Questionnaire

Matt and Wulfgar have put up posts answering a questionnaire for Democrats posted over at Rabid Sanity. I thought I might give it a shot as well.

1. What is going right with our country right now? This question is necessary because if we all agree on what is working, we won’t have to reinvent the wheel and waste time.

Generally, things are going fine. Our system of government is works well enough, civil liberties are generally respected, most people are getting by, etc. I don’t think there’s really a need to agree on what’s working, as there are fewer things that aren’t, so fleshing them out is easier and less time consuming.

2. What are the top three issues that need to be addressed in order of priority. You can’t say everything, because then nothing is a priority.

1. Our current war on terror strategy. This includes things like the war in Iraq, the Patriot act, the NSA spying conundrum, etc. Iraq is obviously the biggest part of this. It’s costing us trillions and has rolled back some of the gains made by the war in Afghanistan (which could have been prosecuted better in places, but we can’t underestimate the value of depriving al Qaeda of essentially their own country). A lot of blood has been shed already there, with the potential for more. The potential for success (defined as a stable and democratic regime) seems low, but I still have some hope left. At home, civil liberties are being sacrificed in the name of the Patriot act (as a caveat, the whole act is not bad, but has quite a few worrying provisions) and warrant-less wiretaps.

2. Our national discourse. I’m young, so I can’t really say if it’s always been like this, but our national discourse is pathetic. The media is a major part of this. Being more concerned with making money than informing us, they put vacuous pundits on television to scream at each other and demonize the other side. When they aren’t doing that, they’re doing pointless horserace coverage or engaging in unenlightening he said-she said reporting. Don’t get me wrong, there are good reporters (print, mostly), but we’re steeped in these worthless human interest stories and mind-numbing pundit shows that get us nowhere. To get more, we can turn to ideological opinion magazines, but the content is uneven. It’s not all the media’s fault, though. There’s obviously a market for this crap. Too many people just don’t care. Voter turnout is pathetic. How many people can name their Congressional representatives? The people that do vote have problems as well. Rather than voting based on policy, they’re swayed by looks, emotion, or appeals to a shared faith. Some think their religion is a sound basis for policy. Perhaps worse, some lazily vote for whatever party they decided they were a part of long ago. No one’s perfect, but it’s not that hard to educate yourself. It’s not that hard to learn about how politicians manipulate voters and try to correct for it. Then there are the partisans of both sides. Godless hippies who hate America vs. corrupt corporate fatcats bent on turning this country into a theocracy? I don’t think so. Oh, but I can’t blame the people who have turned off politics for doing so. Look at who they have to vote for. Politicians who care about their special interest checks more than the people they serve. Cynical manipulations of the voting public. The belief that they should intervene in private family tragedies. Principle thrown to the wind to get elected (or the misguided belief that it will get them elected). This is something of a catch all, but it’s all related and it’s something we need to fix (of course, I don’t have the answers).

3. Health care. I hesitate to put this here because I have recurring philosophical questions about this side of liberalism. Still, our current system is bloated and inefficient. It works for the rich, but leaves out the poor. Whether this means getting government completely out of it or moving to a system of universal government care, I’m not entirely sure. Something has to change.

3. We have been fighting the War on Poverty for 40 years. Have we made any progress? A follow up; What is working, and what isn’t working?

I’d say we have. As Wulfgar pointed out, our definition of poverty is much higher than third world definitions. That’s excellent. We still have many homeless and others who are struggling. I honestly don’t have strong opinions here. Things like unemployment insurance, welfare, etc are good programs, but they won’t pull people out of poverty on their own. I’m still unsure of exactly how much help we should give to people, but I think helping people who want to make a better life is a noble goal.

4. Is terrorism (as identified with Osama bin Laden) a threat to this country? What should we do about it if it is, and if it is not, why not?

In the sense that it could cost us a significant number of lives, yes. I can’t recommend Dying to Win enough. I think we have solutions, but they’re not simple to carry out. We need to get out of Saudi Arabia and stop pointless ventures like the one in Iraq. To do this, we need to be energy independent. The current generation of al Qaeda isn’t going to be swayed by those remedies, but it’s creating more terrorists that’s our biggest problem. Like Matt said, keeping them away from more destructive weaponry than commercial aircraft is a priority. It’s also pretty clear that we need to engage the people of the Middle East and explain ourselves better. Debate, not propaganda, can help them understand us and hopefully get them on our side.

5. Are there any Republican programs that you agree with? If so, which ones?

Opposition to gun control and affirmative action are generally Republican ideas and I agree with those to a certain degree.

So, there we have it. For all I write about religion on here, you might think I put something to do with that in my top three issues. Science policy, too. Certainly I think secularizing our political discourse is good and that fits in number 2. Global warming and science policy in general are probably number 4.

  1. January 30, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    Best of the bunch so far Jeff.

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