Monday, February 02, 2009

Dear Mr. President

Over the weekend, taking in all the inform-ation about the proposed economic stimulus package, both praised and panned by the pundits (forgive me, I sometimes suffer from Tourette’s Alliteration Syndrome) has been absorbing and unsettling – and the Senate battle has just begun.

The unsettling part is that I find myself in some agreement with the Red Team regarding elements of the package that reflect spending measures which are undeniably important, but don’t specifically help generate jobs or increase/support consumer spending. If you can bear to wade through it, the full package is online. And in my rarely-humble opinion, I think we’ve got some apples and oranges here that belong in separate crates, and I’m wondering if we all wouldn’t be better off with this stuff broken out into two separate bills: one a True Stimulus package, the other a Vital Spending package.

As I understand it, the Democrats now “control” both houses of Congress. If this is so, why is President Obama pussyfooting around the Republicans? I appreciate/ admire that he wants to craft bipartisan measures and not make them feel as if the Dems are riding roughshod over their views and concerns – but after eight years of the Republicans flattening the nation like a conservative tank, couldn’t we ride just a little rougher and more liberal(ly) for the benefit of all?

For example, it appears that there’s a lot of consensus about the Bush-style $500/single $1,000/family “tax rebate” having already proven itself to be majestically ineffective, because folks fritter it away on food, savings and paying down personal debt, instead of buying a new 95” TV. Some propose an “incentive” tax relief plan instead: buy a major high-ticket item (from a washing machine to a jeep) and the feds will give you an X% rebate. Why isn’t that a good idea? How about eliminating state/city sales taxes and have the feds reimburse the states and cities for their tax losses? Why isn’t that a good idea?

Why can’t important spending measures – like those related to health care (including the family planning funding that was aborted), education, housing, veterans’ affairs, and “citizen solvency” (help for those facing unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and inadequate unemployment insurance and food stamps), as well as monies allotted to science, the arts, TV converter boxes et al– become a separate, even enhanced, spending bill, while the stimulus package focuses exclusively on creating short- and long-term jobs, particularly those based on upgrading infrastructure and developing green technology? Why isn’t that a good idea?

It would be very hard for the Republicans to dismiss important spending as “pork” and “pandering to special interests” if non-stimulus spending was broken out into a separate category called by its rightful name: citizen survival and social well-being.

I also wish someone would have the political balls to recognize a great opportunity to create a new industry and solve some old problems by legalizing marijuana. Controlled sale and taxing of good quality pot would stimulate the economy for sure (you betcha!), generate income for government at all levels, unburden the justice system, and finally give the 800-year War on Drugs some teeth and focus by concentrating on the hard, dangerous drugs like crack and heroin and crystal meth that sap society’s strength in steep and sundry ways? Legalizing prostitution with reasonable social protections would be an equally great boon. We would get better faster if we would just grow up!

Dear Mr. President: I know that we as a nation have huge problems and finding workable, equally-huge solutions that everyone can live with is no easy task. But I do think it would be helpful to separate our efforts into their rightful categories, as well as, at long last, abandon our 18th century Puritanism and catch up with actual 21st century morĂ©s. I hope you truly are taking everything into consideration and thinking outside the box. Because, no matter what you do, there will always be zealots on the other side who would rather see the nation crumble than see you succeed. Therefore, I remind you of the words of another brave trailblazer, author and queer pioneer, Quentin Crisp: “Who would you be and how would you behave if there were no praise and no blame?”

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