Over the past few decades, America has been in an accelerating retreat from the original vision of the founding fathers and the constitutional mandates laying the basic foundation for an egalitarian, democratic society. This has occurred on so many fronts, it’s difficult to know where to begin halting and repairing the destructive impact of this regressive juggernaut.
But let’s start with a list — in no particular order — of what must be done to put the country back on track. Some are general, some are specific. But all contribute to a recognizable version of an America with integrity and respect for its citizens.
- Americans should have a livable minimum wage and/or minimum guaranteed income. Due to automation, robotics, and computers, worker productivity has skyrocketed over the past four decades. At the same time, inflation has devalued the dollar and wages have been flat. All of the profits for the increase in productivity has gone to the wealthiest .1%, producing a tiny incomprehensibly wealthy elite and unprecedented levels of poverty. While the U.S. was never intended to be a classless society, the current extreme of stratification has undermined the most basic aspects of our society. We are fast approaching neo-feudalism, coupled with the authoritarianism that grows out of such a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of so few. This is not socialism, communism, or any other -ism. It’s just common decency and respect for the value of each person in a modern, affluent, pluralistic society.
- No money in politics. Zero! First, people should stand up and declare unequivocally they will not vote for anyone who takes ANY money from corporations, lobbyists and PACs. Then, further down the road, by having elections 100% financed out of public funds, we can build a democracy where our legislators might actually have some time to legislate, and not beholden to the feeding trough of deep-pocketed corporations and the ultra-wealthy, they will be free to make laws which serve the needs of all Americans, not just the wealthy elite.
- We need to reverse privatization and re-establish a commons. So much of what constitutes the foundation for a functioning society has been privatized — prisons, education, utilities, mail, roads, bridges. And it hasn’t worked out well, has it? The nation’s infrastructure is a shambles. With the concentration of wealth and power that is a corollary to privatization, poverty is on the rise and the quality of life for huge sectors of the American population in decline. For the richest nation in history, this is both an embarrassment and a profound tragedy. There are some basic things we should all be able to have free and open access to, facilities and services which should not be at the mercy of the so-called free market: education, clean air and water, energy, health care, retirement security, the internet, police, fire and ambulance services, nutrition and mental health counseling. This is not socialism. It’s having a country that works and serves the needs of all of its citizens.
- The control and issuance of currency must be returned to the federal government. The Federal Reserve is no more “federal” than Federal Express, and as a result America is now hostage to private banks and we are rapidly becoming their serf-slaves. Either nationalize or abolish the Federal Reserve and return creation of our fiat currency to the people of America, regulated by a legitimate, functioning system of representative government.
- We are long overdue to again respect the law, apply it equally and fairly across the board, both at home and around the world. We have a two-tiered legal system, a gentle one for the privileged, a brutal one for the rest of us. The oligarchs do what they want unfettered by pesky legal restraints. Sometimes the same laws which should apply are used to oppress and incarcerate the rest of us. Same thing on an international level. Two tiers. The U.S. bullies the world, ignoring treaty obligations and international law, treating other countries as vassal states. But it uses the same legal instruments as a bludgeon, holding every other nation’s feet to the fire with sanctions, UN resolutions, trade agreements — whatever — when it serves our interests, or more accurately, the interests of corporations and Wall Street banks, which are really setting the agenda. This gross hypocrisy is creating enemies everywhere.
- We mostly tend to agree that capitalism provides a powerful engine to drive development and progress. But too much of it and societies are crushed, democracies destroyed, vast numbers of people are relegated to serf status. Other countries have strict regulation and state control to check the ravaging effects of unfettered capitalism. Now it’s America’s turn. Either we rein it in or we can kiss good-bye our once-great country as it descends into the dustbin of history, ravaged by greed and destroyed from within by shortsightedness.
- The whole bogus concept of corporate personhood must be expunged. Totally voided. It was put in place by devious methods and now must be rooted out. This may require a constitutional amendment. More broadly, it’s way past time to drastically restrict the charters of corporations, such that the interests of people are balanced with the pursuit of profit. It is entirely legal to dictate that corporations act responsibly and take into account the needs of the community they serve, especially the communities where they reside. Ultimately this will not harm the economy, it will create a society which is healthy and prosperous for everyone. A vital component of changing the systemic role corporations play in the overall economy will be encouraging and incentivizing via tax policy and start-up funding employee-owned-and-operated enterprises.
- America must be taken off of a war footing. The high-alert status both at home and around the world is nothing more than highly destructive fear-mongering. It is used to promote a belligerent self-sabotaging approach to international relations. It’s the product of a grossly delusional neocon imperialistic agenda which Americans, when they understand what’s going on, don’t support. This”exceptionalist” chest-beating only fills the coffers of the defense contractors and bankrupts the rest of us both financially and spiritually. We’ve meddled and bombed enough. Time to try peace and cooperation instead of threats and bullying.
- Climate change is real. It’s happening. It could ultimately destroy the human race. Without a doubt if not reversed, it will reduce civilization to a shell of its former glory and sophistication. Let’s get to work. Global warming and resource depletion represent the greatest threats to mankind in recorded history. Responsible use of resources and creation of sustainable sources of energy are not only necessary, but could be the greatest unifying force ever! This represents a historic opportunity for a massive global initiative — one of renewal and fellowship.
- Massive tax reform across the board is in order, closing of all loopholes, penalizing off-shoring of profits, and the complete elimination of corporate welfare. The wealthy should start paying back the country which gave birth to their monumental success. Inherited wealth does not give back to the community, the social and political environment that supported the accumulation of all that money. Tax it at 95% above $5 million. The heirs of the Koch brothers will just have to squeak by on their $5.2 billion. Capital gains? Capital gains is income. Tax it at the same rate as personal income. Speaking of which, it’s time to return to the progressive tax rates of the 60s and 70s. You know them. The ones which resulted in a thriving economy!
- We need instant recall and term limits. Expertise and experience are both good things. That’s why elected officials have budgets to hire a staff. They also have complete access to the vast resources of the federal bureaucracy, which provides data collection and analysis, sociological studies, creative input at all levels on both the policy shaping and technical sides of creating productive and sensible legislation. However, our system is fraught with cronyism, revolving doors, legalized bribery, all of which are a product of a lack of transparency, unlimited tenure, and lack of accountability. There should be a mechanism which allows voters to recall their elected officials if they turn out to be turncoats or grossly incompetent. And just as the presidency now has a term limit, all elected offices should benefit from the variety of input inherent by rotating office holders on a regular basis. A president gets two terms. It seems reasonable that legislators, both in the House and the Senate be restricted similarly to two terms.
- Democratize America. With computers, the internet, instant communications, participatory democracy is more possible than ever before in history. Issues important to the public could be decided with national electronic referendums. Gerrymandering could be eliminated with randomized drawing of voting districts. Abolish the Electoral College. It may have made sense two hundred years ago but it now distorts the process of choosing the nation’s chief executive. Finally, it’s time to institute instant run-off, approval or range voting. This will allow minor party candidates to run at all levels of government without the onerous fear that a voter is throwing away her or his vote.
- Real health care reform which takes profit out of the system and sets up genuine competition for products and services is the next crucial step to having a viable health care system. This will reduce the chance that spiraling health care costs will bankrupt the country and nullify the other economic reforms which should be in place. Emphasis also needs to be shifted to preventive medicine. This means instituting educational programs on nutrition and healthy living choices, targeting all levels of society, not just in schools, but in homes, communities, in the media. It also means stricter regulations on the quality of our food, air and water, complete transparency about food additives, potential sources of toxins in the environment, and anything else which compromises the ability of humans to live healthy, productive, satisfying lives. All government agencies responsible for food, environment, product, and workplace safety must start doing their jobs, or heads should role. Corporations must no longer write the rules, provide the research data, or be allowed friendly access to the agencies charged with regulating them. And most certainly, industry insiders must no longer be appointed to head up government agencies which are overseeing the industries which pose a threat to the health and well-being of American citizens.
- The neoliberal economic regime must be dissembled and replaced with a system which balances the needs and aspirations of all citizens against the greedy, unfettered pursuit of profit. The vast majority of Americans are barred from having any say in establishing the economic priorities of the country. Neoliberalism has exacerbated wealth inequality to frightening levels and has undermined the social, political, and moral fiber of the nation. It defines stakeholders as only those with pecuniary commitments and resource control, yet we are all stakeholders on many different levels in the society we shape for ourselves and our children. Neoliberalism is tyranny with a Ronald McDonald smile. Time to end its hammerlock and release the real potential of the U.S. economy, which resides in its most valuable resource … the American people.
- The Federal Reserve should be nationalized, a network of state-owned banks instituted, Glass-Steagall reinstated, the too-big-to-fail banks broken up into smaller business entities, the failure of such would in no way jeopardize the integrity or solvency of the national economy. Americans have seen trillions of their hard-earned tax dollars wasted on rescuing the behemoth banks, and rewarding the incompetence and recklessness of their executives. The Federal Reserve is a private club of high-rolling banksters masquerading as a public-service institution, and fronting the class war waged by the ultra-wealthy against America and its citizens. The entire current mega-bank regime it represents is looting the U.S. Treasury and burglarizing the U.S. economy. The wealth of our nation belongs to all of us. It’s time everyone got their fair share. It’s time to put a system in place that respects the birthright of every American citizen, that of participating in and fully benefiting from the enormous riches and resources we have been blessed with.
- A massive conversion of an unprecedented scale must be implemented in redirecting the energy and innovative potential of the military-industrial complex toward projects which are non-military and address the mounting technological and environmental challenges facing the U.S. and the rest of the world. We can do this. When we needed to re-tool our vast industrial resources to fight World War II, within months we did it. Now that we are facing existential threats worldwide — many of them the direct result of the military-industrial complex itself — we need to re-tool our industrial and creative capacities to meet these challenges. There are many others but among the immediate priorities would be developing real solutions — not smiley face band aids — to the mounting crises of climate change, resource exhaustion, dependency on fossil fuels, arable land and potable water depletion, ocean pollution and overfishing, infrastructure deterioration, the threats of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, the potential for nuclear reactor malfunctions.
We could go on. But we don’t need a final or exhaustive list to begin working towards an American Renewal. The urgency of the tasks and the intrinsic value of the overall enterprise is what feeds our motivation, powers our inspiration, and informs our intent. This much is certainly clear: So much of what needs to be done is long overdue. Immediate engagement and focused action is the order of the day. There is no more time or place for the debilitating distractions of hollow rhetoric and self-congratulatory grandstanding. If the original vision of America as a beacon of democracy, freedom, equality, justice and harmony is to be restored, we must act immediately, selflessly, and in good faith.