2010 advice to the President and structural problems

In my files I came across a piece of writing from January 2010 that I don’t seem to have ever posted. I’m going to paste it farther below, because it just shows how slowly things change in our country.

Actually, we’re still trying to sort out some of the issues bequeathed to us by our esteemed Founders: large states vs. small states, executive vs. legislative vs. judicial branches, liberty vs. equality, security vs. freedom from unreasonable searches, the aftermath of slavery, economic injustice, access to education, who controls the military, and much more.

I did post, on 3/27/10, a different set of ideas in “My advice to Obama, 11/30/08,” which you can read here.

Do we still remember those days in early 2010 when the current administration was just a year old, it still wasn’t clear whether or when the country would recover from the great crash of 2008, the Tea Party was just taking shape, the Affordable Care Act was not yet signed into law (3/23/10), the disastrous (for Democrats and in some ways mainstream Republicans and the country) 2010 election had not yet occurred, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling (1/10) was just about to lead to the huge influx of political money into Super PACs and “social welfare” organizations?

Despite all that, I still think things move slowly around here.

The piece I just found, dated 1/29/10, shows that structurally nothing much has changed. Even Obamacare, if it stays with us, does not change the basic system of people purchasing insurance health care from private profit-making organizations (except for special groups like veterans and seniors). And that “hands-off dance the administration and Congress have been doing for the last year” has now stretched on to almost 6 years, with no end in sight.

So here are my thoughts, just as written 4+ years ago [plus a few comments added in brackets]:

After the November 2008 election, president-elect Obama asked for advice from the public, and I planned to set out mine in some detail. I know he was quite busy, but someone somewhere might have had time to read it. What I did get around to sending was a brief note that 25% of Americans would always oppose and detest him and that he should proceed to try to listen to and please the other 75%. It doesn’t seem that that advice, which certainly must have come from many quarters, registered on him till this month [meaning January 2010].

What I would have said more fully, according to the page of notes I’ve found, was that it was high time for the government to try to solve some really serious structural problems that are making this country almost non-functional in its domestic policies, and that threaten the people’s future well-being. I’m not talking about tweaks and adjustments, but these critical areas:

1) Economics: too much inequality of wealth, insecurity of families and communities, loss of income, jobs, and homes; too much dependence on consumer spending and imports, not enough on producing needed goods and services; lack of sufficient rewards for hard work; imbalance of expenditures between the military and all other areas [I should have specified discretionary]; corporate overpowering of small businesses.

2) Education: insufficient opportunities for children who need the most help; over-reliance on property tax to fund public schools; decline of public universities.

3) Health care: lack of a fair national health care program; millions with no insurance who are therefore cared for minimally and at public expense anyhow; inadequate care of veterans; poor performance with regard to cost and in comparison to other developed countries.

4) Transportation and energy: over-reliance on cars and trucks; weak mass transportation in most regions; poor progress on alternative energy sources; dependence on foreign sources of oil necessitating expensive military operations [actually, has that changed? I’m doubtful, as long as we are both importing and exporting gas and oil].

5) Political life: need to inspire voters to turn out in the relatively good numbers of Nov. 2008; counteract excessive lobbying influence, corruption, gerrymandering, apathy.

These are issues that need to be solved by total rethinking and recasting, not by little adjustments and compromises. I’d love to think that the public, or the free market, or generous philanthropists, could solve any of this, but honestly, I think these are federal and/or state government questions.

So, how is the government doing? It’s hard to apportion blame in the hands-off dance the administration and Congress have been doing for the last year, but between the two of them, though a few individuals have been trying, the results so far are terrible. We’ll see if any of the energy of the State of the Union message gets spread around, but since the president made some of the same promises before and after his election, I’m not optimistic. We’ve had gridlock, we have gridlock, and things continue to degrade in the five challenge areas listed above.

I’ve been saying for a year that Obama should give up on true health care reform [I meant, table it until later, rather than fighting it through without features than many thought were essential, like the “public option”] and make the 2010 congressional election a sort of referendum on what the public wants. Elections should be referendums, but that works out only if the public is paying attention. It is said that Americans get the government they deserve. If they don’t pay attention, they get terrible government. With the decline in voting from November 2008 to November 2009, what might encourage us to expect sudden improvement after November 2010?
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About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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4 Responses to 2010 advice to the President and structural problems

  1. Ben Burrows says:

    Thanks, Nathaniel. Tell me, have you ever had a topical response to any suggestion submitted to whitehouse.gov? They finally took away the check box that requested a reply. At least now they are being honest about refusing to answer or read suggestions from the public!

  2. Eric says:

    Nathaniel,
    Right here is your first problem. Your quote: “What I would have said more fully, according to the page of notes I’ve found, was that it was high time for the government to try to solve some really serious structural problems that are making this country almost non-functional in its domestic policies, and that threaten the people’s future well-being.”

    It’s the reliance on government to solve our problems that has gotten us into the mess we are in!

    Lets examine your points underneath that quote and answer just how the govenment is doing:

    1. Econony: The federal Govt’ gave us Dodd Frank in 2010 which increased the amount of Red tape that the financial markets have to go through in order to be efficient. Also, you mentioned the imbalance of expenditures between the military and discretionary spending? There’s this litle group out there right now, they are called ISIS, perhaps you heard of them?? Not sure but I think they mentioned something about America drowning in it’s own blood. Let’s up our military spending, please! I won’t even get into the Russian issue.

    2. Education: The Gov’t gives us Common Core. Let’s let the states mandate their educational programs for our children. Also let’s make it mandatory to teach the Constitution and History. If we forget where we have come from, it’s hard to chart where we are going to go.

    3. Health Care: We get Obamacare thrust upon us. A good portion of those that didn’t have healthcare didn’t want it to begin with. Another portion of those that don’t have it are here illegally. Are there some that wanted health care and couldn’t get it? Sure. But there has to be a better way than hijacking the whole system and the last time I checked, this was America. You shouldn’ t be required to buy health insurance.

    4. Transportation: How many peope really ride the train? Does it justify spending billions of taxpayer dollars? You may be right on this one though. If I could get in fewer traffic jams because a solid percentage take the train to work, that would be great, but I’ll stick with my truck. Call it a pioneering spirit or fierce independence, but I believe most Ameicans would rather drive. Are they going to next mandate that we have to take public transportation?

    5. Political Life: We do indeed need to inspire more people to turn out to vote and get involved. I am fairly conservative and have a disdain for those on the far left, but what bothers me more is the apathy that a lot of people have toward politics and what is going on in our country. It does seem that very few care, so long as they can purchase their 6 pack of beer and watch Monday Night Football.

    But then again,,,what do I know….however, I do enjoy the debate.

    Eric

  3. Thanks for comments. No, I haven’t had replies from the White House on anything concrete. Maybe I’m talking now to the next administration? A president of any party could agree on the structural issues, I think. The Founders knew about them too.

    If there is so much disparity of income that Americans can’t buy consumer products, then the whole economy goes down. I just read that inhabitants of the future US in 1776 had the world’s highest standard of living. I don’t know if that was true, but it isn’t any more.

    Transportation is part of the economic infrastructure.

    So is education. No, I’m not in favor of the Common Core; that’s one of several things that the right and left wings agree on now.

    I’m not in favor of individuals choosing or paying for essential health care; I think all Americans should have a basic government program (“Medicare for all”) and if they want more, then they can pay for it, but at least hospitals and doctors won’t be burdened as they are now.

    I thought right and left agreed our military is overextended; do we still need bases in 150 countries or whatever it is now? If Congress won’t act on increasing a military presence in Iraq (known as war), should the president commit to the expenditure and personnel again? I don’t think so. Unless Congress wants to raise taxes to pay for more military expenses (including notably improved government health care for veterans), then how can more funds go into it? Bush’s “off-budget” wars didn’t turn out to be financially successful.

    I trust the government less than I used to; that’s why I favor local school boards setting school policy, but I think the state should pay about half the bill to be fair to property owners, unless a new system is devised.

    Does that reply to comments? Thanks for the dialogue!

  4. Bill Keys says:

    This wingnut’s column is one of the reasons I stopped subscribing. DLN has a decidedly leftward slant and given that more citizens are conservative than not, it would behoove you to be down the middle.

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