Thursday, November 16, 2006

Populist politics

For a very long time, like I suspect many others, I've fantasized about starting up my own alternative political party. It's an interesting intellectual exercise to me to try to craft a platform for such a party that transcends enough traditional philosophical lines to draw support from all points on the political spectrum.

So far, here's what I've got:

* Hire people to answer the phones (no electronic switchboards)

* No pop music in commercials

* Federal Yes You May Call Me List

* Eliminate lower postage rates for junk mail

* Eliminate spam

* Raise military salaries, improve military housing, fully equip combat troops

* Strictly regulate commercial time/content time on public airwaves (no more than 6 minutes of commercials per hour, 1.5 / 13.5 minutes)

* Eliminate commercial political ads – media may donate ad time, however, they must give equal time to all candidates

* Eliminate exorbitant processing fees – ATM fees, document fees, copying fees, handling fees

* Strengthen the Freedom of Information Act; declassify as many government documents as possible, give citizens access to any government document with their name or Social Security number on it regardless of classification (Right To Your Private Information Act)

* Eliminate political contribution tax break, tax PACs

* Close corporate tax loop holes -- offshore expenses, executive pensions, executive benefits - strictly regulate corporate accounts with overseas banks

* Regulate lay offs -- before companies can cut costs by laying off workers, management must make equal cuts to management salaries and benefits first

* Repeal tax breaks for the rich

* Repeal bankruptcy bill, regulate credit card interest

* Re-regulate the energy industry

* Pass strict privacy protection regulations/repeal PATRIOT Act

* Rebuild the national rail system, build light rail systems

* Rebuild the national canal system

* Comprehensive health care for all

* Comprehensive Federal pension plan for all

* Federal job placement system

* Protect remaining wilderness areas

* Expanded Federal college grant program

* Increase Federal MPG, CAFE standards

* Increase funding for education, public libraries

* “Apollo program” to develop practical alternate energy sources, regardless of commercial applications

It's been fascinating for me to watch myself as I build this list. For example, I think it's very important to provide people with incentives to become less petroleum dependent; one way to try to do that is an increased gasoline tax. I badly want to add that to my platform, but I'm not stupid; no candidate who runs on "I'll make you pay more at the pump" could possibly get elected.

Similarly, I want to add something about how my political party will actually enforce the Constitution, including the 14th Amendment, Section 1, which states "Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

But if I do that, then some smart ass Republican out there will figure out I intend to give 1/10 of the population the same access to marriage laws as the other 9/10s have always enjoyed, and start screaming "Gay marriage!" at me, and my alternative political party will take a drubbing at the polls.

This is, essentially, democracy in action. We get the government we deserve, which is frightening and embarrassing and humiliating to all of us in about equal amounts. But still -- a majority of people want to continue to deny a minority of their fellow citizens the same rights that majority has always enjoyed, in defiance of the law of the land, simply because that's the way it's always been. There's no reason for it; it's just straight up hateful bigotry -- but a majority of people seem to be hateful bigots, so, that's the government we get.

Similarly, probably a majority of Americans, if drunk, high, or off the record, would admit that we are too dependent on petroleum and our nation and our culture badly, badly needs to wean itself off the oil tit. We know it would be much better for us, as individuals and as a society, to drive less, and to walk and take mass transportation more. We know we would be healthier on every level if we encouraged our government to build up our mass transportation infrastructure and to make it more easily accessible to everyone.

We know that, but we don't care. We're fat, and we're lazy, and it's more convenient and comfortable to have a car-shaped hole in the driveway to shovel money into, so we can head out to Wal-mart or the park or the movies whenever we feel like it without having to trouble our microscopic attention spans with difficult intellectual tasks like reconciling a bus schedule with a grid of movie theater show times. Mass transportation? Fine idea for all those other losers; if they'd just get on the damn bus it would cut down on gridlock! But we aren't going to do it.

So, we're fat and we're lazy and we're selfish, and we won't vote for things that we know would be good for us, and down the road, for our kids, because we would find those requirements to be inconvenient to comply with. So we end up with fat, lazy, selfish government, and we bitch about it, and we bitch about the profiteering oil companies who are picking our pockets, but the only tactic we have that would actually work with them -- boycotting their goddam product -- is something we won't even consider.

Say, this setting up a viable third party political party is depressing work. Maybe I should just join the half of the population that doesn't vote. That sounds like it's a great deal more fun.


At 10:52 PM, Blogger AaA said...


At 11:43 AM, Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

If you join the "silent 50%" then you only give tacit permission for the powers that be to continue to wield them.

Add a ban on Wal-Mart and I'll join your party.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Handsome said...




Yeah, I know. Gotta vote. GOTTTTTTaaaaaa... VOTE.

Tighten up corporate tax loop holes and the big box stores will all take a hit. On the other hand, I have nothing against big box discount stores on principle, I'd just like them to pay their workers well. And business will like my platform; they'd love to see universal health care put in place, so they can stop paying insurance premiums for their employees.

Overall, I can't ban Wal-mart. But I hope there's enough elsewhere in the platform to get your vote.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

I just heard today that to build a new Wal-Mart requires 12 acres of land, including the parking lot. Which strengthens my argument for banning them.

It's less political than the fact that I just don't like going there. But hearing about all the trees that have to be mowed down didn't help.

At 7:29 PM, Blogger AaA said...

Ok, fine. I'll say it out loud.

How do you plan on paying for any of that shit? Try making rich people pay their taxes, I dare you. They'll bolt the country, sell every business to the Asians, and the Asians'll move all those jobs to Asia, and America will economically implode.

Don't get me wrong, I love most of those ideas. But you're offering to make a lot of the same mistakes that other countries have made, here. Have you actually paid attention to the net results of socialized medicine elsewhere around the world? Or do you just think that it's failed miserably everywhere it's been tried because the right people haven't tried it yet?

Bah, I have to re-do my post to your rebuttal of that scifi bit (teh Interwebs ate my post), and yell at you for linking to that damned ass that did that fictional movie that won a documentary award at Cannes a few years back.

First though, I need to order some Chinese food for dinner. General Tso's Kitten I think.

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Handsome said...


I'll pay for it the same way we should be paying for everything -- take money away from the Defense Budget. Also, although it's not in the platform, legalizing prostitution, gambling, and most recreational drugs will nicely enhance tax revenues, too.

Beyond that, closing many of the corporate tax loopholes will generate a nice chunk of change.

As to the rich bolting if we try to tax them, well, that's fine, but they will have to leave a lot of their improved real estate behind, and the government can do things like freeze all their bank accounts while we do a tax audit, and if they don't want to pay their taxes, then, you know, you just seize all their shit. I'm not talking about having a government that plays nice with wealthy folks who don't feel any need to contribute to the social contract. I'm talking about having one that slaps the bitches around the way they deserve. You know. One that would levy fines on corporate entities like Enron, and its officers, that would be actually be fair and just.

Let the wealthy bolt. This ain't an Ayn Rand world. We don't need them.

As to the Moore thing, he generally irritates me, too, but his pledge is worth reading. And signing, for that matter.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger AaA said...

Ok, I'm a peacemongerer, so this may sound weird coming from me, but how is slashing the defense budget going to help improve the lot of the common soldier? Oh, wait, I get it, we'll pay him more money, but make sure he doesn't live to spend it by taking away all his gear. Damn, Richard III style military bankrolling, 'dead mercenaries don't have to be paid'.

Opinions to the contrary notwithstanding, this country does have enemies, they do hate us, they would kill us if we let them. I'm having difficulty reconciling that fact with the idea that America needs to cut its military spending. It may have been a joke in 'Wag the Dog', but 'Peace through Superior Firepower' seems to have worked for the last sixty years.

I know you regard prostitution as a 'victimless crime', but I regard the prostitutes as the victims. I think it's a very sad commentary on idealism vs. pragmatism that the self-styled 'champions of the little guy', who should be doing everything in their power to help these unfortunates find a better way to support themselves than by risking their health and degrading themselves on the most personal of all levels, are instead advocating the institutionalization of said degradation. Perhaps you have a different take on this?

As far as drugs go, I don't really care which way we go, as long as we go there consistently. If tobacco and alcohol are legal, than so should heroin and pot. And they should all follow the same regulations, vis-a-vis DWIs and such.

We may not like the wealthy, we may well resent the ever-loving crap out of them, but like it or not, we do need them. They're the ones that start businesses, either directly or by investing, and keep them afloat during the lean times. Yes, we could certainly sieze some of their chattels on their way out, maybe even an entire fortune or two. But cornering and then cutting open the goose to get that egg is kind of short sighted, don't you think?

Michael Moore could read from the Sermon on the Mount, and I'd still be hucking rotten eggs or tomatoes at him. Nothing he does is done for the benefit of anyone except Michael Moore. I will not support him in any way.

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Handsome said...

A few misconceptions, Nate. First, very little of our current defense budget is actually spent on the troops. I want to siphon money out of huge boondoggles like Star Wars, exploding bicycles, and the various intelligence agency 'black' programs that none of us know about. I'd also like to find some way to reform the procurement system to keep vast profits out of the pockets of piratical defense contractors.

I'd spend MORE money on the troops -- housing, pay, medical benefits, equipment. Just less on stupid nonsense that most likely doesn't work anyway. MUCH less.

I wouldn't increase taxes on the working wealthy. I'd simply make taxes on the idle rich quite steep, mostly by reinstating a fargin HUGE inheritance tax... something like, 80% of estates over, oh, $20 million goes to the government. Nobody's kids need that much money.

Prostitution is something I have great distaste for, but unlike you, I have no desire to legislate my emotional discomfort into binding restrictions on everyone else's lifestyle choices. I firmly believe that consenting adults can do anything they want with their own bodies and their own money. Prostitutes are victims now because they are, necessarily, outside the law and therefore require 'protection' from powerful criminal syndicates to ply their trade. Legalize them and license them, and you will empower them to set their own price in a relatively free market without fear of either the law or exploitation by the criminal class they must otherwise depend on. You'll also clean up a big disease vector, which is always a good thing. And the tax revenue will buy quite a few sets of body armor for our beloved troops, too.

You need not ever patronize the hos; that's your choice. But other people should be allowed to make their own decisions without fear of legal reprisal, if their acts aren't actually causing anyone any harm or loss. Criminalizing sex seems to me to be a pretty crappy idea.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger AaA said...

I never said anything about criminalizing sex. I am opposed to the institutionalization of a system of deliberate exploitation of women. People can still have all the sex they want to, with willing, unexploited partners.

Legalize prostitution and I suppose it would be a 'great boon' for the Welfare budget. But you'd have as many 'bootleg' ho's that didn't get licensed crowding every street corner as licensed ones, and good luck keeping them out of certain neighborhoods (like schools). You and I both seem to agree that while freedom of speech extends to all forms of art (including porno), there are some places where it ought not to be displayed (like unavoidable public areas).

Prostitution does not help women (or even jigalos). Sure they get money from it, but at what price? (And forget the 'spiritual mumbo jumbo', I'm talking self-esteem, risk of disease, risk of sexual predator psycho killers, loss of innocence for the 12-year-old runaway hookers etc...) Legalize it, and all you do is expose more people to these risks. They might, MIGHT, be slightly mitigated by licensing practices, but you want to front-end tax it, remember? Licensing fees cost money, money that people who turn to prostitution already don't have any of.

Prostitution /= sex. I've had sex, I've never solicited a prostitute. (Well, my first physical relationship may have been borderline, I did get strung along by the girl after loaning her some money for a car payemnt that I never got back. Still, I kinda doubt that anyone would consider tendering charges against me for solicitation.)

Criminalizing prostitution /= criminalizing sex. You can do the first without doing the second.


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