Do you have a picture of your ideal America? I do. I’m not talking about Utopia, perfection, or magic. If you were president and people who agreed with you ran the Congress, what would you shoot for? What would your ideal, potentially achievable, America look like? Here’s a look at mine.
I assume that human beings aren’t going to change much. There will still be racist jerks, billionaires, people who spend their lives helping one another, and every other sort of person who exists today. People are a given; we are them and they are us. I’m not planning to perfect humans. No nation or government can do that.
Perfection is not attainable in any person or any thing ever in any way. This isn’t pessimism; this is truth. Wiser cultures than ours today have embraced imperfection, made it part of their art and philosophy. I accept imperfection. My America isn’t perfect; people get bad deals, systems stagger along working about as well as can be expected. There is always room for improvement. In my America, though, we pass some sweeping laws. Among the first, we declare War on Global Warming.
So here’s a description:
My America is a capitalist economy. Today’s America is less a capitalist society than a plutocratic mercantilist society, but there are still some capitalists around. Every guy with a truck full of tools and no other job is a capitalist. Some of them are better at it than others; some make a good living for all their working years. Some wind up hiring other guys to help them. Capitalism creates jobs. Capitalism allows them to take their highest value skill and earn a living with it. I approve.
My capitalist economy would have stringent anti-monopoly laws and practices. Different companies would have different owners. This is not radical; I grew up in this sort of an economy. Here in America. Republican Teddy Roosevelt looked out of the White House on an economy like we have in America today and said, Nope. That’s not free market capitalism. And he broke up the “trusts” which were the predecessors to today’s mega corporations. Any capitalist society that works bans monopolies.
The tax structure in my America would look a lot like the tax structure in the America I grew up in. Yes, I guess I am pretty conservative.
But it worked. America was prospering. We could afford to build an Interstate highway system from coast to coast, from Canada to Mexico, to every corner of the nation, through and around every city. We could afford to cover the country with radar so the commercial air travel industry could exist. We could afford to build dams and power plants and rebuild much of war-torn Europe. The more an American made, the higher his tax rate got. People at the bottom paid very little. Society basically said, OK, once you’re making thirty or forty times as much per year as your employees, you’re doing all right. We’re going to tax you for 90% of your income above that level. And did. And America prospered.
With that tax base, my America would simultaneously undertake two vast public works projects to combat global climate change. We would build a nationwide, electric, long haul plus commuter railroad network to take the place of our current automobile-centered transportation system, and we would undertake a project to cover every parking lot and most rooftops in the entire country with solar panels, to build wind and wave generators, and to otherwise use the energy that falls upon us every day to operate our technology. Period.
The above changes would vastly improve the economy. There would be jobs everywhere in the country where there are people. The War on Global Warming would build a rail and solar system to every corner of the United States. These projects would employ Americans at nearly every single level of society, from laborers at the bottom, up through the vast number of skilled technicians required to wire it all up, through engineers, designers, fabricators, cooks and waitresses. The War on Global Warming would employ mail room clerks, middle managers, and high powered executives. If we were smart we’d build as much of it as possible right here, creating more jobs. We could fix most of what ails our economy with a War on Global Warming.
It is an established fact that a racist bastard with a boat, and time and money to go fishing, is less of a social problem than a broke racist bastard driving a broken down twenty year old car. Or driving a shiny new pickup truck that he owes 57 more payments on and has to sweat every one of them. Secure people, comfortable people, people with enough are almost always easier to get along with than people under stress no matter what character flaws they might have.
In my America every time structural racism raised its ugly head it would be eliminated. We can’t prevent humans from being hateful, but we don’t have to give their hate recognition under law. All jobs, all schools, all neighborhoods, all elections, all opportunities would be available to American residents without reference to skin color, ethnic background, religion or gender. People would be paid equally for equal work. The guaranteed annual income (mentioned below) would be equal for all people, period.
Yes, there would be flaws in implementation. There are flaws in everything, and racism is stubborn in America. There would be no excuses, and flaws, when found, would be fixed.
In my America church and state would be totally separated. Any law you want because of your religion, you can’t have it. Period. In America we don’t care what your religion is. So of course we don’t have to live by it.
That means things like abortion and gay marriage are simply not the government’s business. The only justification for regulating them is somebody’s religion, and we don’t go there. Americans are qualified to decide these issues for themselves.
In my America we would have an FCC Fairness Doctrine, and it would have teeth.
In my America anything broadcast as news would have to have a provable, empirical referent. In order to qualify for a license to broadcast news an entity would have to prove a willingness to cover events honestly and thoroughly.
All broadcast opinion would be clearly and repeatedly identified as such.
Cable or satellite television or radio would be covered under the exact same body of regulations as broadcast television radio.
In my America you could not say on television, for instance, that it is a fact that the US Government has a colony on Mars where they keep kidnapped children, unless you are prepared to take an observer from the FCC there, or provide photos, or otherwise provide real world proof. Just: no.
You may not lie any more to sell a President than you could to sell toothpaste. Or pizza. Yes, you can sell the pizzazz with the pizza, but no more snake oil. That just has to stop. Facts are facts and the FCC has an obligation to them. This is a real nation, not somebody’s plaything.
We would make a sincere effort, in my America, to make sure that everybody who was qualified to vote was able to vote. But: “qualified to vote” would mean, “Has passed the naturalization / voting test.” Otherwise, no.
Voting is selecting your government. The right to vote should not be restricted by color, gender, ability, or location. It should, however, be open to only the people who are able to understand the rules, meaning, structure, and purpose of the government they select. Otherwise it’s all voting for Prom Queen.
We would make it easy to learn. Government would be taught in schools. Adult classes would be available for free forever. You could take them over and over if you were a slow learner. For free. Take the test over and over too, if you need to. Government and citizenship classes would be available over the internet. We would make it as easy learn how your government works as it would be to vote.
But you’d have to learn. There is no possible rational justification for allowing someone to vote when she or he does not understand the terms or purpose of the act. In order to vote, an American would have to have both the interest and the intelligence to learn what the process is all about.
In my America there would be virtually no throw away packaging or beverage containers. No plastic bags. No bags that you couldn’t bury in your garden and they would vanish.
In my America we would withdraw from our addiction to toxic chemicals. We could’t take pesticides away from farmers overnight because the mechanical and other infrastructure to farm without them no longer exists. We would have to phase them out. Capitalists would take care of the machinery problem. Usable designs have already been worked out, but I am sure they would continue to improve. If we moved at the correct speed it should not be horribly disruptive, and we might do it in time to save the bees. Even if we drive ours into extinction, once we eliminate the problem we can re-import them from Europe.
In my America everybody eats. Everybody who wants to sleeps under a roof. We don’t eliminate poverty, because in my opinion eliminating poverty is impossible, but we eliminate starving and freezing to death in your cardboard box home. We eliminate working a day job and sleeping in your car. I see tiny to very small houses tucked away in available spaces. I live by myself with a chihuahua in a house that is sixteen feet wide and twenty-four feet deep. In steps that’s about five steps by eight steps. Two rooms and a bath. Every homeless single man in the country could be comfortable in a house like this. Take the same general idea and expand for families with kids.
In my America everybody gets a few bucks every month. A guaranteed income. If you’re retarded, if you’ve got schizophrenia, if you’re just bone lazy – enough to live on, a place to live. We can do this. America today is perilously close to Dickens’s England. We can solve these problems.
And if somebody says, No, I’d rather sleep on a park bench – then we let him. And we still provide him with enough money to eat and live. Because we are America. We’re all in this together.
Some people claim that if we do this, provide a guaranteed income and minimal housing, everybody will quit working, stay home, and live on the dole. I say baloney. Would you? Do you? I’ve got what I just described, from my Veterans’ Disability: a few bucks and a minimal house. I don’t stay home and loaf. I’m the unpaid maintenance man for the local animal shelter. I’m their groundskeeper. I teach literacy. I write. Within my limitations I work. I’m not special. Most people would rather work. It’s boring to sit around all the time. There are a few who can’t do any better. They can’t be somebody else. They are humans and so are we. We care for them.
Finally, of things I have thought about, in my America, if you’re sick, you go to the doctor and get treated. In my America there is a largely self selecting, parallel, dual system of medical care. We have nationwide single payer medicine, largely but not entirely provided by government employees in government owned facilities. For those who prefer it, and if capitalists wish to provide it, we have an insurance based, fee for service, private health care system. Citizens participate in whichever one they choose. I have an essay laying this plan out in more detail here.
It would take courage and vision to move from today’s America to mine, but it would be possible. Franklin Delano Roosevelt dragged America up out of the wreckage of the 19th Century, scattered across the landscape of the mid 20th as the Great Depression, and moved us into the 20th. Modernity. But today we are living in the wreckage of modernity. Most of the humans in America, and nearly all the bugs, animals, birds, and fish, are struggling just to survive. The planet itself is rising up against us. It is time for America to shake off the 20th Century and begin again to progress.
My America leads the way.