Weighing In

There have been a number of bold ideas put forward by Democrats (most of them running for the presidency) thus far in 2019. I thought today would be a good opportunity to briefly weigh in on three of them. Let’s explore.

The one causing the most heart palpitations on the right is the Green New Deal. While it is much more than simply a plan to combat climate change that is its core. It is merely a plan/outline that needs refinement. Keep in mind that when Social Security came into being in 1935 it was the framework of today’s much better program. From its inception I predicted that Obamacare will follow a similar evolutionary path. That is how I view the Green New Deal and if you oppose it in principle you are either ignoring reality or don’t care about the future of the planet and its inhabitants.

The congressional efforts in the 116th have been spearheaded by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and freshman New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Republicans have all but ignored Markey instead focusing with laser-like precision on AOC. This mistake will come to haunt them in the future, (but since she is of Puerto Rican ethnicity it plays well with their xenophobic and racist base). If the Republicans have anyone who is her cerebral equal or as articulate a speaker they have done a masterful job of hiding them. The right wing took what would have been an obscure House freshman and turned her into a media star. Media star politicians can raise tons of money for their party.

The basic (and extremely flawed) argument from the Republicans is that the Green New Deal is too expensive and will kill jobs. (Somehow it is also killing all the cows and taking away your hamburgers. Too bad it isn’t killing broccoli; the right wing was convinced Obama was going to make all of us eat it before we went before the death panels.) Consider this for a moment: Trump claims that he is bringing coal back. Currently 50,000 people are employed in coal mining and 350,000 are employed in the solar power industry. That’s a 7:1 ration by my math. Baseball season just started and I guarantee you that any team that wins seven out of every eight games will win their division. Solar is growing and coal is dying. Where are the future jobs?

I admit that I was originally among those who wanted AOC to follow the old school advice that Harry Truman (HST) received when he arrived in Washington as a freshman Senator. He was basically told to stay quiet and answer his mail. Today’s congressional freshmen are a different breed and they will not sit silently awaiting “their turn”. In another example of how times have changed, anyone who sends a letter to their congressional representatives in the post-9/11 era is a fool. With all the extra layers of security the bill that was the subject of the letter will be history by the time a letter reaches its destination. Interestingly Lynden Baines Johnson (LBJ) followed similar advice to Truman’s when he got to the House. While he became infamous for his obsession with the mail he didn’t follow the quiet part of the advice as well as Truman did. HST and LBJ ended up in the Oval Office via the vice presidency. I’m not necessarily predicting the same for AOC but it’s interesting to speculate.

Many candidates are tossing around one version or another of Medicare for All. To me it’s the latest buzzword for universal health care; (although I first heard the term used before the 2008 election.) In more recent times I think we have to credit Senator Bernie Sanders for keeping this in the progressive conversation. Whatever we end up calling it, we certainly need a modification to Obamacare that will morph into cradle-to-grave, single payer, universal health care. We currently pay about twice as much per capita for health care as other comparable industrial countries and have much worse outcomes. The money is there – we are already spending it – it is our system that is inefficient. The obvious solution is to change the system. The question is whether we can overcome greed and the influence of money in politics.

People are going nuts over proposals to eliminate the Electoral College. I certainly think we should. It is no longer necessary and totally undemocratic. It has been with us since the Constitution was originally drafted. In reality it is another aspect of America’s original sin – slavery and was a concession to the slave states.

The best legitimate argument for it is long gone. The theory goes that if we go to a popular vote presidential candidates will only campaign in large urban areas and much of the country will never hear from them. That was true in the days when radio, television and the Internet were not around. Other than actually hearing a candidate the only way to get their message was via newspapers. In America’s early days most people couldn’t read and if they could access to and affordability of a newspaper was questionable.

Today few people attend rallies but anyone who is interested gets a daily barrage of messages from all viable candidates regardless whether they live in a major city in a large state or a hamlet with a double digit population. In fact most Americans are sick of hearing from the candidates by the time Election Day rolls around.

Despite the fact that various plans are being touted for eliminating the Electoral College I can’t see it happening anytime soon. The most likely route is a Constitutional Amendment. That would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate and then ratification by three-quarters of the states (in most cases by their legislatures). For a plethora of reasons I don’t see that happening anywhere in the foreseeable future.

I am a long way away from endorsing a 2020 presidential candidate but I will expect at least a backing in principle of each of these three proposals from them.

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