing jobs, technology, health and to growing the economy.
- Security against terrorists: Research systems, physical gaps and loopholes, tighten entrances, ability to function in the US, to transfer money. Develop response systems that can react quickly to threats (so we never again have hijacked planes flying for 45 minutes without a response from the military.)
- Privacy Protect privacy with strong laws for privacy violations by both businesses, particularly health care industry, insurers, bankers and lenders and government. Make penalties for violations severe.
- Voting Make it computerized and accessible for the handicapped, but also make sure that the government either owns the software or that it is totally open and available, with each vote re-countable using paper ballots that are verifiable and traceable. Make vote fraud and corruption equivalent to a murder offense, in terms of penalties.
- Election Finance corporations are banned from contributing to elections. Further regulation of election finance will fine-tune the regulations so the loop-holes are closed and the wealthy cannot exert excessive influence.
- Privatization: Reverse it. The country shares its assets while corporations exploit them. Nationalize or "governmentalize" assets that corporations are failing to husband responsibly, starting with energy and power generation. Revise laws to reward corporations that share assets, protect land, are kind and good to people. Take back lands given to the railroads over 100 years ago if the railroads have not improved them. Take back lands that have been corruptly given to corporations and prosecute the people who enabled the corruption. Consider "hybrid privatization" in which government provides oversight of private vendors that compete to participate in projects. Establish laws that prevent or through taxes, discourage corporations from outsourcing labor done on computers to other countries. (this is off the top of the head but i don't think Americans want their personal data processed in India or Costa Rica. And businesses operating in the US should use US employees.) (okay. This one is a bit more extreme.)
- Deregulation: This idea has failed. It does not produce the promised results. The real purpose of deregulation is a handout to big corporations. Add regulations until corporations are better behaved-- and until policing agencies created and empowered to keep corporations in line are up and running.
- The Arts: Support them, bring them to the people and make them more accessible. Explore ways to meet the needs of more diverse elements of the population. Experiencing the arts expands and improves brain functioning and health. The arts are to be valued and treated as important as dietary nutrients. Malnutrition leads to disease and decay of the heart and soul.
- Diversity: Life and humanity function best with greater diversity. Literally, genetic health is optimal with diversity. We need to support the nurturing of and respect for Diversity in race, culture, spirit, ecology, biology and life.
- Capitalism: It's the best system we know of. But so were railroads until air transportation was developed. We have to take capitalism and improve on it-- take it to the next level, where mega-corporations are tamed and world trade is supported without wiping out local industries and jobs. We need to apply the same smarts that are applied to NASA and biomedical sciences to taking the leap to the next democratic economic model that is better than capitalism. (Not communism, not socialism)