In last week’s column I presented a list of problems that we share as Americans. The current Covid-19 crisis has illuminated many of our shortcomings and has given us food for thought as we watch our country struggle to cope with a dizzying array of challenges. The economic shut down has shown how fragile millions of our citizen’s economic lives are. As usual, it is those who have the least that have suffered the most. The lack of preparation for this foreseeable event has cost lives and wrecked others. Our government has squabbled for years, accomplishing little, rather than formulate a plan that could be adopted in such a crisis. In this election year we have an opportunity to voice our opinions at the ballot box. I believe the time is now to consider some fundamental changes in how we operate. This would be an opportune time for a well-designed third-party movement that presented real alternatives and redefined our priorities as a nation. It is a new world of possibility and we have the tools to make some meaningful progress. Here are some ideas whose times may have come.
We have kicked the environment in the teeth until it has had enough and is kicking back hard. Our dependence on fossil fuels is now a matter of choice as clean energy technology is here, affordable and ripe for development. Even our military is being threatened. Clean energy could supply millions of new, well- paying jobs, which are now needed more than ever. We should accelerate transitioning into clean energy. The fossil fuel industry can get on the bus or be left behind. They have had a good run subsidized by us. I suggest we stabilize gas prices at three to four dollars a gallon, produce our own gas at stable prices and use the extra money for infrastructure.
Our infrastructure is crumbling and we should thoughtfully expand public transportation with modern technology. Highways and bridges should be repaired. Broadband should be upgraded and made accessible in all areas of the country. While expensive, these improvements are necessary and will cost more the longer we wait. This will create millions more jobs in the construction sector, much in urban areas where there are a lot of workers eager for blue collar jobs.
While this is truly a global economy, we have gone too far in allowing critical manufacturing to be shipped elsewhere. I would like to know how much of our military hardware is dependent on foreign suppliers. We now know that our health care system is. We should force foreign suppliers to manufacture to the labor and environmental standards we maintain in the U.S. and designate products deemed critical to be manufactured only in the U.S.
While we have been spending over 600 billion per year on the military, we have let our guard down and allowed a virus to do more damage in a month than anything other than a nuclear attack could do. While we need a strong military, I suggest we set reasonable limitations based on the spending of others, rethink our constant overseas deployments that have been going on since WWII, extricate ourselves from the Middle East and their oil, and assure China that we will continue to protect our allies and critical economic interests.
I believe we should strongly consider a two-year mandatory national service for ALL citizens at age 18. This could accomplish many things, including staffing the armed services and providing opportunity for young people to escape poor environments. They could work in national parks, immigration enforcement, conservation, social and data services and even foreign humanitarian missions. Each person would then be provided with educational opportunities for their service. Each person would be trained in basic military skills such as weaponry and schooled in civics.
We should demand comprehensive immigration reform and border security legislation. The government should provide health care security for all in some way at more affordable costs.
We should raise the minimum wage to a level that allows a person to at least support him or herself at a decent level. Prices will rise but nothing is free. We should provide food security, especially for kids, and not just when school is in.
We as a country have the power to bend our politicians to our will and demand a more just, equitable and sustainable country. They have proven that we will not get it any other way.