Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Making the Best Better on the 4th

Holidays, especially the 4th of July, are great opportunities to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. Our great nation has accomplished much, yet still has far to go.

Here are the most important areas where I think we, as the United States of America, can improve so that our children and children’s children will have a better future.

Education – All should be able to get a good education regardless of their economic situation. Well-educated citizens are critical for a successful democracy. Education helps our nation make the most of its human resources. Public education and libraries helped build the foundation that made our country great.

To improve our educational system we should greatly increase teacher salaries, reward teachers based on performance, measure performance in ways beyond just standardized tests, and remove tenure for elementary, middle school, and high school teachers.

Prisons – We should minimize the number of people that must go to prison by ensuring they are educated and prepared to get whatever job they are best suited to do. Prisons should work on reforming and educating criminals to become productive citizens rather than be warehouses for punishment that foster criminals teaching crime to other criminals.

Housing large numbers of prisoners is expensive and a drain on society when those people could be productive citizens. The prison system should be rewarded based on reducing criminals and maximizing good citizens rather than locking them up indefinitely. We cannot afford this. Some resort to crime because there are no other good alternatives.  Better education is a good place to prevent criminal behavior. Reform and education must be emphasized for those who slip thru while indefinite lockup is reserved for those that cannot be reformed. The death penalty should be abolished because it is far too expensive as well as error prone with no recourse.

Health Care – Everyone should be covered by basic healthcare so valuable human resources are kept healthier (in better working condition) and are treated through less expensive preventative or timely curative treatments rather than expensive and last ditch emergency care. A stitch in time saves nine.

The Affordable Health Care Act was a step in the right direction. Encouraging Health Maintenance Organizations over traditional health insurance is even more cost effective and efficient.

Taxation – Taxes are not evil. They are investments in our government and our shared infrastructure so we can enjoy a more stable, safe, and productive community and society. We must embrace reasonable taxes and not keep dodging them at all costs. Endless tax cutting ends up hurting all of us. The wealthy have automatic advantages over the poor and also benefit immensely from a stable society that consumes their goods and services. It is a good thing for the wealthy to pay proportionately more in taxes than the poor.

To better use tax revenue, we need to balance our budget and put performance metrics in place so our government is naturally rewarded for effectiveness and efficiency. Legislation should focus more on outcomes rather than the hows. Let government professionals figure out how to maximize results just as we let the free market economy figure out how to best satisfy demand.  The City of Sunnyvale is a good example of performance metrics as well as a balanced budget in action. Please also note that the vast majority of government workers are middle class and few if any are wealthy. Tax dollars directly employ a larger number of people in government than concentrating wealth in the hands of a few.

Civil Rights – Everyone is entitled to equal rights and equal protection under the law. We are close to achieving this beautiful vision as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

Yes, any two consenting adults should be entitled to marry and enjoy the economic, legal, family, and child rearing benefits of such a union.

Democracy – This is the most sustainable form of government yet invented. A “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is the only practical way to govern people as they do it through their own choices rather than being told what to do by others.

We need to have positive policies to foster democracy abroad as well as encourage our populace to participate actively in our own democracy. The legal system that supports our democracy is the best defense we have against corruption.

Sustainability – Our resources are not unlimited. Resources include energy, materials, space, and time. We all must strive to budget ourselves so we make the best use of the limited resources we have and hold ourselves accountable before nature itself forces us to be accountable.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Our government is in the best position to put checks and balances in place to ensure we do not overly abuse our environment. Protecting our environment is extremely important yet too long term an objective to be otherwise factored into our free market economy.

Poverty – This is really the bottom line. Better managing all of the above will help reduce poverty and the inequitable distribution of wealth. When none of us want for basic needs, there will be less war and less crime. Having wealth widely distributed benefits us all. It only stands to reason. No one should want for adequate food, clothing, shelter, or health care.