OpEdNews Op Eds H3'ed 1/27/20
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Aren't most Americans 'protectionists'? We want our government to protect our health, safety, and welfare and that includes people and the planet, borders and bridges, jobs and markets, schools and colleges, food and medicine. Fundamentally, we want our government to do its job.
It's a reasonable expectation supported by our Constitution. Yet somehow the leadership of our two major political parties, the Dems and the GOP, have taken our expectations and split them in two, dividing the country against itself, ignoring sensible solutions to solvable problems. They treat their members like 'super loyal' sports fans, rather than reasonable people. They've wasted years mired in ridiculous scandals, distracting us from the issues that really matter. Like most Americans, I'm tired of the needless divisiveness and political paralysis.
Both parties have their pros and cons. And although people may differ depending on the issue at hand, more often than not we will find 'common ground for the common good'. So let's first look at some of the issues that separate the political parties, but upon which most Americans can agree :
Legal Immigration & Secure Borders: First and foremost, the GOP wants to protect the border and control immigration. That is the most important job of any nation. Without secure borders and controlled immigration, you don't have a nation. And that makes sense to a lot of people. We decide who to invite into our home and when to lock our doors. Moreover, it is a clearly constitutionally-defined federal power, not a state or local power. And until recently, the Dems agreed with that position. However, now many of our Democrat-run cities and states want to control our federal immigration policy, calling anyone who doesn't agree a bigot or racist. They want to protect illegal aliens and create sanctuaries for them, in defiance of the Constitution and common sense. The Dems "open borders" policy is an indefensible position that would have Americans surrender our independence to invasion and anarchy.
Effective Environmental Protection: The Dems want to protect the environment which is vital to the health and welfare of people and the planet. Conversely, the GOP has demonstrated scant regard for the environment, and instead has focused its attention on the economy, as if this were an "either-or" decision. Nearly every attempt to downsize the waste stream, eliminate toxins, and transition to green energy is met with ridicule by the GOP, as they worship at the altar of the almighty dollar and fossil fuels. It's an outdated, penny-wise-pound-foolish approach to resource management and needs to change quickly, for the sake of public health and our national security, if not for the planet itself.
Housing The Homeless & Mentally Ill: The homeless, many of whom are running rampant on the streets of several Democrat-run cities, are overwhelmingly drug addicts and the mentally ill. Hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars have been squandered 'enabling' this population to live on the streets, rather than placing them in safe and secure shelters and facilities where their needs can be addressed in a professional and compassionate manner. Members of both parties, as well as the Supreme Count (by allowing Martin vs City of Boise to stand), seem to support this solution. Yet the affected cities have not acted decisively to provide the much-needed shelters and services. Worse still, some city officials have stated that they will not "force" those living on the streets into shelters, even if space were available, thereby giving control of the streets to the mentally ill, drug addicts and their dealers. In doing so, these cities are in flagrant violation of federal, state, and local laws governing health, safety, sanitation, and the environment. It is a clear-cut case of 'failure to enforce' the law, as well as 'unequal enforcement' of the law. And as such, these cities need to be brought into compliance through state or federal action, or through the courts.
The 2 nd Amendment & Gun Control: This is generally considered a GOP issue. Yet, who in their right mind thinks that an unarmed population is a good idea? Who can forget that the American colonists won the Revolutionary War in large part because its citizens were armed, unlike their English cousins in Great Britain? It should also be noted that the colonists were using the latest technology, long rifles, which were superior to the English rifles. It is ironic that our Democratic leadership in Congress have armed security to protect them, yet they do not see the need for average citizens to protect themselves, their churches, their schools, and other targets for madness and mayhem. That said, most people agree on common sense restrictions for the mentally ill and criminals. Meanwhile, maybe someone can invent a bullet that puts people to sleep rather than injures and kills them.
'Choice' on Abortion & Medications: 'Choice' is about our constitutional right to control our own bodies. On a woman's right to choose versus the right to life, although taking an innocent life is never the right thing to do, many people side with the Dems or 'choice' side for the first three months. But beyond that they feel it is too late. However, when it comes to the public's right to reject medication, such as vaccines, the GOP tends to support 'choice'. It is astonishing that across the country, and particularly in Democrat bastions such as California and New York, students are being forced to vaccinate or denied entry into schools and colleges. In some professions, employees are forced to take vaccines as well, despite the fact that according to the CDC, over $4 billion dollars have been awarded to victims of vaccines.
Balancing Capitalism & Socialism: Who can argue with the Dems' position that government has a critical role to play regarding universal health care, affordable housing, a living wage, and free public education, including 'public' colleges? Isn't it in any nation's interest to have a healthy, well educated, and gainfully employed population, supported by government programs, if necessary, as we have with Social Security for our elderly and the disabled? The GOP's position - that private charities will pick up the slack on health care, and that a free market will magically create an even-playing-field for businesses, plus enough good jobs for all of our citizens - strains credulity and contradicts history. Republicans would be wise to remember that many businesses and industries have benefitted from federal loans, tax benefits, grants, and bale-outs. A careful combination of capitalism and socialism has been and continues to be the sensible answer for all concerned.
Now, let's look at the issues where the GOP and Dems AGREE, but NOT to the advantage of average Americans:
Unverifiable Elections: What could be more important than protecting the integrity of our elections? Yet both political parties have endorsed computerized voting (touchscreens and ballot scanners) which has privatized the process, placing our election results in the hands of a couple of corporations, thereby making the voting process completely nontransparent and unverifiable. Contrary to news media reports, all voting machines can be easily rigged by voting machine company 'insiders' and/or hacked by 'outsiders', foreign or domestic. And it doesn't matter whether the voting machines are online or not. Nor will a paper trail ensure integrity, as any losing candidate who has tried to get a recount or audit, will attest. Paper ballots and hand counts are the only way to bring any integrity back into the voting process. However, no politician has seriously promoted this solution. President Trump has occasionally suggested paper ballots and hand counts, but there appears to have been no meaningful follow up.
Regulatory Corruption: The corruption of our federal regulatory agencies has gone unabated through endless administrations of both parties. As the Congress continues to focus on foreign threats from without , it is the multitude of threats from within , from corrupt business interests and complicit regulatory agencies, about which we should be most concerned. The pharmaceutical, pesticide, and chemical industries, in particular, have had carte blanch to write the rules and self-regulate. Regulatory agencies charged with protecting the public health, such as the FDA, CDC, HHS, and EPA, have instead served as rubber stamps for private industries' toxic products and harmful services. Our health institutions are too-often co-conspirators with the pharmaceutical and medical device companies, who continue to make the American public the sickest developed nation on earth. And no matter how many people get hurt, nothing changes because white collar criminals from business or government rarely go to jail. Pouring salt into the wound, drug companies continue to gouge consumers, as the FDA allows "whatever the market will bear" pricing to prevail.The Economy & Privatizing Federal Banking: Section 8 of our U.S. Constitution clearly states that our federal banking system should be under the control of the federal government. Yet, since our inception, U.S. Presidents and Congress have fought against the privatization of our monetary system, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The death knell came in 1913, when in defiance of the Constitution, Congress put private banks (i.e., The Federal Reserve) in charge of our federal banking system. Since then bankers and investors have pumped and dumped our nation's financial assets to their own advantage. Today's banks are allowed to charge "loan shark" interest rates on credit cards and other loans, while paying next to nothing on savings accounts and certificates of deposit. Wall Street is allowed to engage in "funny-money" transactions (derivatives, junk bonds, and non-transparent hedge funds), masquerading as the prime of indicator of our nation's financial health, as "main street" barely gets a mention. Meanwhile our stratospheric national debt has disappeared from the radar screen. It's a financial free-for-all which will one day will come to a tragic pause, as our economy free-falls over the cliff of bottomless corruption and ineptitude.
Anti-Trust Amnesia, Jobs, & Markets: Neither party has expressed much concern about anti-trust laws and the continued proliferation of mega-businesses absconding with mega-billions, as if it were all a victimless enterprise. Meanwhile, both foreign and domestic corporate pirates continue to snap up American companies (often with borrowed money), strip them of their assets, leaving behind devastated communities. Likewise, the privatization and foreign takeover of our nation's utilities has continued unabated for decades, putting our water, energy, ports, transportation, and communications under private control - threatening our national security and local self-reliance. President Trump has to some degree protected American markets and jobs through trade agreements and tariffs, for which he should get credit, but our country needs to protect them in a more fundamental way. We need to recognize that with those markets & jobs go critical skills. No country can thrive when its markets and skilled labor are being systematically destroyed and outsourced. This is not a call for isolationism or protecting failing businesses, but it is vital that every country be as self-sufficient as possible, particularly in terms of manufacturing, farming, and energy - otherwise no country can be independent in any meaningful manner.
Local self-reliance is a fundamental requirement for truly protecting our health, safety, and welfare. Many towns and cities import most of their food and consumer goods, they are connected to massive energy grids that can easily fail, and depend too much on private charities, like the Red Cross, for man-made and natural disasters. Why do local governments allow themselves to become so vulnerable? Shouldn't local self-reliance be a central part of any emergency management plan, to ensure a basic level of assistance and care, no matter what the circumstance?
In 2010, when I founded The Wild Foodies of Philly (now a 4,800 member foraging group), the enthusiastic response was shocking. People from both sides of the political divide were eager to learn about wild plants and their uses for food, fiber, and medicine. Many expressed a desire to be more self-reliant for their own benefit, but also because they didn't trust government to take care of them. Today, when we do our foraging walks together, identifying plants along the way, the Wild Foodies share a deep appreciation of what we can learn from nature and from each other. We realize that we need to work together in order to thrive together.
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Lynn Landes is a Philadelphia-based writer, researcher, and activist in the fields of politics, health, and the environment. Her articles and opinions have been published in several books, films, and online publications.