Mark Pottenger

(Posted 11/24/2008, just after Obama was elected.)

(Sadly, almost none of this was addressed during the Obama administration, and almost all of this has been made MUCH WORSE since.)

I hope to see our country turn from unreason to reason, from ideology to reality.

The Elephant in the room

The Elephant in the room is, of course, the tanked economy created by Republican fantasies, but I know you are already doing everything you can to fix that.

Shine a Light

Establish a task force (committee, commission, working group, board, whatever) with as many people as needed to turn over every rock of unwarranted secrecy hiding malicious acts of the Bush regime. Do realistic evaluations of claims of national security and executive privilege and PUBLISH every discovery that the people of the country need to know about.

This includes secret orders, political overrides of scientific reports, political interventions in civil service (attorneys and more), the farcical "energy policy", changing the Enhance Pollution Agency back into the Environmental Protection Agency, and doubtless many more I've never heard about.

Pay special attention to announcements and news releases timed late in the week to draw the least public attention, which the Bush regime is known to use with especially noxious actions.

Both actions and inactions related to the Endangered Species Act need special review.

Selling out / selling off of America to oil companies (and giveaway leases with too low royalties) also needs special review, especially lands in and near national parks.

Every action that can be rolled back because of failure to follow rules and obey laws should be.

Where possible, use new executive orders to undo damage by executive order and use evidence of interference to undo regulatory messes. On science, try to find the original pre-tampering versions of reports and issue them as corrections.

Help Congress as needed to pass laws to prevent the kind of partisan abuses of the last 8 years. It may be impossible to completely eliminate them, but it should be possible to make such abuses more difficult.

Emphasize Ethics

Help restore the lost moral compass of America by serving as a good example. Encourage ALL segments of society (politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, business people, workers, media creators, etc.) to consider ethical issues: is a contemplated action good for people or not?

Handle the heat

Establish energy and climate policies that deal with the real threats of limited oil resources and human-caused global warming.

Untie the Gag

Restore science and reason to birth-control policies. Get rid of the global gag rules and the witless abstinence-only sex education policies. Establish policies that acknowledge real human nature (people WILL have sex no matter what you say). Point out that good access to birth control (condoms, pills, IUDs, etc.) is the best way in the world to reduce abortion rates.

Do everything possible to remove other barriers to women's rights to choose to control their own bodies. I can't understand anyone with daughters doing otherwise.

Culture Stem Cells

Remove the Bush barriers to stem cell research. In vitro fertilization techniques already discard or destroy thousands of embryos and nobody says anything about it. The Bush research ban is pure bullshit. All it does is hurt American progress in science and medicine.

Improve Infrastructure

Establish government jobs programs (a la F. D. Roosevelt) to start repairing and/or upgrading all the roads, railroads, bridges, dikes, levees, dams, canals, aqueducts, pipe networks, power networks, telecom networks, water supplies/systems, sewer systems, public buildings, courthouses, museums, libraries, schools, hospitals, national park facilities, airports, air traffic control networks, launch facilities, satellites (weather, Earth resources, communications, GPS, etc.) and any other infrastructure that has been degrading from years of neglect. Include all fleets of vehicles: military and civilian, on water, in air and on ground.

Abolish Prohibition

The current "war on drugs" is a horrific idiocy. Apparently nobody learned anything from the 20th Century alcohol Prohibition. Decriminalize all drugs. Establish REGULATIONS (consumer protection, quality control) and TAXES for all drugs so they become a source of jobs and government revenue instead of a source of crime and ever-growing prison populations that remove potential workers from the population and are a huge drain on state budgets. Eliminate the source of drug cartel money and you will also hugely benefit Mexico, which is being destroyed by drug money due to existing American policy stupidity. You might also remove a huge revenue source of the Taliban. This should appeal on public health, crime reduction, economic and national security grounds.

Speaking of Wars

Frankly, Bush & co. have gotten America into such a mess in Iraq & Afghanistan that I have no idea how you can fix anything quickly. I just wish you luck and hope you can find advisors who face facts instead of deciding based on ideology.

Value Veterans

The current treatment of veterans hurt by the actions of this administration is another disgrace. Fix the Veterans Administration and Veterans Hospitals to eliminate unconscionable delays and denials of treatment and benefits. Make sure MENTAL health treatment also gets fixed. Add civilian retraining to the standard procedures for ALL personnel leaving military service. Why should we expect people trained to deadly hyper-alertness to shed that training without counter-training?

Fix the Franchise

Encourage states that still deny the right to vote to ex-prisoners to fix their laws.

Expose Earmarks

Make stealth inserts into legislation like the Gramm deregulation that helped lead to the current market mess impossible. Require full disclosure of all earmarks and other inserts by individual legislators. Allow no changes to bills after they are reviewed & approved.

Heal Health care

Look at the real world examples of countries with national health systems and build from their experience. Eliminate the whole layer of private insurance that adds no value but adds a lot of costs and complexity. Establish a national health care system that is truly universal, leaving nobody out.

Really fix Social Security

Publish studies showing what nonsense the privatizers are promoting. Eliminate the income cap on Social Security deductions.

Aim Audits

Fix the staffing shortage of IRS auditors and aim audits at the big money. Audit all personal returns and all businesses with gross income over thresholds established by study. Establish a rule to ALWAYS audit any company that lobbies the government on the theory that if they look for special privileges they may feel entitled to cheat on taxes too.

Tackle Tax laws

Try to simplify the tax code from the current Byzantine labyrinthine complexity. A flat tax with no exemptions or exceptions or deductions may not be possible, but the current tax code is ridiculous.

Enforce Executive Compensation rules

Require that ANY company getting ANY government money from contracts, bailouts, special tax benefits, special laws, etc. have rules limiting executive pay to a small multiple of lower employee pay, with NO golden handshakes/parachutes/etc. If a COMPLETELY PRIVATE company wants to reward greed, fine, but NOT any company that gets ANY benefit from the government. Tax exempt status is also a benefit. If at all possible, apply the same requirement to ANY company that lobbies. If they feel they can tell the government what to do then they are not just a private company and can expect the government to tell them what to do.

If at all possible, enforce executive RESPONSIBILITY. Establish laws to recover assets from executives who can be proven responsible for losses at companies with government involvement, especially any getting bailouts.

Reinforce Regulators

Add the staff needed for regulators and inspectors to do their jobs and fix the culture at all regulatory agencies so they start doing their jobs rather than ignoring the rules they are supposed to be enforcing. Regulators need to oversee, not overlook.

Educate about the Environment

Too many people seem to ignore the importance of environmental thinking. Anyone with any decent expected lifespan or with any children needs to pay attention to what human actions are doing to the survivability of Earth. Everyone needs to understand the consequences of wasteful or careless choices (driving gas-guzzlers, wasting power, etc.).

GOOD trade

Make sure all trade agreements enforce worker, environment and consumer protection rules.

Respect Laws and Borders

Repudiate the Bush doctrines that have made American behavior an international disgrace. Respect the sovereign borders and laws of all countries. Respect international laws and treaties. Respect AMERICAN laws that have been trampled in recent years.

Terminate Torture

This is almost a subset of respecting laws, but deserves separate attention. Restore the morals and ethics of America as a country that does not practice torture (under any renaming). Not just by military and law enforcement, also by all secret agencies. Include a ban on the practice of dumping people on other regimes that practice torture (extraordinary rendition).

Liberate Civil Liberties

Undo the Bush regime erosion of American civil liberties. Stop all illegal and secret surveillance programs.

Banish Guantanamo Bay

Close the prison camp. That a prison camp exists under American control is an international disgrace. Didn't we learn anything in World War II?

Control Arms

See if the Bush push of highly questionable missile defense systems can be undone. See how many arms control treaties can be rescued from Bush regime scuttling. Start new rounds of arms control negotiations if needed.

Prevent Prejudice

Strengthen laws and regulations against prejudice. Maybe America has finally matured enough to pass an Equal Rights Amendment that forbids discrimination based on ANY inherent (or at least partly inherent) characteristic or involuntary personal history: race, gender, gender identity, gender preference, height, weight, hair color, eye color, handicaps, vision, hearing, national origin, previous conditions of servitude, victimization by crime (e.g., rape), etc. NO service may include discrimination not inseparable from the nature of the service. (E.g., obstetric/gynecological services are limited by nature to women, prostate exams to men.) NO employer may discriminate in hiring except when the criterion is inseparable from ability to perform the work. (E.g., fitness requirements for some police or firefighting jobs, reaction times for pilots or air traffic controllers.) The inseparability must be obvious and stand up to comparison to similar work at different employers. If a requirement is mental rather than physical, it must be measurable with a recognized achievement test that can be checked by third parties.

Like executive compensation, this needs to apply to ANY organization that gets ANY government benefit, including (especially?) tax-exempt status.

Improve Immigration

America is a nation of immigrants and needs to remember that and start valuing immigrants again. Fix the current messy immigration restrictions and quotas and special exceptions and appeals and denials and years-long snarls of red tape. This will probably take a task force to sort out, but we really need to completely rewrite immigration policies.

Control Guns

Restore national gun control laws that have been gutted in recent years. See the Brady Campaign site for lots of info. The U.S. gun death rate is a disgrace.

Really Protect Consumers

The Bush bunch blocked universal testing of all cows for mad cow disease on spurious grounds. Undo that and establish comprehensive testing so consumers who eat beef are really protected.

All food safety inspection in America is horribly understaffed. Bring staffing up to the levels needed for good inspections.

The FDA needs both more staff and a better separation from drug companies.

Many other consumer protection agencies are also badly understaffed and need to be built up to effective levels.


Fix the "No Child Left Behind" mess, which is currently rigged with many ways to fail and pushes teaching to tests instead of teaching clear or innovative thinking. We need flexible thinkers, not organic robots.

Bank Benefits?

Determine whether the postsecondary Federal financial aid system needs parallel loan systems. Is there any benefit to taxpayers or to students from the bank-based Family Federal Education Loan program compared to the Direct Loan program? Does FFEL add any value for anyone but banks?

Copyright © 2008 Mark Pottenger

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