Monday, February 20, 2006

A rare digression to domestic politics

I am going to take a brief respite from my commentary about foreign politics to comment on the situation here in the United States, something which has never quite interested me as much in its minutiae but is, of course, of unquestionably greater relevance to my life personally.

With one party essentially in control of all the branches of government, we are seeing it fall to battles between various factions that make up its "coalition." The president, in his attempts to placate these groups, has failed to come with a coherent synthesis, and moreover, his installation of figures personally known to him have been ill-advised and corrupt (it's not the Harding administration, but a comparison with the 1920s isn't far off, especially in regard to our burgeoning inequality).

What we need is a government that works, not a government full of figures who engage in ideological posing. Unfortunately the system of governance that we have, because of its (1) lack of regulation [due to the framers' belief that the federal government would be very small] and (2) winner-take-all system results in unresponsive government.

It is time to create a group of centrist figures, capable of carrying out significant change. Such a change can be recognized as incorporating the following:
(1) A foreign policy aimed at supporting democracy (and realizing that it will not always go the way we want) while refraining from using American military power unless absolutely necessary;
(2) Maintaining a presence in Iraq until that country's government is stable or requests our withdrawal;
(3) Supporting significant reform in health care that incorporates the role of private enterprise while expanding guarantees of health care to the working poor, and lessening the burden on businesses;
(4) Repeal of the worst tax cuts (especially restoration of the estate tax), but not full reversion to the previous tax system; simplification of the tax code and elimination of many deductions;
(5) Continued educational reform and encouragement of experimentation to improve failing public schools, including greater teacher pay and accountability, without further promoting mass exit from the public system;
(6) Increasing the tax deductible amounts that can be invested in retirement plans, leveling of Social Security benefits, and increase in the amount that is subject to Social Security tax;
(7) Refusal to incorporate any group-specific clause as a constitutional amendment (i.e. no gay marriage amendment), while recognizing each state's right to decide the issue;
(8) Campaign finance reform that incorporates significant free advertising time for candidates;
(9) Government commitment to a national childcare benefit, one that does not rely on tax deductions which do not help the poor.

Clearly there is more that could be included, but these points form a solid base.

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