After a grueling presidential campaign that started November 5th, 2008, and finally ended late last night, its time to spike the ball. Not by bragging, insulting our opponents, or making grandiose speeches, but by pushing hard to take advantage of the coming fiscal cliff and Republican identity crisis and institute the changes that we see our country needing.
Follow me below the curlicue for my ideas on what our top priorities should be.
First in line, simply due to timing, must be taxes and spending. We're not likely to have another chance like this for decades or more, where Republicans will be put in the unenviable position of having to vote against tax cuts for the poor and middle class, knowing that doing so will cost them support among the moderates, and failing to do so will cause them to be primaried out in short order. The Senate must pass a bill before the end of the year, preferably before the end of the month, temporarily extending the tax cuts for every family making less than $250,000 a year. Let the upper income tax cuts, capital gains tax cuts, and inheritance tax cuts expire.
As part of the revenue picture, we must also look at spending. Obama is pushing for $2.50 in spending cuts for every $1.00 in revenue increases, which is arguably far too many spending cuts unless they are to areas that do not generate much economic activity. This primarily means cutting unnecessary military spending, and cutting waste. (Bridge to no-where, anyone?)
Second, and related to the first (doesn't all politics end up about money?), we need to cut our military spending and overseas presence, and allow our allies to police their own areas of the world. I'm not advocating a total abandonment of the responsibilities we've undertaken, but really, we don't need to be spending 40% of the world total to reasonably protect ourselves and our interests. By bringing much of our overseas presence home, not only do we reduce our costs, but we can refocus that manpower to building our own infrastructure. Rather than putting those returning troops out of work, I propose putting them to work on mass transit, energy, and other vital infrastructure 60% of their time, leaving the remaining 40% to maintain their fighting edge should we need to call on them again. How big of a boost would we give our economy if these highly skilled men and women brought their spending home, and built us a world-class high-speed rail system, a renewable energy infrastructure that rivals any in the world, and rebuilt the crumbling highways and bridges?
Third, as wonderful as the ACA is, we need to keep pushing for the public option to be available everywhere, and ultimately have it become the single-payer option by dint of every other plan being dropped as too expensive for the same or worse coverage. Dropping the extra money being laid out for people to buy private insurance in place of Medicare is a good start to this!
Fourth, let's pour our energy and money into renewable energy and efficiency. Let's build renewable energy facilities that will not only meet our needs now and the near future, but will allow us to meet our energy needs for the long run without relying on dirty oil from Canada, or fracking our pristine areas.
Finally, let's reform our election process in such a way as to encourage the 40% of Americans who choose not to vote to join the process, and to encourage voting for third party candidates who agree with our goals, but bring to the table a different perspective on how to reach them. For this, we obviously need to begin with scrapping Citizens United via constitutional amendment, so that big money can never again threaten to stifle the democratic process. My specific proposal for this amendment is that it be crafted to allow limited donations, with a low cap that is linked to the rate of inflation, only from living, breathing persons with US citizenship. No artificial constructs should be allowed to donate money, materials, or paid manpower to the election process, whether it be companies, corporations, or unions. Next, we need to change the way that our balloting is done, so that people may indicate more than one preference for the office, eliminating the spoiler effect. I have several ideas for this, but that's a subject for another diary. How much more politically diverse and stronger would our elected offices be if citizens didn't feel compelled to vote for the candidate that's most likely to beat the other guy, instead of the candidate that best reflected their views? Finally, we should limit electioneering to a set period of time before the actual election, such as 90 days. This would cut down on the political overload that's helping drive so many people away from the polls. We're the only first-world nation that feels the need to start campaigning for the next election the day after the previous one ends.
Obviously there are many other priorities and important changes to make, but the ones I've listed are ones that I think will help us as a nation the most, and that may be reachable in the next four years. Let's spike the football by making our nation a better place.