May 6 - 12, 2012 

The week we Rise to the Challenge
of what we should be!


Afghanistan: The war in Afghanistan is just as unnecessary and wrong as that in Iraq. The reason given for the invasion of Afghanistan was that they were harboring Osama bin Laden who (they said) was behind 9/11. But the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan offered to give us Osama bin Laden for trial if we had evidence against him. Attempts to occupy Afghanistan have always resulted in the defeat of the occupier and the collapse of his entire empire. It happened to Britain. It happened to the Soviet Union. And now it will happen to us – unless we cut our losses and get out NOW. 

Campaign Finance & Electoral Reform: strongly favor campaign finance reform. Corporations are not people, and money is not speech. There is no first amendment right for special interests to buy elections and politicians. 

Constitutional Government: The debate should not be about how big government should be, but whom it should serve. One of the legitimate functions given the federal government by the Constitution is to provide for the common defense

Corporate Personhood: Corporations are not people, and money is not speech. The fictions to the contrary are responsible for giant corporations having the "right" to buy legislators, elections, and wars by donating to candidates, political action committees (PACs), political parties, issue groups, and legislators. Real campaign finance reform is impossible so long as corporations are seen to have these "rights." 

"Defense Of Marriage" Amendments: vehemently oppose amending the Constitution of the United States (or of the individual states) to enshrine discrimination by prohibiting gay marriage. The recently proposed federal amendment would have not only banned gay marriage, but also banned any arrangement resulting in gay couples having any of the rights and privileges of marriage. 

Defense Spending:  support a military strong enough to protect the people of this country. But  oppose using the military to protect the financial interests of multinational corporations and banks. After 64 years, there is no reason for us to still be occupying Germany and Japan . Bring home our troops. This change in mission and deployment would allow the defense budget to be reduced substantially. We now have a trillion dollars in new weapons on the books for future procurement -- useless nukes and unneeded cold war weapons. 

Disability and persons with disabilities: Persons with disabilities are entitled to exercise their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights on an equal basis with others. Disability "summarizes a great number of different functional limitations occurring in any population in any country of the world. People may be disabled by physical, intellectual or sensory impairment, medical conditions or mental illness. Such impairments, conditions or illnesses may be permanent or transitory in nature."

Education: good schools are the result of financially secure, involved parents. So the way to improve education is not to throw money at schools, but to throw money at families. Let's face it. For now, we need public schools, adequately financed and locally controlled. Higher education should be free in exchange for service to the community or nation. One of the fundamental requirements for good schools is discipline. Without it, nothing else matters. Private schools spend less money by far than public schools. Their teachers are often less experienced. But they have discipline, and that is why they tend to be better. We MUST find a way to help public school teachers maintain discipline in the classroom and provide a real learning environment to their students. The federal government must stop issuing unfunded mandates like "No Child Left Behind." The role of the federal government should be to supply money with no strings attached so that less affluent school districts can provide quality education. Standardized tests like Florida 's FCAT have a place as diagnostic tools, but they must not be used to punish schools and teachers. 

Energy: Our goal should not just be freedom from foreign oil. It should be freedom from fossil fuels altogether. Petroleum is an essential ingredient for many industrial applications - plastics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and others. It is ridiculous to be burning up our limited supply of petroleum in automobiles. We must pursue alternative fuels like hydrogen and ethanol from prairie grass (but NOT from corn or other food). In the meantime, it is essential that we drastically increase CAFÉ mileage standards for automobiles, and apply them as well to SUVs and light trucks.

Environment: take seriously our responsibility for preserving the environment which supports all life. We believe that protecting what God has created and given to us is a divine trust.  leaving behind a livable planet for future generations. 

Federal Reserve System: Federal Reserve System: The "Federal Reserve" is not federal, and it has no reserve. It is a group of private bankers controlling the money supply and making hundreds of billions in interest on money they print for the government. Congress should consider buying back the Fed and printing its own money, as the Constitution directs.

Foreign Policy: Foreign policy must be conducted in the interest of the American people and (when not in conflict with this) the interest of the people of the world. It must NOT be conducted in the interest of transnational organizations and their owners. The world's billionaires must no longer be allowed to dictate policies through the IMF, the World Bank, the G-8, the WTO, and their hired hands in the Republican and Democratic parties. They must NOT be able to use our sons and daughters as hired killers for the multinational corporations and banks.

Gay Rights: I support human rights; and the last time I checked, homosexuals were human beings. So by definition I support homosexual rights. They should have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as anyone else, and that includes the right to be free from discrimination and harassment. From a moral and societal point of view, we should all oppose promiscuity, whether gay or straight. We tell our straight teenagers to "Save it for marriage." But what do we tell our gay teenagers to save it for? Now, many people are uptight about the word "marriage." They want it used exclusively for the union of a man and a woman. OK. So let's call a monogamous commitment between gays or lesbians "pairage." But for goodness sakes, we must encourage it, whatever it is called. We can no longer doom homosexuals to a lifetime of celibacy, closeted deceit, or promiscuity. We must hold out the hope of being able to live in a lifelong relationship, and to have that relationship recognized by society and given all the legal rights, responsibilities, and privileges that accrue to married heterosexual couples.

Health Care: The Republicans ignore the health care crisis. The Democrats argue about who has the better band-aid for the system. But what the system needs is radical surgery. The insurance companies take about half of every healthcare dollar. That money never gets to the doctors and nurses who take care of us. We must kick the insurance companies out of the healthcare business completely, and break the stranglehold of the HMOs and for-profit hospital conglomerates. We must finally join the rest of the civilized world with a doctor-run single-payer national health system.

This can be achieved through a gradual improvement and expansion of Medicare until all Americans are covered for all healthcare expenses. Elective cosmetic procedures would be excluded and available on a fee-for-service basis

Immigration: Immigration is a complex issue which cuts across party lines. Those in favor of “amnesty” or a “guest worker program” include pro-corporate Republicans, elements of the Roman Catholic Church seeking new congregants to replace millions of alienated and excommunicated parishioners, a few Union leaders hoping for new dues-paying members, and liberal Democrats driven by compassion for poor undocumented workers seeking a better life. Those opposing the “guest worker program” include a few racist Republicans and a lot of disgruntled taxpayers who don't want to subsidize social services for undocumented workers. None of the above groups sees the critical problem with undocumented workers (or indeed with uncontrolled legal immigration). 

Internet Regulation: oppose government control or taxation of the Internet except where necessary to prevent monopoly control by corporate interests. The Internet is one of the last remaining means of mass communication available to the people. Almost all radio, TV, and newspaper media are dominated by a handful of giant corporations, some of them foreign-owned and all of them driven by the profit motive. The government sold out the people and gave away our public ownership of the airwaves. We must not let it do the same to the Internet.

Iraq: Saddam Hussein, as bad as he was, had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or 9/11. His secular Ba'athist state was hated by fundamentalist Muslims. By kicking him out under the pretext of his "weapons of mass destruction," we have empowered Shi'ite Muslim fanatics who want to make Iraq an Islamic state, and greatly worsened the terrorist threat to the United States and its citizens. If we allow our military occupation to continue, we will be doomed to the same kind of defeat in Iraq that we suffered in Vietnam. Most Iraqis want us to leave. Al Qaeda and Iran want us to stay, because the war is depleting our military and destroying its morale. Our troops deserve better than that. They should be brought home and replaced by peacekeepers from the UN and Iraq 's neighbors. To make that happen, our government will have to make three commitments: (1) to give up all rights to Iraqi oil, (2) to give up control of the rebuilding projects (let Halliburton bid like anybody else, and let them hire Iraqis for a change), and (3) to give up the 14 permanent military bases we are building in Iraq.  You can’t “win” an occupation.  End it now!

Jobs And Paychecks:  stop government subsidies for exporting American jobs. Every American should have the opportunity to work for a living wage. There are no jobs Americans won't do – only jobs Americans won't do for the paltry wages. Every job should provide a living wage. 

Labor Issues: American workers are earning less now than they did fifty years ago. In the 1950s, most workers supported their families with one job. Today it takes three. Both husband and wife must work, and one of them has two jobs. Meanwhile, productivity has soared. Workers create more wealth now than ever. Where does it go? To the CEOs and investors. Labor has been emasculated by the Taft-Hartley Law, by deregulation which has legalized corporate monopoly power, and by Reagan's destruction of the Air Traffic Controllers union. Things must be brought back into balance. If the government is going to exercise its muscle, it should be on behalf of workers, not investors.

It is a disgrace that Congress won't even vote for a modest increase in the national minimum wage. At the same time, they voted themselves a salary increase three times as much as the total annual salary of a worker on the minimum wage! Forget the Minimum Wage. Everyone should get a Livable Wage. There is no excuse for hunger, homelessness, and poverty in America today. This is the 21st century, not the 19th. If worker pay had kept up with CEO pay, the average worker in this country would be making a million dollars a year, and the minimum wage would be $171 per hour! Corporations can pay their CEOs whatever they want, but we don't have to give them a tax deduction for it. The tax deduction for executive compensation should be capped at 20 times the wage of the company's lowest paid worker.

We are absolutely opposed to federal “right to work” laws, and am committed to restoring organized labor to its rightful place in our society.

Moral Issues: Let's get one thing straight. Morality has very little to do with sex and a great deal to do with money and power. There are indeed huge moral issues facing us today. Waging wars of aggression is a moral issue. Poverty in the midst of wealth is a moral issue. The treatment of widows and orphans is a moral issue.  Health care is a moral issue. Let the churches worry about who is sleeping with whom if they choose. The government has bigger fish to fry. Government should concern itself with morality in the board room and the war room, not the bedroom.

Native American Rights: In the United States, persons of Native American descent occupy a unique legal position. On the one hand, they are U.S. citizens and are entitled to the same legal rights and protections under the Constitution that all other U.S. citizens enjoy. On the other hand, they are members of self-governing tribes whose existence far predates the arrival of Europeans on American shores. They are the descendants of peoples who had their own inherent rights—rights that required no validation or legitimation from the newcomers who found their way onto their soil.

These combined, and in many ways conflicting, legal positions have resulted in a complex relationship between Native American tribes and the federal government. Although the historic events and specific details of each tribe's situation vary considerably, the legal rights and status maintained by Native Americans are the result of their shared history of wrestling with the U.S. government over such issues as tribal sovereignty, shifting government policies, treaties that were made and often broken, and conflicting latter-day interpretations of those treaties. The result today is that although Native Americans enjoy the same legal rights as every other U.S. citizen, they also retain unique rights in such areas as hunting and fishing, water use, and GAMING operations. In general, these rights are based on the legal foundations of tribal sovereignty, treaty provisions, and the "reserved rights" doctrine, which holds that Native Americans retain all rights not explicitly abrogated in treaties or other legislation.

Race Relations: First, we should stop using this phrase. Call it Ethnic Relations or something. All of us — black, brown, white, yellow, red — are part of the Human Race. To suggest that blacks belong to a different race is to open the door to the belief that they are somehow inferior. There is still discrimination against people of color, and it results in them having less opportunity, less education, lower income, poorer health, mistreatment in our courts, shorter lives, heartbreak, resentment, and anger. When working people are shortchanged by the big money interests, people of color suffer the most. The struggle for real equality is far from over. We belong with the oppressed minorities in the front lines.

Social Security: There's a very easy way to make the Social Security system solvent forever -- do away with the cap on earnings subject to the FICA tax. Right now, this is by far our most regressive tax. It is a heavy burden on workers and small businesses; but it is a free ride for the wealthy. Tax all income at the same rate. Make FICA a flat tax. That will bring in so much money the government won't know what to do with it. The current ceiling could be replaced with a floor. Nobody would have to pay FICA tax on the first $40,000 per year, but they would get credit as if they had. All income above that would be taxed at the current rate. Benefits could be raised, and there would still be more than enough to handle the baby boomers. 

Stem Cell Research:  strongly support stem cell research. In conducting this research, scientists should be respectful of life. To conduct abortions in order to acquire fetal tissue would be wrong. But it makes sense to utilize existing fetal stem cells for life-enhancing research instead of discarding them. The current restrictions on stem-cell lines is too constraining and should be lifted.  In spite of the propaganda put out by opponents of embryonic stem cell research, the potential of adult stem cells is not as great. The life of a paralyzed father or mother must be put ahead of the life in a blastocyst (group of cells which has the potential to develop into an embryo).

Tax Policy: Corporations "tax" workers 45 times as much as the government does. The average worker creates well over $100 worth of new wealth each hour. But his take home pay is only $8. The government takes $2 in taxes, and the corporation takes $90 for overhead and profit, including obscene CEO salaries. This is the "tax" we need to reduce. Even failed CEOs are given hundreds of millions of dollars when they are fired. We should limit the corporate tax deduction for executive compensation to 20 times the salary of their lowest paid worker. We must also close the loopholes that allow the multinationals to avoid taxation altogether. We could probably eliminate income taxes for workers and small businesses making less than $50,000 per year if we made sure the multinationals who use foreign suppliers, foreign slave labor, and offshore bank accounts are told, "If you want to sell your stuff in this country, you're going to pay your fair share of taxes."

The Center for American Progress has put forth some modest proposals for improving our tax system. They would end preferential treatment for income from capital over income from work by setting capital gains and dividend tax rates equal to those on ordinary income. They would eliminate the employee side of the FICA tax and remove the cap (currently $90,000/yr) on income subject to corporate FICA contributions. They would return the top tax rate to 39.6% for those earning more than $120,000 per year. They would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). They would replace the regressive retirement savings deduction with a flat 25% refundable credit for retirement savings. They would eliminate loopholes and retain a reformed estate tax on estates above $2.5 million (or $5 million for a couple).

Trade Issues:support trade; but it should be fair trade, not free trade. oppose NAFTA, CAFTA, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They are not really about free trade, but free investment. Everything about them favors the billionaire investors. NAFTA created 20 new billionaires in Mexico (and a bunch in the US). But it decreased the standard of living for workers on BOTH sides of the Rio Grande. Rather than raise the standard of living in the third world to match ours, these agreements are decreasing our standards to match those in poor countries. The newly created transnational organizations (like the WTO) are run by and for the giant multinationals and banks, with no public accountability, no minutes of their meetings, no reasons for their decisions, no input from workers or their elected representatives, and no loyalty to any nation. They overrule our laws, ignore our courts, and force our workers to compete with Chinese slave labor. They destroy the quality of life everywhere except Wall Street. Now we have CAFTA, too. Enough is enough. There should be no trade agreements without protection for workers and the environment.

Women's Issues: There are lots of issues in this category – The overriding theme is the dignity and equality of women. Saying women should be equal with men is not to deny their obvious superiority in many ways. Indeed, if women ruled the world, there would undoubtedly be more caring, more compassion, more understanding, and a lot less greed.  In particular, we insist on equal pay for equal work and on equal opportunity for women in the workplace for those who choose to have a career outside the home. At the same time, we proclaim that this should be a matter of choice and not of necessity. Single mothers are particularly downtrodden in our society. We must work toward a society in which women have real choices, and in which their contributions are properly valued. Those who choose to work outside the home should be provided reliable and affordable child care and a living wage.

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