Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some Questions for People in Power

My friends on the Left have demonized the Tea Party movement, rendering anyone connected with these groups ignorant, reactionary and the enemies of all that is noble and progressive. Some of my friends on the Right assail any advocate of environmental oversight or national medical care as anti-American and at least quasi-socialist. Amidst all the polemics, we have a paralyzed economy, mounting debt and social anger inflamed by irresponsible media outlets.

I invite my readers and all thoughtful Americans to change the course of our current direction and consider the following questions as we seek to build communities and a nation worthy of our founding principles.

To those of the chattering Left, I ask,

Have you actually sat down and spoken at length with your Tea Party neighbors or are you too content in your insulated world of self-importance? You might discover concerned, hard-working people with lots of different backgrounds and ideas that care deeply about their land. You might discover, as I have in many locations, people from every continent and cultural persuasion united by the dream of America.

Have you sat down and spoken with the owners of small and medium-sized businesses who carry an enormous tax burden and find themselves threatened by government-protected multinationals and state politicians squeezing them dry with regulations and taxes? Oh, you love the Hollywood moguls, and leaders of "progressive" companies; however, you recoil around anything with a smokestack or any state that will not support certain union mindsets. You might discover compassionate and generous folks who sustain our communities and want a better future for their children.

To those on the clamoring Right, I ask,

Have you sat down with people across cultural and generational lines and deeply listened as they share the challenges of being different in a world that rewards conformity? Have you heard the cries of disabled workers shuttled from one office to another awaiting help? Are you aware that history is not kind to capitalism divorced from ethical and spiritual restraints? You might discover that the "magic of the markets" is not so simple and that our military budgets are just as full of graft and waste as our social service ones.

Have you thought about how to ameliorate the cost of transitioning millions of workers into a 21st century global economy where other nations do not play by our rules? Family-sustaining jobs are harder to find for those without college and graduate degrees. You will discover many folks working many jobs to make ends meet and wondering if their kids will have a brighter future.

I have one question for both "sides" in the media war. Have you considered comparing the policies and principles of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower? A bit of history may inform all of us. No, there are no "good old days." There were, however, among all Americans, rich and poor, black and white, religious or skeptical, some common values of fidelity to family, respect for neighbor, frugality, generosity and civic spirit that are undervalued in today's sensationalized world. Thank God for the Civil Rights movement that created a better future for millions by appealing to such foundational ideas. Conservatives and liberals a half-century ago had more in common than they had in conflict.

Perhaps these queries will stimulate fresh answers as we reaffirm key values and reach for a better future.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paralysis to Prosperity

Our current economic crises - yes, they are plural and global - stem from many factors. Bad government policies and processes for more than 50 years, unethical and unthoughtful business decisions and woeful strategic thinking have created this tsunami. In the midst of the (programmed) anarchy and polemics, we can miss one very important reality: this situation is reversible in months, not years if leaders have the courage to act decisively and wisely. If the following steps are taken, both the American and global economies will right themselves and we will not have a double-dip or a repeat of the 1930s.

Rein in government spending.

Judiciously privatize many public pension systems, with clear controls to protect the investments of workers.

End special health and retirement benefits for all elected officials.

Transform the tax code, closing outdated loopholes, eliminating double and triple taxation and capping top rates so that investments are rewarded.

Bring our troops home quickly, establish anti-terror military strategies that are mobile and not occupying and start reforming a bloated and corrupt defense industry.

Good ecological policies mean good economics for generations to come. Open new venues for oil and natural gas, while allowing profits from these efforts to fund private-public partnerships for cleaner alternatives. Let's stop both the simplistic, "drill here, drill now" and the "de-development" social engineering and get on with the kind of creativity that built the world's greatest economy.

Reform immigration with compassionate and judicious policies that open doors for legal residency and work while securing the borders and screening out criminals.

Carefully and humanely begin deportation of all illegal immigrants in US prisons.

Reform federal agencies and decentralize as much administration as possible. Instead of more federal money to the states, have a summit with the 50 governors and work on keeping more public dollars at home.

The list could continue for many more pages, but the principles are clear: ethical and fiscal integrity, wealth creation and local/regional socioeconomic strategies that deploy best practices.

Both local and global economies run on confidence. When fear takes over, recession and depression are not far behind. To my friends of the Right - we MUST reform military spending processes and stop being the world's policeman, even while we judiciously confront terror. To my friends of the Left - we must secure our borders and create better efficiencies for public compassion.

Out of the crises of the 1990s both parties had to cooperate and the results were a nearly balanced budget and four million folks off welfare and deployed in the work force.

Will our leaders have the courage to change or will we slide toward Weimar-style amorality and anarchy that opens the door to totalitarian rule? The choice is ours, today and in 2012.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Forgotten Folks

As the USA navigates uncharted economic rapids, there are groups of people that are overlooked in the passions and polemics. I am not speaking of the groups each political party claims as their own. Democrats claim the "poor" and Republicans claim the "small business" community. Tea party activists are marginalized and anyone for universal health care is labeled a socialist. Lost in all the rhetoric are several folks that deserve our attention and respect.

Our soldiers and veterans deserve better policies and support, from how and when we engage terrorism to the fiscal, physical and psychological needs they have off the battlefield.

Disabled and injured workers with legitimate needs have to navigate a dehumanizing system just to get the help they deserve.

Our ally Israel faces hostility from the leaders of the false "Arab Spring" and the threat of a unilateral declaration of another Palestinian state with no diplomatic or security guarantees.

Millions of families will be taxed again when a loved one passes away if there is not real reform in Congress.

Our citizens along the Mexican border and in several cities need protection from criminal cartels and illegal immigrants overtaking their land and opportunities. There are thousands of acres of beautiful parks that are war zones.

Deeply religious people of many traditions are alienated by social engineers determined to rewrite history and social norms.

In the midst of all the inflammatory language, the people most injured are the hard-working, mortgage-and-tax-paying citizens who deserve better stewards of the public trust.

On behalf of all the forgotten folks, I urge leaders to rediscover public service and restore the good credit of the USA.