The Green Party of Florida mailed the below referenced letter to President Obama on January 9. We ask that he consider what legacy he will leave for the people of the United States, and the people of the World, at this critical juncture, with history as judge, and with respect to the expectations of the electoral majority who granted him his second term.
January 9, 2013.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 30500-0003
As you begin your second term, we ask that you consider what your legacy will be for the people of the United States and the people of the world. Please try to imagine some of the questions that future generations, including Malia and Sasha’s children, may be asking about your tenure as president. Questions such as: What did you do to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? What did you do to make the U.S. a more just and democratic society?
You may point to the passage of the Affordable Care Act as your major accomplishment, but it leaves predatory insurance companies and Big Pharma in control of our profit-driven health care system, which costs at least 50% more (as a percent of GDP) than that of any other industrialized country, while leaving millions uninsured. Greens believe health care is a human right, not a commodity to be manipulated for private gain by corporate interests, and we suggest your legacy will be better served by your advocacy for a Universal Single Payer (Medicare For All) system.
The Green Party of Florida would like to offer you some common sense suggestions for your second term in office.
Unemployment and underemployment
Let’s start with unemployment. The U.S. has a massive jobs deficit. At least 25 million new jobs are needed to put all the unemployed and underemployed to work. Unemployment insurance and other programs are designed to provide relief for unemployed people who cannot support themselves and their families because of the jobs shortage inherent in our economic system, but they are woefully inadequate to address the crisis we are currently facing.
You could use the bully pulpit of the presidency to push for a Full Employment jobs program that would create 25 million new jobs. While it is true that 25 million jobs at $30,000 per year would cost $62.5 billion per month, it is also true that putting that money into circulation would stimulate the local economies of communities across the U.S., and these families would no longer need unemployment insurance and other programs to maintain themselves, resulting in savings that would cut the real cost of a Full Employment jobs program significantly. IN ADDITION TO THESE SAVINGS AND ECONOMIC STIMULATION, society would be receiving value through productive work being done and taxes being paid.
How could this investment in a Full Employment economy be paid for? We have several suggestions.
You could direct the Federal Reserve Bank to STOP spending $85 million per month to buy up bonds and bad mortgage debt.
You could cut our military and war spending by closing military bases that are nonessential to our national defense, and cut the bloated spending on a global military empire that has no real purpose except to enrich the war profiteers and fossil fuel industry that have hijacked our nation’s foreign policy. Bring home the troops from Germany, Japan, Korea, the Middle East and other bases around the world – and spend that money putting them to work here, building a better U.S. (Check out the pie chart on Federal Spending.1)
You could propose a “Wall Street sales tax” that would apply to all stock trades and financial transactions. Why should citizens pay sales taxes on clothes and furniture, while Wall Street traders are left untouched? Such a tax would hardly be felt by long term investors, and the short term traders who profit from speculation should be asked to pay their fair share.
Before we move on with suggestions for the work to be accomplished by 25 million newly employed workers, we would also like to suggest some other measures that would create jobs and better working conditions.
You could advocate for enacting the Employee Free Choice Act into law to give workers a viable chance to organize a union. You could push for an increase in the minimum wage to a livable wage. You could advocate for a cut in the work week from 40 hours to 36 hours or require employers to offer a minimum amount of paid vacation time, with no cut in the weekly pay. You could push for paid Maternity and Paternity leave.
Employers have been reaping the benefits of increased worker productivity for decades, while wages have remained relatively flat and millions of manufacturing jobs have been moved overseas. This graph2 shows annual labor productivity increases since 1947. Bear in mind that these percentages are annual and COMPOUNDED. This graph3 contrasts productivity and wages.
You could be the President whose legacy is the creation of a Full Employment economy. 25 million new jobs have the potential to create more wealth and a significantly better society, for a fraction of the investment that has been squandered on Wall Street bailouts and unnecessary wars and occupations. Some of these jobs would be for more teachers, teachers’ aides, tutors, and school nurses, to drastically upgrade our educational system. Some would be to repair and improve our transportation, water, and sewage systems. Some jobs would be to build a clean, sustainable twenty-first century energy infrastructure. You could reconstitute the Civilian Conservation Corps4 as a vehicle for putting people to work on projects that will benefit our communities.
Energy and the environment
Warming oceans, melting glaciers, drought, and massive storms are all clear indicators of climate change. The time for action is now. You are uniquely positioned as President of the United States, the world’s largest economy, to implement programs that can reverse the climate disaster that is unfolding. Failure is not an option. Not for your grandchildren, or for ours.
The U.S. is suffering from drought5 and we have not yet recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
Our continued reliance on fossil fuels is accelerating climate change. Mountaintop removal is destroying ecosystems and turning whole counties into environmental disaster areas. Arctic and offshore drilling for oil invites more environmental disasters. The Keystone XL pipeline would bring dirty Canadian tar sands oil across the Ogallala Aquifer. Burning more coal, oil and gas will add more pollutants to our atmosphere in addition to contributing to climate change by increasing carbon-dioxide emissions.
Hydraulic Fracking, drilling for natural gas by pumping liquids, sand, and chemicals below the water table to force out natural gas, has been granted an exemption from federal laws that protect our water and air. But while fracking can create environmental disasters (by triggering earthquakes6, releasing radon7, a radioactive gas, and contaminating our water and air.8 It is highly profitable because the environmental costs are largely shifted from the companies that extract the gas to the local communities that have to live with the consequences.
Reliance on nuclear energy is imprudent because the potential for catastrophic failure is inherent, not to mention the challenge of storing and safeguarding radioactive waste in perpetuity. A Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima could occur at any of the 104 aging plants in the U.S. Public investment in this dead end technology diverts urgently needed funds from the development of green energy solutions, which are long overdue. Nuclear power is too expensive and too risky to compete in the energy marketplace, and thus the industry relies heavily on government subsidies. Public funds are more wisely invested in building a carbon free, nuclear free energy regime that is truly safe and sustainable.
It is imperative that greenhouse gas emissions be drastically reduced immediately in order to limit human impact on climate change, but nuclear power is a false solution. For a start, we need a massive energy conservation and efficiency program that reduces demand by 50% (which would bring us in line with Germany’s per capita energy consumption).
We need immediate national programs to insulate homes, install solar and wind-based electric generators, and install solar water heaters on a massive scale. Florida could reduce its consumption of electricity by 10% simply by deploying low-tech solar thermal water heaters. Federal leadership, and funding, is needed.
Projects to develop mass transit for our cities, towns, and regions would help to reduce gasoline consumption. Neighborhoods, towns, and cities could be redeveloped or built with cheap, energy efficient transportation at the core of the plan. Now that would be a legacy that would make Malia and Sasha’s children proud.
Green energy solutions may not be adequate to reverse climate change, but immediate implementation of existing renewable energy and conservation technology would help to slow the phenomenon and buy us more time to develop and deploy long term solutions.
Internationally, the United States must play a leading role in the fight against climate change, but can do so only by setting an example at home. Encouraging other countries to decrease their dependence on fossil fuels and to rapidly shift to clean renewable energy requires this administration to reverse long-held U.S. positions on climate change, and for it to promote, rather than block, progress at climate change summits. Trade agreements, such as NAFTA, need to be renegotiated to guarantee workers’ rights to organize and to a living wage, as well as to ensure safe working conditions and environmental protections.
Militarism and war
U.S. arms sales in 2011 were $85.3 billion, with Russia a distant second at $4.8 billion, only 5.6% of U.S. sales.9 Military spending by the U.S. accounts for 41% of the world’s military spending10 and 4.7% of our GDP.11 Other countries that spend over 4% of their GDP on their military are linked to the United States by recent, ongoing, or potential war. Every dollar that is spent on building an ever-expanding global military empire is a dollar added to this nation’s debt, and a dollar that is unavailable for building a better United States and a better world.
U.S. military interventions in the Middle East and in Asia have produced disastrous results, including the unnecessary deaths of thousands of our soldiers and the maiming of tens of thousands more. Thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have died, and millions have been displaced, and now U.S. drone strikes are killing and maiming thousands more in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, with announced plans to dramatically expand the U.S. military presence in Africa. You have continued U.S. military and economic assistance to Israel, in effect subsidizing a brutal and illegal occupation. How many more enemies of the U.S. will these policies create?
It is time to bring an end to the insanity of war, and by abandoning these militaristic policies and investing the resources instead in productive domestic programs, you can save lives and create a lasting legacy. In your second term, you can wage peace instead of war, and commit the U.S. to becoming a global leader in “beating swords into plowshares” by leading the way in the dismantling of global nuclear weapons stockpiles and other weapons of mass destruction.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the traditional rights and freedoms of U.S. citizens have been undermined and eroded, not by terrorists, but by our own government. Government agencies now routinely spy on telephone, email and other communications by the millions. Legislation has been approved that essentially renders the Bill of Rights moot. The rights to speak, assemble and protest are all under assault, and your administration has continued, and in some cases expanded, the Bush-era policies that strip Americans of our rights and grant dictatorial powers to government.
Your signing of the National Defense Authorization Act is a violation of your oath to protect and defend the Constitution.12 The NDAA codifies violations of the Constitution, such as military detention of U.S. citizens within the U.S., and nullifies many of the Bill of Rights and disregards the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.13&14
This action seriously puts in question your sincerity, and jeopardizes your legacy. Greens are among the millions of U.S. citizens from diverse ideological backgrounds who have opposed this Draconian legislation, and who hold you accountable for it. We remind you that your job is to uphold your oath to defend the Constitution. Your legacy should be one of defending the core principles of liberty and democracy. Your signing of the NDAA was a giant step in the wrong direction.
Mass incarceration and the Failed “War on Drugs”
The U.S. has more people in prison than any other country, and we have, by far, the highest rates of incarceration.15 The rate of incarceration for Blacks, Latinos16 and Native Americans17 is disproportionately high. About 25% of all U.S. prisoners are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.18 Most of these citizens are in prison because they are poor, not because they are dangerous criminals.
The same costs of incarceration could be generating so much better return in terms of productivity and community health, if applied as wages for the same citizens.
You could provide leadership by publicly acknowledging that the War on Drugs, based on Prohibition and mass incarceration, is a failed policy. You could take immediate action by advocating for the reclassification of cannabis and hemp, and by directing federal law enforcement agencies to stop enforcing federal prohibition laws. You could pardon federally held nonviolent drug offenders and encourage governors to do the same. You could advocate for reform or repeal of laws that criminalize nonviolent drug offenses, and mandate that federal authorities will respect the city, county, and state laws that legalize or decriminalize cannabis and hemp. You could publicly oppose the dangerous trend toward prison privatization, which makes mass incarceration a profit-driven industry with corporations taking over the running of U.S. prisons.
Last but not least, you could take action to pardon political prisoners, such as Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Sami Al-Arian, who have been imprisoned for years after being convicted in highly politicized and racist trials, on dubious or manufactured evidence. By pardoning Bradley Manning, you could show the world that the U.S. government is not threatened by a whistle-blower whose only crime is to expose government lies and war crimes.19
You could push for forgiveness of student debt and for legislation to make education a right rather than a privilege. Education is the gateway out of poverty and into productive, socially useful employment. In our current technologically advanced society higher education is a prerequisite for success. As better educated people earn more money and pay more taxes, government spending on education more than pays for itself, as evidenced by the economic boom following the GI bill that financed education for veterans after the Second World War.
The undermining of democracy by corporate money
Our democracy is being undermined by the false doctrine of “corporate personhood” which is really a symptom of big money in politics. Corporations have usurped our constitutional rights, and the “Citizens United vs. FEC” Supreme Court ruling declares that money is protected speech under the U.S. Constitution. This ridiculous ruling allows the outright buying of elections, and it prohibits the regulation of campaign contributions. Corporations have also usurped the public airwaves, with the FCC regulations that are designed to enhance corporate control and enhance private profits, rather than to ensure that the public has free and open access to our broadcasting bandwidth, such as for open discussion of public policy and for political campaigns.
Move To Amend seeks to overturn Citizens United with a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and make clear that money is not speech.20 You could support this citizens’ movement by having the FCC set aside public bandwidth to be used for free airtime for all political candidates and ballot issues. You can also use the bully pulpit of your presidency to advocate for an end to corporate personhood and the Citizens United ruling.
You could also end the undemocratic practice of filibustering. Urge your supporters in the Senate to abolish the filibuster or to allow it to be stopped by simple majority vote by changing the Senate rules for the 2013 session.
Federal budget negotiations
Regarding the ongoing budget negotiations, three issues should not be compromised: cuts to Medicare, cuts to Social Security (including the chained CPI proposal which would have devastating effects on everyone dependent on Social Security), and tax cuts for the rich (the 1% should pay more taxes, not less). Any concessions in these areas would not only harm your legacy but undermine the legacies of your predecessors.
The budget deal reached early on New Year’s Day is a big step in the wrong direction.21
None of the suggestions above were seriously discussed by the two major parties during the 2012 presidential campaign. That is a sure sign that our democratic process is not working.
Ballot-qualified candidates who did raise these issues, such as Jill Stein (Green) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian) were excluded from the debates and essentially ignored by the corporate media.
We recognize that implementation of these suggestions will require broad support from the 30 percent of voters who supported you as well as the 44 percent who did not cast a vote. But with such pressure you could overcome the resistance from the Republican-controlled House and leave a formidable legacy of progressive programs. Should you choose to inspire and motivate your base of support, you will leave an enduring legacy about which you will be proud to tell your grandchildren.
Please feel free to refer to the summary of the Green New Deal,22 and the Green Party Platform,23 for additional ideas for your legacy.
Towards a better tomorrow,
Green Party of Florida
1. Pie chart on Federal spending: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/federal_budget_pie
2. This graph shows annual labor productivity increases since 1947. Bear in mind that these percentages are annual and COMPOUNDED: http://www.bls.gov/lpc/prodybar.htm
3. This graph contrasts productivity and wages: http://www.aflcio.org/Multimedia/Infographics/Productivity-v.-Wage-Growth
4. Civilian Conservation Corps: http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1586.html
6. Fracking and earthquakes: http://www.livescience.com/22151-fracking-earthquakes-fluid-injection.htm
7. Fracking and release of Radon: http://moontownshippa.blogspot.com/2012/01/radon-and-fracking-new-dangerous-threat.html
8. Fracking and clean water: http://www.americanrivers.org/initiatives/pollution/energy-pollution/?gclid=CL33yeK-wLQCFQWonQodGQ4AHg
10. U.S. military spending compared to other countries: http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending
11. U.S. military spending as percent of GDP: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS
13. Why the NDAA is Unconstitutional: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/18/why-the-ndaa-is-unconstitutional/
14. Martial Law by Executive Order: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-garrison/martial-law-under-another_b_1370819.html
15. Incarceration: http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/08/prison-math
17. Native American incarceration: http: http://www.lenapeprograms.info/Articles/Prison.htm
18. Nonviolent offenders incarcerated: http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/08/prison-math
19. Political Prisoners: http://www3.law.harvard.edu/journals/hjrej-articles/archive/vol18/soffiyah.pdf
20. Move to Amend: https://movetoamend.org/
21. Comments on the budget deal: http://www.opednews.com/articles/Don-t-Celebrate-Obama-s-De-by-Rob-Kall-130102-581.html
22. The Green New Deal: http://www.jillstein.org/summary_green_new_deal
23. Green Party Platform: http://www.gp.org/committees/platform/2012/