Friday, December 10, 2010

A Modest Proposal For A Third Political Force

One premise is that not everyone disgusted by almost all Democrats and Republicans will agree on a third direction in which to go.

Another premise is that third political parties or movements often achieve unintended consequences: Perot helped get Clinton elected; Gene McCarthy helped put Nixon in office; Kennedy's spat with Carter helped Reagan; Roger Ailes and Karl Rove have taken over the Tea Party, for all practical purposes; and so on.

A final premise is that although we will never agree on all points, we can agree on a few, and that it is in our interest to push these few points collectively even as we push others in other political areas of our lives.

So I propose a Third Force, not a Party. Parties have to reach more or less total consensus, they have to indulge in group-think, and they have to have formal structures.  A Force simply (or not so simply) has to push for a few points representing common ground, not consensus, and no one in the Force has to agree about everything with anyone else in the Force.

I suggest that a Third Force promote the following points:

1. Cut defense spending. The defense budget is surrealistically massive, more than the total of all defense budgets worldwide. It's the one large area of the budget we can afford to cut.

2. Achieve universal coverage for healthcare. What does this mean?  If you get sick, you get to see a doctor and get medicine, and the money will come from a common pool of all Americans. The bigger the insured group, the more money is available. So make the sum total of all adults in the U.S. (with their dependents covered, of course) the insured group.

By the way, what "universal healthcare" looks like doesn't matter to me as long as it really works and as long as insurance companies don't profit from illness.  If, for example, private insurers want to break even and remain in the game, cool; it would at least be free advertising for all their other insurance products, and it would cost them nothinig (hence the term break even). Doctors and hospitals may remain private concerns and not work for the government--as is the case in Sweden, that allegedly "socialist" country.  I know. I went to a doctor there. I paid him a reasonable fee, and he got some more money from a fund overseen by the government--from what is essentially a not-for-profit insurance fund.  You're telling me the Swedes can pull this off and the U.S. can't?  Have Americans really become such impractical losers as that?!

3. Make it illegal for insurance companies to make a profit on health insurance. They can make a profit on all other kinds of insurance.  One doesn't have to buy a car or a house, but everyone gets sick, and it's silly to have companies profit on that because then it is in their interest to charge too much and reject some people.  The motive for health insurance and health care should be to care for people's health well and efficiently.  The added motive of profit should not be there.

4. Pass a federal law which states that corporations are not persons--just as zoos are not animals. Can a corporation, as opposed to a person representing a corporation, sign its name, utter a word, or wiggle a bodily appendage?  If not, it is not a person.  Of course, any individual who works for a corporation retains all rights under the Constitution.  It's just that the obvious phantom, "corporate person-hood," is banished.

5. Never privatize Social Security.

6. Insist that all ballot machines leave a paper trail. Pass a federal law that requires same.

7. Retain Internet neutrality.

That's it for now. A genuinely modest list. It is practical and pragmatic in nature.  Although, arguably, it may reveal some kind of ideology, it is not ideological in spirit. There is no attempt to convince anyone of a theory of government. All the proposals are based on common sense and empirical experience.  For example, what if social security had been privatized before the 2008 crash?  Would you allow your bank not to provide a paper trail for transactions if you asked for a paper trail?  Does no one get sick?  Is a corporation a person--I mean, in reality, not in some kind of legal fantasy?

Even if one believes we need a strong military, one does not have to concur that the extraordinary size of our military budge is appropriate, especially given our deficits and inability to fund programs.  Try this experiment: Come up with a reasonable cost of universal healthcare--reasonable, not loaded according to a predisposition for or against universal healthcare.   Deduct that number from the current defense budget. Look at the remainder, compare it to the total of all military budgets worldwide, and ask yourself if that number is still enough to fund a military adequately.  Isn't universal healthcare the best kind of "national security"?

A final premise is that a modest list like this is more likely to establish common ground.  There will be a great temptation to add to the list.  I suggest resisting that temptation for now, especially as anyone may actively promote other ideas in other venues. Let us call these, with tongue in cheek, the Magnificent Seven, and cue the theme song.

To the extent we have any leverage, we all will simply ask anyone running for a pertinent office to pledge to support the magnificent seven but not simply give lip service. Cuts have to be significant, and no fudging on universal health-care.

Finally, to re-iterate: we are all free to disagree about any other point beyond the magnificent seven.
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