The Talking Dog

November 9, 2008, What the hell do we do now?

I may be paraphrasing the last words of the Robert Redford character in The Candidate... or perhaps of Team Obama now that it holds the mantle of power; a possible laundry list of options is set forth in this Grey Lady piece, including tax cuts for the rich an economic stimulus, dealing with climate change and energy independence, expanding access to health care and numerous other matters.

With the (apologies to Yogi Berra) caveat that this blog is so popular that no one reads it anymore, I invite whatever few commenters who accidentally make it over here [probably looking for Ashley Tisdale or exotic pornography] to put in their own laundry lost-- long or short-- of things they'd like to see President Obama do in his first 90 days (like everyone else in my college class, Obama is so effective, we've reduced the usual "100 days" number by 10%).

I'll make a few suggestions of my own, in various degrees of wonkiness:

(1) Election reform:
(a) The federal government will pay for state of the art secure voting equipment for use in federal elections, including verifications and paper trails, and open software.
(b) Voting district assignments for federal elections made after census shall be done in the same manner as Iowa's, by a non-partisan commission using county lines to the extent possible in a party neutral way to ensure competitive races
(c) Same day voter registration shall be available, with liberal identification requirements, as Minnesota does.
(d) Increased criminal penalties for "voter caging," "felon purging" and similar illegal methods by which Republicans win elections before they start.

(2) Social security strengthening reform:
(a)All income in the United States, including inheritances and investment income, as well as wages, will, in addition to other income tax consequences, be subject to 1% withholding for social security and 1% withholding for Medicare.
(b) The minimum wage will automatically be increased by the same percentage as Social Security Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs) every year, though Congress may increase the minimum wage by more than the COLAs, but under no circumstances, by less.
(c) All wage income with no upper cap shall be subject to social security taxes
(d) Self-employed individuals will be exempt from the employer portion of social security tax for the first $30,000 in income (indexed for inflation).

(3) Defense reform:
(a) A "Patriot Tax" on gasoline, fuel oil, etc., of 10 cents per gallon, all of which will be allocated to the Department of Defense, with the hope that eventually, a similar tax can fund the entire Department.
(b) A bipartisan commission in the manner of the domestic base closing commission shall be convened to determine which of the 163 countries our military is deployed in we should bug out from, in the interest of both saving money, and not pissing off the people of the world; I'd like to see that number come down at least to under half its current number by the end of the Obama Administration... the military industrial complex is too powerful to expect much more
(c) Close Guantanamo, charge those to be charged in federal court, release to their own country or otherwise grant asylum (preferably in Crawford, Texas, or else next door to David Addington) to the rest; ditto Bagram, Kandahar, Abu Ghraib, etc.

(4) Health care reform:
(a) Obviously, restore and expand the "SChip" program for children's health insurance
(b) All employers of 2 or more individuals will be mandated to provide a minimum health insurance policy for their employees, with a federal tax credit for the first 70% of the cost.
(c) Medicaid eligibility limits will be adjusted to capture an additional 10% of the uninsured each year, so that, all told, by the end of Obama's second term, all Americans will have health insurance in some manner.
(d) Television advertising of prescripton drugs shall be a criminal offense.

(5) Energy usage reform:
(a) The Department of Energy will have a nomenclature change to the Department of Energy and Energy Conservation
(b) No vehicle will be permitted on American roads unless it is at least 80% as fuel efficient as the most efficient vehicle available, and there will be an "inefficiency tax" on vehicles with such less efficient gas mileage
(c) Additional tax credits for investment in energy efficiency like insulation or upgraded boilers, along with "off the shelf" solar, wind and geothermal.
(d) Annual national "science fair" contests for new energy efficient/greenhouse gas reducing transportation, energy generation and building heating technology

Just a few. And note that not all of them require massive amounts of new federal money.

Obama's heart is in the right place, but he is a very cautious and pragmatic man [who, unlike Clinton, will not make a big deal about things like gays in the military (that Clinton could have just ordered as Commander in Chief, if he really valued the issue more than wanting to be liked)... or anything else that he doesn't believe he can pragmatically get done]. In part, Obama's movement of hundreds of thousands of committed volunteers can continue to be mobilized, making sure that there is far and wide consensus for some of the reforms sought.

On the whole, the nation has just undergone an 8 year hurricane from which it must clean up (a hurricane not over yet for nearly 70 days, btw). Cleaning it up will be quite a tall order. Fortunately, Barack Obama is a tall guy, with a tall vision. I'm going to bet that... yes we can.


Clean out the DOJ and get rid of the men and women who have been putting politics ahead of our constitution.

Posted by candace gorman at November 9, 2008 11:22 AM

Speaking of hurricanes, Cuba just got clobbered again. We need to relax sanctions. We've been tormenting these people since W was in grade school, and the Castros are still running things (and providing universal health care.) Maybe it's time to rethink our approach.

Posted by sab at November 9, 2008 1:44 PM

Since Candace already said what I would have, I'll add something minor. I'd like to see some kind of promise about press conferences and transparency. The new administration is going to need some outside help to keep it from falling into the bad habits that power facilitates. I know "promises" are hardly binding, but it would give the press and bloggers a reference point.

Posted by Michael L at November 10, 2008 9:53 AM

I like much of your list. And I think you're right, Obama could accomplish a lot, if he's willing to take risks, by mobilizing his campaign organization to help support his agenda (a 50 state strategy for changing the way legislation is discussed, written, approved and implemented, I wish). But to do that we will need to see more information on what he's thinking. I know it's too soon to expect much but if the propaganda approach as is still their approach on the Obama web site is all we get (except for the shotgun approach of leaks to news organization) it's not going to be easy to understand and really get behind what they plan to do. At some point details need to be added to the inspirational message.Not to mention we need the truth as apposed to what Republican always tell us and what Democrat usually tell us. (Think the system could stand this much 'change'?)

I need details and that's the very thing our political process hides until we're stuck with the results.

There must be a way to do this differently!

Posted by gail at November 13, 2008 5:44 PM