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Speaker L

Award-winning broadcast journalist...political consultant...writer...photographer...pilot


 

Kiwanis of Monterey

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Kiwanis Club of Monterey
200 Glenwood Circle
Wednesday, June 8th

 "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 the recording.

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 only deepened.

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 want too.

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 Social Security.

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.

You 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 today.

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 care.

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 highly-skilled thumbs.

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 understanding this.

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 Atmospheric Administration.

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 water.

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.

Thank you.

 

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