Friday, February 4, 2011

If I Were King of the Railroad....

(Note: this post was triggered by comments to a couple of my posts over the past week in which I was critical of President Obama.  Here I try for a better explanation of why I've been disappointed in President Obama, and if I were king of the railroad, the dreams that I think need to be dreamed.)

This time in our history calls for a strong person with vision to say “screw bipartisanship,” and do what’s right for the children who will inherit what we have created. Forget what opinions prevail in the Congress—the American people overwhelmingly want a habitable planet, meaningful jobs, secure and affordable health care.

Here’s the dream I would like to see:

--We’re putting on a full court press using the vast resources of the United States of America.

--We need to address the fact that we’re running out of oil and until we get off it completely we’ll be hostage to any nation that wants to shut off the tap. So we’re instituting an Apollo-like program to get off foreign oil by 2020 and completely off using oil as a fossil fuel by 2035.

--Man made climate change is an unimaginable threat--and we may already be beyond the tipping point--but we pussyfoot around with tinkering at the margins, and the Republican party is lockstep against even talking about it. As with oil, we have to go full court press on this one, investing in and building a team of the country's and the world's best scientists, to figure out what we need to do.  And build an international coalition with the clout to implement needed changes, which may be painful.

--On the people front, we’re instituting programs like FDR’s to put millions of people back to work (CCC, WPA, etc.) to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and put money in the hands of families.

--As for health care: the business model is completely wrong. It makes no sense that our basic well-being is in the hands of a for-profit industry whose providers have a vested bottom-line interest in denying claims and NOT paying. Health care is a fundamental human necessity that we will provide via a Medicare for all program (AKA single payer) to every American, regardless of wealth or station. The elimination of the no-value-added middleman will more than pay for universal coverage.

--America’s image in the world is in the toilet. Via our misguided war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with our use of torture, targeted killings, and incursions into our domestic personal rights and freedoms, we have squandered our right to be called the good guys. We must repudiate these actions.

--We must fully exit Iraq promptly in accordance with our announced plans and not drag that out.  And no matter how long we stay in Afghanistan, it is not going to turn out well, so we are leaving now. The money we would have spent on war there we will instead use for schools, wells, hospitals, and roads, leaving the politics to the Afghans.

Even if these not all of these dreams succeed, at least in pressing forward we will have opened the dialog and perhaps moved the goalposts back towards the left. What passes for progressive policies in 2011 are pretty much what mainstream Republicans were calling for back in the Eisenhower administration.

I believe in American exceptionalism, that we can do what we put our minds to. And everything we do--everything--we must do with this thought in mind: For. The. Children. Is it good for them to inherit a planet that’s becoming uninhabitable, one in which they live in a ruined economy, with limited or unaffordable health care, and scorned by the rest of the world?

We can do better.  We must.


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