Contract with America II (Part 1)

This week I want to begin to outline what I believe a new 10 point plan for America should be. The Republicans have theirs, now let's have one for the rest of us. We'll call this the Contract with America II. This will have to be a series of articles so look for more to come as space is limited.

As is usual, these are only my humble suggestions. You, hopefully, have additional ideas which you should share with us. Ideas which follow the credo of showing love for all God's children can be included.

1. The labor of American workers is the most important aspect of this country. The American Dream must not be allowed to die due to the greed and selfishness of Wall Street. Tax laws must be rewritten to encourage long term investments and penalize short sighted profit motives, spur hiring and discourage layoffs, provide worker benefits in exchange for substantial tax breaks, make moving jobs out of country no longer cost effective and encourage investments in research and development of new and better technologies. Federal Reserve Board actions which set an "acceptable" unemployment level of 6% must be reversed and full employment must be the standard we aspire to. The minimum wage must be set at a level which enables workers to live and plan for the future, not at the current rate which is recognized as below even the poverty level for a family of four. Labor unions, though not necessarily in their present form, must be allowed to represent worker's interests.

2. We are now 14th in the world in educating our youth. This must be remedied immediately if we are to compete in the next century. Our school systems must be reorganized to provide a better teacher to student ratio and fewer administrators. Our students must feel secure in their schools (perhaps we should begin building police stations next to schools). Quality educational materials and equipment are desperately needed. We are quickly becoming a computerized economy but the computers available for teaching are sadly out of date or unobtainable. Teaching credentials must be tied to ability (when Texas tried to re-accredit current teachers in the 80's, nearly 40% could not pass the tests which their own students must take, even though the tests were only for the subjects they taught. The tests were quickly abandoned.). Much more is obviously needed. Perhaps some teachers or administrators could suggest some additional needs here.

3. Prison populations are among the fastest growing segments in our society. America has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any developed country in the world. If more prisons equaled less crime it might be acceptable but crime seems to be increasing instead. Let's reserve prison space for those we must remove from society for the long term; the violent predators. Since it costs approximately half as much to place drug abusers in local abuse programs than it does to incarcerate them and since many non-violent offenders commit violent crimes after release, let's change how we treat them. Many Americans are addicted to some substance. Most are simply fortunate enough to have their drug of choice (alcohol, tobacco, food, gambling, etc.) legalized. It doesn't make them less harmful, only legal (witness the tens of thousands killed yearly by drunk drivers and the hundreds of thousands who die from tobacco related diseases). When someone like Michael Milken steals hundreds of millions from investors is given three years in a minimum security prison and, on the same day, a person found with three grams of rock cocaine is sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison, something is desperately wrong.

Okay, that's the beginning of our Contract with America II. We'll continue in two weeks. Again, let me know your thoughts so far and what you would include if you were fortunate enough to have this podium.

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