12 Suggestions For A Better America

 


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12 Suggestions For A Better America

Written October 17, 2004

Edited March 13, 2010

End the Afghanistan & Iraq Wars!

Improve Religious Attitudes

Stop Supporting Apartheid Israel

Improve Energy Policies

Improve Tax Code

Improve Drug Laws

Improve Health Care

Improve Education Of Children

Improve Environmental Attitudes

Improve The Way We Elect Presidents

Improve The Way Public Buildings Are Built

Improve Construction Codes in Disaster Prone Areas 

1. End the Iraq War

America was lead into this disastrous war based upon outright lies from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the supporters of this un-American group. Rather than stem the flow of so-called "terrorism," they have actually fanned the flames and are helping to generate thousands more America haters every day. Congress needs to pull the purse strings shut and bring the troops home NOW!

2. Improve Religious Attitudes

America prides itself on its Judeo-Christian heritage and its toleration of all religions. It appears an ever-growing segment of the population has swung far to the religious right and that swing is driving world unrest.

America was properly founded on a principal of separation of church and state. Unfortunately most politicians are allowing religion to influence their decision making. It is a two-edged sword, driven by the Christian Right and a Jewish Block. Both groups have become more intolerant of other religions.

The Christian Right has become blinded by strict interpretations of the Bible and their belief that anyone who does not accept Jesus Christ as their savior is not only wrong, but also doomed eternally. Even the Catholic Church has fallen off the wagon when Pope Benedict recently approved a document which said all other Christian denominations apart from Catholicism were wounded and not full churches of Jesus Christ. His proclamation has driven a further wedge into Christianity.

Many people of Jewish heritage have perfected the use of the term anti-Semitic and use it as a weapon towards anyone who would criticize anything Jewish. If someone says something against America, they are often labeled as anti-American and the world moves on. Not so with anything said about Israel. Many people of Jewish heritage have been able to equate Jewish criticism with something close to Nazism and they wield their anti-Semitic claims with a vengeance. If one complains about the way America is handling the Iraq War, they are not branded as being against anything other than the war. If they complain about the way Israel is handling the Palestinian War, it’s an entirely different picture. Suddenly they are branded anti-Semitic; complaints are cleverly turned from complaints about a war to complaints against a religion. Jewish lobbyist in Washington have a stranglehold on the American Congress and Senate where they have long been able to control public opinion about everything Israeli.

All religions need to realize that man wrote their holy books. All religions need to admit that there can only be one God. The God worshipped by Christian, Muslim, and Jew is the same God. He or She does not take sides. He or She does not favor one group over another.

If we are to have peace in our times, there must be major changes in these religious attitudes. There must be an acceptance of all religions.

Additionally there must be a much better understanding of cultural differences. Currently America appears to be attempting to mold the entire world in its image and the effect has been one of division.

3. Stop Supporting Apartheid Israel

Since its founding, Israel has enjoyed unbridled support from America. In addition to hundreds of billions of dollars in direct aid and arms, America has always looked the other way when it comes to Israel's human rights abuses against the Palestinians. By allowing the "Cast Lead" invasion, occupation, and slaughter of innocent civilians in 2008 - 2009, America proved to the entire world that it would allow Israel to violate all international laws and treaties.

America is among just a handful of countries who are trying to kill the UN Human Rights Commission's Goldstone Report because it tells the truth about Israel's war crimes. Washington claims to want the Mid-East Peace Talks to resume, while Israel's government continues build illegal settlements on occupied territory. American arms are killing innocent civilians in occupied Palestine. Washington needs to cut off all funding to Apartheid Israel. For real information on what is happening in Israel and Palestine, see http://theonlydemocracy.org/

4. Improve Energy Policies

For far too long the world has depended upon oil as its primary source of energy. This oil dependence is one of the prime reasons America is currently fighting an unpopular war in Iraq. Oil fuels unrest and greed.

Fortunately the world is blessed with abundant natural renewable resources such as solar and wind power.

What’s needed is an enlightened policy that will enable these renewable resources to be used now. Greed is preventing the worldwide adoption of renewable resources. Oil generates trillions in income for a relative handful of people, whereas, the energy of the sun and wind and hydrogen are all but free. The benefit to mankind in making the change to renewable resources is huge. The damage done to the environment is readily seen by all. The use of oil is the primary cause of global warming.

The technology to use renewable resources is currently in place. It needs only the push of enlightened governments to replace the non-renewable fossil fuel dependence currently dragging the world down. Bush and his ilk are now touting the benefits of using corn to produce ethanol. Food turned to fuel will never work. A handful will benefit financially, but the world will lose. Organic and easily grown crops such as hemp will produce up to four times as much ethanol per acre as from corn with considerable less damage.

5. Improve Tax Code

Like oil, the only justification for the U.S. Tax Code is greed. These laws are so complex that even the Internal Revenue Service cannot interpret them. Their complexity is driven by political favoritism and ignorance.

There is absolutely no reason why the Tax Code cannot be simplified. What’s needed is a 3 x 5 card, not a complicated set of forms. Tax every person equally. Eliminate all exemptions. A simple flat tax of 10 or 15 percent of earned income should be sufficient to run the U.S. To protect those with low income, there can be an amount below which there is no tax. For example, the first $20,000 in income is tax-free. For corporations and/or larger businesses there will still be a need to have accounting to determine profit, and then that profit should be taxed the same as for individuals.

Congress no longer represents the people. They are beholding to special interest groups and big corporations. Along with changing the tax code, America needs to change the way Congress does business. Disallowing all deductions for political contributions would be a good start. Public campaign financing is the best solution to campaign reform. Putting a limit on the length of time a person can hold any public office would also help. 

6. Improve Drug Laws

This topic covers drug manufacture and drug use. Millions of Americans use far too many drugs. Millions more cannot afford needed drugs. Millions are in prison for use of illegal drugs.

Like oil, profit unfortunately drives the drug business, both legal and illegal. When you know that you can cross the border into Canada or Mexico and purchase the exact same drug at half the price or less than one in the U.S., you have to know there is something radically wrong. For too many years politicians have allowed powerful drug lobbies to dictate drug policy in America and this policy has worldwide implications. Again, trillions in income are going to a relative handful of people, many are the same people controlling the oil industry.

If the drug companies can sell the same drug cheaper in other countries, they should be able to do the same in America. Many say the reason drugs cost more in America is because of the research costs. If that is the case, then politicians should force the drug companies to equalize the costs and research burdens. Far better for a Canadian or Mexican to pay five percent more if it allows Americans to pay forty percent less.

Another needed change is a policy that makes drugs for epidemics like AIDS readily available at the lowest possible cost worldwide. To allow millions to die so that a handful can profit is morally wrong.

As to drug laws, the same profit motives driving legal drug costs are driving the illegal drug business. The U.S. tried and failed to make alcohol illegal. It’s high time that they realize that making drugs illegal is just as fruitless as prohibition was. Like many legal drugs, most illegal drugs can be manufactured or harvested very cheaply. Their use, like alcohol, can be tightly controlled and the government would realize billions in new taxes. Seventy percent of all inmates in jails and prisons could be freed saving taxpayers additional billions annually. Crime levels would plummet tremendously. The only losers in the legalization of drugs will be the drug dealers and the corrupt government officials who allow the illegal drug trade to flourish. Many countries, such as Columbia, Peru, and Afghanistan have a much better chance for peace if the drugs they now produce illegally were legalized and properly controlled.

The U.S. is the leading consumer of illegal drugs with millions of users who everyday court the chance of being arrested and sent to prison for ridiculously long mandatory minimum sentences. Congress has to wake up and realize that legalizing and controlling drugs is not being soft on crime.

Laws are already in place to punish anyone who commits a crime related to the use of legal drugs and alcohol. Those same laws should apply to what are now illegal drugs.

7. Improve Health Care

Nearly fifty million Americans do not have health insurance. The cost of health care has skyrocketed far beyond the annual cost of living increases. The cost of drugs prevents millions from receiving needed treatment even if they have health insurance. Like the oil and drug industries, the health industry has been hijacked by a relative handful of people. Not too long ago America had thousands of independent hospitals and equally independent doctors. Today hospitals have become profit centers rather than health care centers. Doctors are buried beneath piles of paperwork and outrageous malpractice insurance fees. Many hospitals have more employees in administration than they do in actual health care. Insurance forms should be standardized. There should be a one-page universal form for all hospital admissions.

Health care is not a right, but it should be readily available and affordable to everyone. What is needed is Medicare for All. To change it is not easy, but it can be accomplished.

Hospitals should not be profit centers. The employees should be well paid, but the overall concept of a hospital should be non-profit. Health care should be driven by prevention and wellness.

There are many promising research projects underway that could easily change the face of health care and solve the mysteries of many diseases. The key ingredient in this research is stem cells and, because stem cells are obtained from human embryos, the religious right has raised an unrelenting war against their use. They equate the use of a stem cell with the taking of a life and loudly thump their Bibles to support their claims.  Here, again, we have a classic case of church mixing in with state to raise havoc. The vast majority of Americans, Christians among them, support the use of stem cell research, but, like oil, a handful of religious zealots are attempting to sabotage this much-needed research.

Every hospital does not need the latest, very expensive, piece of equipment. It is far better to place a patient in an ambulance for a ten-minute ride for a CAT scan at half the price or less.

Tort laws need desperately to be changed in many ways and particularly as they apply to health care. Attorneys have twisted the laws to suit their greedy ways. The changes must come from new laws that control the amount an attorney can charge and the amount a plaintiff can win. Frivolous lawsuits must be stopped.

8. Improve Education Of Children

We need to change how we educate our children, both in the home and in schools. The number one priority in education needs to be the ability to read, write, and most importantly, the ability to comprehend. Without these three ingredients it is virtually impossible to teach other subjects.

Education has to begin in the home. Parents should urge and assist their children to learn to read. Books should be a vital part of family life. Things like television watching and computer use should be limited. Parents should be diligent in making sure that their children are not watching violence or playing violent games that tend to desensitize children to violence. Parents must spend more time with their children. Meals should be a family event with conversation encouraged. Parents need to reevaluate their real needs and spend less time competing with the Jones. A $10,000 car will get you to the same place at the same time as that $50,000 SUV purchased on credit. Many useful items can be purchased second hand. With just a little conservation it may well be possible for one or both parents to work less hours and spend those extra hours in quality time with their children.

The teaching of reading, writing, and comprehension should be the only subjects taught for the first three to four years of education. Those subjects should be coupled with healthy activities that encourage children to work together with each other and adults. They should learn to share and be encouraged to help others. They also should learn about nutrition and good food habits. During their free time children should be encouraged to play outdoors rather than in sit front of a television or a computer.

9. Improve Environmental Attitudes

The same groups who control the oil industry are also largely responsible for the deplorable state of the environment. Power and money far outweigh the benefits of preserving the environment and attempting to reverse the damage done by the overuse of fossil fuels reduces their exorbitant profits.

The U.S. has steadfastly refused to sign the Kyoto Global Warming Agreement. They continually thumb their nose at the majority of the world's governments, in essence repeating President Bushes' cry in the lead up to the Iraq War, “If you're not with us, you're against us.”

The U.S. is the leading consumer of energy and the last country to want to do anything about it. We need solar, wind, hydrogen, and other forms of renewable, non-polluting energy developed and we need it developed now. Every day spent burning oil products is another day lost in the battle against global warming.

As the ice caps continue to melt, the level of our oceans continues to rise. Coupled with this is an overall increase in ocean temperatures that is leading to an intensification of tropical weather. The damage done to Florida alone from the continued battering of hurricanes should be all the warning the U.S. needs to wake up to the fact that the climate is changing and time is running out to stem the tide.

In addition to burning fossil fuels and melting the polar ice caps and glaciers, the world is rapidly eliminating forests that help Mother Nature maintain the climatic balance. In some respects the trashing of the environment is more critical to the survival of earth than is the so-called War on Terror.

10. Improve The Way We Elect Presidents

This one is short and sweet. Scrap the Electoral College! It became unneeded right after the continental railroad was completed and telegraph wires connected both coasts of America. Other than giving tiny states more control over the outcome, there is no logical explanation why it continues to be used. To level the playing field what is really needed is to count every vote and the person who wins the highest number of votes wins the election.

11. Improve The Way Public Buildings Are Built

Way back in the early 60's my Father, faced with a huge financial burden of building schools in the growing district where he was Assistant Superintendent, discussed the problem over dinner on several occasions. These discussions lead to a proposal he and I concocted to present to the California Department of Education, which would have saved California school districts billions of dollars over the last 40 years.

The idea was to have a library of pre-approved plans, available in Sacramento where any school district could visit and select construction plans that fit their particular criteria. There would be many plans available and they could be mixed and matched to fit the need and the job site. Buildings could be oriented in any direction. In many cases windows could be moved from one side to another or added to both sides. Multi-purpose buildings could serve as gyms, cafeterias, and meeting halls. Buildings could be painted different colors.

We estimated that the average school district could have saved nearly one million dollars per school, because the only costs, other than construction, would be in site development. Even the construction costs would be lower because contractors would not have to be continually trying to reinvent the wheel, so-to-speak, as they interpreted new plans. In many cases parts could be prefabbed and shipped cheaper than constructing them on site.

Dad composed a letter to the State School Board and the reply, which was very rapid, basically said not interested! Mention was made of alienating architects and taking control away from individual districts. The idea died and with it the chance for California taxpayers to save untold billions.

The idea still has merit and could be applied to all kinds of public buildings to save American taxpayers untold billions as well. Every library and federal courthouse does not have to be totally different. Look around you at the plethora of public buildings and you'll soon see that the opportunity to save in new construction is huge.

12. Improve Construction Codes in Disaster Prone Areas

And, finally, the last suggestion for positive change is to stop allowing the construction of buildings that fail to stand up to the ravages of Mother Nature. Along with this is the need to stop allowing construction in disaster prone areas, such as flood plains.

Allowing people to place mobile homes in the path of hurricanes in lunacy. In addition to the destruction, there are also the ever-increasing insurance rates that affect every American, not just those who suffer direct losses. Like medical insurance, homeowner insurance continues to creep up, and it's only a matter of time until many homeowners will no longer be able to afford insurance.

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