"The Progressive-Conservative Dialectic"
Thanks to George East. He heard me speak at the StillWater Club and
said I could deliver the same talk here. Unfortunately my dog ate
I chose the title Ė The Progressive- Conservative Dialectic Ė
because I thought it would sound so pedantic that some of the
members would decide they had much better things to do, and there
would be more food for the rest of us.
I was going to announce my candidacy for the presidency, but who can
compete with Sarah Palin and Barack Obama? Besides there ainít no
way Iím gonna live in Washington. Our nationís capital was built on
a swamp two centuries ago, and as far as I can tell, the murk has
And itís only going to get worse. A report today says for most of
the country the coolest summers over the next twenty years will be
hotter than the hottest of the last century.
But if the Beltway were conducive to change, I would run as a
progressive-conservative because progressives and conservatives have
a great deal in common. First, the four foundation principles of
true conservatism are conservation, no foreign wars, a balanced
budget, and personal responsibility. Whoa, thatís what progressives
Hence the title of this talk today. Regrettably the labels
conservative and progressive have both been tarred. There are very
few honest conservatives in politics today. Most who call themselves
conservative support foreign wars, have sent the budget into a
tailspin with their enormous tax cuts for the wealthiest members,
and they havenít supported a single environmental program since
Richard Nixon signed the Clean Water Act in 1972.
Progressives are always confused with liberals. Very different
politics. Progressives want to make Ė progress Ė while liberals seem
content to whine that everyone should just get along. Both the
liberals and the faux conservatives seem content trading shots and
getting nothing done.
The typical divide is that the neo-Cons talk free market and smaller
government but what they mean is that Wall Street should be free of
controls and we should slice up the safety nets like Medicare and
The liberals think that everyone has the right to do everything,
regardless of ability, and that poor and darker-skinned people are
inherently more noble than the American middle class.
The right-wing is funded by the corporatists. The left wing by the
unions and trial lawyers. No wonder we are stuck.
And we are really stuck. Did you know that 1% of families hold 39%
of the worldís wealth? They own the governments of the world.
Did you know that California's prison guards make more than twice
their counterparts in Texas - $71,000 a year, compared with $31,000?
The prison guards own the Democrats.
I donít know if this is a conservative or a progressive issued, but
Iím particularly irked by the pensions paid to public employees.
Thereís a guy down in Vernon who pleaded guilty to mishandling
funds. Heís still getting a $500,000 a year pension.
According to a recent article in the Sacramento Bee, almost
9,000 retirees in CalPERS receive at least $100,000 in annual
benefits, and if you think thatís scary, that is more than quadruple
the number getting that much during 2005. For goodness sakes, we
will pay just those 9000 retirees $25 Billion.
I believe that all public employee salaries should be capped at
$100,000, that pensions should be limited to $50,000 a year, and for
only 20 years.
Now I hear this nonsense that we have to pay hundreds of thousands
to get good people to run the government Ė federal, state and local
Ė but puh-leeze, We have been paying the huge salaries, and look at
the mess weíre in.
On the business side, itís time that these high-flying execs stopped
slurping at the public trough. For instance, letís put a limit of
$100,000 on the compensation that a company can claim as a
deduction. Sure, if the stockholders want to pay more they can, but
it shouldnít be up to the taxpayers to carry the load.
This approach should be carried over to other business deductions.
If I have dinner with a colleague at the Full Moon restaurant, I can
deduct half of the cost of my meal...so maybe ten dollars. But
someone on a corporate tab can go to Royís or the Whaling Station
and write off a coupla hunnert bucks or more.
probably donít remember, even reading about the fact, that in 1962
the top personal income tax rate was over 90%. I donít know that we
need to return to that, but I do think we should limit the total
deductions to maybe $100,000 a year.
I also think that we should limit the number of child exemptions.
The planet is grossly over-populated. The Earth has a carrying
capacity of probably 2 billion. We now have 7 billion people. The US
should have about 150-million; we have more than twice that many. We
should do what Sweden does and pay, through exemptions, for no more
than two children.
But let me not nibble around the politically incorrect edges. We
should reduce the deficit and national debt dramatically and hereís
how it can be done.
First, realize that military expenditures are running around $1.5
trillion. We have troops in over 150 foreign countries. We are
spending a million dollars a year on every soldier in Afghanistan.
Are we more secure? Hardly. Less secure if anything. Not only are we
the target of Muslim extremists all over the world, but we have
thousands of people coming over our southern border every night.
Gangs are operating with virtual impunity, on the streets and they
control the prisons.
Our military should be protecting America here at home, securing our
borders Ė the real job of the military which could be done for $50
billion Ė and providing back-up to local law enforcement. When my
father was growing up, he and a date could walk in Central Park in
New York. We arenít safe walking by some of the bars in Monterey
Second, we need to reform our criminal justice system. We do this by
changing our approach. We start by decriminalizing drugs,
prostitution and gambling. If drug usage werenít illegal, we would
drive down the costs and do serious damage to the Mexican drug
cartels. Drug users make their own choices. There should be rehab
available, but weíre already squandering tens of billions every year
on trying to control them. Itís pointless.
Were prostitution legalized, epidemic sexually-transmitted diseases
and related crimes would all but go away. Tax revenues would go up.
As regards gambling, as long as we have Wall Street and Indian
casinos, enforcement of gambling laws is a grotesque waste of money
while legalized gambling could produce significant tax revenues.
Let me be clear that we need to keep violent people behind bars,
forever if necessary, at least until they can prove that they are no
longer a threat to the community. Property criminals need to be
working to pay off their victims and the costs of their prosecution.
Have them working in the fields, or cleaning our beaches, or
rebuilding our infrastructure. The worst offenders could be cleaning
up toxic waste sites.
Third, some of the biggest cuts in our budget could be made in
health care. We are the only developed nation in the world that
doesnít have a health care system that properly sees to the health
of their citizens. We rank 36th worldwide. We rank 43rd
in infant mortality. We rank first in what we pay for our health
If we had a universal single payer system Ė think of it as Medicare
at cost for everyone Ė we would reduce our health care costs by $500
billion a year. If we banned smoking in public in this country, weíd
save another $100 billion a year. If we eliminated the duplicate
testing which is done merely to cover doctors from malpractice
suits, we could save another $75 billion, plus dramatically reducing
the angst and dislocation of the patients. If we taught nutrition
and hygiene in the schools and established serious exercise
programs, we could save another $50 billion a year.
Of course the true bottom line is that we donít need the insurance
industry between us and health care. They bill 30% and more for
administration and lawyers and profits while the cost of
administering Medicare is about 5%. And we all know how good a job
the insurance companies are doing for us. Consider that 62% of
bankruptcies in our country were because of medical bills. And
consider that of those 70% had insurance.
I realize that the president and the congress lack the, um, courage
to take such steps. They wonít even means-test Social Security and
Medicare benefits. But hereís an enormous little step they could
take. Take employers out from between employees and their health
care. Just imagine how much better life would be for business if
employers didnít have to handle health insurance claims.
Consider, too, that 15 million illegal immigrants in our country are
driving up health care costs, too. At the major hospitals in the
cities along our southern borders, 70% of the infants delivered are
born to illegal immigrants.
We need to resolve this immigration problem, by sealing the borders
with American troops brought back from foreign countries, and then
dealing with those illegals who are already here. Step one would be
to require that every one of them register at a local police
department within sixty days or face immediate deportation. Two,
require that they learn to speak English within a year. Three, they
would be on probation for five years before they could apply to for
citizenship. And four, deport any of those who provide aid or refuge
to unregistered aliens.
This is our country, not theirs, and we have to take it back. We
should be able communicate with anyone and everyone living here in
our national community. We should be able to say ďI need a doctorĒ
or ďI need a policemanĒ and be understood.
Your motto is "Serving the children of the world". The other day I
fell and twisted my knee. As I lay in the grass holding my knee and
praying that it not be seriously hurt Ė I donít have health
insurance Ė I thought about the millions of Americans who donít have
coverage for their children. I canít imagine the heartbreak of
having a sick child and not being able to get medical care. Thatís
beneath contempt in a nation that proclaims the values we do. Fixing
the health care system they way I have suggested would mean coverage
for every American.
Think about what it says about our country that we shouldnít be
assuring health care for all over our children. And realize, too,
that we are failing our children when it comes to our educational
system. When Jerry Brownís father was governor, our public school
system was the envy of not only the nation but the world. Now it is
a disgrace. How bad are our schools? 20% of high school graduates
canít even read. And things are getting worse. The government is
cutting back on education funding when they should be increasing it.
They should be putting the best and the brightest teachers in our
classrooms. What an investment in the future of the United States
that would be. But no, the children canít vote. Bang-zoom, take away
what little they have left.
Hereís another way they pick on the children. They put them on
busses for hours and hours every week, taking them to other schools.
Hey, I have a better idea. Why not instead bus the administrators
and the teachers from the good schools to the bad ones? These are
grown-ups. They vote, probably. They can tell the politicians that
all schools should be reformed to a level that they are alive with
excitement over learning.
Parenting of course is the critical issue. They arenít reading to
their children. They arenít stimulating their young and hungry
minds. They are sitting them in front of television sets and
furnishing them with GameBoys. America is raising a generation of
These parents are poisoning their childrenís bodies as well as their
minds. Back when I was in school, there wasnít a single obese child.
Now a third of Americaís children are not fat but obese.
Our legal system needs a couple of serious jolts. First, it is
clogged with extortionate law suits. People file lawsuits over
everything these days, many thinking that someone will pay them off
instead. We need what other developed countries have, which is that
the loser pay the court costs of the winners. Yes, there need to be
some exceptions for public interest suits, for example, but what we
have now is ridiculous. And not just in the civil courts, but the
criminal gridlock as well.
Think about the killer at Ft. Hood. He hasnít even been brought to
trial. Excuse me, the only question is whether or not he is crazy,
not if he is guilty. Ask the dozen or so people who saw him shoot
them more than 18 months ago. Justice delayed is justice denied, and
lawyers are given way too much time adding billable hours for issues
which could be resolved in hours or days, instead of months or
years. Think of the guy who was going to blow up an airliner with a
bomb in his shorts. Ainít no question of his guilt. When does he get
put away forever?
Or the Alabama professor who killed three people 16 months ago. Or
the three white men who dragged a black behind a pick-up 13 years
ago; one of them just getting an execution date. Or the Tucson
killer. No one needs to use alleged with him. But a judge sent him
out of state for five weeks of examination by two psychologists to
determine if he is sane enough to stand trial. Now that is crazy.
Sane people donít shoot 19 people. Lock Ďem up, and donít waste all
this time Ė and taxpayer money Ė clogging the courts with specious
motions and a paperwork.
By the way, I donít favor capital punishment, mainly because I donít
think killing by the state is moral and because it ends the pain for
the vilest criminals. But more to the point, if we commuted all of
the death sentences in California, weíd save $125 million a year.
Another obscenity is our failure to protect our dear blue planet.
Doesnít it say in the Bible that we are stewards of the Earth? Yeah,
so like what happened. We not only havenít dealt with the damage
weíve done, weíre still doing it. 97% of the scientists say our use
of fossil fuels is causing global warming. But did you know that
Americans lag way behind all other countries in realizing that we
have a crisis of climate change?
And one of the main reasons is that 50% of television weathercasters
donít believe in manís contribution to global warming. In fact, 25%
say itís a hoax. And these people are delivering their propaganda
two or three times every night, usually in subtle ways, but that
explains why we are so far behind the rest of the world in
April of this year was an historic month for wild weather in the
United States, and it wasn't just the killer tornado outbreak that
set records, according to scientists with the National Oceanic and
Iím not just complaining. There is a solution and it is simple.
Solar power. We could have photovoltaic cells producing power at a
cost of a quarter-cent per kilowatt-hour if we only had some
leadership. Instead we are drilling for more oil that will take
years to develop, and when we do, it will be refined and burned,
further destroying the atmosphere.
We are also subsidizing the ethanol industry to the tune of billions
of dollars, even though it costs more in energy to produce the stuff
than it produces in energy. And we are fracking Ė drilling down into
shale to withdraw natural gas and oil. But we are doing so with
toxic chemicals that are contaminating aquifers and our drinking
Itís all our fault, you know. We have been dumbed waaaaaaay down.
Most Americans can name two of Snow Whites dwarfs but they canít
name two of the nine Supreme Court Justices.
And in our foolishness, we have elected ignorant and corrupt people
to manage our government. US Senator John Kyl of Arizona said on the
floor of the Senate in April that 90% of Planned Parenthood funding
went to performing abortions. When told that it was actually only
3%, his office issued a statement that said he hadnít meant what he
said on the floor of the United States Senate to be factual.
You might think Iíve given up hope. But I havenít. I walk by the
beach every day, over by Spanish Bay, and I meet tourists from
across the country and around the world. They say with a mixture of
amazement, and perhaps envy, ďYou live here!?Ē And I say I do. And I
tell that living here also imbues me with a sense of obligation,
that I work to restore the shine to the city on the hill that is our
treasured United States of America.