Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Politics of Compassion?

Both Joe Perez and Matthew Dallman have blogged about politics in the past 24 hours. Generally, Joe takes a Wilberian approach and MD is more conservative in his views.

I have been an Independent for the past 5+ years -- feeling that the Conservatives lack compassion for the poor and the weak, and that Liberals lack the common sense of a housefly. Even Libertarians are too willing to let the free market squash the weak. What I would like to see is a politics of compassion. I'm not sure what that would look like, but I'd like to present 10 ideas, on a range of topics, that I would love to see our national politics embody.

I fully expect to get slammed for holding these views.

1) Universal Health Care -- This is one of those issues that make me a Socialist to some. But I do not see how we can survive as a nation when health care is profit-driven. Too many people, especially children, are denied adequate health care because their families cannot afford it. The measure of a nation is how well it takes care of its weakest or its most disenfranchised citizens. We are failing in this area more than any other.

I'd gladly pay $1,000 or more per year in taxes to have quality health care managed by a not-for-profit NGO. Keep government out of it, but also keep profit out of it. If the wealthy want better coverage than such a plan can offer, then they should have it -- they can afford it.

2) Gay Rights -- Marriage should not be legislated by government; it's a violation of the Separation clause of the Bill of Rights. But marriage should be dictated by each religion according to its own beliefs. However, civil unions should be available to all adults, without government interference. Gays and lesbians should have all the rights of every other citizen in this nation.

Homosexuals are the only group in this country for which discrimination is legal. That must end if we are to be a compassionate nation.

3) Limited Capitalism -- Capitalism without restraint (the free-market system) is based on greed, not on compassion. Minimum wage laws are crucial in this regard -- if it were left to business (and it largely has been), the poorest among us would be even poorer. And with the continually rising cost of education, it's no longer reasonable in many instances to expect low-wage workers to be able to educate themselves out of poverty. We need better financial aid programs for the poor, and we need to find a way to cap the insanely rising cost of education.

In the realm of wishful thinking, there should be caps on how much CEOs of huge companies can be paid -- as a specified percentage of the average wage within the company (excluding top-level management). This will never happen -- but it would go a long way toward keeping prices down and ensuring a better return for investors.

4) Decriminalize Drugs -- Rather than throwing people in prison for drug use and abuse, make them enter mandatory rehab programs. Treatment works a lot better than incarceration (which doesn't work at all) -- and in the long run it would be cheaper for us as a nation -- and more compassionate to those who are addicts.

5) Foreign Policy -- We should never enter wars for economic gain. The only just war is to prevent the slaughter of innocent lives. Our war efforts should be based on a compassionate defense of human life. And war should always be a last resort.

The United Nations has been an unfortunate failure. But we need some form of international body to organize aid in emergencies, peace keepers when feasible, international trade law, and a handful of other issues. The US should be a leader in the world, but to do so we must act with integrity and compassion in how we treat other nations.

6) Ethics in Politics -- Any politician found to have knowingly violated ethics laws should be immediately removed from office. Politicians should act of behalf on their citizens, not on behalf of big business, lobbyists, or their own self-gain. This will require some campaign finance reform that will never happen -- but it is the only way to clean up the system.

7) A Department of Peace -- Dennis Kucinich will never be elected president, but his Department of Peace idea is a good one.

The original idea of a Peace Department in the United States dates back to the administration of George Washington, but has been most recently reinitiated by Rep. Dennis Kucinich beginning in 2001 and formed a part of Kucinich's presidential campaign platform in 2004. A bill for this purpose, HR 3760, was previously introduced in the House of Representatives on September 14, 2005. It has most recently been re-introduced via HR 808 on February 5, 2007 and 65 co-sponsors have since quickly signed on.

Since the United Nations has not worked, we need to be actively involved -- as world leaders -- in trying to create peace on this planet. This includes being an example for other nations to live up to.

8) The Environment -- Whether climate change is human caused or not -- it's probably 50/50 -- the reality is that the climate is changing in ways that will cost human lives, farm land, port cities, and bring a whole host of other disasters. We should be world leaders in addressing anything humans can do to slow the progression of warming. This is the only planet we have -- and we must also treat the Earth with compassion.

9) Smaller Government -- As much as possible, the scope of government must be limited both to ensure individual freedoms and to allow tax dollars to be spent in ways that can help the most people. If we can cut the the size of government and keep it out of people's private lives, we can still cut taxes on the poor and support an Universal Health Care System. A compassionate government serves the needs of the people, not corporate interests, and not military-industrial complex interests.

10) The Voice of the People -- Do away with the electoral college; it's an antiquated system based on an uneducated populace. This is, arguably, no longer the case. Yes, the US is a Republic, but we pretend to democratically elect our officials -- lets' make it official and eliminate the electoral college.

So, what am I missing? Or, more to the point, how insane is this list of ideas that I would like to see in our national politics?

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