Abortion: against it, although I favor leaving Rowe v. Wade alone and can’t see myself telling a woman what to do with her body.
Capital Punishment: Against it. One innocent person wrongly put to death is too many, not to mention the expense involved in appeal after appeal.
Education: Why do we not hold teachers accountable? Parents certainly play a big part in student education, but why should teachers get a pass when classes do so poorly? I’m not sure vouchers are the way to go, but I wonder how privatizing education, under government regulation, would improve things. It seems charter schools are thriving, and could be the model for the future…
Environment: Would deep-sea drilling be such an issue if we had responsible access to more inland areas (ie Alaska)?
Gay Rights: I am not against gay marriage. This, in my mind, is more of a religious argument than one of legislation or government intervention. In addition, I am not against gays in the military. Having served overseas and seen other national military establishments working just fine with gays openly serving, we seem to be among the few that cannot seem to get over this. ADDENDUM: We got over it! Amazing… The US military is still standing!
Gun control: for it (odd considering I’m a military lifer). While the old adage “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” may be true, I think it’s fair to say people with full access to guns of all types through both legal and illegal channels, are more likely to kill people than those with restricted access. CLARIFICATION: By gun control I mean registering weapons, not limiting access. I believe gun control should come hand in hand with tough laws regarding gun-related crime.
Afghanistan: a war of necessity turned into a waste of time and resources. We lost sight for a while, but need to make a push to get rid of Al Qaida in the area (I personally don’t think it can be done). The Taliban is not going anywhere, and we will eventually have to lure them to the bargaining table (sooner rather than later). Nation building here is all but impossible, especially considering the make-up of the country and its long tribal history. ADDENDUM: Clearly, things have long since gone south. The military is not, and should not be, in the nation-building business. It’s well past time to come home.
Cuba: Improve relations. We see the regime loosening some strings as their people continue to struggle. We should cut back on our embargo. ADDEDNUM: I have a close friend who is first generation Cuban American. Until Castro (and brother) are gone, we’re probably not changing our stance any time soon.
Immigration: I think many immigrants come here for an honest chance at freedom and prosperity. Unfortunately, more than a few come for other reasons. I support the Arizona immigration law, and think we need tougher border security (why not just mirror Mexico’s own immigration laws?), but with a more streamlined method of allowing workers access. And let’s be honest, not only do we have a lot of jobs here Americans simply refuse to do, we have a slipping education system that’s restricting our ability to innovate, requiring we recruit and retrain foreign expertise.
Iran: dangerous, but not worth the blood and treasure. They continue to crumble a little bit at a time, and will fall from internal pressure. In fact, us pushing through military force might actually galvanize the fractured Iranian people against us…
Iraq: a war of choice. We are now there as nation builders for the foreseeable future. Even though we took out a brutal dictator, the country was stable before we got there. We owe it to the Iraqi people to stay until it is stable again (even though we add to the instability by being there). In addition, Iraq should be subsidizing us now, not the other way around. ADDENDUM: We continue there in force… through the State Department and contractors. At least our military is out (for the most part).
Israel/Palestine: This is honestly unsolvable in my lifetime. We have two religious states adamantly opposed to one another based on misinterpreted or corrupted religious law (Halakha v. Shari’a), conflicting land ownership and fringe racism. Hamas complicates things, but so do ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers and settlement expansion. There is no easy, painless answer.
Economy: We should give companies tax breaks for keeping jobs here, while closing loopholes for businesses that send jobs overseas. In addition, we have to decide whether we as a Nation want cheap goods (jobs overseas) or are willing to pay for more expensive goods (keeping jobs here). China does not help with the currency issue, but they, along with India, will one day be our biggest competitors. Our government spends too much as it is. Entitlement spending eats up the vast majority of our annual budget, yet we constantly focus on cutting discretionary spending, kicking the big cans (healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) down the road. This makes no sense. I am also against wealth redistribution. I do believe Americans should pay their fair share, but do not believe we should be a welfare state. Although the adage “Freedom is not free” refers to the cost of war, I think it is equally applicable to each American financially. ADDENDUM: China is about to pass us as the world’s largest economy. Of course, their rapid growth comes with its own issues for the Chinese domestically, and both helps and hurts us at the same time. In addition, it amazes me how we continue to argue “fair share” and not define exactly what “fair share” is. Of course, ask 100 people that question and you’ll get 100 different answers.
Energy: I thought we had a minimum miles per gallon standard. Why aren’t vehicles actually meeting it? While talk of “clean” coal, wind, solar, and wave energy are nice, we need to get over our nuclear inhibitions and open more plants. We already know it works. ADDENDUM: We apparently have the world’s largest coal reserves, may have up to 20% of the world’s oil reserves, are exporting more oil than we import, and continue to pay $4 a gallon at the pump. Really?!
Free Trade: lower prices, but less jobs (and questionable quality at times). I, for one, would pay more if it meant more Americans were employed here.
Government Size and Regulation: while I think smaller is better, we need to always work to get it right without intruding on individual privacy and business innovation. In addition, there have to be some checks in place on business (as the last decade has demonstrated), but we shouldn’t build up regulation to the point we stifle innovation.
Social Security: We have to understand this is a government-run retirement and insurance account primarily created to protect against elderly poverty and poor health. A few issues:
First, every taxpaying American pays into and, in theory, will receive a return on this “investment,” regardless of need. I personally believe one should only receive Social Security if one has an actual need.
Second, FICA, the payroll tax that covers Social Security, is capped at $106,800 gross wages, meaning highly paid Americans do not pay as much into the fund based on the tax as a percentage of income. Some think this cap should be raised to add more revenue to the fund. I disagree, although adjustments should be made for inflation over time.
Third, some who see Social Security as a form of retirement account would like to have the option to invest a portion of their “investment” into some other form of retirement account in the hopes of earning a higher return. I agree with this. Unfortunately, others fear this may cripple the overarching fund’s long term sustainability, affecting others, or the alternative “investment” may not actually provide as a high a return. I think both fears are overblown.
Finally, let’s raise the retirement age over time to account for a growing elderly population that’s living longer (perhaps at the rate of 1 year every 5 years), starting with those under 40 to give people time to prepare and adjust (I think 25+ years to prepare is plenty!). ADDENDUM: Canada just did this with their “social security” system, and made the change effective starting for people already 55 years old.. At least someone in North America is trying to act responsibly!
Taxes: We should all pay our fair share. I just think the tax code is so complex and convoluted, with so many loopholes, it makes it nearly impossible to reform. A value-added tax, akin to what Britain does, may help, but is not in and of itself the answer. A luxury tax could also help, on things like homes and automobiles, for example. However, I think any tax we enact should be targeted to fund a specific sector of the economy, and not just added to a “grab bag” for legislators to pull from to fund pet projects.
Health Care: Universal health care is fine in theory, but we have to approach it from a few angles (namely lowering the cost of care, finding a way to fund required care, and finding a way to focus more on preventive care and healthy living). Should I as a nonsmoking, non-drinking, relatively healthy weight American supplement or essentially pay for another’s health care, especially when that person chooses to place his/her health in jeopardy by smoking, drinking to excess, or eating irresponsibly? I don’t think so.
Stem Cell Research: just do it. This is not, in my mind, related to abortion.
Assisted Suicide: we are free to make our own decisions how we live and die.
Pre-existing conditions: continue to provide insurance. Outlaw dropping insurance based simply on something like this.
Insurance: encourage competition; don’t stifle it through over-regulation.