Wednesday, January 02, 2013

My Political Pipe Dreams

I have asked my government students to identify the big issues of 2013.  By big issues, I mean the issues that they believe our national leaders should deal with in the coming year.  The assignment was phrased as a personal one: my students could identify the issues that matter most to them or they could think beyond themselves to issues of national import.  By definition, this sort of assignment asks students to engage in a bit of a political pipe dream.  But they are young and should be idealistic, so I've no problem with that.

This is exactly the sort of thing that I think about all the time (scary, no?), so it seems fair for me to also participate in the assignment.  So I have made a political wish list for 2013.  Think of it as my New Year's Resolutions for Congress.  Mine is one part practical and two parts pipe dream.  I'll leave you to figure out which is which.

1.  Climate change: Real action on climate change, including conversations about our resource consumption habits and policies to change them, especially water conservation and oil and natural gas extraction.  As part of this, I'd like to see us commit to alternative energy development and use.

2.  Infrastructure improvement: An updated and modernized national electric grid, a commitment to national Internet access, significant road and bridge repairs.  This commitment would involve short-term costs in exchange for immediate job opportunities and long-term economic growth.

3.  Disaster preparedness: Now more than ever, a national conversation about disaster preparedness is in order. This is exactly the sort of thing that should accompany real action on climate change.  It could certainly facilitate policy proposals to enable progress in emergency planning.

4.  Gun control:  My list here is long.  Count me among those who would cheerfully vote to remove the Second Amendment from the Constitution.  Short of that, I'd like to see national bans on automatic weapons, national limits on bullet purchases, and vigorous background checks.  These solutions will not fully cure our violent nation, but they would be a start.  My greatest political fear at the moment is that none of it will materialize in the current political climate.

5.  Immigration:  At minimum, I'd like to see the Dream Act become law.  At maximum, I'd like broad amnesty for folks here illegally.  I have little hope for the latter, of course, but a girl can dream.

6.  Healthcare costs: A serious effort to come to terms with healthcare costs.  In all honesty, this is truly a pipe dream because the only reasonable solution on this front is establishing a national healthcare model, a sort of Cleveland Clinic writ large, and our nation is so unwilling to understand that this is our obvious solution.

I'm ending my list here, though there are many more issues I'd like our leaders to tackle.  But reality dictates that only a few big policy changes will move forward in a given year and I'm likely already over my limit.  Even so, these New Year's Resolutions made on behalf of Congress are a solid start on moving our nation in the direction I'd like to see us head.  

Okay, Congress, you've been given your marching orders.  Now get to work.

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