Suggestions for Obama's Second Term
Now that President Obama has won re-election, it becomes possible to think of what can be accomplished during a second term. These are some suggestions I have as someone who has studied and thought about these issues for a very long time.
Taxes - the irresponsible Bush tax cuts on higher incomes should be allowed to expire. They have done nothing but wreak havoc on the budget and on the economy. Also necessary is ending tax offshore havens, tax loopholes and incentives for relocating American jobs overseas.
To the people who keep howling about not wanting to pay taxes, it must be brought to bear that nobody is proposing raising taxes on middle incomes or lower incomes. What is proposed is raising taxes on people who can afford to pay slightly higher taxes and aren't made to suffer for it. As someone who was in the higher income bracket under the Cinton-era higher income taxes, I can say clearly that I was not made to suffer by them and that I would rather be in higher income bracket and have slightly more tax to pay than have slightly less tax to pay and not be in higher income bracket.
The rational taxation policy is one that maximizes revenues and minimizes suffering. This means asking people who can afford to pay to do so, while leaving alone those who cannot afford to pay more than they do already.
This is not class warfare, and this is not Marxism. This is reason.
Regulations - While over-regulation is clearly undesirable, there are some regulations that are there for a very good reason. Regulations such as "there shouldn't be cyanide in the water" or "there shouldn't be plague-infested rats in the restaurant" are there for a very good reason and should be kept. At the same time there are any number of nitpicking and worthless regulations that are a complete pain to comply with and take lots of taxpayer money to enforce.
I propose a mathematical computation to determine which regulations should be kept and which should be discarded. On one side should be computed the events that the regulation seeks to prevent and the chance of these events happening. On the other side should be computed the cost to the taxpayer of enforcing the regulation and the cost to business of complying with the regulation. This would provide an objective criterion to determine which regulations do more good than harm and which regulations do more harm than good.
Agricultural subsidies - The subsidies for beef make beef artificially cheap, resulting in its gross overconsumption. The land that can feed 2 billion people with present technologies instead feeds the fraction of that number as most of it is used to raise cattle feed. Instead of reaping vast economic benefit from selling the food abroad and vast political benefit from giving it away in times of famine, America reaps obesity, diabetes and debt. And in New Zealand, which has dispensed with agriculture subsidies, the agricultural sector has boomed.
This is an issue on which both the Democrats and the Republicans should agree. Agricultural subsidies must be dispensed with. And the result will be not only reduction in needless spending but an agricultural boom.
Energy - The more energy is produced from carbon-neutral sources, the better. The coal industry does not have to go; they just need to apply to the coal plants carbon sequestration, resulting in coal jobs being kept and coal mining continuing while doing away with negative impact of coal industry on the planet. The oil industry must be informed that, the less of the oil produced is being burned, the more is available for higher-end goods such as plastics and pharmaceuticals, the greater the income to oil producers. Ethanol from corn is not the answer, it is also a carbon fuel and it is made out of a high-energy crop. There should be support for innovation in the energy sector, allowing more solar, more wind, and futuristic technologies such as the Hydrogen Transmission Network that will use electrolysis to break down ocean water into hydrogen and oxygen and send hydrogen through pipes to all places of energy and water consumption, there reacted with oxygen in the air to create energy and water at once.
Health care - While the law that has been passed has reduced pain for a lot of people, the structural problem with American medicine remains. There are not enough doctors. The requirements for getting into medical school and the length and expense of medical education make medical profession possible only for a very small group of people. The requirements for licensing of foreign professionals are also exceptionally difficult. America needs to graduate significantly more doctors and it should be bringing in more doctors from abroad. Only when this is done will the costs of medicine in America be anything close to reasonable.
Military - Clearly America needs a strong military; but it does not need a military that is wasteful. Currently the military buys $200 hammers and $600 toilet seats and throws away perfectly good tools after a week in use. One doesn't need to be unpatriotic to see how wrong that is. There needs to be an audit of the expense practices in the American military to do away with waste and abuse of this kind. When that is done it will be possible to maintain a military as powerful as today's for half the price, or a military twice as powerful as today's for the present level of funding.
Taliban - It is not fair that America bear the bulk of the burden for fighting a menace that wants to conquer the whole world. There should be an international effort to fight the Taliban to which every major country should contribute money or troops.
Domestic violence - This is a huge problem and one that requires sensible policies to address. I propose two changes in legal code. One is making false advertising in relationships as illegal as it is in business. Most abusers do not say that they will be abusers; they put on a warm front and then spring the abuse on the partner when the partner is theirs. The person gets lied to and because of having been lied to finds herself in a horrible situation which is in many cases difficult or impossible to leave. I posit that making illegal false advertising in relationships will prevent most of the abuse situations from taking place.
Another change is a sliding scale for domestic violence based on the severity of the violence committed. Breaking the wife's skull should draw a heavier penalty than a slap. I propose these degrees:
Severe brutality (guns, knives, sulfuric acid, life-threatening injuries)
Brutality (broken bones, strangling, lesser injuries)
Severe violence (whips, sticks, visible bruises)
Serious violence (punching, dragging by hair)
Mild violence (slaps)
with severe brutality fetching a prison term of 10 years; mild violence fetching a fine; and everything in between fetching a term appropriate to the severity of the violence committed.
International efforts to fight domestic violence, such as UNIFEM and Breakthrough, should be supported. This problem is worse in most of the world than it is in America, and it is necessary to confront it there as much as it is necessary to confront it on the home turf.
At this time I do not know if it will ever be possible to prosecute verbal violence, as such is protected by free speech statutes. There should be meaningful and open inquiry into this issue.
Foreign policy - I have been happy with Obama's foreign policy during his first term in office. It is based on rational principles, the main one of them being that parties should be treated based on their nature and also based on the nature of their relationship with America. While there is much noise and much disagreement between France and America, France does not seek to destroy America, and these disagreements can and should be dealt with in a civilized manner. Whereas Taliban does seek to destroy America and as such should be treated as a real enemy. I want to see this policy continued.
With the revolts taking place around the Middle East, I am of the belief that America and Europe should assist those who look up to them and help them to defeat the forces of authoritarianism and oppression. This however does not extend to those parties in these disputes that see America as the Great Satan or want to wage a jihad against the West.
With Russia and China, there are things that can and should be done in both countries to make them more humane. America and the rest of the West have the leverage to do so. Practices such as Russian dedovschina (a brutal and deadly military hazing that costs 5,000 lives a year), China's persecution of the Tibetans and the Falun Gong, a legal system in Russia that convicts 99% of the accused, China's labor camp system, and 14,000 Russian women dying each year from domestic violence, are disgrace to these countries, and these countries benefit from ending these ugly practices. These issues should be taken up in public dialogue, and it must be made very clear where America stands on this matter.
Education - The weakness of America's primary education system is dangerous. An uneducated population can be fooled much more easily than an educated population. The problem is not lack of funding, but rather the weakness of the curriculum combined with a learning-resistant culture in many American schools.
There needs to be stronger curriculum, more homework, and better teaching. There also needs to be a strong effort to confront the abusive student cultures that attack serious students and direct everyone else's attention toward beating up one another or getting pregnant as teens. On both of these matters it would be worthwhile to consider the successful practices of primary education system in places like Germany, France and Russia, as well as successful practices in America's private schools and public schools that work.
The voucher system would reward effective teaching practices in private schools; but most schools will remain public. It is to making these work that should be directed the attention of the government.
Higher education - Higher education is the path toward social mobility. It should not be priced out of reach of the majority of American people. To Reagan's question "Why should I pay for anyone else's education?" the response is that America needs highly educated people - as doctors, as engineers, as scientists, as lawyers, and further on along the same line. Also education makes people less likely to fall for conmen, which makes people more suited to be responsible citizens. Affordable higher education is not "socialism," it is reason. Higher education should be affordably priced for the benefit of America.
Draft and public service - The conversion of America's military from conscript to professional has carried a wide array of benefits, the greatest one of them being that the people in the military are people who are fit to serve. When there was a conscript military, the military was filled with people who were not fit for military service and who either got shot or came home with PTSD. Whereas the people in the professional military are people who want to be there and who are fit for military service.
The military should step up recruitment in places that have a macho culture, such as the ghetto. These men all aspire toward strength and toughness, but lacking proper guidance for such things wind up in prison or get shot. The military will teach these men the strength and toughness they seek, while also disciplining them to be effective and responsible strong and tough men. The military will avail itself of a large pool of excellent recruits who already know conditions of war. And the people who otherwise would wind up in prison or dead will instead become defenders of America and will have the guidance they need to pursue a better life when they get out.
One positive example on this matter is Germany. A young person in Germany can choose either to serve in the military or to do peaceful community service. That way, everyone gets to contribute; the military types go to the military; and the non-military types do the work that they are suited to do. If it ever becomes a question of fairness, it is this model that I recommend for America.
Prisons - American prisons are one of the government's most wasteful bureaucracies that costs as much to imprison a person per year as it does to send the person to Harvard. They are a center of hardening of criminals and they are also a vast center for conversion to Islam. Probably the best thing one can do to reform the prison system is to get people in prisons to do work, thus re-imbursing the taxpayer and also giving the prisoners something better to do than rape and murder each other. The work skills gained will then allow people getting out of prisons to stay out of prisons, thus benefitting both themselves and taxpayer.
Prostitution and Drugs - These activities should be de-criminalized. It is not up to the government to tell people what they can put in their bodies, nor is it up to the government to tell consenting adults what they can do with their bodies. Most of the drug-related violence, and most of the prostitution-related ugliness, is a result not of drugs or prostitution themselves but of these things being criminalized. When something that's in demand is criminalized, only criminals can provide it, and it is this that is the reason for drug cartels, gangs and pimps. With these activities being de-criminalized, these brutal entities will have nothing to do and will have to find legitimate employment. And this will do far more for law and order in America than the wars on drugs and prostitution.
Unemployment - People get dislocated when their jobs move abroad, and I do not expect that to change. For the people dislocated, there are three possible things that the government can do: Job retraining, welfare, or hiring them on to do public works. Job retraining must be done with the eye toward which jobs are going to be in demand. Welfare is the least attractive alternative but is necessary in some cases. With the need for upgrading America's infrastructure and for conversion to better energy sources, there is potential for a positive role for the government in the process, and that is investment in such things through public works.
Space - Both the private and public efforts in space exploration should be welcome. The Earth will not remain habitable forever, and there need to be places for people to go when Earth is no longer habitable.
Medical Threats - New forms of viruses and bacteria evolve all the time. There needs to be an international medical body to anticipate and confront these threats before they turn into pandemics.
International Engineering - I propose a solution to reduce global warming and end hunger in Africa at the same time. And this is as follows: Using desalinated ocean water to irrigate the Sahara Desert and convert it into farmland to feed African people and forestry to absorb atmospheric CO2. The first would end hunger as we know it. The second would create a vast forestry to reduce the unneeded CO2 in the atmosphere. This should be an international project, and whether funded through private donations, through government revenue or through combination of the preceding, it is a project that is very well worth undertaking for reasons stated above.
These proposals come neither from "liberal media" nor from the Tea Party. These proposals come from me - an unaffiliated individual who gives a lot of thought to political and social matters. It is as such that I am putting them forth now.