Suggestions for Compassionate Conservatives (and Liberals, Socialists, Libertarians, Greens)

The way Republican candidate Governor Bush explains it, compassionate conservatism involves mobilizing civil society organizations, many of which are faith-based, to "help" the poor. The fact of this matter is that civil society groups are already extended to the maximum. If there is going to be a "rally", it will have to include the involvement of new people bringing new resources.

But let's give these people the benefit of the doubt. Suppose they are serious about compassionate conservatism (or liberalism, socialism, libertarianism, or the greens. Here's some platform plank suggestions.

1. Support microenterprise. Help poor people create their own jobs and cooperatives.

+++ Give favorable tax treatment for the profits of investors who provide venture capital to microenterprises and worker-owned Mondragon-style cooperatives.

+++ Allow vending/food sales by microenterprises and cooperatives (no corporations allowed) at highway rest stops, public stadium parking lots, sidewalks, lawns of public buildings, and parks. Establish public markets in every city and town.

+++ Provide sensible regulatory relief allowing (1) personal transportation for hire without a "certificate of necessity" or other regulated monopoly privilege (so that poor people can operate cabs, jitneys and buses, as microenterprises or cooperatives, on terms and routes of their own negotiation with their customers), (2) home businesses in residential areas, (3) catering or other cooking for sale to the public from home kitchens.

+++ Provide civil society organizations with funds to loan at low or no interest rates to the poor for microenterprise start-ups and also for major purchases (such as a car).

+++ Provide urban property tax relief for city lots used for gardens (market, personal, or community).

+++ Limit the price of a business license for microenterprises/street vendors to no more than $10/year.

2. Stop government attacks on the poor.

+++ Restrict the use of eminent domain in poor neighborhoods. There should be no more destruction of poor neighborhoods for roads, shopping malls, concert houses, or other playgrounds for the non-poor. The social pathologies caused by involuntary displacement and the destruction of neighborhoods are well documented. It makes no sense to with one hand help the poor while, with the other hand, destroy their neighborhoods. Such involuntary displacements have negatively affected millions of poor and working class people in this country in the last 50 years.

+++ Provide favorable tax policies for owners/operators of low income housing, but require minimum health and safety standards for eligibility.

+++ Governments need to understand that their collective planning policies and zoning regulations have generally been a disaster for the poor. We need more mixed use development to effectively decrease the amount of mobility required in a given community. Zoning regulations arbitrarily and unjustly limit the amount of low income housing by restricting the addition of apartments to existing single family homes (e.g. apartments in attics, basements, garags, bungalows in back yards, granny flats, etc.) A particularly egregious example of discrimination against the poor are the hassles local governments levy on mobile home owners, including unjustly and arbitrarily restricting the land available for mobile homes and manufactured housing. The present system amounts to a new Economic Jim Crow with neighborhoods legally segregated by economic class.

+++ Allow denturists, who make dentures, to practice independently of dentists in every state. In most states they are legally indentured to dentists and cannot sell directly to the public. In states where they can, their prices are typically half those charged by dentists. This may seem like a minor point -- until you go for a job interview with three missing teeth up front.

+++ Do something practical about corporate welfare and the interest on the national debt, as in cut the pork and pay the debt. All of the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been poured down the ratholes of military and pork barrel spending and corporate welfare are dollars that were therefore not available for more productive and just purposes. Most of this ends up in the pockets of the top 20% of households, especially the top 5%. It is a massive redistributive transfer of income from the 80% to the 20%, and dwarfs all of the means tested poverty programs added together (which are what people typically think of when they think of "redistribution of income"). Let me be blunt: the richest 20% of this nation are using politics to steal income from the other 80% of the community. It has nothing to do with free and fair marketplaces, and everything to do with corruption and manipulation.

+++ End our aggressive, militaristic, adventurous foreign policy. Besides the squandered money, our America the Merciless foreign policy is a disaster for the poor worldwide, as well as putting our own nation at risk of terrorist attacks, thus decreasing our "national security" at the neighborhood level. It's a radical idea, but sooner or later we will have to learn that the only defense against terrorism is to stop driving people mad with oppression in the first place, then they don't turn to terrorism directed against those they perceive as causing the oppression.

+++ The United States, Western Europe, and Japan need to call off their dogs that are attacking the poor with such reckless abandon -- in particular, the World Bank, WTO and IMF. The spectacle of the global banking system feasting on the corpses of the children of the poor worldwide is a particularly egregious textbook example of non-compassionate conservatism and liberalism. These powerful governments created these monsters. They need to do something to stop the damage they are causing worldwide before they bring the whole house of cards down in a ruinous crash. Question: what happens when 1/3 of a population gets a deadly terminal illness while the economic screws are tightened by the international bankers and human misery increases expontentially? Two answers, Rwanda and Botswana.

+++ Environmental protection laws should be rigorously enforced in low income and working class areas. Of course, they should be enforced everywhere, but poverty neighborhoods are often targeted for polluting industries on the theory that economic development trumps environmental safety. Just economic development will never compromise environmental protection.

+++ Enforce usury laws, cap maximum interest rates at (e.g.) 60% per annum (as opposed to the current rate for e.g. payday loans which is in the neighborhood of 600% per annum).

3. Do something practical about the problem of drug abuse and the "war on people who use drugs," which has apparently lost all sense of prudence in dealing with this difficult issue. Fundamentally, drug abuse is a spiritual and a health problem. It cannot be resolved with military tactics and strategies.

+++ Provide treatment on demand for serious drug abuse. There is no disagreement in the research literature regarding the value of treatment for drug abuse. Dollar for dollar, it is the most prudent expenditure of tax funds available for spending on drug issues, it is much more effective than interdiction, which currently gets most of the funding.

+++ Repeal the mandatory minimum sentencing policy.

+++ Review the cases of everybody who is in jail for a drug charge and grant parole or amnesty to those whose crimes did not involve the use of violence. That would be a real Jubilee.

+++ End the militarizing of the drug war, domestically and internationally. Stop spraying third world countries with herbicides.

4. Education.

+++ Enact voucher programs for education. In education, I continue to think that "more choice" is better than "less choice." Also, as noted below, smaller is better, a priori, for elementary, middle, and high school anyway.

+++ Expand vocational education programs without sacrificing the basics of a practical liberal education.

+++ Ensure that all school curriculums include practical "life education" -- shopping, making a living, preparing (and keeping to) a budget, getting a mortgage, cooking, how to understand and respond to advertising and propaganda, how to understand and respond to law enforcement activities, how to react to sudden decreases -- or increases -- in income, responsibilities of citizenship, etc. Require evidence of competency in these basics of modern life together with academic standards for high school diplomas and GED programs. Add another year to high school to accommodate this, if necessary.

+++ Limit the size of schools, smaller is better. (E.g., an upper limit on high and middle schools of 600 students, and 200 for elementary.)

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