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Finding Workable Solutions Requires Putting Partisanship Aside
There are a number of themes you will see throughout this page, but the one that seems to be the biggest obstacle to truly trying to solve our problems is the mentality among our political leaders and other individuals that my side has the right answers and your side is wrong. Much of the debates are clouded in bad faith arguments designed to discredit or vilify the opposing viewpoint. While each individual forms an opinion based on the available information, a unique prioritization of values, and a singular lived experience, we must realize that WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM. We are each going to have our own weighting of values that lead us to different ideas about what the right or wrong approach might be, but I propose that we can find common ground by recognizing the values that all walks of life in this country do share. I think we do all believe in freedom, justice, and prosperity for every individual in the U.S. We must also be committed to seeking out the truth and can't let our biases blind us from the good faith proposals coming from one side or the other. We don't have to view those who are critical of or oppose our ideas as enemies when we recognize that varying and diverse viewpoints are actually the best tool we have to realize the best solutions.
The other themes you will see are as follows:
Nuance - We need to be careful about thinking or speaking in absolute terms. The tendency to oversimplify complicated issues can often lead to misunderstanding what the problem actually is. Details are important and must be fully evaluated before we can come to any conclusion about how to handle a given situation. Instead of simply accepting the prevailing narratives, we can all think critically with a genuine goal to reach the truth. As much as I'd prefer to treat everything on a case-by-case basis, it will be nearly impossible to avoid generalizations when discussing federal level policy on this page.
One Size Doesn't Fit All - Many of the issues that are part of the national conversation require different considerations in different places. Geography matters. Population matters. Resources matter. Culture matters. The struggles an individual faces living in a big city are not going to be the same as those for the head of a family farm. What might work in New York City won't necessarily work in Missoula. The Federal government certainly has a role to play in ensuring every individual's civil rights are upheld, but in many cases the best solutions for a particular problem in a particular locality or state come from its own inhabitants.
Root Causes - At times it seems our approach is too focused on immediately alleviating surface level symptoms without taking the time to accurately diagnose the underlying causes of our nation's problems. It's not always easy to identify these roots, and the complex systems that make up our society are affected by many multiple factors, but the attempt must be made and can be fostered by honest exploration and analysis free of political bias.
Limits of the Executive Branch - The separation of powers of the federal government defined by our constitution is probably the most significant reason our republic and the constitution itself have endured over two centuries. Over the course of history some of these have eroded a bit, but we've also seen many play out as designed, especially in more recent administrations. A lot of the issues on this page are legislative matters ultimately decided by our members of congress, which is why you'll see very few promises as to what sort of policies an administration with no party affiliation or known congressional support will be able to enact.
On this page I aim to explain how I view these issues based on the information I have now. I'm aware that my knowledge of any given subject may be limited, so I'm always open to more information and won't stubbornly cling to any position when reevaluation is prudent. I have ideas about how to tackle some of the matters I've more thoroughly researched, but others will require more study and the expertise of those with more complete understandings of them. Ultimately I don't plan to define policy based solely on my personal opinions described here, but rather on the open debate of various ideas by all members of the cabinet.
I'd rather this wasn't the first item on the list, but we have all been affected in one way or another by the current state of the pandemic. It's impossible to know how events will play out between now and inauguration day, so I can't say exactly what policies might be necessary in order to deal with the virus at that time. I generally think local and state public health officials will need to continue leading on the decisions for their respective locations, but we should be careful that emergency powers don't go too far in limiting our civil liberties. In the beginning it made sense to flatten the curve in certain regions so hospitals wouldn't be overwhelmed while understanding that the virus would never be completely stopped from spreading, but at this point in time it seems we're just trying to delay the inevitable with some of the more Draconian measures. We can't ignore the negative impacts long term shut downs have had on the quality of life of individuals, especially those in the lower economic classes. I would prefer a more targeted approach in aiming to protect those vulnerable populations at the highest risk of death while the rest of us go about our lives but still take personal responsibility not to spread it to those more vulnerable. We can wear masks in public of our own accord for the time being. Ultimately any federal executive policy would be based on the established understanding of the officials and experts who have already been working extensively on this particular problem.
So I'll first consider the unique circumstances we're in due to the lock downs before speaking more generally about how I view our economy. While some states and localities have been able to fare better than others economically through these times, we will need to continue to support those individuals who are struggling in a substantially contracted job market. Most of that support is up to congress, and we saw just how limited executive actions can be in this regard. When and where it's possible to be bringing jobs back I'd be aiming to make sure there are as few barriers as possible to people starting new businesses, especially in sectors hardest hit by closures like leisure, hospitality, and food services.
Generally speaking I prefer free markets, so long as there is fair competition. There's always an amount of regulation that's appropriate to ensure our individual rights and protect the environment, but I'm concerned some may be a greater hindrance to the potential growth of small businesses or even entry into the market altogether than to the large corporations that have the resources to easily handle them. We can create more opportunities for more individuals when the government doesn't make it harder than it needs to be to enter the market.
This is really the central issue of this entire campaign. When we know that our representatives in government are actually working on our behalf and not for corporate and special interests, all the other issues on this page become easier to navigate. It's no surprise that the people's faith in government is so low when we can easily see how high-end donors and clients of lobbyists end up benefiting the most from legislation and policy. I urge everyone to do a little research and see if you can find how much your own representatives' net worths have increased while in office. I figure the best remedy to money in politics is for we the people to find alternative candidates at all levels to replace those we know aren't governing in our interest. I also think it's easier for those who genuinely want to serve the people to do so when they're free of any party loyalty.
For now we can vote out the representatives that are beholden to moneyed interests, but it would be great if we could codify some assurances that our lawmakers will be working for the people's interests. I think it would be better if we could do away with corporate and special interest lobbying altogether. I don't think it's out of line to consider banning members of congress from holding stock in order to eliminate any semblance of conflicts of interests. I'd also propose amending the constitution with congressional term limits.
This campaign is designed to be an example of how running for office doesn't have to cost a lot of money. I can promise this campaign won't be taking any corporate or special interest money. I probably won't even be asking for donations from individual supporters. There's no need to pay for ad space when we have the internet at our disposal. We have the resources available to spread the message and reach tens of millions of people without spending millions of dollars.
Any new legislation regarding coverage will really be handled by congress, but I'm concerned that we've been thinking about this too much in terms of insuring the population instead of seriously considering ways we could have a healthier population to begin with. Some conditions are out of our hands, but many of the more prevalent diseases in our country like type 2 diabetes and hypertension can be better treated with individual lifestyle choices than with prescription drugs. I do have a bit of a bias on this subject because I think the medical establishment is too quick to prescribe drugs, and the drug companies are more interested in obtaining customers than actually making our lives better. One approach to lowering prescription drug prices that seems to be overlooked would be lowering demand for them. I struggle with the the idea of how to promote healthier individual choices when recognizing that there are market forces in play as regards to the availability and cost of healthy food. For me the ideal way to handle this would be having consumers as well-informed as possible to exercise their power to drive the demand side of the market, but I don't know that there's any simple approach to achieving this.
I also think the costs of medical services would be lower if we paid for more of them directly instead of having insurance companies acting as middle men between us and providers. The low price of Lasik surgery is often used as the prime example of how a truly competitive market can benefit consumers. While hospitals do serve important roles in emergency and specialty services they can become somewhat monopolistic in certain areas. There may be ways to incentivize medical providers to start more private practices for basic clinical services like tax breaks or considering means of lowering administrative costs to these independent providers.
I'm not really on board with a medicare for all approach since prices tend to increase more when the government is footing the bill. I would be open to using our taxes for every individual to get routine checkups to help prevent more costly conditions and maybe even some emergency services.
This is a very complex issue with many contributing factors, and I think we need to have a more nuanced conversation than just saying fossil fuels are bad and renewables are good. We do tend to focus mostly on greenhouse gas emissions, which makes sense since it is probably the one factor that we can most effectively try to control. I think we should first recognize that we have been making progress and that emissions have been on a downward trend in the U.S. for nearly a decade, and most of those gains are coming from changes in electricity production even while our electrical consumption has been increasing. Advances in solar and wind have helped in our move away from coal, but natural gas has played a significantly larger role. I do generally want to burn less fossil fuels, but there are issues of scale and reliability with the current state of renewables. While we can continue developing those technologies, nuclear is an already available alternative that constantly gets overlooked as a very efficient and low emission energy source. Of course it's not perfect, but it does seem to me to be the best option we currently have to most immediately and significantly reduce emissions while also continuing to meet our growing demand for electricity.
Electricity production was the largest contributor to emissions a few years ago, but since we have made progress there, emissions from transportation now make up the largest percentage of the total. I suppose the idea would be trying to get more electric and hybrid vehicles on the road, but I don't know of any simple means of increasing their market share. We can always continue enforcing emission standards for new vehicles. The commercial freight and airline industries could see an economic benefit in lowering their fuel costs by leading development in electric vehicle technology. Several countries have announced collaborating on the Drive to Zero program to support and grow the zero-emission commercial vehicle market, and I don't see why the U.S. couldn't get in on the program.
Taxes and Spending
The constitution clearly delegates the responsibility of levying taxes to congress, so I can only really make proposals in regards to tax policy. Philosophically I would rather be taxing consumption instead of production, so to me it would make more sense to have a federal sales tax than any income tax, but I don't realistically see that idea gaining much traction any time soon.
That being said, I don't think our existing progressive income tax structure is that bad. I would propose two minor tweaks. The lowest bracket for income under $9875 for individuals and the respective amounts for married couples and individual heads of households could be lowered from the 10% rate to 5%. Currently income over $518,400 for individuals is taxed at 37%. I propose adding a new bracket around $800,000 taxed at 39%.
Generally speaking I think our budgetary problems are more about spending than revenue. There are a couple big targets we can look at here, but I think a significant amount of government waste comes from adding up all the small things across our various federal agencies. The government can be much more frugal regarding general overhead costs. We can see this bloat in the use it or lose it feature of the agencies' discretionary budgets when end of fiscal year spending spikes on things like maintenance, furniture, office supplies, and IT equipment. I've also been looking at Senator Paul's periodic government waste reports exposing some of the ways I think most taxpayers would agree our money is not well spent. It seems to me the federal government spends way more than it needs to on contracting as well. Politicians don't really seem to care how much things cost when it's the taxpayers' money.
War on Drugs
It's as though we as a nation learned nothing from the failures of alcohol prohibition. Outlawing marijuana and drugs in general doesn't stop individuals from using them but does create a black market which fosters more violent crime than there would be without it, as we saw with the organized crime of the 1920's. Nearly half of the individuals in federal prison are there on drug related charges, and more prisoners means more taxpayer dollars. The least we can do is end mandatory minimum sentencing, but ideally I'd like to see drug use decriminalized altogether. Those who do have problems with substance abuse are more likely to seek treatment without the fear of arrest, and certain calls for police reform would be more easily met if there were less drug laws to enforce. This would all really be the legislature's job, but I'm more than willing to commute and pardon sentences for low-level, non-violent drug charges.
This is mostly a local issue, and every jurisdiction has its own unique challenges regarding law enforcement, but the federal government is tasked with protecting our individual rights. While discussing potential reforms to help ensure our safety I do think it's important that we recognize there are human beings behind the badges and that the vast majority of police interactions in this country do not result in civilian deaths. I support the idea of ending no-knock warrants. Making body cameras the standard for all departments can help with both holding police accountable for misconduct and providing evidence for when use of force may be warranted. While I understand that officers carrying out the actions of the state require some amount of protection from personal liability, we can be careful about applying qualified immunity laws too broadly. There are calls to shift funding from police to other programs designed to handle drug and mental health issues, but I see this more of a problem of law enforcement being spread too thin because we have too many laws to enforce. We also have very broad civil asset forfeiture laws which seem to border on unconstitutional.
Discussions of how we can best use the police to promote our public safety are important, but I think it is the surface level issue, and our real priority is crime reduction. There are variable factors that may contribute to crime rates from one locality to another, but the one that sticks out to me as most common is lack of economic opportunity. I believe the best ways to tackle this require more of a bottom-up approach since local communities know better what obstacles they may face. At the same time we can't ignore that generally crime rates have been on a steady decline across the country since the early 90's and we can look at what sorts of approaches have already been helping in this regard.
This is the one area that the executive branch does have a significant amount of control. I do pledge to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and more generally would want to decrease the U.S. military presence across the globe. I'm no fan of our history of military intervention, especially considering how infrequently it leads to any positive outcome for our country or the rest of the world. While we do want to advance individual rights throughout the world, few armed conflicts since World War II have met that end. I'm also concerned with our use of economic sanctions that may have greater impacts on a nation's citizenry than its leaders. I would conduct a thorough review of all existing sanctions and evaluate if any are actually effective in advancing our interests. I do think we can get closer to worldwide peace when individuals of all nations are free to pursue their own economic interests.