A post on this blog last week received comments disagreeing with me. I’m fine with that. The blog is intended to inform (lots of the posts are full of facts), and to encourage thought and discussion. I’ve never been shy about self-identification as a Democrat, but I’m always open to what others are thinking. Heck, I even tune in for small doses of Fox News just to see how they are spinning things.
One of the noted commentaries came from a loyal Trumpkin in the form of a Tweet criticizing my characterizations of Donald Trump and Trump staffer Stephen Miller. Whatever. Politics is like that sometimes.
The other commentary can be found in a couple notes attached to last week’s post, with permission of the author. He wasn’t happy, and he urged me to stop just attacking Trump and to talk about issues. I think I have done that from time-to-time, even while going after the destruction I see coming out of this administration. That being said, I agree that we should focus some time on the federal issues of 2018. Maybe there is some common ground.
I noted in a previous post that at the candidate forum that was held in Lancaster a couple weeks ago the five Democratic candidates interested in challenging Congressman Chris Collins mostly spoke about the issues, not Trump. Trump’s problems will take care of themselves for Democrats, but there are a lot of meaty issues to get into this year.
So here, in no particular order, is my take on some of the issues. Some Democrats might agree, others may not. Same for independents and maybe even for a few Republicans. Here are some things to think about:
- Taxes. So Trump and the Republicans in Congress got one big legislative achievement. Paychecks will be a bit fatter; hopefully the IRS, in their rush to please Trump, didn’t jimmy the tax tables, something we really won’t know until April 2019. Moody’s Investor Services says that the tax bill will only make a minor impact on the economy at-large. We’ll see about that too. In the meantime there are some adjustments to the legislation that are in order. The state and local taxes deduction should be restored in full, given that states like New York are major positive contributors to the national treasury. The child care credit should be increased along with the related earned income tax credit, which puts money in the pockets of people who will spend it, boosting the economy. Pay for the changes by increasing the highest tax brackets back to where they previously were.
- Community Health Centers. The health facilities provide critical services to people who have difficulty in obtaining health care. Given the dismantling of some of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions, Congress needs to fund these health centers now.
- The Affordable Care Act. Nobody, including Barack Obama, ever claimed that the law was perfect. It did need revisions, but in a comprehensive way. Consistent funding for the law’s insurance subsidies should be provided. And given that the individual mandate is no more, something needs to be done to prevent insurance rates from soaring as younger and healthier folks decide not to buy insurance. Many of them at one time or another will wind up being treated in emergency rooms, subsidized by those of us who do have insurance.
- Off-shore drilling. Okay, so we know that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has determined that only the shoreline surrounding Florida needs to be protected by not allowing off-shore drilling there. As someone who visits Florida from time-to-time, I say thank you. But thank you only if they drop the dangerous idea of drilling along the coasts of other states too. And while they are at it, prevent federal regulators from weakening the rules governing existing off-shore drilling that were put in place following the Deepwater Horizon disaster off of Louisiana in 2010.
- Air regulations. Prevent the Federal Aviation Administration from giving in to airlines and weakening pilot training requirements put in place following the Flight 3407 air tragedy in Clarence nine years ago.
- Higher education – student loans; favorable treatment of for-profit colleges. Drop student loan interest rates considerably; the federal government should not make a profit on this. Protect students from the excesses of for-profit colleges, which by far exceed other institutions in incomplete programs and loan defaults.
- DACA. It is ironic that Trump wants to absolve Michael Flynn (and probably others) from their transgressions but seems fine with deporting boys and girls brought into the country when they were young and have lived here most of their lives. Maybe someday the Trumps will hold that long-promised news conference to explain the immigration status of Melania Trump.
- Social Security. House Speaker Paul Ryan remains obsessed with the idea of cutting back on Social Security. Instead, find a way to improve the program’s finances by raising the income limit for Social Security payroll deductions. Slightly increase the full-benefit retirement age, but do so by figuring out a way to protect those Americans whose very physically challenging life’s work makes it much harder to work until they’re 67.
- Tariffs; NAFTA. For those who remember their elementary and high school history classes, raising tariffs and setting off trade wars usually lead to no good end. NAFTA isn’t perfect, but many American businesses from Western New York to the heartlands have greatly benefited from that agreement. Leave it alone.
- Gun laws. Simple things like enhanced background checks and outlawing bump stocks for assault weapons get bottled up in Congress. At one time these bills had some bi-partisan support, but then the NRA stepped in. Pass these laws.
- America First. Aside from the anti-Semitic connotations associated with the term from the days of Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh and others, Trump’s America First strategy is destructive of many good things that have come out of America’s efforts to work with and assist other nations throughout the world. There was a time when our country could bury its head in the sand, protected by two oceans. It doesn’t work that way anymore. America, the richest and most open society in the world (you can look it up in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights) should maintain its role as the leader in promoting world freedom and democracy.
- Infrastructure. Everyone agrees that there are tons of roads, bridges, water and sewer lines, airports and other public facilities greatly in need of improvement and replacement. The bill would be in the trillions, and it will take years to address even if there is the will to do so. Looking for ways to add toll roads and other charges to public facilities will not get the job done. It will take lots of tax money and a major federal commitment to addressing these matters, not the band aid that Trump is proposing.
- Russian interference in American elections. Credible investigators have determined all sorts of ways that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election. What will be done to prevent that from happening again in 2018 and beyond?
This is not an exhaustive list, and it is certainly open to debate and refinement. As we watch the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation result in political drama (and attempts by Trump supporters to discredit the investigation), we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there’s a country to run and that no one has a lock on the truth. Ronald Reagan once noted that “my 80-percent friend is not my 20-percent enemy.” Truer words were never spoken. Debate and compromise.
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