by David Swanson
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Let’s Try Democracy
November 21, 2016
Regarding your 29 proposals, here’s a bit more than just the ranking you asked for. I’ll start with the best:
7. Announce our official withdrawal from the TPP.
That’s my favorite. Wonderful! We don’t need any more trade agreements that empower corporations over governments and impose unpopular laws on people. Good riddance! Don’t replace it with something worse, please!
8. Renegotiate NAFTA into terms that protect the American worker.
This could be a great one. I’m not clear why you wouldn’t just tear up the treaty you’ve repeatedly called one of the worst treaties in history. You could negotiate bilateral agreements with other nations. There’s no actual need for NAFTA. But if you’re going to first try to renegotiate it, the U.S. worker needs the right to organize, among other rights. The workers of Canada and Mexico need to be considered. As does the natural environment that we and our kids all have to live in.
5. Introduce an infrastructure package to modernize our country.
This, too, could be terrific. Or it could be disastrous. Modernized countries have fast electric trains, solar and wind energy, pedestrian and bicycle paths, electric car chargers, sustainable agriculture, free hospitals for all human beings, and architecture that leans more toward the beautiful than the monumental. We could use more schools and parks, more farmers’ markets, more urban gardens, and more places to vote. All of these dreams and much more could be easily achieved, even while radically boosting foreign aid, if the U.S. were to either cut military spending or tax billionaires or both. But you want to increase military spending and cut taxes on billionaires. Even if your idea of modernized infrastructure is coal mines and oil wells and highways, you have no way to pay for it — thank goodness. And don’t forget: the people who voted for you are obsessed with the debt, so don’t even try that route.
20. Enact a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service.
This is good, as far as it goes. Why not 10 years both before and after? And why just lobbyists? Why not anyone profiting financially from a sector governed by the relevant government position? And why just the White House and Congress? Why not all government departments and agencies? Putting an oil profiteer in charge of the EPA is not solved by the fact that the EPA isn’t in the White House.
25. Reform the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to provide proper treatment to America’s forgotten heroes.
This sounds good, if you actually mean it. But let’s not call them heroes. Let’s call them brave people who were abused by some of those recent wars you properly denounced during the campaign — though you supported them when it mattered most.
26. Let veterans receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice.
This could be good or bad. It could be a model for single-payer healthcare, or it could end up cheating veterans further. Watch the details.
28. Pass the Clean Up Corruption in Washington Act in order to “drain the swamp” that has polluted our capital for decades.
This could be good or bad depending on what in the world it means. If it means freeing democratic government from financial corruption, I’m all for it. If it just means a partisan purge, count me out. Both parties are rotten, and rotten because of the financial corruption.
29. Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum, and order issued by Obama.
Of course, this sounds great. But it ought to include abandoning the idea that presidents can write and rewrite and announce their noncompliance with laws. Obama’s most unconstitutional action was announcing that he could choose which of Bush’s signing statements to keep in place and which not to (and not even tell us which he kept and which he tossed, so that we couldn’t even know what the “law” was). If you’re just announcing the same thing, it’s hardly an improvement. You could make this into something better by taking a principled position.
6. Unleash the Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act, which will cut taxes for middle-class families and simplify the tax brackets in order to streamline the process.
By “Middle Class” do you mean those with incomes about $500,000? The trouble is that people with much smaller incomes also think of themselves as “middle class,” and they think you mean them. But throwing them a crumb while massively slashing taxes on the wealthiest is not an answer to how you’ll pay for that infrastructure.
2. Repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Yes, great. If you haven’t backed off on this already, the key question is what you would replace it with. In private Hillary Clinton admitted what she would never say in public but we all know to be true: only single-payer will actually work.
12. Allow Americans to deduct childcare and eldercare from their taxes.
That’s nice for people who pay taxes and for people who can afford childcare and eldercare. But what about everybody else? Countries with modernized infrastructure actually guarantee these rights for all.
17. Set the standard for an “America First” foreign policy that ends regime-change, nation-building, and instead focuses on a motto of peace through strength.
Ending overthrows and so-called nation-building, and investing in peace sound like “Whole World” ideas as well as “America First.” These are the best policies for everyone — depending what you mean by “strength” and what dangers lurk in that word. Thawing the Cold War that Obama and his predecessors created with Russia could be the most significant thing you do. Ceasing to continue and escalate and launch new wars would make you a hero to almost everyone on earth, including most of this country.
16. Introduce plan to defeat ISIS.
If this means ceasing to arm the region, cutting off support for ISIS, negotiating disarmament, and providing massive aid and reparations, count me in. If it means yet more of the bombing that Michael Flynn admits is counterproductive, count me out.
22. Pass the Restoring Community Safety Act in order to reduce crime, drugs, and violence in our cities, and provide funding for programs that train and assist local police.
The first half of this sounds great. There’s no dispute that the most effective way to accomplish those goals is to provide better pre-schools and schools, better income security, better healthcare, better lives. But the second half seems to give the game away and transform this into yet more counter-productive militarization of police. The federal and foreign training of police, and the arming of them with weapons of war, has been disastrous. Why would you continue what does not work?
23. End Common Core and bring education supervision to local communities.
This could be good or hideous. Does it mean getting rid of all the dumb tests and focusing instead on teaching and learning and growing? Or does it mean continuing to profit the test makers at the expense of students while sneaking in the local “right” to teach that climate change is a Chinese hoax and the earth was created 6,000 years ago and wars make us safe and people who look different are inferior and other garbage along those lines?
1. Begin constructing the wall along the Southern border.
There IS a wall along the Southern border, and there are military coup governments south of there installed with U.S. support, creating a flood of refugees — as has that NAFTA you say you’re keeping but “renegotiating.” This is a problem better addressed with your no-more-regime-changes policy than with a wall.
3. Appoint a strong constitutionalist to the Supreme Court in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
This, of course, raises concerns with the item above that said you were going to pick which presidential “laws” are “Constitutional.” Scalia’s twisted view of the law should not be your guide.
4. Sign into law the Senate’s existing bill to build the Keystone Pipeline.
So much for modernized infrastructure. Welcome to the stone age.
9. Propose a constitutional amendment to impose terms limits on all members of Congress.
This is a counterproductive desperate solution to the problem of financial corruption mentioned above, and other types of corruption such as gerrymandering, media monopolization (you hate them, why not bust them?). Changing the face of the hack does not give us what we need, which is the power to unelect members of Congress. Once they’re all lame ducks, the threat of unelecting them will be finally removed in its entirety. If you want people to be able to fire members of Congress and shout “You’re fired!” give them bribery-free elections, publicly financed elections, free fair media on our air waves, no gerrymandering, fair ballot access, ranked choice voting, automatic voter registration, publicly hand counted paper ballots, etc., etc. You can’t fix a broken system with something as superficial as term limits. The idea that you can feeds off the same emotion used to demonize Vladimir Putin and stir up a Cold War.
10. Lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollar’s worth of American energy, including shale, oil, natural gas, and clean coal.
There goes the planet. Forget anything else you do, good or bad. You’ll now be despised by the world.
11. Cancel billions of dollars in payments to U.N. climate change programs, and use that money to fix our own country.
“Billions of dollars” sounds impressive, but this is a few billion dollars to mitigate the damage. This is not a solution or a serious problem. The U.S. dumps about $1 trillion a year into militarism. You could transform this country and the rest of the world for a fraction of it. You could amaze your harshest critics.
13. End all federal funding to sanctuary cities that circumvent the law in order to provide protection to illegal immigrants.
Stop obsessing over people who happen to have changed their location without marrying you. This is not what anybody needs, and in the not-so-long term people are going to look at what their lives and the lives of others are like, not at whether you’ve been cruel to some scapegoat.
14. Begin removing the more than two million criminal illegal immigrants.
See #13 above.
15. Suspend immigration from regions compromised by terrorism and where vetting cannot safely occur.
Since there’s been no demonstration that vetting cannot safely occur, this should be fine if you’re honest. Remember they lied about this for the Japanese internment camps. They claimed there was no way to vet them, knowing that there was. Their lies were later exposed, the enterprise denounced as an historic shame, and reparation payments made to the victims.
18. End bans on offshore drilling in order to end our dependence on Middle East oil and make America energy independent.
Destroying the planet forever in order to squeeze out a few more years of fossil fuel profits is pure stupidity. If the earth had a Donald Trump he’d fire you right now, not even wait for a commercial break.
19. Cut the government regulations that lead businesses to leave our country in the first place.
Yeah? You want slavery and open sewers? This is what businesses leave for. If you bust the giants and invest in small enterprises, while bringing up standards globally, you can turn this around without wrecking the world.
21. End the defense sequester in order to rebuild our depleted military.
Wake up, man! This is not a time for dreaming. The U.S. military is a monstrosity the world has never seen before and never will again if it survives this period. It cannot be maintained, and pretending it’s depleted doesn’t help. You know what else doesn’t help? The U.S. is the top weapons dealer to the rest of the world. U.S. weapons are fighting U.S. weapons and U.S. troops. What ought to be depleted is weapons dealing. And as long as you boost military spending, the pressure for more wars will be intense. To reduce wars, you have to reduce military spending. Eisenhower knew this. A four-year-old can grasp it. The evidence bears it out over the centuries. Yet U.S. culture denies it. We have to get this right!
24. Pass school-choice measures that redirect education dollars to give parents the right to send their kids to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school of their choice.
This requires trashing the First Amendment, hardens a caste society, weakens our communities, and makes our children dumb.
27. Direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.
Of course if you end one cold war and launch another, people are going to remember only the one you started.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. War Is A Lie: Second Edition, published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016. I’ll come anywhere in the world to speak about it. Invite me!
from the archives:
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Chris Hedges: The Liberals Gave Us Trump–What Will a Trump Presidency Be Like?
Chris Hedges: Trump Will Crush Dissent With Even Greater Violence and Savagery (#NDAA) + Hedges: The Surrender of the Left to Neoliberalism Gave Us Proto-fascism
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