Saturday, December 15, 2018

My Christmas (Political) Wish List

Well, it's just about Christmas time again. Besides shopping for Christmas trees, lights, and inflatable Santa, snowmen, reindeer, the ever popular Grinch, and maxing out credit cards, it's also the time when children (and some adults) start compiling their "wish list" of things they'd like to find under the tree or in their stockings. So, in keeping with the spirit of the season, I thought I would post my own little "Christmas Wish List" (political version of course).

Let's start with term limits. I would like to see term limits across the board. Politicians who spend an entire lifetime, 20 or 30 (or longer) years is far too long. Sure, seniority brings certain perks, but our Founding Fathers never intended on creating a political class similar to those they opposed in England. For the most part, political offices were to be temporary; a term or two and then back home. That way, we have a continuous flow of fresh ideas and a closer connection to the people. It would also cut down on the level of corruption. Instead, we've created a nearly separate political class which has little or even no relationship with the people they're supposed to represent.

Today's politics is largely the domain of the wealthy (which is why Congress is called the "Millionaire's Club"). Ordinary citizens can't afford to run for higher office, at least not without connections to the wealthy corporations or their lobbyists. As a result, America has morphed from a Constitutional or democratic Republic into an Oligarchy ruled by plutocrats and/or their corporations. We now have two sets of laws, one for the wealthy and well connected and the other for the rest of us. We see it all the time. Individuals who commit serious crimes (like lying to Congress, gun smuggling, bribery, or committing treason) who should be set off to prison for the rest of their lives, either get a pass or slap on the wrist. If it was us, we'd never be heard from again!

I think twelve years is fair enough. That's three terms for the House of Representatives, two terms for the Senate, and three terms for the President. Appointed judges too need to serve no more than twelve years, even the Supreme Court. The reason is that judges, like everyone else, lose their connection with the people and the mood of the country. They come to think of themselves as omnipotent mini-kings in their courtrooms. "Citizens United" is a great example of the justices not understanding the nuances of politics and how money plays such a key role. Citizens United essentially created "Frankensteins" by declaring that corporations had not just the same rights as flesh and blood people, but actually greater rights when it came to donating money to candidates and political funds while limiting us (money was equated with "free speech" except that corporations have a greater amount of "free speech" than we do. The result was basically muting our collective voice and freezing us out.

Another item on my Christmas Wish List is an end to gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is when politicians (or their political party) divvy up districts to ensure that their candidate or party remains in power. That's why you see strange looking districts. It's design, like Citizens United, is to keep out competition and pesky reformers. Instead, districts should be allowed to follow natural or traditional boundaries regardless of the political makeup. This would also force any elected representative to equally represent their constituents instead of just those who are members of their party. Redistricting should be handed over to a non-partisan institution or university. Citizen input should be encouraged, but politicians and special interests groups need to stand back.

Next, is restricting the influence of lobbyists and corporations. It's not uncommon today to see lobbyists help write legislation, and then use their financial influence to "recommend" passage to other legislators. We even see bad pieces of legislation tucked into other bills as they try to sneak them through without the public knowing. They also ensure that certain elected officials or selected candidates are well financed, either through direct contributions or through so-called "Leadership funds" which are essentially slush funds. As everyone knows nowadays, America is an Oligarchy. The wealthy elites call the shots. The major disagreements that we hear about are over the crumbs, which can be touted back home as "victories". Even parliamentary procedures have been corrupted to hide who truly voted for what or when.

What is actually needed is real campaign finance reform whereby corporations can't donate anything; where they returned to the legalistic world of artificial entities. Lobbyists should be limited to simply providing information, which must then be publicly disclosed as to its intent and who it benefits. Of course, that means legalistic mistakes like "Citizens United" need to be overturned. It means that transparency must be the rule, not the exception in Washington and elsewhere.

While I'm on the topic, I would like to see legislatures do away with special interest caucuses, such as the Democratic Party and Republican caucuses along with their "party whips" who ensure that party members toe the line and vote according to the way their leadership wants them too. I believe that regardless of your political party, once you're elected, you should resign from your party and with your oath of office include a provision to represent all of the people in your district or state. Political partisanship belongs to bygone days, like political "endorsements" by newspapers. Your sole interest is to represent everyone irrespective of party. Elected representatives should be free to vote the way their constitutes would want, not what partisan leadership dictates. Ad hoc coalitions should be the rule instead of partisan based committee assignments.

Along the same lines, politicians, especially in Washington, should not be allowed to keep their six figure salaries for life, while going on to other political jobs to earn even more (the majority end up as lobbyists or high priced law firms). Once your term is up, so is your taxpayer based paycheck. Elected officials also should be required to have the same insurance as the rest of us. Gone should be their private gyms, saunas, first class plane seats, and so forth. Security, after their tenure in office, should be provided for up to four years, after which it's on them to foot the bill. Pay raises should be on the ballot. It's our money, so we should decide. At the state and local level, I think this should apply to taxes, fees, as well as salaries (even rate increases for water, sewer, and electricity by public owned utilities should be voted on by the public, along with library, property, and school taxes). Lastly, the same laws which apply to us should equally apply to them.

Moving on with my Wish List, we need to put an end to illegal immigration once and for all. This continual in pouring of individuals into this country negatively affect our national security, strains our social safety net, and hurts our economy by affecting more supply than demand at the lower end of economic spectrum. This drives down wages and reduces (or eliminates) benefits. Churches and religious groups seem to act like our immigration laws don't apply to them, while hiding behind their tax exempt status. Businesses, particularly agricultural (including horse racing, restaurants, and construction) blatantly ignore immigration laws when they have access to Real ID to verify their status. If you want them here, fine. Sponsor them and help them get a Green Card. Meanwhile, those who sponsor, aid, or hire illegal immigrants should be stiff fines and jail time including suspension of their business licenses or tax exempt status beginning with their first offense. Anyone who does business with the government should have those contracts suspended the first time and cancelled for repeat violations. Board members, presidents including HR and/or anyone else involved with hiring as well as any priests, pastors or other involved with non-profits agencies, should face a fine with jail time for repeat offenses. No exceptions. No excuses.

While we're at it, enough with these so-called "sanctuary" cities or states. They are openly disobeying federal laws. Therefore, they should immediately lose all federal dollars. Let them support these individuals on their own taxpayer's backs. We also need to take steps to prohibit illegals from obtaining driver's licenses or voting, including holding the election clerk personally responsible, which should include a fine and jail time. Sounds serious? Well, this is a serious crime and it needs to be dealt with seriously. Lastly, we need to make English the official language of the United States. Language is the fabric which binds a nation together. When you have multiple languages and cultures, a nation can lose some of its unity. When you're a country like the US, which is home to practically every religion, race, and ethnic group in the world, we need that kind of adhesion that a single official language would bring.

Because I am an Independent, I'm somewhat put out by the fact that Indies and third parties aren't afforded the same ballot access as are the two corporate owned parties, the Democrats and Republicans (Indies are the largest political bloc in the US with over 44%. Democrats and Republicans are in the low to mid 20% ranges). Indies and third parties are often required to have ten times the number of signatures needed to get on a ballot than do their Republican or Democratic opponent. That's wrong. That's denying equal ballot access. So, I'd like to see equal registration requirements for everyone wanting to run for office. If a Democrat or Republican needs only two or three signatures to file for office, then so should an Indie or third party candidate!

Along the same lines, Indies and third party candidates should be given the same opportunity to appear in debates or receive media coverage as their corporate owned opponents. Nowadays, Indies and third party candidates are treated as sideshow attractions, or ignored altogether. The Presidential debates, which used to be sponsored by the National Organization of Women (NOW) were replaced in 1987 by a joint Democrat/Republican "Commission on Presidential Debates" in order to keep out challengers following Ross Perot's showing back in the 1980's (which embarrassed both parties). Americans deserve to hear equally from everyone seeking office and to be able to make up our own minds. Instead, we're told that we have "free elections" while our choices are limited to pre-approved partisan candidates, leaving us with nothing but the illusion of choice. Speaking of election reforms, citizen initiated referendums should be not be prohibited. There are a few backward states that try to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot either altogether or require that they be run through the legislature, essentially getting their approval. Instead, they need to be reviewed for their legality and then, assuming there are enough signatures on the petition, placed on ballot for the voters to decide.

We also need to end the debate on additional gun control, especially restricting or eliminating gun ownership. Our Founding Fathers included the 2nd Amendment, not because they liked to hunt or target shoot, but to ensure that the citizens of this country didn't have to face a tyrannical government like what existed in Europe; where the population was basically disarmed and denied the means of fighting back. The 2nd Amendment was intended to be our "insurance policy" in the event that America devolved into some sort of dictatorship...or Oligarchy.

Many will argue that even the registration of our guns is violation of the 2nd Amendments intent, certainly attempts to restrict a gun based solely on its design or magazine capacity is stepping too far. By taking guns away from ordinary citizens, the majority of whom own them for self-protection, is inviting criminals in. Besides, do you really think that criminals are going to suddenly turn in their guns? Criminals are basically cowards and opportunists. They will act when they believe their chances of getting hurt (or killed) or getting caught are the least. That may mean attacking those who appear the weakest or most vulnerable, or by robbing a business or home when there is either no one there or where they are least likely to be armed.

Personally, I can see the justification in not owning armor piercing shells, heavy (50 cal) machine guns or bazookas, but that's my choice. I don't know what someone would want with any of these, but that's not my business either. I can see where someone should have to pass a gun class and demonstrate they understand the basic rules of handling a gun, have adequate shooting skills, and can keep a weapon in proper working order. That benefits everyone concerned. Along those same lines, I can see requiring background checks to keep guns out of the hands of individuals with criminal records or mental problems. Granted it won't stop it. If you want a weapon bad enough, you'll get one, especially if you're up to no good.

Also on my Christmas List is this. I'm tired of everything being so "offensive". It needs to stop. Not everything is "homophobic", "Islamophobic", "racial", or whatever else. If you are constantly getting "offended" by what someone says or does, then perhaps it's not them, it's you. In fact, I think these terms are so overused they no longer have any real meaning anymore, which is a shame since it devalues the claims of those who are actually be discriminated against. As an aside, let's make it clear, there are only two genders. You're a male or female. You either possess a "Y" chromosome or an "X" chromosome. Whatever you want to pretend to be is on you, and that in no way requires that I or anyone else play along. That's just part of accepting the realities of the real world.

Personally, I couldn't begin to care less about anyone's gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, or whatever else. You treat me with respect, and I'll do the same. However, do not try to impose those beliefs or attitudes on me or deny me the same opportunity to speak. Free Speech is vital for any free society, just as is the obligation to conduct a civil discourse. I really don't care if you're black, Asian, Muslim, or gay. If that makes you happy, so be it, it's your life but you need to accept how others live their life too. Secondly, nobody owes you anything, not even respect---that's earned by giving it. You want help, you've got to be willing to give help. You want a favor, you better be willing to do a favor. From my perspective, if you treat people the way you want to be treated, you'll do ok in this world.

Lastly, the issue of medical Marijuana. It needs to be legalized without any further foot dragging, period. The only reason it's not legal already is because some wealthy folks and businesses stand to lose some money. Once they figure out how to make a profit on it, it will magically be legalized, which is plain wrong. People can and do benefit from Marijuana and they shouldn't be penalized over profit. Pot was first made illegal following Prohibition, when many people turned to the plant in lieu of alcohol. After the ban on liquor was lifted, distilleries were afraid that people wouldn't go back to drinking, so through some unscrupulous backroom "wheeling and dealing" along with misleading or outright lies through print and film, the federal government made the growing and cultivation of Marijuana illegal. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry got in on the ban and continues to make billions of dollars in profits off of opioids and other drugs which cause serious side affects; side affects which Marijuana doesn't have. It's long past time that we end the prohibition on Marijuana.

So, there you have my Christmas Wish List. There were other issues I could have touched on, like the "War on Terrorism", inflated government contracts, ending the worn out "the Russians did it" narrative, reduction of US military bases, education or prison reform, rebuilding our infrastructure, or converting the tax code to a flat or a consumption tax, but that would be too long. Nevertheless, let me know what you think. Are there any issues you disagree with or would add to your own political wish list? Drop me a line here at A/O and let me know!

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