Six Political Ideas I Hope Will Take Hold in 2011

1. President Obama and his allies explain health care to the American public. As Rebpublicans in the House say they are going to pass a repeal bill before the State of the Union, we are not hearing why it should not be repealed. Poll after poll has shown that most people want national health care, but they are beginning to think that they don’t want “Obamacare.” There are indeed many faults with the plan – particularly that it guarantees increased profits to the insurance industry. However, there are many positive things as well, and the President should be making the case for it. It’s only after most people agree that the law is a step forward that we can talk realistically about taking the next step by improving it.

2. The liberals acknowledge (and the progressives make the case) that the best way to cut the deficit is to cut the military budget.  United for Justice with Peace has launched a 25 Percent Solution campaign. I hope this idea becomes much more visible in the deficit debate.

3. The important thing is not whether the federal government runs a deficit, it’s where the money goes. The Obama-GOP tax-cut compromise gives the money to the rich. Instead, we need the government to put money directly into creating jobs to meet national needs: a high-speed rail network, a sustainable energy industry, and repair of crumbling bridges and highways, to name a few.

4. We need strong, democratic labor unions. Right now the super-rich are dominating politics because it’s all about money. The country needs a strong force to stand up for ordinary working people, and labor unions are it. Only about 1 in 10 workers now belongs to a union, because both the labor laws and the way they are enforced have become more hostil to labor since at least the Reagan administration. Reviving and passing the Employee Free Choice Act would be a good start, but failing that President Obama can do a lot by appointing the right people to the National Labor Relations Board.

5. Corporations are not people, and they do not have human rights. With all the talk about going back to the original intent of the Constitution, let’s go back to the original intent of the 14th Amendment, which was to protect the civil rights of African Americans, not to say that corporations should be treated as human beings — the latter idea was created by judicial activists in the 1890s.

6. Carbon trading does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Very little carbon trading consists of buying emissions credit from a more-efficient electric generating plant. Too much of it comes from paying countries in the developing world not to cut down forests. Not cutting down forests is a good thing — but since the forests are there already, leaving them there does not reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is – wait for it! – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions! For a fuller explanation, see Annie Leonard’s video animation “The Story of Cap and Trade” for a full explanation. (And by the way, forget about “clean coal” – coal is carbon, and there’s no way to burn it without producing carbon dioxide!)

I wish everyone a healthy and progressive 2011. This will be my last blogpost until after January 15, as I am going away until then.


Three Cheers for WikiLeaks!

I don’t have any idea what the general popular reaction to the latest WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables may be. No doubt there will be polls soon, but I haven’t seen them. However, I have been kind of  surprised by the personal conversations I have had with other people, not to mention the commentary in supposedly enlightened media outlets, such as National Public Radio (NPR). I even heard someone on the radio suggesting that Julian Assange be prosecuted for treason! Doubly ridiculous, since 1) he is not an American–you can’t commit treason against someone else’s country, only your own; and 2) treason is defined (in the Constitution) as giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States — NOT as giving information to the American people!

So let me be real clear: bringing this stuff to light is great, and definitely in the interest of the American people.

If our diplomats are plotting attacks on Iran, supporting coups in Honduras, and generally expressing their contempt for the other nations of the world, I certainly want to know it. Don’t you? Sure, it embarrasses them if this stuff comes out. It should! They ought to not only embarrassed but ashamed, not just because they got caught but because they have been acting against the interests they should be promoting: world peace and democracy.

One of the more interesting revelations wat that leaders of several Arab states want the US to bomb Iran. Certainly this is embarrassing to the Arab rulers in question — but why should we care? Those guys are dictators, after all, and have personally enriched themselves by keeping the people of the Middle East in poverty. The more we can embarrass them, the better. In this particular case, maybe the embarrassment will help make the US government realize that the only way to stop nuclear proliferation is by sincerely negotiating the end of all nuclear weapons worldwide — beginning with those of the United States.

US diplomats don’t represent the American people — they represent the giant corporations that dominate politics today. Bringing their actions into the light of day should be taken as the first step toward changing this.