Top 5 Reforms Nobody’s Talking About

Well, Nanci Pelosi’s first Hundred Hours were a success, now we wait for the Senate to pass the six reform bills. Of course, the reform bills really just cleaned up some of the mess that Republicans have left in their 12 years in power, and really weren’t that radical. So, Madame Speaker (I love saying those two words together), I have a few suggestions for you. Yes, they’re liberal (in the sense that they don’t benefit big business), but really, they’re the sort of thing that you ought to be able to get all of the country behind. So, without further ado, the Top 5 Reforms Nobody’s Talking About:

5. Remove the FICA tax cap.
FICA is one of the most regressive taxes we have, even more so than a sales tax. Not only does it tax at 6.2% for everyone, rather than using a sliding scale, it has contains the ugliest bit of tax code that I’ve found so far: the “FICA-Wage-Base.” Essentially, someone that earns a $10 million salary will pay the same amount in FICA taxes as someone that makes $97,500. So, while a minimum wage worker (as well as most of the middle class) pays 6.2% of their gross income, Dick Grasso paid less than .005%. I wonder who might have lobbied for that particular portion…

4. A 21st century GI Bill (actually several different reforms, but work with me).
First, we need to fully fund the Veterans Administration. As of December 2004, the VA couldn’t even give returning veterans their disability ratings in a timely manner. Since most veterans depend on the VA for medical care, this is essential.

Second, we need to research Gulf War Syndrome. No one really knows what GWS is, but everyone except the military agrees that it exists. Soldiers returning from both the first and second Gulf Wars have developed bizarre immunological symptoms, massively decreasing their quality of life.

Third, we need to find a treatment for PTSD that actually works. According to Lt. Col. David Grossman in his book On Killing, PTSD is related not so much to being threatened as to the act of killing. Since WWII, the training of our military has improved to the point that 90% (versus 15%) of our soldiers fire their weapons in war, massively increasing their effectiveness. However, this comes at a great psychic cost. When we break down the barriers to killing, we open the doors to PTSD. Add to that the fact that PTSD is much more likely to occur when the killing occurs at close range (like in Iraq), and you have a recipe for disaster.

Finally, we need to restore the original GI bill. The original GI bill guaranteed free education at any university (not just $36,000 for tuition, enough for one year at my university), government backed home loans, subsidized business loans, farm loans, job training, medical care and up to a year’s worth of unemployment checks. Veterans today are essentially supposed to bounce back right after they come home. Who, exactly, is supporting the troops today?

3. Tie the minimum wage to inflation.
The increase in the minimum wage to $7.25/hour is great, but it is only a short term solution. We got into the problem because the minimum wage doesn’t increase every year with inflation, so real wages decrease. We ought to tie minimum wage to inflation, or at the very least, give what school districts call a “cost of living increase,” a 5% increase every year. That way we won’t have to have a huge fight about it every few years, and we’ll at least forestall the increase in economic disparity, and we’ll never have to see Ted Kennedy cry again.

2. End the black budgets.
Also known as the special access budgets, black budgets essentially give the CIA, DOD, and other agencies money that they can spend in secret, never telling the public what they were spending it on. In the past (e.g. the Cold War) this was certainly useful, and probably justified, since it ensured that the USSR couldn’t copy, say, the B-2 Bomber, or the SR-71 Blackbird. However, our enemies today (I mean al Qaeda et al., not neo-cons) don’t have the resources to copy a Cessna, let alone a multi-billion-dollar stealth aircraft. Not to mention the fact that you can say that you’re building a super-secret stealth bomber and how much it costs without releasing blueprints. At this point, I am sure, neo-cons would say that “if we ever had to go to war with China, we would have to have a secret weapon.” One thing: war with China=very, very bad. They have nuclear weapons, and their population is more than four times ours. If China were to invade America armed only with rocks, we would lose.

But, not only are black budgets close to useless, they are inherently dangerous. First of all, since there is no oversight, it is an easy cloak for waste and corruption. For example, for years the National Reconnaissance Office hid the fact that they owned a $300 million office building, which they clearly didn’t need, from the congress and tax payers. Black budgets also funded such cockamamie ideas such as ESP research and LSD as a chemical weapon (look man, my gun just turned into a bunny). Worst of all is the (somewhat obvious) threat to human rights. All in all, the black budget is at least $40 billion per year, with some researchers estimating a tad higher, at $2 trillion, which would be enough to secretly fund the Iraq War, and war with Iran, and war with North Korea, and war with Syria, and war with Eurasia and Eastasia…

1. Impeach George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, and Michael Chertoff.
First of all, we have to discard the modern interpretation of “high crimes and misdemeanors”: the idea that to be impeached you have to commit a crime that is on the books. According to common law, which is what the Constitution was based on, high crimes and misdemeanors included lying to parliament/congress, cronyism, wasting public money, failing to appropriately protect their country, negligence, and abuse of power, all of which these men have been guilty of. When the constitution was written, the founders did not intend for a president to be impeached for lying about his sex life (if so, Jefferson could have been in serious trouble), but for failing to do their duty. For simplicity, here are specific (but certainly not exhaustive) charges.

President George W. Bush:
Lying to congress in the build up to the Iraq War. Gross cronyism in awarding post-war contracts and appointments. Wasting public money on an unjustified war. Failing to appropriately protect the country against terrorism, natural disasters, and environmental threats. Negligence in response to the attacks on September 11th. Abuse of power in the issuing of signing statements and executive orders. General incompetence. Holding office without possession of a brain.

Vice President Dick Cheney:
Lying to congress in the build up to the Iraq War. Gross cronyism in awarding post-war contracts. Abuse of power in consulting oil executives on an energy plan, then refusing to say who was at the meetings. Holding office while ruler of a foreign country (Pandemonium, AKA Dis, AKA Hell).

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
Repeatedly lying to congress about torture, spying, and other programs in the war on terror. Holding office while a weasel.

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff:
Abuse of power by “discovering” a terror cell that did not exist, then using it to influence elections. Negligence in response to Hurricane Katrina. Holding office while undead.

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4 Comments »

  1. The Ridger said

    Trackbacks aren’t working, but I wanted you to know this post has been chosen for the Carnival of the Liberals – Thanks!

  2. […] offers some policy suggestions in Top 5 Reforms Nobody’s Talking About, posted at The Soggy Liberal. He veers off into hyperbole at the end, but I do think his suggestion […]

  3. Nathan said

    I like your reforms except #1. Now I agree as much as you that impeachment is a good idea. But I think a strictly law-oriented approach to impeachment is still the way to go (and Shrub Dub is still plenty guilty in that respect too). Impeachment is supposed to be really hard, and it shouldn’t happen for political reasons. And if it is made explicitly subjective instead of only indirectly subjective, we’ll have impeachments all the time.

    On the other hand, one could argue that parliamentary systems allow for votes of confidence. But the target there, the PM, is still part of the legislative body, although he wields some executive power. It may be (I haven’t studied it enough to be sure) that in our system where the legislative branch is so explicitly set apart from the executive, that permitting impeachment based on political and policy judgments (who will define “wasting public money” and “failing to appropriately protect their country”?) will mean every President is constantly under the thumb of legislators who, as we’ve seen, are no more likely to have the best interest of the country at heart than the Pres.

  4. Hyncindesee said

    zitqjnqagsbcljhewell, hi admin adn people nice forum indeed. how’s life? hope it’s introduce branch 😉

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