A Progressive Agenda for Obama - OK Barack, Time to Hit the Ground RunningGerry Hudson is an executive vice president of SEIU, where he leads the union's
AlterNet asked dozens of writers, experts and activists on key issues to write about where the country needs to go, and the priorities for Barack Obama's early days in office.
It is historic. A black family in the White House that slaves built. Yes, slaves were used in the construction of the White House. When I was a child this never could have happened. In the 50's when I visited Florida, even after Brown v. Board of Education, there were separate drinking fountains and bathrooms for Blacks. When Center for Constitutional Rights was founded in the 60's there were only three elected Black officials in the Black belt; today there are thousands. So we are seeing an amazing moment in American history.
This is not to say our work is done. Obama is not a progressive. But he is certainly more liberal than Bush and McCain. He will redistribute some of the vast wealth that has gone to rich in a county that has plundered its poor since Reagan in 1981. It will not be a social democracy, but it will better than what we had. The disastrous economic crisis is pushing him in this direction, but citizenry will need to keep up the pressure.
Obama has been disappointing regarding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These must be ended and time is now; the time to revive our anti-war movement is now. We cannot await what Obama might do: he has already told us about wanting to send more troops in Afghanistan. We must push him to end the current wars and eradicate the poison of aggressive war.
Obama has promised to close Guantanamo and end torture. We must hold him to that promise. He must close secret CIA sites and off shore prisons. He must end the kangaroo courts called military commissions. He must end the massive surveillance state America has become.
Finally, he must appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the war crimes of the Bush administration: the aggressive war in Iraq, torture and warrantless wiretapping. In short he must bring America back into the world of civilized states where fundamental rights and the prohibition on aggressive war are not just slogans but guide U.S. actions.
Dahlia Lithwick, contributing editor at Newsweek and senior editor at Slate:
Hit "control+ alt + delete" on the Rule of Law. Literally restart the whole system like its 2000 again. That means: Close Guantanamo and either try or release the remaining prisoners in real tribunals. Renounce water-boarding. Re-assert that the Geneva Conventions still matter. Do away with the Patriot Act reforms that allowed abuse ranging from "national security letters" to terrorizing librarians. Restore FISA. Stop using the "state secrets" to shield judicial scrutiny into government wrongdoing. Ditto for blanket claims of executive privilege for anyone who's ever muttered a word to the president. Stop with the cryptic and deceptive signing statements. Stop snipe hunting vote fraud.
A lot of new "law" was invented over the past eight years. But legal?
John Cusack, Actor, Director (War, Inc., Grace is Gone):
The world looks to America. The planet sighs in relief. It deserves a righteous party. And now, the real work begins.
The first thing Obama should do is pray. I would hope he would start to dismantle the infrastructure of the occupation of Iraq. And make transparent the gorging on the state -- cut off these corporate interests and start reallocating money back into the United States infrastructure and people.
Antonia Juhasz, author, The Tyranny of Oil: the World's Most Powerful Industry -- And What We Must Do To Stop It (HarperCollins Publishers, October 7, 2008).
Be Bold. Take on Big Oil and undo the disastrously failed economic, military, energy, and deregulatory policies of the past. Big Oil has guided public policy down a disastrous road, standing as an obstacle to the fulfillment of critical social movements against war, a failing economy, and global warming. Renounce and undo the use of the U.S. military as an oil protective force beginning with immediately and unequivocally ending the Iraq war. Make the reintroduction of regulation, enforcement, and taxation of this industry from the production, refining, marketing, transport, to the disposal of its products a vital heart of your administration. Reintroduce the moratoriums on offshore drilling and shale oil development. Fully and finally close the "Enron Loophole" and consider whether it is appropriate to trade a good as fundamental as crude on futures exchanges. Rather than "cap and trade" pollution, ban it through regulation. Eliminate industry subsidies, collect royalties, implement a windfall profits tax, increase gasoline taxes, and increase corporate taxation broadly to help Americans reduce consumption of all oil products by using this money to fund a massive public works program (ala the WPA) in clean sustainable local public transportation and to fund local sustainable green energy alternatives. Reform lobbying, conflict of interest, and campaign finance laws to remove the stain of Big Oil's money from our democracy and fully embrace the Separation of Oil and State. Lead the world by example by making diplomacy, cooperation, negotiation, and international law--not war--the center of our international energy plan.
Amie Newman, writer for RH Reality Check
Hope is on the horizon. For the last eight years, women have suffered under an administration that has elevated ideology and politics above women's health and lives. In opposition to the expertise of the medical community, scientists and reproductive health advocates, the Bush administration has chosen to sacrifice women's health to advance its own agenda. To begin to turn the tides, in the first 100 days of a new administration, there are many pro-prevention, pro-education policies that should be implemented to improve the health outcomes for women and young people worldwide: overturning the Global Gag Rule, taking action on ensuring the availability of publicly funded contraception for low-income women, defunding failed abstinence only programs in favor of proven, effective comprehensive sex ed programs, passing the Freedom of Choice Act.
But you know what I would most love to see from our new president in the first 100 days? Honestly? A new way of talking about sexual and reproductive health and rights that shows that he gets it. Give a substantive, sincere Agenda For Women's Health speech that makes the link between safe, legal abortion and maternal mortality rates. Talk about the connection between access to contraception for all women and unintended pregnancy rates. Let the young people of this nation know that you trust them enough to push for science-based comprehensive sex ed. Set the stage for a new way of approaching critical sexual and reproductive health and rights issues that tells the rest of the world that the United States is ready to become the health and rights leader it needs to be.
Roberto Lovato, Roberto Lovato, frequent Nation contributor, New York-based writer with New America Media.
Before anything, I'd like to congratulate Sen. Obama for his astonishing campaign. First and foremost, I'd like to see an Obama administration bring rationality and transparency back to the art of government, the science of statecraft. Obama should, for example, end immediately the dangerously irrational rise of miltarized immigration policy -- deploying heavily-armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to terrorize gardners, maids and their children in their homes, schools and workplaces, denying these families habeas corpus and jailing hundreds of thousands of them under the Guantanamo-like conditions of jails run by corrupt companies. Rather than try to reform ICE, one of the most violent, inefficient and militarized branches of government, the Obama Administration should take government immigration functions out of the massive and militarized bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security. For most of the history of immigration policy, immigration-related matters have been handled by non-militarized branches of government like the Department of Labor and others. Lastly, an Obama Administration should set a more humane and rational tone around immigration, a tone that shuts down the borders of irrationality and violence in government while also fostering greater understanding of and openness to the geopolitical, legal and other complexities of immigration today.
Dean Baker, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
President Obama is coming into office at a time of great risks and enormous opportunity. He can turn the current economic crisis to his advantage by extending national health care insurance as the centerpiece of a major economic stimulus package. Offering generous tax credits to businesses that don't already insure their workers (along with matching credits to businesses that improve their coverage) will quickly extend coverage to the vast majority of people who are not already covered.
The extension of health care coverage should be accompanied by an opening up of a Medicare-type program to the whole country. This is important both because it will make it very easy for small businesses to simply opt for the Medicare program instead of spending hours comparing the details of various plans and also because a Medicare-type program will provide a mechanism to restrain costs.
President Obama has a huge agenda to fill his terms in office, but if he succeeds in providing universal health coverage, he will have qualitatively changed peoples' lives in a way that will always be remembered.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director, Drug Policy Alliance What can a President Obama do about drugs? First, appoint a drug czar who will be more surgeon general than military general.
Second, insist that science trump politics and prejudice. That means federal support for needle exchange programs that prevent HIV/AIDS and overdose prevention programs that save lives. It means eliminating the ideological barriers that criminalize the prescription of marijuana as medicine, and that prevent doctors from treating pain and addiction with whatever drugs work best. And it means stimulating honest and informed debate on all drug policy options, including decriminalization and legal regulation of drug markets.
Third, eliminate harsh and racially discriminatory drug sentencing laws.
Fourth, stop throwing taxpayer money down the drain on international drug control programs that can have no impact on drug problems within the United States.
And fifth: boldly proclaim a "new bottom line" in U.S. drug policy -- one that rejects the empty rhetoric of zero tolerance and a drug free society, that acknowledges the reality that drugs are here to stay, and that insists upon policies that reduce the harms of both drug misuse and our failed prohibitionist policies.
Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet Senior Fellow
As historic, energetic and emotional as Tuesday's vote was, there are still many things that public officials need to do to improve how we vote in American to make the process more accessible, transparent and trustworthy.
To start, every state should offer universal same-day registration, so qualified citizens can show up -- on Election Day or during early voting -- and present the necessary identification to register and then vote. Early voting should also be extended throughout the country, although there should be more voting centers so people do not have to wait half a day or more as was seen in Florida this year. Voters need to be accommodated, not made to jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops.
Privatizing the voting process should be reversed, whether it is third-party groups paying workers to register low-income people -- because state social welfare agencies are not fulfilling their obligation to do so under federal law -- or private vendors that program the voting machinery itself. Software used in these computers should not be proprietary so the process can be more transparent to restore the public's trust. The nation needs to return to a paper-based voting system, where voters' marks on ballots leave no ambiguity who voted for who -- and vote count audits can be conducted to ensure that computer scanners are properly working.
Election officials finally need the resources to make voting easy and accessible, instead of being a government backwater that only get attention several days a year. Similarly, the presidential public financing system needs to updated so it is a viable choice in modern campaigns, in tandem with federal requirements that open up the airwaves for more debates and opportunities for competing views to be heard.
There are many other ideas on an election reform to-do list, but making voting more accessible, dignified, transparent and elevating the possibility for more detailed public debate would be a very good start.
Sara Robinson, fellow, Campaign for America's Future
The most important thing for incoming Obama policy makers to remember right now is that, while Obamacare is a fine step in the right direction, they shouldn't be shy about using the words "single payer." (Or, put it another way: Medicare for all.) The K Street lobbyists for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies may scream bloody murder whenever the idea is floated, but the polls over the past several years have shown irrefutably that the American public -- including a majority of Republicans -- is behind this idea at least 2 to 1. That's a lot of political cover, and they should take full advantage of it to do the right thing.
It's also an absolutely necessary thing. American workers are competing with European and Canadian workers who have the choice to go back to school, start a small business, take time off and travel, stay home with their kids for a few years, fully recuperate from a disabling condition, or tell their boss where they can stick it without the threat of losing their insurance. Having guaranteed health care not only makes these workers physically healthier and extends their productive years; it also increases these countries' social and economic capital by enabling them to become better skilled, better traveled, more entrepreneurial and more personally fulfilled. American workers simply can't compete on an equal footing in a tight global labor market until they have equal access to care.
It's also the right thing to do economically. A new Harvard Law School study found that more than half of the mortgage defaults underlying the subprime meltdown were triggered by overwhelming medical bills or job loss due to disability. It's probably not an overstatement to say that much of America's current financial distress is the direct product of our health care crisis. (It's ironic that the same financial wizards who so boldly proclaimed that we were all on our own -- or should be -- are now losing everything because they simply didn't notice how interconnected these issues are. If they'd shared just enough of their loot to ensure that Americans had decent health care, they'd still be Masters of the Universe. They didn't. So we don't. So they aren't. Who says there's no such thing as karma?)
Most importantly: It's the best thing an incoming Obama administration can do to usher in a new and enduring progressive era. Giving every American access to health care will do more to undercut the entire conservative worldview and replace it with a new progressive political philosophy than anything else you can name. Once people realize that government can do this much good for this many people, it will restore our faith in the power of democracy -- and when that happens, all manner of now-impossible things will suddenly become possible.
Margy Waller, executive director, The Mobility Agenda
The next president should create an office of social inclusion, rather than respond to calls for establishing the limited national goal of reducing poverty.
The new president should use the goodwill accorded a new administration to focus on setting a new and higher standard. A better goal goes well beyond income deprivation, beyond even a standard of "making ends meet."
Unless we want to limit policy solutions at the outset, the president should focus instead on measuring our progress as an inclusive nation. For example, every European Union country has a plan for "social inclusion," a multidimensional concept incorporating notions of adequate relative income, neighborhood quality, access to arts, education, health care, participation in civic events, housing, pensions and other factors.
Focusing on poverty divides society into "us" and "them," violating the big idea that we are all in this together. Rather than arguing to fix the economy for a distinct class -- the poor -- our goal should be an economy that works for all of us.
Eliminating poverty sets the bar too low and, as a national goal, it simply will not work to achieve our shared hopes for a strong nation.
David Morris, co-founder and vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
When it comes to transportation, Obama and Congress could be writing the rules that guide a total investment of as much as $150 billion. What should their priorities be?
1. Reduce the need for physical transportation. The less we travel, the more money we save, the stronger the economy becomes. One element will be a dramatic expansion in low-cost, high-speed communications networks. Where transportation is necessary, try to reduce the distance traveled. The federal government can do this in a number of ways. For example, it should change existing policy and not close any rural post office if the cost of additional travel by the post office's users is greater than the subsidy required to keep it open. And adopt a mileage tax instead of a gasoline tax.
2. Enhance the mobility of the poor, the disabled and the car-less. That means emphasizing low-cost mass transit and dial-a-ride programs. And given that this spending will be part of an initiative to boost employment, the federal government should end its policy of favoring capital-intensive over labor-intensive mass transit systems.
3. Invest in repairing existing structures and roads. This includes patching up public schools, reinforcing old bridges and repairing existing roads for safety reasons. Spending on new roads should be allowed in highly unusual circumstances.
4. Use subsidies to car companies to accelerate a non-oil future. Two-thirds of our oil is used for transportation. We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dramatically reduce our use of oil for transportation. The $25 billion loan package for cars was originally authorized in the 2007 energy bill to assist car companies to meet the mandated 40 percent increase in the fuel efficiency of their new vehicles by 2020. Funds were appropriated as part of the bailout package. Vehicles built with these loans should be required to achieve a 40 percent minimum increase in fuel efficiency plus have the ability of traveling at least 2 miles solely on electricity with any backup engine capable of being fueled by renewable energy. That would force all new vehicles produced with this financing to be hybrids. Coupled with the new tax credit of up to $7,500 per electrified car, this requirement could dramatically accelerate our shift toward a non-oil, renewable-fueled transportation system.
J. Goodrich, economist, freelance writer
What should President Obama do about reproductive rights and gender-related policies in the first 100 days of his rule? He should declare a quick cease-fire in George Bush's war against women and begin to undo some of the damage that war has caused. Three quick steps can all be taken during the first 100 days:
1. Get rid of the Global Gag Rule. This rule restricts foreign recipients of U.S. aid, often the sole providers of reproductive health care to poor women in rural areas, from spending their own funds on legal abortions, from giving accurate medical advice and from referring patients for abortions carried out elsewhere. George Bush instituted the Global Gag Rule on his first day in office. It would be nice if Barack Obama would repeal it during his first day in office. The Global Gag Rule costs lives.
2. Make the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice a new set of sharp dentures. The Bush administration defanged this division by staffing it with foes of civil rights and by directing it to focus on the enforcement of religious rights. If nobody enforces the laws against sex discrimination at work and at school, those laws are meaningless.
3. "Remember the ladies." This is what Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, in the context of women's suffrage. President Obama should "remember the ladies" while selecting members of his Cabinet and while considering other important appointments.
Geoff Millard, D.C. chapter president, National Board of Directors, Iraq Veterans Against the War
The demands of IVAW don't change from politician to politician. We demand immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq, we demand full benefits for veterans, and we demand reparations for the Iraqi people. That's what we've been demanding for more than four years, and that's what we are demanding on Jan. 20.
Our job with an Obama presidency will be to make sure that he lives up to all of the hype. To make sure that he does things like end the war, to make sure that he does things like take care of veterans. He's talked a good game. Now we need to make sure he does what he has said he will do. It's our job as people to make sure we hold his feet to the fire.
Maude Barlow, chair of the board of Food and Water Watch and a recent appointee as the Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the UN General Assembly
President Obama must become the first to sound the alarm about the global water crisis and the first to offer solutions. Our pollution, mismanagement and displacement of water from where it is needed for the healthy functioning of ecosystems and the hydrologic cycle is a major cause of global climate change and the major cause of death in the global South. President Obama must declare that the global water crisis represents a major ecological threat to our human survival and help lead an international effort to find solutions. In this he could join with the new president of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d'Escoto, who has pledged to take the issue of the right to water into the heart of the United Nations.
At home, President Obama has his work cut out for him. Under President Bush, federal funding for municipal infrastructure projects has all but dried up. Leaky 100-year-old pipes do an enormous amount of damage across the United States every day, polluting waterways and threatening public water supplies. Food and Water Watch is calling for a federal Clean Water Trust Fund to provide the billions of dollars needed to upgrade these decaying structures and protect America's water legacy for future generations. As well, cuts made to clean water programs under the Bush administration must be restored, and a major cleanup of polluted water must be undertaken. Let's hope that Barack Obama becomes our first environmental president and puts the nation's precious water heritage front and center in his plan.
SEIU's members, including nurses, LPNs, doctors, lab technicians, nursing
and home care workers, work in all sectors of health care. They live the problems of the
system, and they know how much change can impact their working lives and the lives of
Health care costs are rising at almost double the rate of wage increases
for the average
American worker. Less than half of small businesses can afford to offer insurance. We can
have an impact that will benefit Americans and our economy. Here are some tangible
Prevent and manage chronic diseases: Let's help millions of uninsured children
enroll in meaningful coverage and engage in their care. This will help prevent, bring down
the costs of, and eliminate income and racial disparities in the incidence of chronic disease.
Fix the insurance markets: Small businesses, uninsured workers, students
and others may
need to receive financial assistance or get enrolled in a public program that meets their
needs and circumstances. We can't just build a system and expect insurers to participate
without ensuring a stable risk pool.
Make government purchasing more effective: The government is the largest
health care, so a comprehensive approach should create a framework that allows the
federal government to become a smarter, more effective buyer. It should set standards for
health information technology and sponsor and disseminate research on which treatments
work best for which patients. Let's reward providers who can report measures of quality
and outcomes and show improvement over time.
Paul Armentano, deputy director, NORML
Though it's primarily Congress, not the president, who is responsible for
oppressive federal anti-drug strategies, Barack Obama has ample opportunities to use the
power of the executive office to shape a new direction in U.S. drug policy. First, he can
uphold his campaign promise to cease the federal arrest and prosecution of (state)
law-abiding medical cannabis patients and dispensaries by appointing leaders at the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney
general's office who will respect the will of the voters in the 13 states that have legalized
the physician-supervised use of medicinal marijuana.
As president, Obama can also support scientific, clinical research into
properties of cannabis by encouraging the DEA to abide by the February 2007 ruling of
the agency's own administrative law judge, which found that it would be "in the public
interest" to allow private entities to grow medical-grade cannabis for FDA-approved trials.
Obama can also use his executive authority to encourage the DEA and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services to review an administrative petition that is
currently before both agencies regarding the rescheduling of cannabis from a Schedule I
prohibited drug to a more liberal classification that would allow for its medical use by
prescription. Finally, Obama can support the autonomy and health of Washington, D.C.,
voters by encouraging Congress to lift the so-called "Barr amendment" (passed by
Congress in 1998 and reinstated every year since then), which prohibits the District of
Columbia from implementing a 1998 voter-approved ballot initiative legalizing the use of
marijuana by authorized patients.
One hopes that as president, Obama will use the power of the bully pulpit
to reframe the
drug policy debate from one of criminal policy to one of public health. Obama can
stimulate this change by appointing directors to the Office of National Drug Control Policy
(the so-called drug czar's office) who possess professional backgrounds in public health,
addiction and treatment rather than in law enforcement.
Obama should also encourage Congress to undo some of the more egregious
the 1986 and 1988 anti-drug abuse acts, such as the imposition of mandatory minimum
sentencing and the racially biased 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for the possession of
crack versus powder cocaine, many of which were once endorsed but are now opposed
by various high-ranking Democrats, including Vice President-elect Joe Biden.
Finally, Obama should follow up on statements he made earlier in his career
in favor of the
decriminalization of marijuana by adults (replacing criminal penalties with a fine only) by
calling for the creation of a bipartisan presidential commission to review the budgetary,
social and health costs associated with federal marijuana prohibition, and to make
progressive recommendations for future policy changes. Last, Obama can join with leading
Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Congressman Barney
Frank to offer his support for legislative efforts in Congress that call for ending federal
penalties regarding the use of cannabis -- both medically and otherwise -- by adults.
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim member of Congress
Begin the process to end the war.
Get a start on health care.
Restart comprehensive immigration reform.
Dahr Jamail, author, Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded
Journalist in Occupied Iraq
With Barack Obama's choices of foreign policy advisers and hawks of old,
we can rest
assured that we will see no radical changes regarding his policy in Iraq or the greater
Middle East. He has never called for total withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, nor
withdrawal of private contractors, nor of the change necessary to truly rebuild Iraq's
devastated infrastructure. In addition, let us not forget he has been as hawkish regarding
Iran (keeping all options on the table), and his unbridled, uncritical support for the state of
Israel and the occupation of Palestine. It is already made abundantly clear by his actions,
the only "change" we should expect to see from Obama in the Middle East will happen if
he is forced into it from below. Meanwhile, violence continues in Iraq, where dozens are
killed daily, and U.S. soldiers continue to be killed.
Anthony Papa, former prisoner and author, 15 to Life: How I Painted My
If Obama wins, he should appoint a national drug czar who would take a
good look at the
zero-tolerance drug policies that have compromised public health and undermined our
fundamental civil liberties -- someone who would not be afraid to disagree with the
political rhetoric that has plagued our government for so long that has destroyed millions of
lives, all in the name of the War on Drugs.
Mark Weisbrot, Centre for Economic and Policy Research
The most immediate challenge will be pulling out of a recession that is
just beginning, and
has some way to go because the bursting of the housing bubble that caused the recession
is only about 60 percent deflated. We will need a stimulus package of at least $300 billion
to $400 billion, and we probably will need more. This should include funding for state and
local governments so that they do not have to cut back on important programs and
personnel; expanded unemployment insurance benefits and food stamps; moving forward
infrastructure projects that are already planned; and a "green stimulus" including tax credits
to make buildings more energy-efficient.
On health care, opening up a public system like Medicare for all employers
-- with subsidies for low-wage workers -- would be a significant step forward.
On foreign policy, a speedy withdrawal from Iraq and a negotiated end to
the war in
Afghanistan are urgent priorities. Washington should also repair its damaged relations with
Latin America, which would include respecting the national sovereignty of left governments
such as Bolivia and Venezuela. Congressman Barney Frank's suggestion of a 25 percent
cut in military spending would also be a step in the right direction.
J. Richard Cohen, president, Southern Poverty Law Center
As the next president, Barack Obama must work diligently to restore and
institutions that safeguard our democracy, beginning with the Justice Department and its
Civil Rights Division. Under President Bush, the department was transformed into a
partisan political operation stacked with ideologues and GOP loyalists. The result was that
the department abandoned its historic role of protecting the rights -- and the vote, in
particular -- of the disenfranchised. President-elect Obama should immediately begin to
depoliticize the Justice Department and ensure a return to the standards of professionalism
and nonpartisanship that have served this country so well in the past.
Camilo Mejia, author, Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff
Obama was able to win the U.S. presidency by promising change, yet he endorsed
financial bailout of the banks while millions of Americans join the ranks of the unemployed
and lose their homes to foreclosure. Obama promised to de-escalate the Iraq War by
removing troops from that country, yet he didn't address the question of private
contractors, permanent military bases or a massive diplomatic/corporate complex in the
Green Zone. He also promised to shift troops to Afghanistan and to spill the Global War
on Terror into Pakistan if necessary.
It will take more than promises to effect real change in American society
and in the way
we relate to the rest of the world, and people will have to stand up to the corporate
interests behind the U.S. government, regardless of who is in the White House, for us to
build a country and a world we can be proud of.
We, the people who are affected the most by domestic and international
policies, who are
losing our jobs to a failed, profit-driven economic system, who are losing our lives to an
illegal war of aggression and to the ill treatment of returning veterans, who have caused and
seen firsthand the suffering of the Iraqi and Afghan people, we at the grassroots level have
the right and the moral responsibility to steer this country in the right direction.
We cannot let any president exercise the power that should be in the hands
of the people.
We cannot wait one minute, nor should we compromise for one second, as politicians
figure out how to appease the public while catering to the corporate class. There is no such
thing as a humane empire. The struggle for justice and social justice starts at home, and it is
a struggle that cannot and should not wait one moment. It starts now.
Lori Wallach and Todd Tucker, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division
authors of a new report, "Election 2008: Fair Trade Gets an Upgrade."
Barack Obama is the first president in modern U.S. history to campaign
and win on a
fair-trade platform. In the primaries, he committed in writing to, among other things,
renegotiate NAFTA and other deals, repair the China trade mess and replace Fast Track.
As of Wednesday afternoon, at least 85 newly elected members of Congress in 2006 and
2008 had made similar commitments.
Obama and Congress should work together to meet the public's demand for
of our failed globalization policy. The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and
Employment (TRADE) Act provides a progressive path forward on both substance and
process, and is supported by a wide range of Democrats and base groups.
Additionally, Obama must work to transform the World Trade Organization
radical deregulation pacts so that nations' non-trade, domestic policies (i.e. health care,
climate change, and food and product safety, for starters) are not subject to attack or
Courtney Martin, author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest
Perfection is Harming Young Women
I'm excited to see the next president assemble a gender-balanced Cabinet,
but even more,
to lead that Cabinet to embody a commitment to solving some of our most pervasive
international challenges with the complexity and respect for reflection that has been missing
the last eight years. This Cabinet will recognize that global poverty disproportionately
affects women and children, that reproductive justice should be considered essential in
disaster relief and peacekeeping operations, and that the Iraq War must end immediately.
At home, this Cabinet will, finally, ensure that women get equal pay for equal work, and
that all of us benefit from better family-friendly work policies, universal health care and an
improved education system. The next president will recognize that there is no such thing as
"women's issues;" there are only citizens' issues.
Maggie Mahar, Century Foundation fellow and author of Money-Driven Medicine:
The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much (Harper/Collins 2006)
Like it or not, the next president will have no choice but to put Medicare
reform near the
top of his agenda. As the Congressional Budget Office recently declared: "Rising health
care costs and their consequences for Medicare and Medicaid constitute the nation's
central fiscal challenge."
The good news is that Medicare can tame runaway health care inflation without
co-pays or cutting back on benefits. Washington can contain Medicare spending by:
Allowing Medicare to use its clout to negotiate for discounts on drugs
Eliminating the windfall bonus to private insurers that offer Medicare advantage
Passing legislation that would create a truly independent Comparative Effectiveness
Research Institute that takes a hard look at which treatments work best for a
particular set of patients.
Today, the FDA requires only that new treatments be tested against a placebo
that they are "better than nothing." Medicare patients deserve better value for taxpayer
Done right, Medicare reform can pave the way for universal coverage.
At $2.3 trillion a year and counting, the cost of medical care is growing
so fast that it
threatens to crowd out spending on education, the environment and infrastructure repair.
Moreover, unlike spending to repair bridges, strengthen schools, or protect the
environment, Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag suggests that the
"excess" growth in health care spending is not adding to the wealth -- or the health -- of
the nation. "The gains from higher spending are not clear," the Congressional Budget Office
noted recently. "Substantial evidence exists that more expensive care does not always
mean higher-quality care."
Health care inflation cannot be ignored, Orszag added, because "If we fail
to put the nation
on a sounder fiscal course we will ultimately reach a point where investors (will) lose
confidence and no longer be as willing to purchase Treasury debt at anything but
exorbitant interest rates."
Today, investors outside the United States hold $2.74 trillion of Treasuries,
or 52 percent
of the $5.22 trillion in debt that the United States has issued. But now foreign buying of our
Treasuries is falling. And, as Orszag has explained elsewhere, if we have to pay "exorbitant
interest rates" to persuade foreign investors to continue buying our Treasuries, "over time,
foreign investors would claim larger and larger shares of the nation's output and fewer
resources would be available for domestic consumption." Put simply, our standard of living
Why does Orszag single out soaring health care costs as the driving force
behind our fiscal
woes? Because health care spending accounts for more than 16 percent of GDP, and it
continues to grow faster than other sectors, outpacing both growth in GDP and workers'
Some observers took Orszag's statement about the importance of health care
a signal that he was calling for universal coverage. He was not -- not without
simultaneously containing costs. Orszag made it clear, as he has before, that if we don't put
a brake on health care inflation, we won't even be able to sustain the national health care
programs we have now -- Medicare and Medicaid -- let alone cover everyone: "Rising
health care costs and their consequences for Medicare and Medicaid constitute the
nation's central fiscal challenge," the CBO observed in a recent report. "Without changes in
federal law, the government's spending on those two programs is on a path that cannot be
Julia Eisman at Stand Up for Health Care, a project of Families USA
The year 2009 may offer the best chance in nearly two decades for bold
response to our growing health care crisis -- a crisis that has left 45 million Americans
uninsured, including 8 million children. Those who do have health insurance are paying
skyrocketing premiums for plans with higher deductibles, higher co-pays and fewer
benefits. Rising health care costs are adding to families' economic distress.
Meaningful health care reform should be built on a strong foundation of
for low-income families (Medicaid). We also need to provide a place for individuals and
businesses to buy guaranteed affordable, high-quality health insurance -- either through
private plans or a public plan option. There should be sliding-scale subsidies to make
coverage affordable for working families, and strong rules that hold insurance companies
accountable, no matter where you live or if you have a pre-existing condition. It is time we
expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program so every child can visit his or her
We're confident that health care reform can happen in a new administration
-- not in spite
of our economic situation, but precisely because it is so important to ensure economic
security for American families through quality and affordable health care for all.
Janet Nudleman, Breast Cancer Fund
A growing body of scientific evidence links synthetic chemicals to breast
cancers, as well as to fast-growing health problems including obesity, developmental
delays, autism and infertility. In order to prioritize disease prevention by taking some
decisive steps in his first 100 days, it is crucial that the next president:
Endorse Congressional efforts to ban the toxic, hormone-disrupting chemical
Bisphenol A from food can linings and baby bottles
Support legislative and administrative policies that bar cosmetics manufacturers
selling personal care products that contain toxic chemicals
Back federal programs that protect our nation's air, water and land from
Fully fund public health programs that track disease rates alongside environmental
exposures and that ensure that children, pregnant women and workers are
protected from toxic exposures that may harm their health
Support the overhaul of our broken chemical regulatory system and work
broad-based chemical policy reform
Ensure that the new national War on Cancer includes a strong commitment
reducing cancer rates by funding research efforts that identify and eliminate the
environmental links to cancer
ANITA SANDS POSTER, WRITER, RESEARCHER, ACTIVIST
You have bright pals. Any of them have ideas, or do you? Now hit OBAMA's WEBSITE! OR...MORE AID & PROTECTION FOR KIDS WHO WANT COLLEGE: State grants, Pell Grants, no banning the kid who has worked at Burger King and shows earnings. No banning families earning a tad over the POVERTY line as hey, inflation is insane now! OVER THE POVERTY LINE today is still TOO poor. And some 'cut'em loose'- Perks for those students..like free bus passes, free parking by decal on car, both on campus and on streets within a half mile. NO forbidding parking near campuses, no tickets for students with decals. If it's near a school, immediately they get off, scott free, no court room appearance even. Just xerox decal and student ID and send it to the COURT! A total Free lunch for these kids going to city colleges. . AND LUNCH PASS. What middle wage parent can give a child 8$ for cafeteria lunch? NONE.. on a daily basis. That adds up to 160$ a month, i.e. what it costs to feed a family of four according to DPSS. Next, A USED TEXT BOOK LENDING LIBRARY on EVERY CAMPUS, as textbooks are so costly. Please write me with your other ideas: astrology at earthlink. net
MICRO-LENDING TO ENTREPRENEURS. (click on url) Anyone who wants to create a business should get micro loans. They can do it in PAKISTAN, Africa and DO. Muhammad Yunus just won the NOBEL PRIZE for lending to extremely poor people, folks living in HUTS. Why not here?
RENT A CEO - Click on URL. No more Mr. Hand-In-Till. Let's get kids fresh outta college with MBA's or retired CEOS. pay them 100k a yr, perks only if Corp gets very vigorous, healthy and profitable.
THE FUTURE WEBPAGE
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