Yes, Virginia, There Is a Sanity Clause

As the Democratic Party candidate for Congress in the Third District of Pennsylvania, I have lamented the Republican mantra that all we do on this side of the aisle is criticize, criticize, criticize without an agenda of our own.

Untrue.

There are sane alternatives to the insanity of the current "leadership," if one wishes to use that word, and in this blog, I would like to offer some issue-by-issue.

1. We do not have to continue to outsource our economy, attack our middle class, or sign onto trade deals like CAFTA. There is a sane alternative. We can re-vitalize our manufacturing base with public works and defense contracts and agree to support only those trade deals which benefit American workers, raise the standard of living in underdeveloped nations and promote the ecological health of the planet. Passing a law requiring defense contracts to be honored in the US by US workers instead of shipping them overseas (e.g. the manufacture of military uniforms) would employ a lot of people. Partnering US industry with government to begin providing clean, alternative, US-made energy would create jobs, improve the environment and reduce the need for oil wars such as the one now going on in Iraq.

2. We did not have to invade Iraq, and we do not have to stand for the stay-the-course madness of the Bush Administration. There is a sane alternative. We can re-deploy to a safe perimeter; fight terrorism where needed; re-invigorate our failed international alliances; broker a lasting peace in Israel; and drain the swamp of despair and hatred which produces terrorism through a concerted international effort to improve the economic and social lives of peoples in which terrorism breeds.

Historians Joel Palmer and R.R. Colton once wrote that after WW II it would be the task of the nations of white, western Europe which had dominated the globe for over 500 years to learn to negotiate with it. We have not learned that lesson. Instead the arrogance and historical ignorance of the Bush administration has cast our nation into the role of a colonial aggressor, and the hatred toward us which we are witnessing across the globe is the absolutely unnecessary legacy of that failed historical vision.

3. We do not have to threaten Americans with the privatization of Social Security. There is a sane alternative. We can make it solvent forever simply by lifting the earnings cap and having all of our citizens pay 6.2% of income. Data from both the IRS and Dept. of Labor indicate that 60% of earned income comes from the top 10% of income earners--all of whom earn more than the $94,000 cap on Social Security taxes. By removing the cap and placing the resultant annual $200-300 billion amount in an interest-bearing account, we would generate by year 2040 (when Social Security is projected to be able to pay only 70% of current benefits) a principal of over $25 trillion. The interest alone on this sum would guarantee the solvency of the system in perpetuity without any additional matching amounts from business.

4. We do not have to endure the loss of our health care because so much of Congress is owned by the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. There is a sane alternative. We can pass HR 676 and have our own physicians take care of us affordably. HR 676 was introduced by Congressman Conyers and has been co-sponsored by over 70 members. It would provide complete health care (in-patient, out-patient, doctor, hospital, eye, dental, prescription drug, psychiatric, long-term, and prosthetic care) for all of our people at about 5% of income with matching employer funds and a modest tax on stock and bond transactions. It is a measure whose time is long overdue.

5. We do not have to endure the gouging at the gas pump or the degradation of the environment by the sorry policies of this administration. There is a sane alternative. We can insist on clean, alternative, American-produced energy now and sponsor measures which will transition us away from fossil fuels. Wind, solar, tidal, nuclear, and bio-fuel technology is already at hand. We can partner government and industry to build new kinds of power generation just as the TVA did during the Depression. The benefits to our economy as well as our ecology would be enormous. We can insist now upon better mpg rating for our cars. We can begin a high-speed national rail system to reduce turnpike traffic and pollution. We can develop clean coal gasification and safer nuclear power. And we can begin seriously funded research into nuclear fusion power generation which, when accomplished, will solve our energy problems forever. All this is possible if we end the terrible waste of money and lives in Iraq, allow the tax breaks to the wealthy to sunset, and have corporate America pay its fair share.

6. We can end the cesspool in Washington. There is a sane alternative. We can support the public funding of all federal elections so that Congress becomes unowned by any entity except the people themselves. The Buckley vs. Valeo decision which made money the equivalent of free speech has been allowed to stand unchallenged. It has effectively abrogated the constitutional mandate of "one-man, one-vote" and should be re-visited. Taking special interest money out of the election equation is the only sure way to clean up the system. As it is now, our people do not trust their government. There has been more than half a century of lies and doubts from the Warren Commission Report through events like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Watergate, Iran-contra, the Florida vote of 2000, and the WMD-Iraq episode. The lack of trust between those who govern and those who are governed is perhaps the most damning problem our democracy faces. It keeps people from voting. It keeps people from hoping that government can function for their benefit. Restoring election integrity from public funding to mandating paper verification for votes is fundamental to preserving our democracy.

I can't speak for my party or for every Democrat running, but having talked to dozens and dozens of Congressional candidates in this election cycle, I can say without reservation that the alternatives above have resonated with all of them in whole or in part. In any event, the measures stand as a credible alternative to the horrible policies of the current administration.

So the next time you hear someone say, "The Democrats have no ideas of their own," please tell them to look at this blog.

Many thanks.