Friday, November 10, 2006

Thoughts forward

In part I've been too busy to go looking around at the political bloggers, and in part I've wanted to take in what has and hasn't changed with this week's developments, organizing some of it in my own mind before looking for what others have been thinking.

So, with an extremely busy workday ahead for me, this is a relatively quick outline post for me to come back to and consider later.

With Pelosi becoming the Speaker of the House of Representatives in January, the largest number of female representatives ever in the House and, I believe, the same for the Senate, with 16 women set to be present among the one hundred there, I'm sure there are things being written about what this might mean to the direction of government. Hopefully people are having more sense than to dust off the "The Year of the Woman" sign, something that always ends up backfiring and which is entirely too limited and trophy-like. Please, ladies and feminists of all genders (someone will be offended if I write "both"), let's leave the trophy mentality to the old boy's club and on the shelf of things that make us go "ow."

The new Democratic majority is sweeping in as a reformist wave, so the future is now theirs to lose much as was the case with the GOP wave 12 years ago. While I wouldn't suggest directly resurrecting the structure of the Contract With America, coming in with a bullet list agenda, prospective committees being formed now, is highly adviseable. Let's hope this batch of Democrats, riding in against a "culture of corruption" much as the GOP reps and senators did in '94, manage to stay cleaner longer than those across the aisle did in the 90's. Part of that is our job. We elected our representatives, it's up to us to establish connections to them and monitor their actions. If you just sit back and wait for change, or for them to fail, then when things go wrong you share part of the blame. Throwing your hands up and walking away isn't an answer, though if the people you voted for didn't get elected, well, then I understand. I had the likes of Rick Santorum "representing" me for years, and there was no bridge to span that gulf.

The War in Iraq (and let's not forget the situation in Afghanistan) is going to be a huge matter, and one that GOP strategists are (somewhat ironically) counting on to leave a bad taste in the mouth of voters with respect to the Democrats over the next two years. It's a mess, and the idea of "victory" is something that will simply have to be re-crafted. The invasion and occupation of Iraq was a huge mistake, undertaken for a raft of wrong reasons - whether one chooses to see them as lies (the view I hold) or honest mistakes. Stating and restating that frequently will be key. Approaching it as a mess to be cleaned up, pinning those responsible with the gimlet stare of an accusatory eye each time a particularly messy spot situation is being handled. The big trick with The War will be in finding the most artful way of removing ourselves from the chaos done in our name, leaving behind the most stable political and economic situation we can.

Since the confirmation of John Bolton is happily dead, the person they do confirm will be key, as shifting matters to more international oversight has to be part of the solution.

While moving ahead on important, forward-looking issues, the Democrats cannot simply let what's happened go by the boards without action. Nancy Pelosi has already all but sworn that impeachment of Bush isn't "on the table," and while that rankles part of me I understand the rationale behind it. The GOP's relentless witchhunt of the Clintons through the 90s wasted not only many millions of dollars but priceless time and opportunity to deal with vitally important issues. It would be a mistake to squander the coming two years that way. However, it is essential that at least one hungry committee be formed to follow the money that's been flowing into the black hole of Iraq, and have an accounting made of what disappeared to the billions that may as well have been handed out in checks signed out to "Cash", seeing who had control of it last before it vanished, and in finding out just what our troops and the citizens of the countries we invaded and occupied have actually gotten for our dollars from the civilian contractors (ie war profiteers) who've prospered so mightily from this misadventure. Follow the money and we might not only get some of it back (though, yes, that'll be a more symbolic victory than a real one because the procedure will take money) but that's a worthwhile path to be on if we're interested in finding and prosecuting those who lied to us and stole from us not simply money but priceless time and irreplaceable lives.

Items such as reinstating the Inheritance Tax, pulling the shunts out of the Social Security tank (which have been siphoning momentary surpluses out of what should be a sacred pool of public trust and misspending them on other items) so that its promise can be restored, should also be quickly on the table.

Taking some significant steps towards the healthcare crisis in this country is vitally important, starting with using the power of millions of people that the federal government is supposed to represent to negotiate (and they can get as much into gunboat diplomacy as possible as far as I'm concerned) lower prices for prescription drugs for US citizens. If this means a trade-off in caps on damage claims when something goes wrong with a drug's usage then so be it; no one said this would be a path strewn with rose petals. Any step we can take towards providing an HMO style healthcare program for every U.S. citizen - much the same system as many of us get via our employers, but with the federal government becoming the one paying the management organization instead of it coming directly from our employers - is better than one away from it. If we can blow billions upon billions of dollars on a place we shouldn't be where we're losing lives, then we damn well can spend them over here saving and improving lives. We have to bring as many positive things as we can out of this Iraq mess, and I'm hard pressed to think of a better one than this.

Don't let the naysayers win this time. If they say it won't work, point out that while they have their limitations HMOs have been working reasonablly well for millions of people for years now (My wife and I have had two children and a great deal of medical care via them over the past 16 years.) If people have fallen for the propaganda that "some government bureaucrat" will be deciding whether or not we can have a given medical procedure remind them that under the current system some insurance company bureaucrat's been making that call. It we set it up so that instead of hundreds of thousands of separate employers are having to deal with insurance companies we have the power of the federal government behind it, better terms can be negotiated, the options should only increase and become less expensive, and the growing degree economic slavery many such as myself find ourselves in -- if you have dependents with pre-existing medical conditions the prospect of changing jobs takes on a horrible new dimension -- will be shattered. Yes, it will be absolutely vital that we not allow the federal department in charge of this bloat into a self-serving, money-sucking bureaucracy, but that's part of what management is all about. As citizens in a democratic republic we have to stop blaming everyone else while throwing our hands up like Pilate's, fresh from the basin, and at least try to manage the people we've hired to make things work.


Blogger Handsome said...

All excellent, insightful, wise and cogent points. Perhaps you should run for office.

However, I must say, the notion that most Americans want to actually WORK at managing their elected representatives... bah! Most of us don't even VOTE! I mean, we have LIVES!

Maybe you really should run for office.

1:11 PM  
Blogger MJ Norton said...

You're too kind, but oh, the ways I'd be crucified if I put myself on the altar of public service. I'd get nightmares even considering it.

I'm just trying to seize an opportunity I don't recall really believing I had prior to this, to connect with freshly-elected representatives at a time when nearly everyone in government is at least paying lip service to change for the common good. Making that connection soon is critical, and working to maintain it will be equally important.

The more complex the issues the more work it's likely to be, but even if we don't personally find ourselves with complete solutions we have to make sure we figure out what's most important and get the list in front of our representatives now, while the spirit of forward-looking public service is running high.

I'll be heartsick if the opportunity's blown.

7:03 PM  

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