Progressive Democracy has been published as a book. For ordering information please click here. This website version of the book has been revised since the first printing of the book in July 2011.
In my view “progressive democracy” means responding well to the needs of all people while working to preserve the values of life, freedom, security, justice, health, education, prosperity, a sustainable environment, and peace. Democracy has been considered the most free government since the Athenian era of Solon, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; but as they warned, democracy can easily degenerate into plutocracy, an oligarchy dominated by the wealthy. Since 1981 the republic of the United States increasingly has been deteriorating into a plutocracy, which has been making the rich richer while the middle class and the poor pay the cost.
The purpose of this book is to explain how people can regain control of our government in order to promote progressive values for the good of all. In my book BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World I described how improving constitutional systems of government could facilitate long-term solutions that would alleviate poverty, end wars by replacing violence with judicial processes, respect human rights, and protect the environment that sustains us. In that book I drafted a global disarmament treaty, a constitution for a Federal Earth Democracy, and a completely revised United States Constitution that could be adopted by a constitutional convention and ratified by the people.
In this book I intend to show how we can move from our critical situation toward evolutionary and revolutionary changes that can create a much improved society for all. I hope to appeal to all reasonable persons whether they are Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, independents, socialists, or even anarchists. I will describe what we can do to move from here to there, and I will suggest what I (or someone with these values and methods) could do as President of the United States to implement these pragmatic improvements. My writings, including BEST FOR ALL, are on my website san.beck.org free without advertisements for anyone to read. More than 25 of my books have also been published and may be ordered at 1worldpeace.org.
In developing these solutions I have been most influenced by Jesus the Christ, Lao-zi, Socrates, Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. Their teachings are essentially based on love and wisdom. I am applying these spiritual teachings to our current problems as best I can by praying to God and learning from my extensive study of ethics and the history of civilization.
The human race is now facing a mega-crisis. I believe that extraordinary changes are needed to stop the on-going wars and environmental deterioration and to prevent such catastrophes as nuclear war and global warming that could cause massive pollution, flooding, starvation, epidemics, and chaotic conflicts. In the last thirty years the capitalist class of the wealthy has been exploiting the economy to gain even more money and power while the middle class and poor suffer unjustly. Under their influence government policies exploit resources while they neglect the crisis of climate change and use the brute power of the military to try to control people, blundering into one war after another when the United States no longer has any major enemies but scattered religious fanatics and those we have alienated by our imperialistic warfare.
Love and wisdom are the best guides for progressive values such as freedom, responsibility, justice, peace, and prosperity that need to be balanced and in harmony with each other. Love is nonviolent and harmless in doing what is best for each person. Wisdom enables us to consider many people’s concerns and the consequences of actions when evaluating what to do. Wise love works for justice to assure responsibility for actions in order to protect people from abuse, and with mercy and compassion it helps healing occur. Individual conscience and integrity are essential in making human relations work well ethically. Yet global problems require cooperation by many people, social organizations, and governments. About seven billion people live on planet Earth now, and this is our only home. Thus as technology advances and natural resources diminish, we must learn to make adjustments to live more efficiently and prevent disasters.
In the last century capitalism and socialism were often in conflict, but the ideological extremes of both are very problematic. Some aspects of free enterprise enable the market to thrive and allow freedom, giving people more choices; but the abuses of uncontrolled capitalism result in exploitation, injustice, environmental damage, health problems, unemployment, poverty, wars, and social and political instability. Attempting to socialize an entire society limits freedom and may cause corruption and inefficiency. Yet many nations have shown that socializing some sectors, such as schooling, health care, police, road-building, and other public services can be more efficient and fair for all than relying on profit-making corporations which put their own advantages above the public good.
Democratic government can be responsive to the needs and wishes of the people for security, equal justice for all through laws, public health, education, freedom of expression, a safe environment, and shared financial responsibility. In a republic people can choose representatives in elections who will implement policies that reflect these values. Humans are social beings who live together in communities and depend on cooperation for mutual benefits. Parents take care of helpless children until they learn to be responsible for themselves, and good families will help members who may be suffering from troubles. Good government can also provide assistance to those families who need opportunities because of unfortunate circumstances. Religions and ethics teach us not to harm anyone and to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Certainly government cannot be all things to all people, but it can protect individuals so that they will not lack basic human rights to clean air and water, food, security, shelter, energy, health care, education, communication, and transportation. In a humane society the majority will make sure that every person has these basic rights of life. Although private charities can also assist in these efforts, history shows that their aid may be haphazard and incomplete. Only a government of, by, and for all the people can make sure that no one is neglected. Religious and altruistic people through charity can provide services in wonderful ways, and they are certainly to be commended for doing so. Yet the history of conflicts between religions has shown that no one religion can provide for everyone; but a government can establish services so that the needs of all in its jurisdiction are met.
Government can become the enemy of the people when it is tyrannical and hostile or unresponsive to the needs of its citizens. Yet government can also be an organized way that people unite to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence,
Whenever any Form of Government
becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,
and to institute new Government,
laying its foundation on such principles
and organizing its powers in such form,
as to them shall seem most likely
to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Because of the corrupting influence of money in politics the United States Congress, the Presidency, and even the Supreme Court are becoming increasingly dysfunctional. The national debt has risen to nearly fifteen trillion dollars while trillions of dollars have been wasted on destructive wars in futile attempts to control diminishing fossil fuels. Trillions more have been lost because the wealthy have also manipulated the tax code and other laws so that corporations and the wealthy are contributing a much smaller percentage of revenues than they did when American society was more prosperous after World War II. When greed in the financial sector created a housing bubble after the deregulation of the late 1990s, the entire capitalist structure was in danger of melting down. The US Government stepped in and bailed out the huge banks and investment companies while doing little to help the millions of home-owners facing unfair debts and foreclosures.
Meanwhile the use of fossil fuels is warming up the Earth and is already causing the melting of the polar icecaps and glaciers, raising the level of the oceans while extreme weather conditions are causing disasters by floods, droughts, fires, hurricanes, and tornados. Unemployment has remained high. Yet we could put millions of people to work in creating renewable energy by solar and wind power as well as by improving efficiency, and we desperately need to do these things in order to prevent much worse catastrophes in the future.
The Republican party had unusual success in the 2010 election because the Supreme Court allowed unlimited contributions by corporations. Republicans claim they want to reduce deficit spending, but they adamantly refuse to raise any taxes or reduce military spending. Thus they are trying to implement the cruel policy of cutting spending that helps the middle class and the poor while protecting the low tax rates and loopholes that benefit the wealthy.
Many corporate Democrats also have been corrupted by campaign contributions and rarely cut military spending. In December 2010 the Obama administration went along with the Republicans’ insistence on extending the Bush tax cuts for two more years, and they have cooperated with many Bush policies including the bail-out of Wall Street companies, intrusive spying, and promoting oil drilling and nuclear power rather than creating jobs in alternative energy systems and mass transit. Both parties claim they are for solving the unemployment problem, but both have failed to do so. President Obama also escalated the war in Afghanistan and has extended that foolish war to at least the end of 2014, and he has continued to increase the extremely excessive military spending.
Yet the majority of the American people are for ending the wars in the Mideast, for reducing military spending, for creating jobs in renewable energy, and for restoring the tax rates for the wealthy and corporations that helped to produce the prosperity of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and the late 1990s. The Progressive Caucus in the Congress is growing and has devised the People’s Budget as an alternative to the Ryan budget of the Republicans and the Obama budget. I believe the People’s Budget is a good start but that we can go much farther in reducing military spending and making tax rates much more progressive. These would enable us to eliminate the deficit and implement health care for all. We can also improve the future by hiring more teachers and tutors for children in schools. A carbon tax can help reduce the use of fossil fuels, and the revenue can be used for a massive jobs program to retrofit buildings, create wind farms, and manufacture and install solar-energy panels.
In this book I will show what we can do as a nation to solve these urgent problems by outlining specific budget proposals for the federal government. We also need to pass legislation and constitutional amendments to clean up our politics and reform our electoral process. Even under our current corrupt political system people can through grassroots activity vote to change our representatives and reform our government. Our future depends on our ability to solve these critical problems.
Wars have been the primary social and political disease plaguing humanity since the beginning of civilization about five thousand years ago. These horrendous episodes of massive violence organized and promoted by governments and political groups claiming they are doing what is right and even “lawful” have caused far more death, injury, and property damage than all the crimes committed by individuals or small groups using violence for selfish ends. The history of every nation is filled with these eruptions of deadly force on a grand scale such that it is difficult to find even a few years in the last five thousand when war was not being waged somewhere. Because of these constant dangers, most people have come to believe that their nation must protect itself with strong defenses and be ready and willing to go to war against any other nation that seems to be threatening their nation’s interests. Nations have also formed alliances with each other so that even one state being attacked may result in the alliance going to war against other nations, causing wars to be much worse.
Because of these fears nations usually maintain strong military forces. About 94 nations have made mutual defense agreements with the super-powerful United States of America, and the US currently has military bases more than 130 countries. The Pentagon has unified commands that dominate Asia and the Pacific with Pacific Command, the Middle East with Central Command, Europe with European Command, South and Central America with Southern Command, North America with Northern Command, and established Africa Command in 2007. Forces in outer space are under Space Command. As the technology of killing and destruction has improved, these forces have become much more expensive and deadly with the possibility that a nuclear war could exterminate the human race and possibly all mammals. Or a nuclear war might kill all the people in the northern hemisphere. Even a “limited nuclear war” could destroy millions of people and poison a region with so much radioactivity that it would become uninhabitable by humans.
I believe warlike human behavior must be changed so that we will avoid such devastation. As Albert Einstein prophesied, because of the invention of nuclear weapons, we need a new way of thinking if we are to avoid unparalleled catastrophe. Einstein was one of many visionary thinkers who believed that world government is part of the solution to this problem. Humanity is currently facing an evolutionary crisis of survival for our species.
Political institutions have evolved from families to clans, villages, tribes, towns, cities, states, and nations. China, India, the United States (US), Russia, and Brazil have combined many states or provinces into large nations that for the most part are able to solve their conflicts by courts of law rather than by wars between states. The European Economic Community (EEC) became the European Union (EU) in 1993, and sixteen European countries adopted the eurozone monetary union with the euro currency in 1999. The European Union now has 27 member states. In 2002 the African Union (AU) replaced the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and every African country is a member except Morocco. Even the eastern European nations that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact, which was dissolved in 1991, have become members of the American-led military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This group acquiesced to US domination by supporting the current war in Afghanistan, and in March 2011 decided to intervene in Libya.
In World War II the Allies, called the United Nations, defeated the Axis powers Germany, Italy, and Japan. In 1945 they formed the United Nations (UN) Organization to increase world cooperation and help resolve conflicts. The first five nuclear powers who won World War II, namely the United States (US), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR now replaced by Russia), the United Kingdom (Britain), France, and the People’s Republic of China still dominate the UN Security Council that has authority over sending peacekeepers into troubled areas. Most smaller nations have agreed not to develop nuclear weapons in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ratified in 1970. However, the nuclear powers have refused to abide by Article 6 of the treaty which obligates them to eliminate all their nuclear weapons.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who became leader of the Soviet Union in March 1985, had the political courage to allow this superpower to open up (glasnost) communication, restructure (perestroika) its economy, and dismantle its empire by allowing states it had dominated to become independent nations. Gorbachev was also visionary in proposing a plan in 1986 to eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 1996. Unfortunately the United States under the Reagan Administration was intent on maintaining its military advantages and would not agree to the plan. The economy of the Soviet Union suffered in its attempt to keep up with the US in the nuclear arms race, and Gorbachev knew the economy had to be restructured. He allowed that even though it resulted in less power for his country and for him.
The United States in the 1980s had a much stronger economy than the Soviet Union, and so the US survived the damage of Reaganomics for a time; but it began a process of transferring wealth to the richest while lower taxes tripled the national debt under Reagan. The Clinton era benefited from the end of the cold war and its arms race, though the US military budget was barely decreased. Clinton created nearly balanced budgets and later even decreased the national debt. However, the presidency of George W. Bush was even more disastrous in foreign policy and the economy than the Reagan years, and he left the US Government with a massive national debt of about $11 trillion, which when Reagan was elected in 1980 had been less than one trillion.
No one, not even the United Nations, has appointed the United States and its allies to be the policemen of the world. To allow any one nation or group of nations, no matter how pure their motives may appear, to dominate the world is unethical and unstable. In addition the military burden the United States has taken on is bankrupting this country which now is teetering on the verge of economic collapse or some kind of restructuring. The United States is currently spending nearly half of all the world’s military expenditures, and most of the other half is spent by nations that are allied with the US.
I believe that because of its great power and traditions of republican democracy the United States is in the best position to lead the world to true peace. Even though the US has become an imperial military power and is resented for intervening to protect or gain control over resources such as oil or minerals, many people in the world would probably still respect the United States if it changed and was willing to give up its military advantages in order to bring about a more stable and fair situation for all.
War is a cruel, wasteful, and immoral way to settle conflicts, and the wise know there are much better ways to resolve disagreements. In my book BEST FOR ALL I have proposed how the nations of the world could all disarm their most dangerous weapons first and be assured by inspection and monitoring systems that no one would cheat. Because the United States and Russia have many more nuclear weapons than any other country, they could begin by eliminating most of their nuclear weapons bilaterally. Then all the nations with nuclear weapons could agree to dismantle all those weapons.
In December 2010 the US and Russia agreed to reduce their strategic nuclear weapons from the 2,150 deployed weapons of the US and Russia’s 2,427 to 1,550 each by the year 2017. Yet with these important reductions the US still will have a total of 8,500 nuclear weapons, and Russia will have 11,000. France has 300 nuclear weapons, the United Kingdom 225, China 240, India about 90, Pakistan about 100, and Israel 80. By 2010 the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had been ratified by 189 nations; but India, Pakistan, and Israel have not joined the treaty, and North Korea withdrew from it in 2003. Since 2006 North Korea has tested a few small atomic weapons.
To fulfill the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the reductions by the US and Russia need to be accelerated, and all the nuclear powers need to meet and agree on a comprehensive plan to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the world as soon as possible. This would show the world that these nations are serious about achieving world peace, and then more military reductions involving all nations could be planned. Reducing and eliminating the weapons and military establishments of war will make everyone better off. Because about half of this wasted spending on the military is by the United States, it would benefit the most economically from universal disarmament. Thorough and effective systems of inspection need to be implemented so that everyone can trust the process.
The United Nations established the International Court of Justice in 1945 for its member nations; but it only has compulsory jurisdiction when both parties agree to submit to its decision. Also the five permanent members of the Security Council can veto enforcement of any case. On July 17, 1998 the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted by 120 nations with seven (United States, China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen) voting against the treaty. On July 1, 2002 the International Criminal Court went into effect for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, but crimes of aggression are not due to go into effect until 2017. So far 115 nations have signed and ratified the ICC, but 34 who signed including the United States have not yet ratified the treaty. On May 5, 2002 the Bush administration even announced that they were nullifying President Clinton’s signature. The 44 members of the United Nations who have not signed the ICC include China and India. Before invading Iraq the US made treaties with other nations that they would not prosecute US citizens before the ICC, even though such agreements are void under international law. Most Latin American countries refused to sign such an agreement, and most of those had their US aid discontinued. Every nation in South America has ratified the ICC.
The United States has committed very serious war crimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Since 1949 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has carried out extensive covert operations in many other countries such as Greece, Albania, Philippines, Iran, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, North Vietnam, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Congo, Singapore, Algeria, Laos, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cambodia, Turkey, Angola, Australia, Egypt, Nicaragua, Israel, Brazil, Chad, Pakistan, Lebanon, El Salvador, Honduras, Grenada, Afghanistan, Panama, Iraq, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Yemen, etc.
In 1996 the US War Crimes Act was signed into law by President Clinton, but the war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on with impunity since 1991 in Iraq and 2001 in Afghanistan. George W. Bush began the pilotless drone attacks in Pakistan, but President Obama greatly increased the number of those attacks that have killed many more civilians than suspected insurgents.
In Afghanistan by 2009 the US-led International Security Assistance Force had 400 bases, and the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police had more than 300 bases. The Pentagon did not count these and the hundreds of bases in Iraq in their report of 737 US military bases in more than 130 foreign countries. In May 2009 a bombing killed 150 civilians in Farah Province, and the following September 9 in Kunduz Province 200 civilians were killed. According to the Afghan government after the invasion in 2001 more than 600 schools were closed. The opium trade the Taliban had tried to suppress multiplied by 45 to become 93% of the world’s supply. In the first eight years the US gave the Afghan government $36 billion in aid, but 18 million Afghans were still living on less than $2 a day. Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan is porous because it was created by the British, and it divides the 13 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan from 28 million Pashtuns in Pakistan.
On December 19, 2008 after Obama’s election the Bush administration said they were sending 3,000 more troops. On February 17, 2009 President Obama announced that he was adding 17,000 more troops to the 32,800 American forces in Afghanistan when he was inaugurated. The US had about 69,000 troops in Afghanistan by December 1, 2009 when Obama declared his plan to send a “surge” of 30,000 more troops. NATO countries and a few other nations had 42,203 soldiers in Afghanistan as of November 2010, and the estimated number of civilian contractors was about 145,000, some of whom accompanied CIA officers and killed suspected terrorists. About 98,000 US troops were fighting in Afghanistan when on June 22, 2011 Obama announced his plan to withdraw 10,000 troops by the end of the year and 23,000 more by the summer of 2012. This plan would still leave 65,000 Americans fighting there, and he promised they would be withdrawn by the end of 2014. In June 2011 a poll showed that 56% of Americans wanted the US to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible, but Obama’s plan would take at least three and a half more years, this after a war of almost ten years that was currently costing US taxpayers about $2 billion a week. This is being spent in Afghanistan which has an annual gross domestic product of about $15 billion.Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies has estimated that so far the cost to US taxpayers for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 2001 add up to about $2.5 trillion and that at least another $1.2 trillion will be spent as a consequence of them for veterans and interest on the debt accumulated. The economist Joseph Stiglitz calculated a similar estimate in his 2008 book, The Three Trillion Dollar War. At least 137,000 civilians have been killed out of a total of 225,000. Currently about 7,800,000 people have been displaced from their homes as war refugees.
I believe the United States should remove all combat troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in order to de-escalate those conflicts that the US caused to explode and be perpetuated into nasty civil wars (as we did in Vietnam before we finally had to pull out). During the withdrawal process diplomatic means should be used to resolve conflicts peacefully and arrange for UN Peacekeepers to be deployed until those countries are stabilized. The United States needs to renounce its imperialistic policies that have bullied nations, killed many thousands of people, destroyed much property, and damaged the environment. By using violence to “fight terrorists” the US has created more terrorists and extended wars. For a small percentage of what has been wasted on such wars, American aid could help these countries move toward true independence and democracy. Then instead of making enemies and promoting civil wars, we would be making friends and improving societies.
We should transform our foreign policy from hard power, which uses military force, threats of force, arms sales, military aid, and military occupation to dominate other countries. As these diminish we could increase soft power which uses humanitarian aid, open communication, education, and diplomacy to help other countries instead of harming them. This policy uses love as the primary motivation instead of fear. Soft power allows others freedom of choice while hard power’s force violates liberty and human rights. This nonviolent approach is the way of love as taught by Jesus, Lao-zi, Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and many others.
Nations need to organize peaceful means of settling international disputes by agreeing to universal laws and adjudication. The Arab awakening of 2011 in North Africa and the Mideast is demonstrating that people will no longer accept the tyranny of autocratic dictators using violence to oppress their own people. These nonviolent demonstrations and movements are the beginning of the ultimate world revolution against governmental violence and the military ways of suppressing dissent and other conflicts. Progressive democracy is spreading to more countries, and the sacrifices people are making in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain show that our civilization is on the verge of a more fair and peaceful world order. Unfortunately Libya turned violent on both sides and has been complicated by the intervention of NATO which started with the goal of protecting civilians but was quickly changed to regime change, resulting in a civil war.
The current status of international law is not comprehensive but depends on the treaties various nations have accepted. I recommend that we organize a world constitutional convention in order to create a constitutional government for all humanity on Earth with numerous safeguards, checks, and balances that would be democratically elected by the people in all countries, rather than be appointed by the governments of the nations as in the United Nations. In BEST FOR ALL I drafted a suggested Constitution of the Federal Earth Democracy (FED) with a council of nine presidents representing the nine regions of China, India, East Asia, North Asia, Middle East, Africa, Europe, South America, and North America. The legislature would have a Senate with twenty senators from each region and an Assembly of Representatives elected by districts of about ten million people. The world judiciary would be headed by a Supreme Court with nine justices appointed to nine-year terms by the President and Senators of each region and ratified by the Senate. The Council of nine Presidents by a two-thirds vote would be responsible for making sure that violators of world laws would be brought to justice.
The strategy is to work simultaneously on developing a world constitution and federal government to replace and improve upon the United Nations while proceeding gradually through stages of disarmament. The United States could set the example and begin disarming by taking some unilateral steps in addition to bilateral agreements with Russia on nuclear weapons. A good first step would be to take down all deployed nuclear weapons. Then the world would breathe a great sigh of relief, and we could proceed with reducing the stockpiles. Once those were reduced to comparable levels with the other nuclear powers, then they could all have their nuclear weapons checked by international inspectors and then eliminated simultaneously.
In addition to pulling the military out of the 700 bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States should withdraw its forces and close the other 761 military bases in more than 130 countries. Thousands of rapes have been perpetrated at these bases with impunity. By transforming our international policy from militarism to humanitarian approaches we would be making friends instead of enemies. This would also enable us to call off the “war on terrorism” begun by George W. Bush by treating the acts of individuals and small groups of terrorists as criminal problems rather than as a war issue. The chief motive of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida for the attack on the US on September 11, 2001 was that they did not want US military forces in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. By removing US forces from these countries and by treating all countries with the respect they deserve, these motives would disappear.
With their permission we could help those countries convert the military bases into college campuses, hospitals, farms, towns, factories, and for other useful purposes. Counting navy personnel at sea, in December 2007 the United States had 510,000 service personnel deployed in 151 nations. At the same time we could also convert most of the 4,863 military bases inside the United States and its territories into productive uses to improve the economy. Greatly reducing these imperial military forces could reduce the Pentagon budget by hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Because of the aggressive foreign policy of George II’s Bush administration the United States became the most hated nation in the world. The election of Barack Obama gave the world new hope, but unfortunately he has been following most of the policies of the previous regime.
In 1996 the US Congress passed the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act requiring all federal agencies to have independent auditors review their books and release the results, but the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security have refused to comply with this law. According to the US Government’s statistics in the latest report by the Institute for Policy Studies on the budget for the fiscal year 2010 the amount of money spent on “Offense” (military) spending was $721,556,000,000; “Preventive” spending was $64,895,000,000; and “Homeland Security” was $49,933,000,000. Spending on the military provides fewer jobs than other kinds of expenditures. By 1996 the United States had spent at least $5.8 trillion on nuclear weapons, and the Department of Commerce estimated that US military spending from 1947 through 1987 was $7.29 trillion (in 1982 dollars).
The militaristic economy of Japan was destroyed in 1945, but their non-militaristic economy after the war excelled and surpassed the US in per capita income in the 1960s. While the US was wasting the talents of its scientists and engineers on the military, Japan and China have been creating superior products and have loaned the indebted US Government hundreds of billions of dollars. Experts like Chalmers Johnson have predicted that if the US does not dismantle its militaristic empire and end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan soon, it will bankrupt the US Government.
As each stage of universal disarmament progresses, people would realize that the world has not been made more dangerous but safer and more economically efficient. After all the nuclear weapons have been disarmed, the other steps would include eliminating biological and chemical weapons, missiles, air forces, navies, and finally armies. Nations would maintain their own internal police forces and could have a coast guard to protect their water borders.
I realize that the changes I am proposing are radically different than our past history. In my two-volume HISTORY OF PEACE I described how many sages taught a better way and how some groups such as the early Christians, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, Gandhi in India, the civil rights movement in the US, and Costa Rica have proved that nonviolent strength can succeed even in a violent world. I am suggesting a paradigm shift in world politics that would completely transform the old power structures of the armed nation-states by disarming them and replacing them with a united and democratic world government, supervising peace everywhere with nonviolent discipline and judicial procedures. If we can persuade most countries to go along with this, and I believe we can, then their collective power would be strong enough to make sure that no nation or group could use military violence. As the prophet of peace Bahá'u'lláh suggested, if any nation tries to attack another country, all the other countries in the world would rise up to stop the offenders. This could be done by a democratic world government under the rule of world law.
People realize that it is neither wise nor safe to allow one superpower or even one alliance of nations to be the policemen of the world because their interests interfere with the implementation of justice. Only a government democratically elected by the people in all nations (or by almost all if a few held out at first) would be justified in acting for the good of the whole without selfish motives. In my view the world government should use nonviolent means to enforce world laws. In some circumstances this might require sacrifices by those using nonviolence, but these sacrifices would surely be much less than usually occur in wars. Economic sanctions could also be used. For those who use violence against the world authority, some force might be needed to bring them to justice, just as police do with violent criminals. One of the main points of this paradigm is the principle of individual responsibility. War is worse than bringing individual criminals to justice because it kills thousands for the crimes of a few.
In the 18th century Edmund Burke wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I am suggesting that good people get together and persuade others that we can solve our problems by using love and wisdom rather than threats and the use of force. The most important struggle in world history may be between those who use love and those who resort to violence. How many times have we heard that the violent die a violent death? If we do not learn to solve our problems without the use of massive violence, then we may destroy the human race. I believe that love is more powerful than fear. If we are willing to act with courage and persistence, love will succeed. Martin Luther King had a dream and began a process that helped that dream come true for many. I believe that now we need a comprehensive plan to transform the entire world, but we must begin with ourselves and our own nation.
Because the United States spends so much money on the military, universal disarmament will actually help the United States economically more than any other country. Yet every nation would be more secure and prosperous in a disarmed world without wars. The United States could reduce its military budget from about $720 billion in 2011 to a small fraction of this within a few years. I recommend reducing the military budget 25% each year for several years. After six years of these reductions the US military budget of $128 billion would still be larger than the current budget of any nation, and by then other nations would have greatly reduced their military budgets also. This does not include related expenditures for veterans and interest on the national debt caused by past military spending. The interest can be reduced by paying down the national debt. I believe that veterans’ benefits should not be reduced because they help people rather than pay for killing and destruction. Massive reductions in military spending will help us fund needed programs and balance the budget. The hugely bloated intelligence budget of $80 billion a year would also be reduced.
I believe the Peace Corps is an excellent program and should be greatly augmented. The more we can assist the Lesser Developed Countries (LDC) to develop their own agriculture and manufacturing the more they will be able to stand on their own without outside food assistance which has been increasing lately because of “trade liberalization.”
I believe that health care is a human right and that a good society provides health care for everyone without discrimination. Cicero said, “The health of the people is the highest good.”
Many nations such as Germany have private companies involved in their health insurance system, but they do not allow them to make profits. The only advanced nation in the world that does allow profit-making in health insurance is the United States, and that is why the US has the most expensive health system in the world by far. The United States spends more than $7,000 a year on health care per person, and 51 million people have no health insurance. Japan spends about $3,000 per person and covers everyone. Most Americans get health insurance through their employers but lose it when they lose their jobs. Although no one in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, or Japan goes bankrupt because of health care costs, a Harvard study estimated that about 700,000 Americans annually become bankrupt because of medical expenses.
Among the nineteen wealthiest countries the United States ranks last in curing people who can be cured with adequate care. Because many Americans lack prenatal and neonatal care, the US has a much higher rate of infant mortality than most advanced nations. More than 22,000 Americans have been dying each year because they do not have health insurance and cannot afford to pay for treatment. Private health insurance companies in America try to increase their profits by initially denying about 30% of all claims. The US Government Accountability Office has calculated that if the US got its administrative costs as low as the Canadian system, the money saved would be able to provide health care for all the uninsured in the country. Canadians pay between one-quarter and one-half as much as Americans for prescription drugs. Canada prohibits private payment for any medical service that is provided by its Medicare system.
The World Health Organization rates France’s health care system the best in the world, and it costs about $3,165 per person per year. The national Health Ministry determines prices for most treatments and prescriptions. The French use a digital card that keeps each patient’s complete medical records and is easily updated with each doctor visit or other service. Germany adopted such a convenient card in 2008. They do not need to maintain file cabinets and workers for them. Poor people in France pay only $7.80 for each doctor visit, and the poorest pay nothing. Future French doctors do not have to pay anything at medical schools. Malpractice insurance costs general practitioners about $170 per year, and specialists pay about $650. In the United States medical liability insurance premiums range from about $20,000 a year in Wisconsin to about $140,000 in Florida. Both France and Germany spend about 11% of their gross domestic product on health care, but the United States is spending about 17%. Japan at about 8% requires everyone to buy health insurance, but Germany makes an exception for those in the highest income brackets.
The English are proud of their health care system. No one in England has to pay any medical bills covered by the National Health Service because the government pays them all expeditiously from tax revenues, though most people have to pay for dental care and eye-glasses. Administrative costs of the English National Health Service are about 20% of those in the United States. General practitioners refer patients to specialists, and they are rewarded for keeping many patients healthy with preventive methods. In recent years the waiting time for health care by specialists has been reduced, and it depends on the urgency of the need. Canada has a similar system, but their Medicare programs are paid by the ten provinces and three territories.
Japan has a national health care system that costs less than half per person than what the United States spends, and the Japanese live longer and healthier lives than any country. In 1995 Taiwan implemented a national health care plan for everyone that pays for everything including mental health, dental, optical, organ transplants, acupuncture, massage, drugs, herbs, and long-term care. National health care systems have incentives to keep everyone healthy by using preventive methods so that treatments cost less, and by treating problems early more expensive interventions later are often avoided.
The United States has several different kinds of health care, but they all allow private profit except the single-payer system in which the government pays for the military, veterans, and Native Americans. Most people have private insurance through their employers, and some purchase private insurance. Seniors over 65 have Medicare, and those with very low incomes may be able to get Medicaid. Currently about 51 million Americans have no health insurance and therefore must pay for services if they can, go to an emergency room, or do without treatment.
Every other developed nation in the world has one system for all their people, and none of them allows private companies to make a profit on health insurance. A single system is much more efficiently administered, and it can negotiate fees much more effectively with doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and for other medical equipment and services. The fragmented and incomplete US health care is by far the most inefficient of any developed nation. Generally only the poorest nations that have no national health care are worse off. The US spends much more on health care per capita than any other country, and driven by the desire for profits the costs are rising faster than ever. The non-profit unified systems are much better at managing the costs of health care for the good of everyone. Additional services for cosmetic surgery or other things that may not be covered by the national system can be purchased individually outside the system, and some insurance companies may offer private policies for them.
President Obama gave up on the single-payer system and even on the public option as he compromised with the profit-making insurers and pharmaceutical companies. His new system passed in 2010 does not address the issue of profit-making in health care, though it does insure more people, has reforms to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and does not allow them to drop clients, and it reduces some Medicare costs. Yet the US system is still under the expensive and inefficient system that allows private companies to make profits on health care. How long will the United States remain a country in which thousands of people die each year because they lack insurance, and every year hundreds of thousands are bankrupted by medical costs? Is this the kind of society in which we want to live? Other developed nations consider health care a human right, and they believe it is a moral issue to make sure everyone in their country receives the medical attention they need. Many even include people who are merely visiting. The United States, the world’s richest nation, ranks 47th in the average life expectancy.
I support the proposed United States National Health Care Act (H. R. 676) sponsored by Representatives John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich. The bill states that this would be paid for from
(A) Existing sources of Federal Government revenues for health care.
(B) Increasing personal income taxes on the top 5 percent income earners.
(C) Instituting a modest and progressive excise tax on payroll and self-employment income.
(D) Instituting a small tax on stock and bond transactions.
The modest increase on payroll tax would increase the employer’s share from 1.45% to 4.75%. The top 5% of income earners would pay a 5% health tax, and the top 1% of earners would pay a 10% tax. When passed, this law would go into effect on January 1 of the year that begins one full year after passage. The bill provides that displaced workers would be given priority hiring by the new government program, and unemployment benefits would be extended to two years.
By having the Federal Government pay all the costs in a single-payer system that is more complete than Medicare, extra layers of bureaucracy and the selling of insurance policies by the profit-taking insurance companies can be eliminated from the system, resulting in a much more efficient administration of health care costs. This universal system of care-giving would cover the 51 million Americans currently without health insurance and the 20% portion of expenses that are not paid for by Medicare.
I believe that in the long run the British single-payer health system could be best for the United States. The National Health Care system eliminates the need for private insurance companies by having the federal government pay all medical expenses that are approved. A commission of health care economists, hospital administrators, physicians, and other experts could be appointed to plan the new system, deciding which procedures, services, and drugs would be covered and how much the government would pay for them. Doctors, nurses, and others would be free to join a union for collective bargaining, and the government would collectively bargain with pharmaceutical and other companies to work out fair prices. All medical necessities would be provided free of charge, but optional treatments could be offered with appropriate co-pays. People would choose their own doctors, but they might be required to see a general practitioner before being referred to a specialist. Basically everyone would have the same health care as the military, veterans, and Native Americans except that everyone would be able to choose doctors in private practice and non-profit hospitals.
I suggest that the National Health Care system could be financed by the progressive personal income tax, capital gains tax, and corporate income tax. This would remove the burden from employers contributing to the payroll tax. Once the plan was made, the US Congress (and the President) could legislate the implementation of the system.
Cosmetic treatments and other procedures that are not considered to be medical necessities would not be covered. I hope that it would cover dental care and aids for vision and hearing. Hospice care would be included if chosen, and terminal patients would have the choice to refuse medical interventions. Marginal procedures such as counseling, body work, exercise classes, stress reduction, alternative therapies, and so on for people who may not “need” such care but would like to have it could be subsidized. Such preventive care could be good investments for both the government and the individual because they would likely reduce later problems and costs. The rights of patients to informed choices regarding services and treatments must be protected. Every individual would be issued a digital Health Card that would contain all one’s medical information, including a complete medical history and genetic conditions. A National Health Board would be instituted to study the results of all treatments in order to adjust prices and determine which treatments are necessary and what the subsidies would be for optional treatments.
Drug laws can be reformed by decriminalizing what adults may use themselves, and the money saved on law-enforcement and prison costs could be used to provide treatment programs. Taxes can be put on unhealthy products in order to pay for the probable medical costs in the future. Taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs would provide for this responsibility and also be a deterrent to harmful activities. Taxes on businesses and products that cause pollution could also match the likely costs of the consequences. Laws involving consensual sex by adults also should be decriminalized. Prostitution would become part of the taxable economy and could be regulated to exclude minors and provide health assistance to prevent the spread of venereal diseases.
A woman’s right to choose an abortion should be respected, and counseling should be required to prevent future abortions. Providing information on contraception can reduce the number of abortions. Early prenatal care can prevent problematic pregnancies. If an abortion is needed, earlier is better. In my view the soul is eternal life, but physical bodies are mortal. Clairvoyants tells us that the soul usually enters the body at birth because it does not need to be in the growing fetus which is essentially part of the woman’s body until birth. In respecting life we must first consider the life of the mother who has responsibility and sovereignty over her own body. An abortion means that a soul, which might have incarnated in the child if born, will have to wait for another opportunity to incarnate. No real human life is killed. When a baby is born and begins breathing, it is an individual human life with a soul and all human rights. In an era when human population growth is challenging the ability of the Earth to provide the resources necessary for a good life, we need to consider the value of limiting the total population while still respecting personal choices.
The federal government can increase its medical research and should not sell its discoveries to private corporations. When the government has patents from research it funded, it could also manufacture products that could be sold for less. Studies related to nutrition would be especially helpful in educating people so that the obesity and diabetes epidemics can be reversed. Public schools should also provide daily exercise for children, and recreational facilities should be available after school.
All physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers should receive fair salaries. The government can respond to needs of patients by raising salaries where shortages exist, such as for primary-care physicians. The government would be able to reduce costs by making wholesale purchases of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. Enough nurses should be hired, and their hours can be shortened to reduce stress and provide more employment opportunities. Public schools should provide health education, and medical professionals may occasionally visit classes to share their knowledge and experience. The government may also provide more scholarships and no-interest loans to students in medical schools.
Although it is a slowly developing and long-term problem, global warming is already having such horrendous consequences that it is an emergency requiring serious changes now. The melting of the polar ice-caps, glaciers, and other permafrost is causing flooding in the short term and could result in a serious shortage of fresh water in the long term. Although about 70% of the Earth is covered with massive amounts of water, 97.5% of that water is salt water, leaving only 2.5% fresh water for irrigation and human needs. Ocean water can be desalinized, but the energy used to do so is costly and would cause more global warming. The melting of the ice on Earth will also raise ocean levels and cause coastal areas and islands to be flooded or even disappear under the sea.
About 97% of the freshwater resources on Earth are in the polar regions. If that ice melts and flows into the oceans, hundreds of millions of people who depend on fresh water from river systems could suffer and die. If we do not change our ways to solve this problem, future generations may call us the worst generation in history because of our selfish and greedy habits. Currently about 1.2 billion people are lacking clean water essential for good health, and twice that many do not have access to adequate sanitation. Already 250 million people have been affected by desertification, and one billion more are at risk. In 2009 the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition passed one billion.
Water tables are falling and going dry in about twenty countries. China, India, and the United States produce half of the world’s grain. Diverting irrigation water to expanding cities in California has reduced irrigated land from about 9 million acres in 1997 to 7.5 million acres in 2010. Farm land in Texas peaked at 7 million acres in 1978, and now has fallen to about 5 million acres. The large Ogallala aquifer under the Texas panhandle is being depleted. In 2005 the World Bank reported that grain for 175 million Indians was being produced by overpumping water, and the same is true for 130 million Chinese in the North China Plain.
Water supplies are even more critical in the Mideast. During the last few years of war Afghanistan has lost about half its groundwater sources, and it now imports a third of its grain. Water levels in Pakistan’s wells are falling as the population is expected to increase by about 60 million in the next fifteen years. More than half of Mexico’s water is being overpumped from diminishing aquifers.
Globally 70% of water use is for agriculture, 20% for industry, and 10% for residential use. Yet in southern California the city of San Diego has bought the annual rights to 247 million tons of water from the Imperial Valley for 75 years, and Los Angeles purchased 137 million tons of water per year for 35 years. One thousand tons of water are needed to grow each ton of grain. Using up diminishing aquifers and the water from the melting of glaciers is causing a temporary food bubble in countries where half the people in the world live. When these bubbles burst, the results could be catastrophic unless mankind manages to stabilize the aquifers and increase water productivity.
At the same time soil erosion and desertification are reducing agricultural productivity. Annual dust storms in eastern China have been affecting 250 million people, and the dust storm that covered Beijing on March 20, 2010 moved to become the worst dust storm ever recorded in South Korea. In April 2001 a dust storm from northwestern China and Mongolia traveled to the western United States from Arizona to Canada. In April 2010 a dust storm from China carried millions of acres of topsoil as far as North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The soil scientist Rattan Lal has calculated 2.5 trillion tons of carbon are stored in soils, and its losses into the atmosphere increase climate change while reducing land productivity.
In August 2010 the United Nations reported that one-quarter of the Earth’s land has been affected by desertification. After the United States experienced the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, a massive program to restore soils returned much eroded cropland to grass and tree shelterbelts. As land becomes drier, goats adapt much better than cattle and sheep. China now has about 92 million cattle and 281 million goats. Expert Wang Tao has estimated that deserts in China increased by an average of 600 square miles per year between 1950 and 1975. In the next twelve years the desertification increased to 810 square miles annually, and in the remainder of the century 1,390 square miles were lost to desert each year in China.
India has 17% of the world’s people and 18% of the cattle but only 2% of the land. The Indian Space Research Organization has estimated that 24% of India’s land is becoming desert, and 40% of Indian children are chronically hungry and underweight. In 2009 the number of people in Africa reached one billion with 862 million livestock. Grassland cannot sustain nearly that many livestock, and overgrazing is turning some of it into deserts. Africa is losing almost three billion tons of fine soil each year in dust storms. The Mideast is already largely deserts.
Global warming is causing ice to melt as temperatures rise. Reducing the glaciers and annual snow melt threatens the fresh water needed for food security. Crop experts estimate that each increase in global temperature by one degree Celsius will diminish world grain yields by ten percent. On August 5, 2010 the Petermann Glacier broke off the northwest coast of Greenland to become an iceberg of 97 square miles that is four times the size of Manhattan and as thick as half the height of the Empire State Building. As ice melts into the oceans, their levels rise. A three-foot rise in sea level would inundate half the riceland in Bangladesh where 164 million people live. Part of the Mekong Delta, which produces half the rice in Vietnam, would also be submerged. About twenty nations import rice from Vietnam. Glaciers are melting in all the great mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau, the Alps, the Rockies, and the Andes. The 1.3 billion Chinese will need to import more grain from the United States which owes China more than $1.15 trillion and Japan $906 billion. The US trade deficit in 2010 was $498 billion.
The financial crisis that began in 2007 caused the world prices of wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans to triple from past levels. The United Nations World Food Program calculated that even before the prices went up, about 18,000 children were dying each day from malnutrition and related diseases. Population is growing by eighty million each year, and three billion more affluent people are causing greater consumption of meat, milk, and eggs. These factors are causing individual grain consumption to increase from less than 400 pounds per year in India to as much as 1,600 pounds in the United States. Grain is also being used to make fuel for transportation. In 2009 of the US grain harvest of 416 million tons about 119 million tons were used to produce ethanol from corn. That year for the first time more automobiles were purchased in China than in the United States. Soybean meal is being used more to feed livestock and poultry because it converts to animal protein more efficiently than other grains. World soybean production that was only 17 million tons in 1950 was 252 million tons in 2010. The demand for soybeans is causing deforestation in Brazil and the farming of grasslands in Argentina.
Wealthy people in countries that need to import food are purchasing land in Africa, southeast Asia, and Latin America, causing economic, social, and political conflicts. Based on commodity information it is estimated that 21% of these lands may be used for producing biofuels, another 21% for industrial or cash crops, and only about 37% for food crops. Although the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization have developed guidelines for land acquisition, they seem to favor the wealthy who claim it is helping those in the host countries. More than a hundred non-governmental organizations (NGOs) argue that community-based farming needs to be protected from mechanized, capital-intensive, large-scale agriculture by big corporations.
Scientists have discovered that the main cause of the current global warming trend is the human production of greenhouse gases which are water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. Carbon dioxide accounts for 82% of the pollutants from burning fossil fuels, and methane is 9%. According to a 2008 report by the International Energy Agency more than 80% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels, which are all limited. At current rates of production the estimated reserves of oil will last more than 40 years, natural gas 60 years, and coal 130 years. Coal in producing the same amount of energy releases 30% more carbon dioxide than oil and 80% more than natural gas.
Decreasing the production of carbon dioxide and methane can slow, stop, and reverse increases in the average global temperature. The burning of fossil fuels for energy is the main cause of the increases in carbon dioxide and methane, though about 2% of the methane comes from cattle and other ruminants. Production of animal protein requires eleven times as much fossil fuel as plant protein. The main hydrocarbons that humans are burning for fuel are coal, petroleum, and natural gas. These are used to produce electricity and heat and to power vehicles of transportation such as automobiles, airplanes, and trains.
About 17% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere comes from deforestation through burning brush-land and wood fires, and 18% is from livestock production. Forests are disappearing at the annual rate of 13 million acres to clear land and fell trees for lumber and paper. Transportation accounts for about 20% of carbon emissions. Commodities that cause much deforestation are palm oil, soybeans, beef, and paper. Four hundred companies in the Consumer Goods Forum have pledged not to contribute to these commodities to cause carbon emissions. Many experts agree that a direct carbon tax is more effective than the more complicated and unpredictable “cap and trade” system which allows manipulation by special interests.
In 1992 most nations agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and this was strengthened by the Kyoto Protocol that was adopted in December 1997 and went into effect in 2005 for the 141 nations that had ratified it with the goal of 35 developed nations reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels by 2012. Vice President Al Gore signed the Kyoto Protocol for the United States, but the Clinton administration did not submit it to the Senate. The Bush administration rejected it in September 2001, and Bush proposed voluntary measures in February 2002. As of 2005 the leading emitters of carbon in the world were China 17%, United States 16%, and the European Union 11%, and by 2010 their shares had increased to China 21%, United States 20%, and the European Union 16%.
The nations in the global north with 18% of the population still hold 90% of the wealth. As the primary polluters who are causing global warming, these nations have a moral obligation to reverse this increasing disaster and to help the poor nations in the global south who are likely to suffer more from the consequences of climate change. We need global institutions that are truly democratic so that the people of the world can take the power away from the rich capitalists who are ruining the Earth. The Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has proposed a Global Economic Council under the United Nations.
So far scientists have calculated that the average temperature of the Earth has already increased by one degree Celsius. Climatologists predict that if humanity does not stop using fossil fuels, this could increase by four or five more degrees in this century. The greenhouse effect raises the temperature which means that more moisture is in the air. This causes more and worse storms, floods, hurricanes, tornados, fires, droughts, and other unusual weather patterns. In addition epidemics from malaria, lyme disease, and Dengue fever become much worse. The heat diminishes food production, resulting in a ten percent decrease in the wheat crop for each additional degree of Celsius temperature. The current human population is reaching 7 billion in 2011 and is expected to be 9.3 billion by 2050. The oceans have become 30% more acidic in the last forty years, and many species are dying. The coral reefs may be gone in a few years, and various kinds of jelly-fish are multiplying quickly.
The International Institute for Environment and Development published a study which estimated that if melting ice caused the sea level to rise by ten meters, 634 million people could be affected, including 23 million Americans. Desertification is already causing millions of people to become climate refugees. More nations are becoming “failed states.” According to Foreign Policy the twenty most failing states in 2010 were Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Guinea, Pakistan, Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Yemen, Burma (Myanmar), Ethiopia, East Timor, North Korea, and Niger.
In the year 2010 human civilization generated its power according to a report by the oil giant BP from the following sources: 33.6% from oil, 29.6% from coal, 23.8% from natural gas, 6.5% from hydro-electricity, 5.2% from nuclear energy, and 1.3% from all renewable sources of energy. The 87% from the fossil fuels are limited and cannot be replaced for centuries. Before they run out and become too expensive to acquire, humanity must replace them with other forms of energy.
The fossil fuels are also the main causes of global warming. Therefore it is imperative that these must be replaced as quickly as possible. The tiny 1.3% share by renewable energies indicates how far we have to go and also how much potential there is for major changes. Scientists estimate that it may take as much as thirty years to develop and mass produce the new technologies. Thus as the use of fossil fuels declines, a massive effort to develop cleaner forms of energy is urgently needed. Using natural gas releases less greenhouse gases than oil and coal, and the United States potentially could use much natural gas; but the process of hydraulic fracturing used to get remaining deposits has been found to pollute fresh water supplies, which are going to be increasingly valuable and important.
Alternative sources of energy are nuclear power, wind power, solar radiation, water movement, geothermal energy, and the burning of plant materials. Nuclear power has several problems that could be disastrous. The radioactive atoms produced as a waste product are the most lethal substances to humans and last for hundreds of thousands of years. An accident from an earthquake or incompetence or a terrorist attack could cause the core of a nuclear reactor to melt down and result in the release of a large amount of these deadly substances. As with Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011, this could cause increased cancers throughout the world or even render the region poisonous to humans for generations.
Because of the possible liabilities involved in the production of nuclear energy, the free market cannot find any insurance to make these plants a reasonable risk for investors. In the United States the Price-Anderson Act first passed in 1957 made the government responsible for any claims beyond $10 billion. This subsidy has motivated large corporations to try to use nuclear energy for profit-making activity. However, it is not a good investment for the American people who must bear the costs and the consequences of this dangerous form of energy.
The burning of wood or other plant materials has decreased in the modern age because of the air pollution it causes. Ethanol made from corn and sugar cane is being used now; but these are not especially efficient because about as much fossil fuel is used in producing and transporting the ethanol, and so the effect on global warming is about the same. Also the resulting increase in food prices is making the hunger problem worse, and the burning of ethanol produces formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other aldehydes which are harmful.
Biofuels are originally created by the solar energy that helps plants grow, and research has found that photovoltaics are a hundred times more efficient than corn ethanol and ten times more efficient than the best biofuel, though manufacturing photovoltaic cells costs more than growing plants. Producing ethanol releases 93% more carbon emissions than gasoline, and cellulosic ethanol causes 50% more. Cellulosic ethanol is made from wood, grasses, and the non-edible portions of plants. Scientists hope to produce cellulosic ethanol for about one dollar a gallon within ten years. Although these biofuels can replace petroleum for use in motor vehicles, they do not help solve the problem of global warming.
Geothermal taps the heat inside the earth, but drilling for these is expensive and can cause earthquakes. The use of wave and tidal energies are being developed but are not expected to be practical in the next thirty years.
Until the last two centuries the Earth’s atmosphere had about 275 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. In 1958 the number was 313. In January 1988 the carbon dioxide level passed 350 ppm, and that year NASA scientist James Hansen testified before US Congress committees and helped raise awareness of global warming as a serious problem. In 2007 Hansen wrote a report warning that carbon dioxide levels above 450 ppm carbon dioxide are dangerous, but in December he revised this to 350 ppm as the maximum carbon dioxide allowed to maintain a stable climate for which our civilization is adapted. As of July 2011 the atmosphere is at 393.5 ppm, and in 2010 the average global temperature was 0.6 degrees Celsius above the average temperature for the base period 1951-1980. Since the Kyoto Protocol the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases have not diminished but have increased by about 40%.
Many scientists and environmental activist Bill McKibben (350.org) have set 350 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as the goal to stabilize the climate of our planet. To get back to that level we need to reduce our use of fossil fuel by 95%. A study by the consulting firm McKinsey in 2008 found that retrofitting buildings to conserve energy with current technology could cut world energy demand by 20%. The same year studies reported by the Institute of Local Self-Reliance estimated that wind turbines and solar panels could supply 81% of New York’s power and nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s. Governments could subsidize these sustainable technologies rather than the wasteful, diminishing, and polluting fossil fuels that are not sustainable.
Arjun Makhijani in his book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, has outlined a plan to achieve a zero-carbon dioxide economy without using nuclear power. He has suggested the following: eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, and biofuels (ethanol) from food crops; banning new coal-fire power plants unless they can store carbon dioxide; setting efficiency standards for vehicles, buildings, and appliances; and fixing declining annual limits on carbon dioxide emissions to zero over forty years.
Influential environmental scientist Lester Brown has proposed his Plan B as a four-point program to solve these problems. First, world carbon emissions should be reduced by 80% by the year 2020. Second, human population, which is reaching seven billion in October 2011, should be stabilized at about 8 billion by 2040. Third, poverty should be eradicated, and fourth the forests, soil, aquifers, and fisheries should be restored. In his book World on the Edge Brown has described how we can build an energy-efficient economy, and he cites numerous examples of progress that is already being made.
For example, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use one-fourth as much electricity as the incandescent bulbs that are being phased out now. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are more efficient than the CFLs and already are being used as traffic lights in New York and Los Angeles, saving millions of dollars. An LED lasts fifty times longer than an incandescent bulb. Using CFLs in homes and LEDs for traffic lights could reduce the world’s use of electricity for lighting from 19% of all electricity to 7%. Japan has been raising efficiency standards for appliances and has created savings of about 50%. California now requires new televisions to use one third less electricity and 49% less by 2013. However, China multiplied its 1980 use of electricity by eleven by 2007.
Buildings can be made much more energy efficient. In February 2009 President Obama signed a bill to weatherize a million private homes and make government buildings more efficient. Retrofitting of New York’s famous Empire State Building is expected to reduce its energy use by almost 40%, paying for the work in three years. The U.S. Green Building Council has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program that certifies energy-efficient buildings.
High-speed intercity rail systems are being pioneered in Japan, western Europe, and China. Japan’s bullet trains can go 190 miles per hour and carry almost 400,000 people a day. By 2010 Europe had already built 3,800 miles of high-speed rail, and they aim to triple this by 2025. China spent about $120 billion on high-speed rail in 2010 compared to only one billion by the United States plus $8 billion in the stimulus bill. China added $100 billion for this in its stimulus bill and now has more high-speed rail track than the rest of the world combined. In 1956 President Eisenhower decided to improve on America’s two-lane highways by building a national interstate highway system with overpasses and no signals like the German autobahn he used to send Allied troops into Germany in 1945. Now the United States could create many needed jobs by building a national high-speed rail system to link US cities where most Americans live. Traveling by train instead of plane produces about 85% less carbon emissions.
Urban transport systems are more energy efficient if they use subways, light rail, buses, bicycle paths, and pedestrian walkways. Bogotá has developed a successful bus rapid transit system that uses express lanes, and this is being planned in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Hanoi, Seoul, Istanbul, and Quito. China already has eleven cities using rapid transit buses. In cities each 12-ton bus can replace about sixty cars weighing 110 tons.
Paris has a bicycle renting system with 24,000 bikes available at 1,750 docking stations. Rentals are inexpensive, and for less than thirty minutes it is free. London, Washington, Shanghai, Mexico City, Santiago, and hundreds of other cities are adopting bicycle renting systems. Bicycles cost little, do not pollute the air, reduce traffic congestion, and provide healthy exercise.
Of the world’s 965 million passenger cars the United States has 248 million of them and consumes more gasoline than the next twenty nations combined. Traffic in US cities is getting so bad that congestion costs for wasted fuel and time have risen from $17 billion in 1982 to $87 billion in 2007. Yet cars may have peaked in America. In 2009 only 10.6 million new cars were bought in the US while 12.4 million cars were scrapped. In May 2009 the Obama administration called for a 40% increase in the fuel efficiency of new cars by 2016. Shifting to plug-in hybrids and electric cars will decrease carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Wind-generated electricity used in cars compared to the equivalent use of gasoline costs less than one dollar per gallon. The electric motor is more than three times as efficient as the internal combustion engine, and it does not pollute the air and is much quieter.
Recycling scrap metal into steel uses only 26% of the energy used to make steel from iron ore. Aluminum uses only 4%. Recycled plastic uses 20% as much energy, and recycled paper 64%. The waste accumulating in landfills can be reduced by charging municipalities a tax for dumping, and this also encourages more recycling. Refilling a glass bottle uses only 10% as much energy as recycling an aluminum can. Buying bottled water is expensive and wasteful. Studies have shown that most tap water is as good, or one can refill bottles from machines that dispense purified water for 25 cents a gallon or less. The American bottled water industry currently consumes about 50 million barrels of oil each year. In some regions Americans are more conscientious about their use of energy. The Rocky Mountain Institute has estimated that if the electrical efficiency of the ten top states was adopted by the other forty states, US use of electricity could be reduced by one third or the equivalent of 62% of all the coal-fired power plants in the US.
In the United States the consumption of oil and coal seems to have peaked about 2007, both falling by 8% from then until 2010. Renewable sources such as windmills, solar energy, and geothermal are beginning to pick up, and they have great potential for expansion to replace fossil fuels. During that three-year period 300 wind farms began producing energy. Solar cell installations are doubling every two years. In 2010 the Geothermal Energy Association announced that US geothermal generating capacity is going to be tripled by 152 new plants being developed.
Lester Brown has proposed Plan B as an emergency response equivalent to mobilizing for war to reach the goal of cutting carbon emission 80% by 2020. All electricity generation from burning coal and oil can be replaced by renewables with wind power as the most abundant and low-cost source. In 2009 a U.S. National Academy of Sciences survey reported that the American potential for wind generating is forty times the present world use of electricity from all sources. In the last decade electric generation from wind in the world has increased from about 17,000 megawatts to about 200,000 megawatts. The United States leads with 35,000 megawatts, and China and Germany each have about 26,000 megawatts. Texas alone has about 10,000.
Wind turbines located on farms take up only one percent of the space. One acre in north Iowa growing corn can produce about $1,000 a year in ethanol, but that acre with a wind turbine can produce electricity worth $300,000 per year. Once the turbine is constructed, the cost for repairs is practically nothing. China has enough wind power on land to increase its use of electricity by sixteen times. One gigawatt is equal to 1,000 megawatts, and China’s new Wind Base program is expected to produce 130 gigawatts of electric power annually. Europe is already producing 2.4 gigawatts from off-shore wind and is planning for 140 more gigawatts. The state of Iowa is already producing 20% of its electricity from wind power.
The world has been doubling its wind power every three years in the last decade. If wind power doubled every two years, it could reach the Plan B goal of 4,000 gigawatts by 2020. The result would be two million wind turbines producing 2 megawatts each. Installing each turbine costs about $3 million, and so this could be done in ten years for about $600 billion per year. This is much less than what the world is spending on oil and coal which is expected to increase from $800 billion in 2010 to $1.6 trillion in 2015.
Use of solar photo-voltaics (PV) and solar thermal collectors can also be greatly expanded quickly. PVs produce electricity, and the concentrated solar power (CSP) of thermal collectors heats water and can produce electricity from steam power. By 2010 the world was using 23,000 megawatts from PV installations. The United States is constructing 77 PV projects to generate 13,200 megawatts. An Algerian firm and Europeans are planning to develop solar thermal power in North Africa and the Mideast that could produce 300,000 megawatts. The Algerian desert alone has enough solar energy potential to power the entire world economy. China already has solar thermal collectors providing 120 million Chinese households with hot water. A rooftop solar collector can be installed for $200, and after that the hot water is free. California is planning to install 200,000 solar water heaters by 2017, and New York’s goal is 170,000 residential water heaters by 2020. Hawaii requires new single-family homes to install rooftop water heaters. Skylights can replace the need to use electric lights during the day.
By 2010 the world was using 10,700 megawatts of geothermal generating capacity, and half of this is in the United States and the Philippines. El Salvador and Iceland get one quarter of their electricity from geothermal power plants. Another 100,000 megawatts of geothermal energy is being used to heat homes and greenhouses and for use in industry.
Currently the world is getting 16% of its energy from hydropower. Scientists estimate that by harnessing wave power the world could generate 10,000 gigawatts of electricity, which is twice as much as the world is now using.
A five-fold increase in the use of renewable energies for electricity could replace all the coal and oil and 70% of the natural gas used to generate electricity. Electric trains are much more efficient than diesel trains. The Tres Amigas transmission company in Clovis, New Mexico is planning to connect the US’s Western grid, Eastern grid, and Texas grid into a national grid by the year 2014. In October 2010 Google announced their investment of $5 billion for an offshore transmission project called the Atlantic Wind Connection to cover from New York to Virginia.
In 2010 governments were spending only $46 billion annually on renewable energy subsidies while giving $500 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels. These latter subsidies can be eliminated, and the money could be invested in the long-term renewables that tap into sources of energy that will not run out. Belgium, France, and Japan have already phased out their subsidies for coal, and all the European Union countries will do so by 2014. About 13,200 Americans have been dying each year because of the emissions from coal-fired plants. In 2007 Florida refused to license a huge new coal plant, and in 2008 several large banks announced they would not lend money for coal-fired plants unless the utilities could show that they are economically viable in relation to the costs from carbon emission restrictions. They have also stopped lending money to companies using mountaintop-removal coal mining.
A spill of toxic coal ash in Tennessee cost the Tennessee Valley Authority $1.2 billion to clean it up. A report by environmental groups in 2010 found that 39 coal ash dump sites in 21 states contaminated drinking water with arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals. These are in addition to the 98 sites previously noted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Eliminating the burning of coal will reduce air pollution and enable millions of people to breathe more easily.
Since 2000 the Earth has been losing an average of 13 million acres of forest each year. The 8.5 billion acres of forest on the Earth must be protected, and the forests lost need to be replaced. Tropical deforestation is occurring in Asia because of increasing demand for timber and the growing plantations that produce palm oil for fuel. In Latin America the Amazon basin is losing forests because of the business of selling beef and soybeans, which feed livestock as well as people. Developing countries could improve their energy efficiency with better cook-stoves.
Industrial nations throw away huge amounts of paper that comes from wood. The United States consumes more paper than any nation, but it has increased recycling of paper from 20% in 1980 to 59% in 2009. Clear-cutting timber devastates the natural environment, and forest productivity could be much improved by selective harvesting of mature trees.
In 2010 the world had 652 million acres in planted forests, one-third more than the land used for grain. China has 134 million acres of tree plantations, and India and the United States have 42 million acres each. Annual forest loss releases 1.5 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Planting billions of trees could reverse this carbon deficit because more trees will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees also improve flood control. When Brazil announced in 2008 that it would reduce deforestation, Norway promised $1 billion toward meeting the goal. Each tree planted in the tropics removes about 50 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the air annually compared to only 13 kilograms by trees in the temperate regions. Because the northern industrial nations have caused most of the global warming, they have an obligation to help the southern regions that are more adversely affected.
Kenya’s Wangari Maathai won a Nobel prize, and her campaign to plant 30 million trees inspired the United Nations Environment Program to start a campaign to plant one billion trees. By 2009 more than ten billion trees had been planted. China has planted 2.9 billion trees and India two billion. To plant 380 million acres of trees in a decade will cost about $6 billion per year. Planting trees to conserve soil, reduce flooding, and sequester carbon would cost $17 billion annually. The cost of planting trees and grass to protect topsoil over ten years in the world would cost $16 billion a year. Improving rangeland is an investment that returns two and a half times the initial cost.
A US Department of Agriculture program to plant trees and grass has reduced American soil erosion from 3.1 billion tons in 1982 to 1.9 billion tons in 1997. By planting seeds with drills without plowing in the US the no-till area has increased from 17 million acres in 1990 to 65 million acres in 2007. Two-fifths of the world’s land is in danger of overgrazing, and the only way to reduce this is to reduce the size of herds and flocks. The price of water needs to reflect its value. Aquifers need to be stabilized before they become dry.
In recent years the ocean’s fisheries have been greatly depleted. A World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 set the goal of creating marine reserves in ten percent of the ocean by 2012, but less than one percent of the world’s ocean has been protected so far. Marine reserves in a year or two can increase the fish population density by 91%, the size of fish by 31%, and the diversity of species by 20%. Creating and managing marine reserves in 30% of the ocean would cost about $13 billion a year, but the annual increase in fishing would be worth about $75 billion.
Lester Brown has estimated that reforesting the planet, protecting topsoil, restoring rangelands and fisheries, stabilizing water tables, and protecting biological diversity would cost $110 billion a year, but how much would not doing so cost humanity?
The number of people in the world suffering malnutrition passed one billion in 2009. Yet the number of Chinese living in extreme poverty decreased from 683 million in 1990 to 208 million in 2005. Education is spreading. The number of elementary-school-age children not in school in 1999 was 106 million, but this went down to 69 million in 2008. The World Bank is leading an effort to enable all children in poor countries to attend school by the year 2015, and it is expected to cost $10 billion to reach the goal. School lunch programs encourage poor children to attend school and help them to learn. About 900 million people lack access to safe water, and this is the leading cause of disease and death. In 2010 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $10 billion to develop vaccines for poor countries over a decade. Studies indicate that providing reproductive health care for 215 million women who are lacking it could prevent 53 million unwanted pregnancies, 24 million induced abortions, and 1.6 million infant deaths.
The green revolution in agriculture doubled grain harvests between 1950 and 1973. The use of fertilizer went from 14 million tons in 1950 to 163 tons in 2009. Corn yields are increasing, and the United States produces 40% of the world’s corn. As water becomes scarce and more valuable, irrigation needs to be more efficient. Low-pressure sprinkler systems reduce the water needed by 30%, and drip irrigation cuts the water used in half. Phasing out coal and nuclear power plants will save much water that was used for cooling. About 35% of the world’s grain harvest is fed to animals. Thus eating less meat will not only make people healthier, but it is also more ecologically sustainable. Soybean meal is rich in protein. In 1997 India became the world’s largest producer of milk and dairy products, and they have done this by feeding livestock wheat straw, rice straw, and corn stalks. India’s milk production went from 21 million tons in 1970 to 110 million tons in 2009.
Eating local food is more efficient economically and ecologically. Farmers’ markets in the United States have increased from 1,755 in 1994 to 6,100 in 2010. Fresh vegetables and fruit can be obtained from gardens and orchards. During World War II Americans planted victory gardens and grew 40% of the nation’s produce. Eliminating government subsidies for ethanol will help keep the price of grain lower.
I recommend that we use taxes on the use of fossil fuels to help shift our priorities from these polluting sources to the clean energy sources of the sun, wind, water, and the earth. In February 2011 the US federal excise tax on gasoline was 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. State taxes vary, and the average total gas tax was 48.1 cents per gallon and 53.1 cents for diesel. Quebec and British Columbia in Canada imposed a tax of $10 per ton of carbon that is to rise by 2012 to $30, which is about 30 cents per gallon. Thus a carbon tax of $25 per ton would raise the price of gasoline about 25 cents per gallon. Former Senator Bill Bradley has recommended a $1 per gallon gasoline tax. Gasoline produces 19.6 pounds of carbon dioxide, diesel fuel 22.4 pounds, and jet fuel 22.1 pounds. According to the International Center for Technology Assessment all of the indirect costs from gasoline from climate change, oil subsidies, oil spills, and medical care for respiratory illnesses caused by vehicle exhaust amount to a total of $12 a gallon.
A $25 tax per ton on carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels would raise about $140 billion a year in the United States and could offset the environmental costs of burning fossil fuels. Using the revenues to hire people to build windmills, solar installations, and retrofit buildings to make them more energy-efficient could return this money to those who need jobs and provide the energy needed to replace the fossil fuels in a few years. Capitalism relies on a free market, but the external costs need to be taken into account. Otherwise the capitalists are robbing the people and future generations by not paying for the long-term costs of their short-term profits. A stumpage tax on each tree cut down could induce the practice of cutting only the mature trees and thus protect the forests and the land.
Representative John B. Larson has proposed a bill that would tax carbon dioxide at the rate of $15 per ton in the first year with a $10 increase each year after that. If after five years the progress was not on a path to reaching the goal of 80% of 2005 emissions by the year 2050, then the annual increase would become $15 per ton. The first year would raise about $80 billion. His bill would rebate an equal amount based on household units. Thus those who use less energy may come out ahead while those using much energy pay more. Some have recommended starting the carbon tax at $37 per ton of carbon dioxide.
Alan Jones has written The Green-Collar Economy and has recommended a green New Deal. This would include a national Clean Energy Corps to serve, train, and employ workers to retrofit homes, businesses, schoolhouses, and public buildings. Also a more intelligent clean-energy power grid could be established to transfer renewable energies nationwide.
The US budget to work on climate change in FY 2011 is $33.2 billion, but in FY 2012 it may go down to $27.6 billion. An Institute for Policy Studies report recommended the federal government increase this to at least $50 billion which would probably stimulate about $100 billion in investments in the private sector. This would make it probable that the US might be able to reduce its carbon emissions to 4,200 metric tons by the year 2030 as President Obama has envisioned. I believe that is too much.
When the Earth’s atmosphere was holding about 390 parts per million of carbon dioxide last year, it was holding about 2,900 billion tons of carbon dioxide. To get the 390 ppm down to 350 about 300 billion tons must be removed. Fossil-fuel combustion is currently releasing about 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. If we reduced annual emissions to nothing over forty years and deforestation emissions, which are currently 7 billion tons a year, to zero in ten years, a total of 615 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be added in those forty years of declining emissions. That is with excellent programs for mitigating emissions. To get back to 350 ppm we could remove those 300 billion tons by getting plants and the soil to hold more carbon than the current 2,400 billion tons.
When Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, the maximum income tax rate for individuals in the United States was 70%. In 1981 this was reduced to 50%. The 1986 Tax Reform Act lowered the top rate to 28% while raising the lowest rate from 11% to 15%. The capital gains tax rate in the US was 48% until it was reduced to 28% in 1978 and then to 20% in 1981, though it was raised back to 28% in 1986. Under President Clinton the top personal rate went up to about 39%, but under George W. Bush in 2003 it was lowered to 35%. Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1998 opened the way for risky investment and banking speculation that promoted the housing bubble and culminated in the financial melt-down in 2008.
Between 1980 and 2000 the stock market increased tenfold. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000 blocked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from cracking down on the derivatives market that would damage the American economy so badly within a decade. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich described the effect of deregulation on the stock market this way: “Wall Street is a casino in which high-stakes wagers are placed within a limited number of betting houses that keep a percentage of the wins for themselves and fob off losses on others, including taxpayers.” (Aftershock, p. 39.) After 1997 the financial sector grew faster than any other part of the economy, but what value did they really produce other than more money for themselves?
By 2008 the richest 2% of adults owned more than half of the world’s assets while the poorest 50% of the population owned only 1%. In the United States the top 1% of income earners are taking in 24% of all the income, about the same amount that goes to the bottom half of all earners. The top 1% captured 80% all the increased income between 1980 and 2005. David Cay Johnston reported that according to the federal government from 2008 to 2009 the richest 74 Americans earning more than $50 million a year saw their average incomes jump from $91 million to $519 million in one year! These large shares of the economy going to the rich are unprecedented in human history. The difference between the rich and the poor is the largest in the US since 1928 on the verge of the Great Depression, and the US has the largest disparity of wealth of any country. Thus the militarism of Reagan and the Bushes not only multiplied the national debt, but their huge tax cuts also shifted wealth from the poor and the middle class to the rich.
This restructuring in favor of the rich has made most people in this country struggle harder economically, and many went into debt by mortgaging their houses to try to keep up. Bankers, hedge-fund managers, and Wall Street investors made billions. When the housing bubble burst, many of the bankers and investors who helped cause the boom and bust and may have lost money on the down side were bailed out by the US Government while the middle class suffered millions of foreclosures and extended unemployment and so far have received little help. Studies have shown that above a comfortable level of wealth, additional riches rarely make people happier. As for the Republican theory of “trickle-down” economics, even billionaires have admitted that this has not happened. In fact since 1981 the shift in income has moved 99% of the increased wealth to the top ten percent of income earners.
As the increased wealth failed to trickle down, the middle class adapted in various ways. More women moved into the work force to give families two paychecks. In 1966 only 20% of mothers with young children had jobs, but by the late 1990s they had increased to 60%. Others spent their savings, and many borrowed more money on credit cards or by mortgaging the equity in their homes which after 2000 seemed to be gaining in value every year. When the housing bubble burst in 2007, millions of Americans had debts they could not pay.
The financial sector was out of control and created a huge real estate bubble and with inaccurate rating agencies fraudulently lured investors into buying packaged mortgages that were really bad investments. After the bubble burst, in May 2008 the Federal Reserve Bank of New York began bailing out Bear Stearns and others with more than $400 billion. The US Congress then authorized $300 billion to bail out the Government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fearing a panic that might collapse the entire banking system, President George W. Bush signed the first half of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) that was agreed to by candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. The second half was signed by President Obama, and the entire TARP cost US taxpayers $700 billion. Hundreds of smaller banks were allowed to collapse as the FDIC paid off depositors; this cost taxpayers hundreds of billions dollars also. The Fed decided to pay banks interest on their reserves, committed to buying more than $1 trillion in mortgages, and poured huge amounts of capital into the economy with “quantitative easing.” Between December 2008 and March 2010 the Fed bought $1.7 trillion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. In late 2010 with Qe2 the Fed put another $600 billion into the economy with the second buy-back program.
In February 2009 President Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill; but less than $200 billion of it was jobs over three years, and only $26 billion was allocated to creating jobs in 2010. The Chinese launched a stimulus in 2008 that was nearly 20% of China’s GDP compared to America’s stimulus of 4% of GDP. Of the $787 billion about $300 billion of that was tax cuts which, like the previous tax cuts of G. W. Bush, stimulated few jobs. Another $300 billion of it went for extending unemployment benefits, food stamp programs, assisting medical costs, and giving grants to state and local governments and school districts. Thus only $188 billion went directly into jobs programs over three years.
The economist John Maynard Keynes believed that capitalism is the best economic system, but in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money he noted that it had two major faults, namely, “its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.” Thus he recommended that policymakers should expand the supply of money and lower interest rates to stimulate a depressed economy. He also advised redistributing incomes in order to increase consumption.
In his book Epic Recession the economist Jack Rasmus has recommended measures in four broad areas that would help the economic recovery. The first is to inject $2.5 trillion for job creation and to reform labor markets. The second is to increase government spending on infrastructure and to invest in technology while restructuring the tax system to produce more revenue. Third is to nationalize residential mortgages and small-business property markets. Fourth is bringing back into balance consumption and investment by reducing speculative investments while restoring investment in real assets that create jobs. This will help reverse the redistribution of income to the top that occurred in the last thirty years.
Since the banking panic of September 2008 the banks have borrowed trillions of dollars from the Fed at zero interest, and they have lent it with interest charges with much of it going offshore and into speculative ventures. In the last thirty years ninety million middle-class households have gone into debt to maintain their standard of living. The crisis of 2008 caused consumption to collapse as so many of these people could no longer borrow. Both the excessive debt and the insufficient income need to be addressed by the recovery program to avoid stagnation. Huge amounts of money were pumped into the banks to offset lost income, but the debt side of the fragile system has not been adequately addressed.
Americans in homes faced 2,820,000 foreclosures in 2009. There were more than one million foreclosures in 2010, and even more are expected in 2011. Mortgage modifications have been few and ineffective. Efforts to adjust consumer debt from credit cards and other means have been thwarted by Congress and financial lobbyists. Declining wages and income inequalities have not been addressed but continue to get worse. Only the 19 largest banks have been bailed out.
To stabilize home-owners the US Government could reset mortgage rates and the mortgage principal for all home loans and small-business loans that were issued between 2002 and 2007 up to a ceiling of $729,000. Loans could be made to those with annual incomes up to $165,000. This would cover about 80% of those facing foreclosure. A one-year moratorium on these foreclosures would allow time for the program to work.
To create jobs the US Government could spend $300 billion on infrastructure projects to construct and repair roads, bridges, and ports with at least $100 billion for renewable energy projects. Jobs created should not pay more than $50,000 per year. Another $300 billion could be spent on reviving the public sector by granting $200 billion to state and local governments and $100 billion to school districts. Another $100 billion could fund local medical clinics and training hospitals. The manufacturing sector could use $100 billion by reimbursing companies that repatriate jobs previously sent offshore and by aiding new manufacturing industries. The Government could also supplement the strained safety net with $200 billion for unemployment insurance, medical care, and food stamps.
These housing and jobs programs would cost about $1 trillion each over two years. This $2 trillion could be raised by reforming the tax code. Americans have invested about $4 trillion in offshore tax havens, and they could be required to repatriate half of this within a period of 18 months. The $2 trillion returned would probably generate about $300 billion in annual income, which taxed at the new corporate rate of 40% would be $120 billion a year. Taxing the undeclared offshore earnings of US corporations would bring at least another $100 billion each year. Taxing capital gains at the reformed income tax levels discussed below would give back gradually much of the excess income of the top one percent that was taken from the US economy in the last thirty years. An excess speculative profits surtax could recover a portion of the huge incomes made by hedge-fund managers and other speculators.
A financial transactions tax could transfer much of the excess from the financial sector back to the government. Britain levies a 0.5% tax on purchase of shares of English companies. In 2009 a US bill proposed a financial transaction tax of 0.25% that was estimated to bring in $150 billion revenue annually. This would deter electronic trading in high volumes that allows inside traders to distort the stock market and suck profits out of the system. Rasmus has also suggested a 0.1% tax on corporate bond sales and a tax of 5% on all derivatives trading and swaps by counter-parties. A retroactive windfall tax could recapture taxes the oil and energy companies evaded. A value added tax (VAT) of 2% could be levied on the sale of intermediate goods between companies before products are sold at retail to customers.
Other ways to redistribute the wealth that was taken away by the richest people include giving students grants or low-interest loans to attend college, passing the Employee Free Choice Act to encourage unionization of employees, and increasing the minimum wage regularly. In the 1950s about one third of American workers were in unions, but by 2010 only 8% of workers in the private sector were union members.
Restructuring the economy also requires reforming the banking system. Consumer credit markets could be nationalized by having the Federal Reserve act as a public utility for banking. At the same time the boards of the Federal Reserve need to be made more democratic. Securitizing and reselling consumer loans as well as other dangerous speculation should be prohibited. Using a non-profit system for consumer loans will benefit most people. Government should not allow taxpayers to be robbed by the reckless manipulations of the financial sector that then turns to the taxpayers to rescue them after their greed creates a mess.
I propose that we restore progressive income taxes so that the rich can contribute more of their excess wealth to a society that has enabled them to earn so much. Then the US Government can spread that money around where it is most needed in health care and other parts of the safety net that make sure all people have a basic standard of living and a fair opportunity in life.
Taking the cap off the Social Security tax so that the wealthy pay the same percentage of their income as everyone else would greatly increase the revenues of Social Security and make it solvent. Of course those with high incomes would be paying much more than before, but they can afford it.
United States federal tax revenues in 2011 at 14.8% of GDP are the lowest since 1950. The current top tax bracket for incomes over $379,150 a year is 35%. I suggest returning to income tax rates that are progressive, as in the 1950s when the maximum tax rate for individuals reached 92%. In 1945 the top rate was 94%. In 1946 the national debt of the United States reached a high of 122% of the gross domestic product (GDP); but with progressive income tax on high earners the economy was greatly stimulated in an era of prosperity. The national debt fell to a low of 32% of GDP by 1981. When the Clinton administration raised tax rates on the wealthy, millions of jobs were created, turning the annual federal deficit into a surplus. When Clinton left office in 2001, the national debt was 56% of the GDP; but in the year 2011 it passed the 100% mark.
To avoid taxing those below the poverty line I would increase the standard deduction for an individual from $5,700 to $10,000, and for couples from $11,400 to $20,000. I would also raise the standard deduction for each dependent from $950 to $2,000. All donations to non-profit organizations would be 100% deductible from taxable income because those contributions add value to the society in the nongovernmental sector. Most of the other tax breaks and loopholes that have been added to the tax code to help special interests should be repealed.
To simplify and graduate the rest of the income tax system I propose 10% tax on the first $10,000 of taxable income, 20% tax on the next $20,000, 30% on the next $40,000, 40% on the next $100,000, 50% on the next $250,000, 60% on the next $500,000, 70% on the next $1,000,000, and 80% on all income above that. The standard deductions enable people to meet the necessities of life without having to pay income tax. Couples making $30,000 would keep $29,000 and pay $1,000 income tax. Couples making $50,000 would keep $45,000 and pay $5,000. Couples making $90,000 would keep $73,000 and pay $17,000. Couples making $190,000 would keep $133,000 and pay $57,000. Couples making $440,000 would keep $258,000 and pay $182,000. Couples making $940,000 would keep $458,000 and pay $482,000, and couples making $1,940,000 would keep $758,000 and pay $1,182,000. Thus everyone would have enough for the basic necessities, and there still would be incentives for making extra spending money. The progressive income tax has the wealthy make contributions to the society which enables them to garner such wealth. This will reverse the trend of the last thirty years that has enabled the rich to corner the surplus wealth created by advances in technology.
Until the national debt is paid off, I would urge the Congress to pass a temporary annual tax of 1% on assets above $1 million, a tax of 2% on assets over $10 million, a tax of 3% on assets over $100 million, and a tax of 4% on assets over $1 billion. I would hope that the gratitude of people to these millionaires for helping the nation put its financial house in order would be equal to their gratitude for living in a society that enables them to have such wealth. The wealthy have benefited from the national debt by collecting interest on their investments in treasury bonds. Therefore it makes sense to have them help pay off the debt in order to remove the burden of debt on the general population. Having governments borrow money from the wealthy and then pay them back with interest is a corruption of the system. Governments should not be making the rich richer by paying them this interest. Rather politicians should be responsible and make sure that governments operate on balanced budgets.
I also recommend the small federal sales tax on all stock market transactions and speculative investments mentioned above. Estate taxes on the deceased can also be increased for estates worth more than one million dollars. The Federal estate tax was renewed in 2011 with an exemption on estates worth $5 million or less. The estate tax after the exemption is 35%. The People’s Budget of the Progressive Caucus includes Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal for revising the estate tax. The exemption is $3.5 million with a 45% tax on the first $50 million, 55% on the amount over $50 million and less than $500 million, and 65% on inheritance over $500 million. I agree with the Sanders proposal except that I would suggest a $1 million exemption, and add a 35% tax on the next $2.5 million. In the next ten years this part alone would bring in $485 billion in revenue. Before it was changed to $3.5 million in 2009, the exemption had been raised to $1 million in 2002. From 1986 to 1997 the estate tax exemption was $600,000, and from 1942 to 1976 it was only $60,000 with the top tax rate at 77%. In 2010 there was no estate tax at all, and that year the exemption was raised to $5 million for 2011 with a rate of only 35%.
I believe that the extremely high earners have taken advantage of their powerful positions in business and that they have been overpaid for their work. If they do not want to continue in those jobs with such high taxes, I am sure there are others who would be glad to take their places under the tax system I propose.
The corporate income tax also can be raised to help pay for health care and the changes needed to stabilize the climate and food production. Even more important is to eliminate all the tax breaks, exemptions, and loopholes that enable powerful corporations to manipulate the system for their advantage by contributing to campaigns, hiring lobbyists, and running advertisements. Many of the richest corporations pay no income tax or very little because of such loopholes. In 2010 these tax breaks and subsidies cost the US Government more than one trillion dollars.
The share of federal revenues coming from corporations is at a historic low. In 2010 US corporations paid $191 billion, which was 9% of federal revenue and 1.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Most of the other industrial nations collect about 2.5% of GDP. In 1945 corporate income tax in the US provided revenue that made up 7.2% of GDP. To encourage small businesses the corporate income tax rates of 15% on the first $50,000 of profit, 25% on the next $25,000, 34% on the next $25,000, and 39% on the next $235,000 could remain the same. The rate between $335,000 and $10 million could be increased to 40%. The rate from $10 million to $15 million could be 45%. The rate from $15 million to $20 million could be 50%, and the rate on business profits over $20 million could be 55%.
Another way capitalists have amassed more wealth was by making the capital gains tax less than on other income. I do not believe that people who use money to make more money without really doing any work should receive special benefits. Thus I recommend eliminating special rates for capital gains. Rather capital gains should be treated as regular income for both individuals and corporations.
Because of the tremendous improvements in technology in recent years computers and robotics are doing the work that would take many trillions of hours of human labor. This has enabled corporations and even small employers to hire fewer workers while making more money for the executives. A capitalist system that enables a few people to become ridiculously rich while not being able to provide decent work for those who want it is an unjust system and therefore socially and politically unstable. We can still keep aspects of the capitalist system if we are able to balance it with socialized education, health care, and other government services. Because the economy is becoming so much more efficient, humans do not have to work as long in order to achieve prosperous results for all if we share. Therefore I do not believe that the retirement age for Social Security should be raised.
Our society has been continuing to function on a 40-hour work week despite these technological improvements. In the United States work in many jobs was reduced to an 8-hour day about a century ago, and in 1937 a maximum work week of 44 hours was established by the Fair Labor Standards Act for many industries. Jobs can be created for more people by reducing the hours employees work. A first step would be to reduce the current 40-hour work week to 35 hours beyond which overtime must be paid. Workers and unions should demand this, and a progressive government should enact it. Let people have more time off for vacations and holidays. Let women have more maternity leave to bond with their babies. European nations such as Germany and France have shortened the work week and have much more time off for vacations and for maternity leave than Americans.
People can also join together in cooperatives so that the workers are the owners of their own company. This makes them feel more responsible because they are sharing more directly in the success of the company. Also we need to apply our values to economics and get beyond the bottom-line mentality that only counts the money. Military spending and wars are examples of wasted resources that blind economists foolishly add to the total “growth” of the economy. We need to evaluate which economic activities are benefiting people, and we should subtract those things that do harm. These evaluations and attitudes will enable us to improve the quality of our lives.
Like Martin Luther King, I believe in a negative income tax for those living below the poverty line. This welfare system enables the unemployed to survive with dignity while they look for work, educate themselves, and experiment with their own projects. Everyone deserves a decent place to live, clothing, and food; but allowing homeless people to suffer dire poverty increases crime and reduces their chances of becoming productive citizens. Basic necessities can be provided, and those who want more will still have the incentive to work.
Another way to improve our economy is to increase the education of our people. In the United States the tradition is for education to be primarily a responsibility of state and local governments, and I believe that is a good balance with the federal government handling health care and retirement savings. Yet in our materialistic society the costs of higher education, which were minimal when I went to college, have escalated into the tens of thousands of dollars that students have to raise or borrow. I would urge states to provide more institutions of higher learning with little or no tuition by using property taxes, not just on private homes but on businesses as well. Without meddling in local control the federal government could provide no-interest student loans so that anyone academically prepared to go to college could do so.
Also to improve the struggling schools in poor areas incentives could be given to college graduates to teach in those areas by forgiving a portion of their college loans. This would provide more teachers in schools that could benefit from smaller classes, and they might receive grants so that schools in need could pay higher salaries in order to attract better teachers. In our modern era investment in education for more people is probably the single greatest action we can take to improve the quality of our work force and citizenry.
The 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) required federal candidates to disclose their campaigns’ donors and expenditures. An amendment in 1974 set up the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and established limits on how much candidates accepting that funding could receive and limits on how much individuals and committees could give. Donations were banned from corporations, labor organizations, national banks, government contractors, and foreign nationals. In the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case the US Supreme Court cancelled the limits on spending and on what a candidate could donate to one’s own campaign.
In 2002 the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) sponsored by Senators McCain and Feingold banned political parties from accepting “soft money” that included contributions from corporations, unions, and others for issue advocacy. However, political organizations claiming tax-exempt status under the IRS code in section 527 continued to raise and spend soft money. These PACs were called “527 groups,” and in 2004 the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacked Senator Kerry’s service in the Vietnam War, though they were later fined $299,500.
The January 2010 US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decided that corporations and labor unions could spend unlimited amounts on behalf of candidates because they considered corporations people and spending money on advertisements free speech. Then in March 2010 an appeals court decided in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission that independent political action committees could accept unlimited donations. These new Super-PACs spent more than $80 million in the 2010 elections. Both PACs and Super-PACs are required to disclose their donors; but nonprofit corporations are not required to report their donors, and they can give money to the PACs. In the 2010 elections 527 groups spent $415 million, much of it on negative advertisements. Charitable nonprofits under IRS Tax Code 501(c)(3) are not allowed to participate in political campaigns, but social welfare organizations under 501(c)(4), labor unions under 501(c)(5), trade associations such as the Chamber of Commerce under 501(c)(6) can.
These decisions by the conservative wing of the Supreme Court have made much worse the corrupt political system that allows those with money to have undue influence in the political process. Many Democrats declined to vote in the 2010 election in which 41% of those eligible voted. Independents were apparently so swayed by the barrage of negative campaign ads that the unpopular Republican party won large gains in the election results. I recommend the following amendment to the United States Constitution.
The election campaigns of candidates for the offices of United States President, Senator, and Representative as well as for statewide offices shall be publicly financed. Citizens may contribute up to three hundred dollars to one candidate in each office for which they are qualified to vote during each primary or general election. No other funds can be used for paid media advertisements. Media may not provide free advertisements to any candidate unless they do so equally for all the candidates for that office. No other person, group, organization, or business may contribute to any election campaign for any of these offices. The contributions from citizens not spent by the campaign by election day shall go into the Treasury of the United States, which shall finance the debates broadcast for each office and the sample ballots mailed to the voters that shall give equal time and space to all candidates on the ballots. Whenever and wherever primary or general elections for officers of the United States are held, that day shall be a federal holiday.
Balancing our first amendment rights to express our opinions on political issues with the need to remove the corruption of money from politics is a very difficult issue. I believe that placing some rules on the election campaigns does not limit the freedom of expression unduly. Persons would still be allowed to contribute a small amount to each candidate but only in an election in which that citizen has the right to vote for that person. No outside money would be allowed. People and groups could still express their views on all issues, but they could not spend money advocating the election of a particular person. To safeguard the interests of the people we need to remove the large amounts of money that have corrupted politics in the United States.
Government financing the debates in the media for everyone who is on the ballot will correct a great injustice that has allowed the Republicans and Democrats to exclude others from their debates. Also the statements that candidates are allowed to submit for printing in the sample ballots at the present time require a fee. This fee could be abolished so that every candidate would at least have the equal opportunity to communicate in the official publication of the elections commission. Candidates would no longer be allowed to raise money and then keep what they do not spend during the campaign for future use. Making election days holidays is important so that working people will have more opportunity to vote.
Democrats also participate in the corruption of American politics. Barack Obama raised $745 million for the 2008 election and plans to raise one billion for the 2012 election. Most politicians today spend most of their time raising money for their campaigns in this plutocratic system which gives wealthy interests much more influence than average citizens. Congress and state legislatures are increasingly inundated by swarms of lobbyists hired by special interests to influence legislation.
Election reform is the key to bringing about the changes needed to transform US foreign and military policy as well as to restructure the American economy. Our system has enough constitutional protections and long-standing traditions to allow political revolutions by democratic voting. Though difficult amid the current corruption, it is possible for an honest candidate to pull together a team and a movement that could educate the American public enough to be able to overcome the vested financial interests. By using the world wide web and other alternative media a progressive campaign could be built and reach a level of popularity so that the major media would have to cover it to some extent.
The Green Party has had an excellent platform for many years; but even with Ralph Nader as its candidate, it could not overcome the “duopoly” as he called it. Without ranking voting (instant run-off voting) such efforts by a third party run the danger of aiding the Republican party by dividing the Democratic vote without achieving success as happened in 2000. However, since the Americans Elect on-line nominating convention is probably going to be on the ballot in all fifty states, their nominees will make it a three-way race against the Democrats and Republicans. I believe that if a ticket with a Green and a progressive Democrat could win that nomination, they could also win such a three-way race.
Television and radio stations operate with licenses they receive from the government, and one of their major responsibilities should be to broadcast without commercial interruptions political debates by all the candidates on the ballot in local, state, and national elections. Also the government should pay for the printing of materials submitted by each candidate that would be sent out with the sample ballot to all voters so that each candidate has equal space to describe themselves and their policies. These reforms would help to neutralize the massive advertising and would do much more than they do to educate voters on the real issues and positions of the candidates. The result would be a more informed electorate and more intelligent and beneficial election results.
We need to transform the plutocratic political system to a more fair democracy by getting enough people to vote for enlightened candidates rather than opportunistic and ambitious politicians who compromise too much with the special interests to try to get elected and re-elected. I recommend that progressives unite and form a team to run an educational campaign to raise awareness on the immediate and long-term solutions we need to stop the crimes committed by the US Government and the imperialistic oppression and colossal waste from killing, destruction, and counter-productive spending on wars. By a “team” I mean a group that would operate by consensus in choosing the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates as well as designated cabinet officers who would then fan out and educate people on progressive issues in their areas of expertise. The team would campaign for the progressive platform, and progressives would be urged to run in the Democratic primaries for every seat in Congress as well as in state and local races.
I believe that through my experiences and years of studying history, philosophy, psychology, and politics I have developed and am continuing to learn the ways that can lead the world to peace, justice, and prosperity for all. In the two volumes of my History of Peace the main themes are the practice of nonviolence (love) and the progressive development of democracy that is leading to the unification of humanity in a democratic federation of all nations under a constitutional government.
Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) In my life I have followed this teaching and so have concentrated my energy on learning and teaching rather than on making money. Instead of spending time promoting my writing I have just gone on writing one book or screenplay after another. I have made all these writings available to the entire world on my website san.beck.org for free without advertisements. As a result I am relatively poor financially nor have I become famous yet. I have no desire to become personally wealthy, but I would use whatever financial resources are made available to me to help humanity. I am honest and will not sell out to campaign contributors. I will conscientiously do what I believe is best for everyone. That is my philosophy, and I live by it.
Currently in the United States money is considered the “mother’s milk of politics.” To get attention immediately in presidential campaigns one is expected to be either rich, be backed by the rich, or have the name recognition of a celebrity. Thus as someone who is poor and relatively unknown I am a prophetic voice in the wilderness crying out as John the Baptist did, “Change your mind.” (Matthew 3:2) Martin Luther King had a great dream of racial equality, and he demonstrated the power of nonviolent action in helping to make that dream a reality. He opposed war and militarism and worked to help the poor, and he became a martyr in a violent society.
I have studied in depth some of our greatest presidents such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt in addition to the presidents of the last fifty years. I wrote the essay “How Lincoln Could Have Prevented Civil War.”
I believe deeply that the American people and all people truly want peace and justice, and I believe that an enlightened President of the United States could lead the world toward these goals. About half of all military spending in the world now is by the USA. Yet the nation is nearly bankrupted from this wasteful spending on wars and military power.
I believe that in this megacrisis that is threatening the future of human civilization we need to concentrate on our most important values and find better ways than massive violence and rule by the greedy. The most urgent moral imperatives of our time are five.
First, we must prevent wars by learning the ways of nonviolence, disarming all nuclear weapons in the world and then the other weapons of wars. We can replace these with the progress of democracy to the global level by instituting under a constitution a federal world government for settling all international disputes by judicial means. Only a government democratically elected by all the people in the world will have the legitimate authority to enforce international laws. Such a government could establish the rule of law and prevent dictators from murdering their own people, thus enabling democracy to flourish everywhere in the world.
Second, Americans must establish a system of health care that recognizes it as a human right for everyone. The most efficient way to do this is by a publicly financed system that eliminates profit-taking in health care.
Third, we must respond to the threat of global warming with a national effort equivalent to the waging of World War II by taxing fossil fuels that emit carbon into the atmosphere and use that money to develop the renewable energies by building and installing wind turbines and solar panels. We can also develop geothermal energy and biofuels and retrofit buildings to make them more energy efficient. Along with investing in infrastructure maintenance and improvements, these programs would provide needed jobs to help get us out of the current recession.
Fourth, the American economy must be restructured so that the wealth taken by the rich in the last thirty years is redistributed through progressive taxation to programs that help the middle class and the poor. Disarmament and the establishment of world peace will enable the United States to reduce its military budget, making trillions of dollars available over the years for constructive spending and to pay off the national debt. Progressive taxes will also help eliminate the debt so that the United States will no longer have to borrow and pay interest to the wealthy. Federal funds could be used to finance the rebuilding of our infrastructure and to aid education through the states, providing needed employment for millions of people.
Fifth, ethics must be restored to American politics by removing the corrupting influences of large campaign contributions and paid lobbyists. As the Supreme Court judge Louis Brandeis said, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” We need to reform our political system so that the representatives of the people serve them and not special interests, powerful corporations, and the rich.
Obviously to get anywhere in a campaign for the presidency I will need the support of many people. How much influence I may have in educating people about green and progressive solutions to our problems will depend on how much support I get. I am always interested in learning and will be responsive to good ideas and policy suggestions. I believe in openness and transparency so that the process can be improved by those observing.
I believe that efforts to help people and resolve problems without harming anyone will always be beneficial even if they are not immediately adopted. Humanity is facing perhaps its most difficult challenges now and in the near future. Hundreds of millions of people could die unnecessarily if we do not act wisely and cooperate on making major changes that will end the mass killings in wars and prevent global warming that could result in massive starvation and conflicts.
Although President Barack Obama is clearly better than the Republicans, his presidency so far has been a disappointment to many Democrats, especially progressives. He has continued some Bush policies that are illegal and many others that are unwise. In the paranoid panic that followed the attacks on 9-11 the Patriot Act and other reactions were implemented, including two unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are still going. In May 2011 Obama approved a four-year extension of the Patriot Act, and he has increased warrantless spying. Obama has also refused to allow any investigation into serious crimes committed by George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and others.
I believe Obama’s biggest mistake was escalating the war in Afghanistan and extending it into Pakistan. The American people want these wars ended now, but Obama has declared that American troops will not pull out until at least the end of 2014. He has increased the use of pilotless drones for targeted assassinations, resulting in the killing of many civilians and alienating people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and throughout the world. These assassinations, especially in other countries such as Pakistan and Yemen, are illegal under international law. Obama has approved covert operations into Pakistan by Afghan troops controlled by the CIA.
President Obama has increased the Pentagon budget and spending on nuclear weapons as well as the sale of weapons to foreign nations. According to a Washington Post article on June 4, 2010 by Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, the Obama administration has sent Special Operations forces into fifteen countries in addition to the sixty nations already so occupied when he took office. The Obama administration has supported the military coup that illegally took over Honduras with American help. He has backed Israel’s illegal extension of settlements and their killing of human rights activists.
Obama has governed as a centrist or worse, and he speaks with contempt about progressives, even blaming them for not supporting deficit reduction when the People’s Budget of the Progressive Caucus would cut the deficits more than his budget would. His biggest accomplishment that reformed health care in some good ways was fatally flawed by his compromising with the profit-making insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Another major mistake Obama made was in December 2010 when he agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years. The lost revenues have been estimated at $571.5 billion for just those two years. This policy enabled the Republicans to argue that his huge deficits needed to be cut even more. Instead of promoting jobs to develop renewable energies and rebuild infrastructure, he has mostly relied on the Republican method of offering tax breaks in a less effective way of trying to create more jobs.
Al Gore has criticized the Obama administration for failing to take bold enough action to slow down global warming. Obama has not used his rhetorical abilities to awaken people to the urgency of preventing climate change. In May 2011 Obama announced the sale of leases for oil drilling in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, and he extended leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska.
I was born on March 5, 1947 in Los Angeles, California. I have two older brothers, and both my parents were intelligent, loving, and honest. I attended public schools and had especially excellent teachers in the 5th and 6th grades. I loved to learn and did well in school. Like my father and brothers, I became an Eagle Scout. My family and I liked team sports such as baseball, football, and basketball. At Palisades High School I played sports, was elected to student council, competed in speech contests, wrote for the school newspaper, and won the award for outstanding contributions to extra-curricular activities.
At the University of California at Berkeley I supported the Free Speech Movement in October 1964. I majored in Dramatic Art and graduated in December 1967. I opposed the Vietnam War and applied for conscientious objector even though I had little religious background. I began studying the major religions and philosophy and left Berkeley after one year of graduate work in Dramatic Art. I enrolled at the University of California at Santa Barbara and studied with the renowned scholar Mircea Eliade in Religious Studies and learned Indian philosophy from Nandini Iyer and Chinese Philosophy, Buddhism and Jungian psychology from Mokusen Miyuki. I met Bishop James A. Pike and began practicing astrological counseling. I was granted conscientious objector status in December 1969 but was never called for alternative service.
I was undergoing a spiritual awakening and dedicated my life to God and serving humanity. In January 1970 I began attending seminars led by John-Roger of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA) who referred to himself as the Mystical Traveler. I completed my M.A. in Religious Studies at UCSB in June 1971. I had four light studies from the clairvoyant John-Roger, and he told me that I came from a “pool of wisdom” in another universe. He said that in previous lifetimes I had been an astrologer in the court of Solomon and that at the time of Jesus I had been a close follower of John the Baptist, and after the crucifixion of Jesus I started a mystery school in Caesaria. John-Roger ordained me a minister of Light through the office of the Christ with the keys of teaching and counseling. I was elected and served two years on the Ministerial Board of MSIA. I spent one year working full-time with hard-to-reach teenagers as a Street Youth Counselor for the Los Angeles City Recreation & Parks Department. My friend Mark Holmes and I interviewed people about their experiences in MSIA and published Across the Golden Bridge in 1974. My book Living In God's Holy Thoughts (LIGHT) was published in 1976.
I taught philosophy at community colleges in the Los Angeles area and studied the philosophy of education at UCLA for four years, becoming a Ph.D. candidate. After I wrote 500 pages on my approved thesis topic “Confucius and Socrates: Teaching Wisdom,” the professors on my committee got around to reading it and insisted that I start all over and do it in their limited scholarly way. By then I was teaching ethics and many other subjects at the World University in Ojai. I moved there in 1979 and completed my Ph.D. in Philosophy at the World University where I taught many courses in philosophy, psychology, and religion.
I also taught nonviolence, and in September 1981 I took a six-hour nonviolence training from the Abalone Alliance and was arrested for civil disobedience at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. In 1982 I founded the World Peace Movement as a networking organization. In 1983 I protested the US’s first-strike nuclear weapons and was arrested six times. I defended myself in trials, and accounts of my experiences are published in my book Peace or Bust: My Nonviolent Action Campaigns. In 1985 I wrote Irene: Realizing World Peace and sent copies of it to more than a thousand peace organizations in the United States and to two hundred in other nations. In that booklet I prophesied among other things the reunification of Germany and Korea. I wrote The Way to Peace and published it in 1986.
From April to November in 1987 I traveled around the United States on a peace tour in an effort to network and influence the Presidential candidates to be more for peace and disarmament. I met with more than 600 peace groups in 47 states, and my book Life as a Whole: Principles of Education Based on a Spiritual Philosophy of Love was published. From December 1987 to September 1988 I was arrested many times as part of Nuremberg Actions for protesting weapons shipments going out from the Concord Naval Weapons Station, and in my only trial there I was acquitted by the jury after reading to them the Nuremberg Principles.
I moved to Georgia in October 1988, and I was imprisoned for the last six months of 1989 for stepping over a line on the sidewalk outside the Trident submarine base at King’s Bay. In Georgia I continued my writing, and I returned to Ojai in August 1992 and taught more courses at the World University. I wrote The Future and How: A Philosopher's Vision and published it in 1996. I began writing a history of the world with a focus on ethics in May 1995.
Over many years I translated the Gospels, four dialogs by Plato, Wisdom of Solomon, Epicurus, and the Manual of Epictetus from the Greek and The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius from the Latin. I combined these with my English versions of Lao-zi, two Confucian classics, seven Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Dhammapada, and selections from the Qur'an in the Wisdom Bible, which was published in 2002. I founded the nonprofit World Peace Communications on September 1, 2001, which has published the Wisdom Bible and 25 books I have written.
I wrote a screenplay about George Washington Carver in 1973 and have expanded it into a two-part teleplay Rising Out of Slavery about him and Booker T. Washington. I began writing a series on Socrates in 1975 and one on George Washington in 1976. I wrote the screenplay Columbus and His Four Voyages in 1986 and the dramatic series Abraham Lincoln in 2008. So far I have written twelve volumes in the Ethics of Civilization series.
I had met Jimmy Carter at the Baptist church in Americus, and after having a dream about him in November 2002 I decided to run for President of the United States. In January 2003 I published the Nonviolent Action Handbook and in February a much expanded version of The Way to Peace called Guides to Peace and Justice that has been expanded further into two volumes as the History of Peace. On March 22, 24, and 26, 2003 I was arrested for nonviolently protesting the illegal invasion of Iraq. Once again I represented myself in a trial in which, as usual, I was denied my constitutional right to a jury by the federal government. In May I withdrew from the presidential race and endorsed Dennis Kucinich. While serving four months in federal prison I wrote an account of my first Presidential campaign. In 2005 I wrote and published The Art of Gentle Living and BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World.
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