Things to Consider During Every Election

The purpose of this piece of is to encourage people to examine what might be going into their own votes this election year and why they may not feel completely comfortable with any of the choices. To do this, I have listed many of the issues (represented by 30 questions) that I believe face our nation today and have briefly given bits of my thinking regarding each issue. The hope is that the questions and my responses might inspire the reader to examine his or her own thinking. I think the reader will find that my thinking does not always conform to the labels we place on one another (especially during the election cycles).

Once I completed the questions and ranked them in priority, I look at the candidates to see who comes closest to my positions. I will look to see whose experience (or their VP’s) for my highest priority areas is greatest, who appears genuine and honest, who appears willing to make the hard decisions without regard to how future voters may feel about them, and who is willing to try to build consensus around reasonable positions that respect individual rights. I also will try to evaluate to see if the most valued positions I propose would require unreasonably imposing my views on the rights or views of others. This evaluation begs the question for me, “What are the means I can conceive, related to my most important issues, which will not diminish the rights of others to any significant degree or unfairly and will show appropriate respect to other’s views while accomplishing my goals?” Sometimes the answer will be that my position can’t or shouldn’t be done at this time. Additionally, I will try to gleam how each candidate’s stated positions answers this question. The others that I’m referring to are the individual citizen’s rights, the military, business, the economy, labor, women, minorities, veterans, religious persons, and senior citizens.

I would like to begin with the generalizations that crop up each election year –

Am I a conservative or liberal? Am I Republican, Independent or Democrat? I do this so that when one starting looking at the first few questions and my brief responses, the reader will not be so quick to label me by saying, He is a ______. This is therefore not worth continuing. My answers merely reflect a part of what I’m thinking now about the issues. As I get new information, discuss with others, learn more – I reevaluate. Please continue with me.

Question 1- Am I a conservative or liberal? Am I Republican, Independent, or Democrat?

Probably no one is completely either –agreeing with all of the nuances of current perceived meanings for the terms. For most people, no label or pigeonhole fits exactly. Our ideas just reflect where we are given the circumstances that have shaped us and what we think we want to experience for ourselves and others in the future. To define one as left/right, or by party, just seems silly at first glance. But, identifying someone’s thinking as different from yourself regarding an issue can be the first step in really looking at what you believe about an issue – which may lead to a change in the way one sees that particular issue (or part of it) or a conformation of one’s position (or part of it). This is a good thing.

However, defining someone as left or right, moderate or conservative, Republican, Democrat or Independent many times does much more damage in trying to gain any degree of understanding about that person and why they believe as they do. By my strongly labeling another or by that person labeling themselves as one of the common political tags, it blankets that person with whatever one’s concept of meaning is about what that particular label carries. The ultimate goal of military labeling of the enemy is to blanket that person (the enemy) with such repugnant attributes in character, beliefs, and morals as to make that person unworthy of living. In today’s political arena, the ultimate goal is the same, except the last word “living” is exchanged for “holding power”. Labeling is a dangerous and slippery slope to head down and it is hard to resist it because it’s so easy to do. Instead of Mary having to say to Tom that Joe believes this about that, all she needs to say to Tom is that Joe is a ______, and then they can shake their heads in understanding about what Joe believes and why Joe believes it. They also assume that they can predict Joe’s stands on most issues. It’s now gone beyond silly.

Question 2 – Do I belong to any group that receives special treatment or services from the federal or state government that might affect the way I vote? How?

· I am a veteran. I receive medical benefits from the VA. I would be reluctant to vote for anyone who might try to take away this benefit? I want my candidate I choose to support the military strongly and sincerely.

· I’m a member of AARP. I don’t draw social security now but I will in not too many more years. I want to make sure that this benefit is protected since I have paid into it for so many years. Had I invested what I have paid into this system, I would probably have a much greater nest egg than the value of my social security entitlement.

· Other group affiliations might be – receiving unemployment benefits, receiving worker’s compensation, a student, in bankruptcy, in foreclosure, unemployed, drawing social security, a minority member, a majority member, gender, political affiliation, in the military, in the Peace Corps, food stamps, etc.

· Group affiliations have the potential of creating conflicts of interest. What might be in the long term interest of the United States and its people at large might not be in a particular voter’s self interest. Most people are very reluctant to vote against their own self interests.

· Politicians/parties might like policies that create these strong affiliations because they create dependencies that they can pander to for votes. If a politician or party comes out strongly and becomes identified as supporting the interests of one or more of these groups then they can more likely than not count on a majority of the group’s vote.

Question 3 – What should be the primary concerns of voters when casting their votes?

· To be able to set aside the group affiliations listed in Question 2 and vote to the best of my ability for the candidate who will look out for all Americans.

· To support someone who will support the guarantees under the Constitution.

· To support someone who will maintain a strong defense and keep us safe.

· To support someone who will lead the nation with sustainable policies that will create a place where people will be able to work, support their families, live reasonable free from fear.

· To support someone who will create an atmosphere, business climate, wherein U.S. businesses can compete worldwide and grow jobs.

· To support someone who will manage and protect the limited resources we have.

· To support someone who I believe to be honest and trustworthy.

· To support someone who will develop policies which are consistent with the appropriate roles of the federal government.

Question 4 – What are the appropriate roles of federal government and what are the considerations that are relevant to the laws that it may enact?

· Primary function of the federal government is defense of the people and constitution.

· Protect civil liberties of the individual.

· Negotiate trade agreements with other counties.

· Make sure sea lanes and free trade are protected.

· Make sure U.S. businesses are supported so they can compete in the global marketplace and create jobs.

· Other appropriate functions are to regulate matters that have a substantial national impact (Securities and Exchange Commission, interstate commerce, banking, pollution, clean air/water, equal protection).

· To try to structure other federal social programs in ways that provide for a hand up and do not create a desire to remain dependant on the government (Federal or State). The goal is to have people working so they too can pay taxes.

· To respect the rights of individuals. (Even if they make poor choices.)

· Respect the powers that are retained by the state governments in the U.S. Constitution and that are appropriate to the state’s supervision.

· Education should be primarily a State concern. The federal government should get involved to the extent that schools need to be turning out the kind of work force we need as a nation to sustain itself.

· The roles of the federal government are limited by the U.S. Constitution. Jefferson envisioned a small federal government. The most efficient management and use of tax dollars comes at the local level. Each step taken from local government means that each tax dollar collected does not go nearly as far as it could have had it stayed at the local level.

Questions Related to Crime, Prisons, Capital Punishment, and Gun Control-

Question 5 – What are your thoughts on Gun Control and the Second Amendment?

· Second Amendment applies to individuals.

· Reasonable restrictions against mentally ill and felons having access to firearms are to be encouraged.

· It is reasonable to restrict ownership of fully automatic weapons, military weapons, and weapons that could pass through airport security undetected (high tech plastics, etc.)

· Individuals who itemize their taxes should be allowed a tax deduction for the purchase of 1 handgun and 1 rifle/shotgun. This would expose middle income families to the sport of shooting and might do a lot to bring down crime.

Question 6 – What are your thoughts about capital punishment?

· It costs more to convict, pursue legal rights for the accused in order to execute someone than it costs to house them for life.

· There still continues to be innocent people executed.

· Execution makes a possible later exoneration of the accused a moot point, and is therefore grossly unfair to the individual and to all of our legal protections. You or I might be falsely accused one day.

· I can’t justify killing another unless it is in self-defense or in defense of others, etc. If a person is locked up, this ceases to be an option.

Question 7 – What are your thoughts generally about the federal government’s process for making criminal laws?

· Individual liberty and responsibility should the goal in the legislative process.

· People should have the right to do stupid things as long as they don’t endanger others. Endangering others could mean doing harm to another physically, to their property, to public property, polluting the environment, etc.

· People (adults) should not be required to wear seat belts, motorcycle helmets, etc. I do not want to live in a nanny state.

· All drugs should be legal and users should be held strictly and severely responsible for the damages that their individual drug and alcohol use may have on others. Driving under influence should carry very high penalties, not properly caring for family because of drug or alcohol use should be punishable, etc. Drugs should be taxed like alcohol and cigarettes. Early childhood education should focus on the dangers of these drugs. Rehabilitation should be provided and community service should be required for providing it. Drugs should be taxed and the proceeds should be used to fund rehab and law enforcement.

Question 8 – What are your thoughts about federal prisons?

· Mainly prisons should be for federal white collar criminals and violent criminals. The goal of prisons, sentences, probation, parole, and treatment programs should be to protect the public and make tax payers out of these folks. There should be an emphasis on vocational education and job placement. If they want to go on to higher education after prison, they would need to have a job and then start college. Loan assistance to attend junior colleges could be provided to some degree if a tax payer is created.

· In Florida, in 1986, it cost about 45,000 a year to keep a person in prison. I don’t know what the cost is today for federal prisons. It’s clear to me that if you can keep a non-violent person on probation, working, learning, and paying taxes, it’s better than paying thousands and thousands to have them watch TV. Prisons cost way too much money to be housing lazy folks and people who made a few bad decisions.

Question 9 – What are your thoughts on felons voting?

· In several states, felons are not allowed to vote. I think that position is too hard.

· The right to vote should be used as a carrot.

· Only if the felon has been a tax payer for 2 years and has not had any criminal convictions for the past 3 years after release from prison or probation.

Questions Related to Public Education and College:

Question 10 – What are your thoughts about public education? (State Issue)

· There should only be an entitlement to public education through the 8th grade. The focus should be reading, writing, foreign language, math, music, art. The 8th grade should have a course on Government. The best teachers should be in these first 8 grade levels.

· Beginning in the 9th grade, the student, the family, and the school need to enter into a contract. Disruptive behavior, violence, cheating, skipping will not be tolerated to any great extent. Students can be kicked out if they don’t apply themselves. Parents should be required to be more involved.

· There should be an academic track, a vocational track, and a combination track.

· More should be done regarding same sex public schools.

· More should be done to support military type public schools.

· There should be more apprenticeship programs available from business.

· High schools should be evaluated on the basis of surveys of past students to see how it worked for them in relation to their communities.

· Business should be encouraged to get involved (tax-deductible) in the schools to develop the skills that will be needed in the community.

Question 11 – What are your thoughts about using Property Taxes to fund public education? (State Issue)

· Schools should be funded through the general revenue and not though the use of property taxes. (Lower property values lead to poorer schools.)

· If property taxes are used, childless property owners should not have to pay as high a rate of school taxes as people with children who at anytime attended or could have attended a public school.

· An educated population is in the interest of us all, but the parents of those kids should be more responsible for their education.

Question 12 – What are your thoughts about the federal government’s role in helping students continue their education after high school?

· For college, the federal government should continue working to provide student loans and some grants.

· The priority for federal insured loans and grants should go to students who would go to community colleges, state schools or vocational schools.

· The federal government should partner with states to help medical students who go to community colleges, state schools and medical schools within their home state with their costs in return for several years of service in the VA medical system or state clinics.

· The same thing could be done for specialties of national security importance.

Questions Related to Business and the Economy, Taxes, Illegal Immigration and Social Security:

Question 13 – What are your thoughts about corporate taxation?

· There is no such thing. Corporate taxes are merely passed on to the consumer as a cost of the production. In may sound attractive – Tax the rich corporations!! But in reality, you are just encouraging the government to tax you in a deceitful way.

· Corporate Taxation needs to take into consideration the relative rates of “corporate taxation” worldwide.

· Too much relative taxation = less competitive company, possible loss of jobs, and downward pressure on wages.

Question 14 – What are your thoughts about executive compensation?

· Pay should be related to production.

· The federal government should not get involved except as to the companies it contracts with.

· Competitiveness of the company related to the company’s market competitors should be factored in the negotiations. The desire is attract the best CEOs.

· Government contracts (Federal, State, & Local) could consider the size of CEO compensation as a multiple of the company’s hourly employees in awarding contracts. Affirmative action for reasonable compensation. If the company wants to compete for these types of contracts, they would either need to raise the hourly wages or lower the CEO pay.

Question 15 – What are your thoughts regarding labor wages and benefits?

· They should be related to productivity.

· They should be related to relative wage rates of competitors.

· They should be related to profit margins (Considering reserve for replacements, research, product innovation funding).

· They should be related to technological innovations.

· They should be related to sustainability of competitiveness.

· Striking unions should look also at reducing the level of CEO pay in its negotiations. They should not try only to raise their pay and benefits to a point where the company’s sustainability comes into question.

Question 16 – What are your thoughts regarding Labor Unions?

· Labor Unions are generally fine as long as they don’t jeopardize a company’s competitiveness and sustainability. Don’t shoot the golden goose.

· In some sectors of the Federal Government, i.e. – Air Traffic Controllers – striking should not be an option.

Question 17 – What are your thoughts regarding the federal regulation of companies?

· The SEC and its enforcement provisions should be strong to make sure monopolies are not encouraged and that the public has as nearly as possible the same access to insider information.

· Regulation should not be so burdensome as to drive business out of business.

· Environmental regulations should be strong, but reasonable.

· Long term sustainability of clean, honest, healthy businesses should goal. Companies that create jobs.

Question 18 – What are your thoughts about the inheritance tax issue (death taxes)?

· Inheritance taxes should be done away with because all of that wealth has already been taxed at least once.

· Sometimes when the government comes in and taxes the inheritances that include a business that has passed down, it could disrupt the business and cause it to close, losing jobs.

Question 19 – What are your thoughts about the illegal immigration issue?

· There should be many thousands of work visas issued to allow foreign workers to come to the US to work. A certain small % of their pay should go to fund social security. The worker would not be entitled to receive this back as part of their social security. Once the foreign worker has worked for 3 years, learned English and passed her/his citizenship exam they would then be entitled to pay into Social Security.

· Illegal aliens should be required to get in line for one of these work visas. To be able to jump in front of someone has been playing fair is not okay.

· Companies should be held criminally responsible if they hire an illegal alien after the sufficient work visa program has been set up.

· All illegals who commit a serious misdemeanor or felony should be deported immediately.

· Illegals should not be allowed to get drivers licenses.

· Children of illegal aliens born in the US should not automatically become citizens. Once the illegal parent becomes legal and becomes an English speaking citizen, then that child would automatically become a citizen. Once the child becomes 18, he/she can automatically take the citizenship test, pass an English proficiency test, pass a criminal background review, and then become a citizen.

Question 20 – What are your thoughts about the Social Security issue?

· A person’s social security should be transferable to a 501(c) (3) organization, churches, schools, universities, trade schools, military budget, etc. for those who don’t think they need it and want to give to someone else.

· Entitlement should be paid in a stepped manner. Unless someone has a health problem or doesn’t meet a low income threshold level. This would encourage part-time working by seniors.

· A person drawing social security and who wants to continue working should be allowed to work without penalty. That person should continue to pay social security on his or her wages, however the person should be allowed to assign the new amount of social security taxes collected to go to in under another family member’s social security account, or anyone else’s for that matter.

· Part of the individual’s Social Security taxes could be placed in a certain newly created mutual fund. This fund could be made up of companies that meet new qualifications to bid on government contracts. These companies may be required to maintain very conservation debt/equity ratios and other indicators of good business health, to have reasonably clean environmental/non-discrimination records, not pay CEO more than a reasonable multiple of the average hourly wages of the company, transparent records, etc. This would encourage companies that want to compete for government contracts to meet these new good business conduct standards out of their own self interest. It would encourage tax payer loyalty to these companies. Companies make their own decisions if they want to meet these standards. It may encourage other companies to follow these standards if it catches on and is in their self interest.

· It might be possible to have the Government guarantee part of the value of the funds similar to bank deposits.

· There should be many thousands of work visas issued to allow foreign workers to come to the US to work. A certain small % of their pay should go to fund social security. The worker would not be entitled to receive this back as part of their social security. Once the foreign worker has worked for 3 years, learned English and passed her/his citizenship exam they would then be entitled to pay into Social Security for their own future benefit.

Question 21 – What are your thoughts on property taxation at the State/County level?

· A person’s primary residence should not be taxed if its value is below the national average for the cost of a single family (3 BR, 2 Bath house on 1 acre) home. Only the value above that amount could, in my world, be taxed.

· A person over 62 years of age or disabled should not have his or her primary residence taxes raised on the portion that is taxable if their income is less that 5 times the national average Social Security Income for seniors.

Question 22 – What are your thoughts about funding public schools from property taxes?

· Schools should be funded through general revenue funding and not though the use of property taxes. States that schools that are primarily funded through property taxes and are located in communities with low property values normally have poorer schools in those communities.

· If property taxes are used, childless property owners should not have to pay as high a rate of school taxes as people with children who at anytime attended or could have attended a public school.

· An educated population is in the interest of us all, but the parents of those kids should be more responsible for their education.

· It’s not fair that property owners have the primary responsibility of funding schools when it is everyone’s responsibility.

Question 23 – What are your thoughts on federal spending and taxation?

· At the federal level, taxes should be raised for the primary functions of the federal government. (Defense, Environment Regulation, Interstate Transportation, Interstate Commerce regulation, FEMA, Homeland Security, etc.) State taxes should support most of the social programs.

· Federal spending should be reduced.

· Earmarks should not be allowed to be attached to other legislation.

· Earmarks should be debated publicly.

· Congress should work more and get paid less. Their benefits are outrageous.

· More exploration should go into the consumption tax alternative to the income tax.

Questions Related to the Military, Veterans, Defense, Iraq and the War on Terror:

Question 24 – What are your thoughts about our military?

· The protection of the United States is the NUMBER ONE responsibility of the Federal Government and the military. We owe our military a huge debt and we should give them our full respect and appreciation.

· Veterans should receive quality medical care for their service in protecting the freedoms of us all.

Question 25 – What are your thoughts about Iraq and Terrorism?

· Iraq is one of the fronts on the war on terror. This is true regardless if one believes we should not have gone into Iraq in the first place.

· The threat from Islamic Extremist is of major importance and cannot be ignored.

· We cannot leave Iraq prior to Iraq’s military and government having the ability to can stand alone. If a failed state results, it would be very likely that we would need to go back in the near future – costing much more blood and treasure than if we stay and finish the job.

· We should do more to bring other European and world governments into the battle in terms of troops and funding.

· Our continued funding of the United Nations should be contingent upon the UN taking more seriously the threat and the UN becoming more responsible in its handling of money it receives. Maybe a separate fund could be in place that all countries contribute to fund costs of counties leading the fight against the war on terror.

· The UN should take over the Korean DMZ and we should place a significant naval force in the area that could also react as strike-force that could be called in for strikes against al-queda and other terrorist organizations.

· We should remove the bulk of our forces from the European Continent and place some in Liberia if it appears stable enough (I believe we’ve been invited). We should also strengthen our naval presence. This might encourage the European countries to spend more of their own money to build up their defenses instead of relying on the U.S.

· More should be done to encourage our citizens to help the families of our military personnel. I think that most people aren’t being impacted by this struggle for our safety and future; they don’t pay attention and appreciate the realities of the dangers facing the western world.

Question 26 – What are your thoughts about Civil Liberties vs. War on Terror?

· Civil liberties should be protected to the greatest extent possible. However, it must always be in our mind that if we lose this war there will be NO civil liberties.

Questions Related to Social Issues:

Question 27 – What are your thoughts about the gay marriage issue?

· The question of gay marriage should be left to churches. It is not a Federal issue, not a state issue, it is a church issue.

· The Federal Government should not recognize any type of marriage. (Straight or Gay) Since, historically marriage has been defined in American society and government to be equal to the rhetoric of the Christian churches limiting marriage to as between a man and a woman- for the Federal Government to validate that view seems to be a violation of church and state, and a violation of equal protection provisions.

· If government wants to recognize a benefit for people (male/female, male/male, female/female, multiple families, etc.) partnering in life to conserve resources, land, and provide more child supervision, so be it.

Question 28 – What are your thoughts about the abortion issue?

· I think that abortion should be legal prior to the development of certain types of brain activity that represents some minimal level of awareness of being and pain or aversion to pain. (Scientists would need to come to some sort of strong consensus about this.) Prior to this point, I think it is just cells growing in predetermined ways.

· In the alternative, abortions should be legal until the fetus reaches an age of 16 years old. (Kidding)

· This should be primarily a state issue.

· The Federal Government should not be involved in funding abortions since folks who pay taxes that believe life begins a conception should not be required to facilitate this type of activity. However, the same argument could be made in relation to war and capital punishment, so this might be a slippery slope and an administrative nightmare.

It would be interesting to have part of the Federal Tax Forms act as a poll wherein the taxpayer could suggest an allocation of his/her taxes that reflect his/her priorities and moral considerations. (Defense funding __%, Abortion funding__%, Education funding__%, Capital Punishment funding__%, NASA funding__%, NPR funding__%, Anti-Terror funding, etc.) This information could be used to reflect the population’s current views, hopes, fears, etc. on a variety of issues. It might also be interesting to use these poll results to allow taxpayers to designate how 5-10% of their taxes are used by the Federal Government. Actually this might solve the funding of abortions question, the capital punishment question and other controversial issues. If enough people allocate the use of “their” taxes to pay for controversial programs, then maybe that would be the budget for such programs. People who are oppose to abortion or capital punishment could pretend to rest assured that “their” taxes are not being used for such purposes.

Question 29 – What are your thoughts about Climate Change?

· Yes, it happens naturally and yes, humans contribute to it. The question is can just a few nations drastically reducing their CO2 emissions do anything? I think not. If India, China, Vietnam, Korea, Africa, etc. don’t also do the same thing, then nothing will change. It is also not reasonable to expect developing countries to carry the same burden and is not really fair in my view.

· The thing that can be done now is to go full speed with Nuclear Power, drilling offshore and whatever other alternatives that are currently available. Given the current rate of technological innovations, the nuclear waste product will probably be extremely useful in 30-40 years in yet unknown manner. Give tax incentives for going green and research into these areas.

· The UN, NATO, EU should set up a mega fund to give substantial awards to people who figure out ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere in reasonable economical ways. Technology will be the ultimate answer.

· Ethanol use does not make much sense to me. As far as I know, it increases the cost of food worldwide, encourages land clearing for more crops, and creates CO2 in its production.

· Conserving our limited resources is just a good thing to do. There are an awful lot of us on this small planet.

Question 30 – What are your thoughts about the “Universal” health care?

· I think that the quality of health care would be reduced for most of us drastically. The wealthy would still get great care though.

· I think politicians also love this because the more they can create dependency of people on government the more politicians can coerce their votes.

· There should be a tax deduction (possibly a credit) for the yearly health insurance premiums up to some reasonable amount.

· More catastrophic coverage should be available at lower costs.

· More high deductible plans should be available.

· For some procedures (hip replacement, torn rotator cuff, hernia, non-emergency pace maker, etc.) the insurance company should be allowed to partner with hospitals in India, Thailand, etc. where quality is equal to the US and at a fraction of the cost.

· Insurance policies should be portable from one state to another.

· Medical savings accounts should be non-taxable.

· Pharmaceuticals should be allowed to be purchased from anywhere in the world where they are safe.

· Doctors abusing the system should go to jail.

· There should be tort reform in this area.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for participating in this exercise. Make yourself aware and then go out and vote! Try to see past the ads, pay attention, try not to demonize, try to figure out what’s in the best interests of the U.S. , and try not to vote based on what you may get out of the government. Hopefully, as a group, we will make a good choice.

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