Here's My Take #2: The Top Three Issues for the Next Administration Are...

In case you missed it or just to remind you of what our topic was in this post:

QUESTION: EXCLUDING the economy, what are the top three issues you'd like to see the incoming administration address and what would you have the administration do about them, why? I am excluding the economy from this discussion based on the assumption that this is the top issue for all of us, but feel free to tie your top issues to the economy as appropriate. guys ARE good! You sent 535 responses on your top 3 issues --excluding the economy -- tiresome for my eyes but heartening for the soul. Given that number, I have chosen 30 or so to highlight here. I thank ALL of you for your thoughts and passion; some of you are all fired up and rarin' to go, while some of you are more sedate and contemplative. All of you, however, are thinking and that was is the impetus for this column.

I have gathered the figures as an aggregate of your responses. For instance, combining all three categories Healthcare was the #1 issue with 90 of you listing it as a concern. Following Health is Wars and Military Spending with 80 responses tallied. Energy is the next priority, overall, garnering 49 votes. Corruption in Washington and regulation came next with 45 but Education is close on its heels with 41.5 mentions.

Next, Foreign Policy and our reputation in the world with 37 responses across the board, followed by the Environment with 27.5; I must say that this surprised me a little bit. I thought Environment would have placed higher. The next two are the restoration of Civil rights and attendance to our Constitution with 28 votes and Infrastructure with 15 -- another one that I expected to be a larger concern.

The remainder of the collective responses came in as follows:

Prosecuting Bush Admin. 13.5
Taxes 14
Election/Campaign Reform 10
Immigration 9
Communications Industry/Media 6
Social Security/Medicare 5.5
Campaign Finance Reform 5
Government Intervention 5
Guantanamo/Torture 5
National Security 5
Poverty 4
Criminal Justice System/Drug Laws 3
SCOTUS Overhaul 3
Corporate Rights 2
Crime 2
Food Safety 2
Israel/Palestine 2
Military Families/Vets 2
Overpopulation 2
9/11 Investigation 1
Abortion 1
Executive Pay 1
Iran 1
Osama Bin Laden 1
Race Relations 1
Stem Cell Research 1
Women's Issues 3

To see Healthcare, the Military and Energy as the top three does not surprise me, however, some of the other issues in the top spots do. I found myself somewhat taken aback by some of the issues I never considered on my own, such as poverty, I am humbled by their mention.

I have chosen two or three responses on each of the first eleven categories as well as three from the category types mentioned above -- those I feel should be higher -- which are Immigration, Guantanamo Bay/Torture and Poverty. It would be lovely if I was able to report all of your responses but, alas, I cannot. I was, nevertheless, intrigued by all of your replies and proud to facilitate them.

On Healthcare:

Frances Kitt says:
Universal health care for all Americans, because it fundamentally wrong for pharmaceutical companies, HMO'S, stockholders, CEO's to make obscene profits from the misfortunes or ill health of others. Like police and firefighters, a basic level of health care should be provided to all as a public service. Those who can afford more can pay for it with additional insurance or out of pocket.

Steve LeMay says:
Healthcare is my first priority. The old saw, "If you have your health, you have everything," holds true. We should attach healthcare to individuals, not jobs, and cover everyone. We can develop a highly privatized system like Switzerland with complete choice of care-givers, allow financial institutions to participate in insurance, and cut our total costs by half. The Swiss spend 8% of GDP on healthcare; we spend 16%. Thinks of healthcare as infrastructure for the workforce.

On The Wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and/or Military Spending:

Julie R Butler says:
My top issue is getting the troops out of Iraq as quickly yet responsibly and orderly as possible. Every time I hear John McCain say that Barack Obama "doesn't understand," about keeping the troops there for security and for victory, I think, "No, John McCain, you are the one who doesn't understand that the 2006 elections brought the Democrats into the majority in Congress precisely because the people of this nation do not believe that this war is in our best interest, nor Iraq's." We cannot afford the luxury of waiting for some turn of events to bring about a decisive victory. Our departure should include engagement with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran, of course, as well as with the larger international community. In fact, this action would signal the world that we are serious about getting our finances in order and, I believe, would go a long way toward not only helping to restore confidence during the ongoing global financial situation, but also display a deeper willingness to work with our allies in the same spirit that we now find ourselves in, working in concert with our global allies toward solutions to our common problems.

Marie says:
Military: My husband is active duty military and I just do not agree with the war in Iraq especially with over 4,000 military lives lost unnecessarily. I do not like the long deployments because it puts a lot of burden on the family. I don't like the way the veterans are treated and the conditions of the hospitals and the homes that they are forced to live in. There are thousands of military families living on food stamps and barely making ends meet while security guards for Whitewater are paid more in Iraq.

Mitch Anderson says:
Complete the process of govt. hand off in Iraq along with resolving the Afghanistan war. Given the splintering of the Taliban and Al Queda I believe we can reduce our military efforts while strengthening diplomatic ones - but we MUST work with Pakistan to fulfill our (and the worlds) long term mission to reduce/eliminate terrorism as an option.

On Energy:

Peter J. Yianilos says:
Energy. I don't care at all about the price of gasoline. I prefer it to be about $8 per gallon, which properly represents its actual overall cost of use to society. I would like to see the federal government invest heavily in the conversion of our electrical grid to better take advantage of future electrical production from wind and solar sources. This infrastructure change is simply too costly an endeavor for private industry. To make the government's investment profitable in the long run, simultaneous tax incentives should be offered to homeowners and businesses for conversion to non-fossil energy use as well as design and manufacture of non-fossil energy consumer products, such as more efficient lights, motors, automobiles. A proper incentive plan could create jobs and a leading role for U.S. businesses - small and large - in an imminently huge world market for energy independence from fossil fuels. The U.S. could become the major exporter of this technology to the world. The need for fossil fuels has negative effects not only on the environment, but on world society as well. If energy can be created by the user, near to the user, the use of it will cease to be a motivating force for aggression.

Debra Davison says:
The new automobile industry would be rapidly escalated in testing, sharing knowledge, developing new batteries, water powered vehicles, and electric vehicles. There is NO EXCUSE not to do this and NOW. NONE. If we can go to the moon, we can revamp some manufacturing facilities. We can do this. Provide large tax incentives to anyone willing to purchase these vehicles to reinforce saving the air, land and water due to driving these vehicles. These vehicles could not exceed a cost $26,000. per-total. The less you charge for your vehicle, and the safer, cleaner it is the more tax cuts your manufacturing business gets. The more "qualified, educated and well trained" Americans you hire, the better your results and the better your long term business life will be. Focused large tax cuts to those businesses who bring the jobs back to America and keep them here. Make the worker the focus, not the Board of Directors.

On Reforming Washington/Corruption:

George Graham says:
Administrative malfeasance and corruption are at the heart of all of America's problems. We need an Elliott Ness/Robert Kennedy style crusade to get the criminals out of politics. (eg: The Savings & Loan scandals of 1989-90 and the current Wall Street meltdown scam.) No system, however well conceived, can function efficiently as long as those who administer it are corrupt. (Lobbying is one area that needs intense reform.)

Catherine Haustein says:
Integrity in government. Censoring climate scientists, starting a war for weapons that aren't there, rewarding your friends with government contracts, privatization to weaken oversights, firing people because they are not to your political or personal liking--these things have brought down our country faster than any outside attacker. The next administration must be transparent, must not isolate itself from other voices and needs to dish out a little justice for those wronged by the current administration.

Daisy Morant says:
Ear marks and signing statements must be abolished; bills must remain focused on their objective, not tarted up with irrelevant additions that signify favours to one constituency or another. The three branches of government must respect the limitations of their power and a way must be found for them to work in synergy or all the other ideas about priorities, betterment, etc. will remain futile. It may sound like a rather abstract idea for a governmental priority but it is safe to say that - like the financial markets - government has stopped working properly and drastic steps are required to unclog it from the accumulation of excesses, deliberate and unintentional avoidance of regulations etc. (that are instituted for a reason). The entrenchment of a number of segments of US society - gun owners, religious right, left- and right-wing flakes - is as severe as it is because more and more people are sensing that they are being not just ignored but deliberately squeezed or left out of the decision-making process. It is not a big step from there to the deliberate ignoring of laws and a conscious pursuit of subversive activities - whether cheating on taxes or planting bombs.

On Education:

K.J. Dwyer says:
EDUCATION has to be a top priority. Ever since the advent of 1978's Proposition 13 in California, and similar copy-cat legislation all over the country, there have been figurative cuts in both the quality of and access to public education. There has been a shocking drop not only in math and science scores, but in Americans' ability to think critically. The ONLY reason that Republican tactics of the last 30 or 40 years have worked is that they prey on ignorance, and the only way to address that ignorance is through a comprehensive overhaul of our public education system.

Larry Moore says:
My top priority is education. No Child Left Behind has forced our educators to teach to the test as this test is the primary measure of success or failure. Our students are not taught the basics sufficiently well enough to MAKE SURE that the student can read and comprehend at a level commensurate with the demands of additional curriculum. So many students are promoted without the reading skills necessary to understand the material well enough to be proficient in the subject studied. Until a child can read, very little else can be mastered. I know there are a multitude of Reading Programs in the school systems, but without insisting that a child be proficient first and foremost before going on to the rest of the subject areas, we are Leaving that Child Behind.

Susan Van Der Hout says:
Strengthening support for programs to engage girls in science, math, technology.

On Foreign Policy and our reputation in the world:

Susi Franco says:
Establishing a participant-sensitive, cogent, even-handed, NON-THREATENING foreign policy with our global neighbors; doing the arduous work of re-establishing the shining face we once enjoyed in the world community. It is said no man is an island; on a larger scale: we hardly inhabit this planet alone. It is a burdensome task incumbent upon the next President to begin repairing all the bridges burned from the last 8 yrs of a dim-witted despot; to establish open and meaningful dialogue with Putin, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and other areas of discord. We can no longer assume the stance of the global "muscle", like some hopelessly unrealistic Coppola film antagonist. Our respect index has all but dissolved completely; we are broke and everyone knows that; time for a bit of humility ( but keeping our heads erect, eyes on the horizon) and earnest diplomacy that re-defines priorities, facilitates desperately needed bilateral talks, forges new partnerships and plants seeds for substantial change in the world political climate. World chaos is no longer a "might happen" urban myth scenario, but a real dilemma which grows exponentially. School-yard bullies have seen their day; time for sincere talk from those who can also do the diplomacy walk.

Morgan Sheridan says:
Diplomacy. Our reputation in the rest of the world has been shattered over the last 8 years. Bush boasted that he was the "war president". We need a president who believes in diplomacy first, second and third. Even fourth. We need to have diplomatic acceptance that some countries aren't going to follow our lead but that we can have valuable friendships and exchanges with them on the points we share common ground and a friendly distance on things we're not able to fully agree on. Our diplomatic capitol has to be rebuilt. I think we need to become more realistic about other nations goals and wants.

George De Stefano says:
Noninterventionist foreign policy, i.e., US troops out of everywhere

On the Environment:

Mike Hare says, (rather succinctly):
Environment. Nothing else matters if we have no place to live.

Jan B says:
The environment. Under Bush, the air and water have gotten filthy. Our bodies -- and those of the other creatures with whom we share the planet -- are full of toxic chemicals. It's slow murder. We need a president who is committed to TOUGH environmental regulations, will work for significantly higher (and mandatory) CAFE standards, will invest in green energy (NOT nuclear or so-called "clean coal," which isn't), and will use the bully pulpit to urge Americans to think and act green (instead of mindlessly consuming resources we don't need).

Elaine Garrett says:
Environment: The bans on offshore drilling and drilling in Alaska should remain in place. The tax breaks given to oil companies needs to go into widespread manufacture of current green technologies. Let's stop wasting money on researching the problem and spend money to do something about it. Our air quality and water quality standards need to be restored.

On Civil Rights and the Constitution:

Forrest Prince says:
RESTORE CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS: HABEUS CORPUS, LAWFUL SEARCHES, EQUAL RIGHTS. RESTORE TRANSPARENCY TO OVAL OFFICE. The dismantling of rights under the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act (to name but two) must be restored; I am not an enemy combatant, I am an American citizen. No Constitution=No America. The wall of secrecy that has been built around the White House must COME DOWN! Trust and faith in our own government is paramount to rebuilding trust and faith among our global neighbors.

Rich Refvem says:
The steady takeover of our great nation by the rich and powerful has reached another sad milestone with the current state we are in. Despite clear lessons from the past, our country has yet again come to its knees as a result of unfettered greed and hunger for power the very few. I want to see the next president strive to rally the entire nation to support and enact not just laws, but Constitutional Amendments that will forever prevent the recurrent abuses of power that have occurred over-and-over again. Reform of campaign financing, lobbying and tax loopholes are three good areas to start with. Let's fix these problems permanently.

Tom Pappalardo says:
Number Two I Want My Democracy Back It would be really tempting to put energy or the Iraq War here but even though these two issues are of enormous import, they are not as fundamental as getting back to a real democracy not the fake one we have now. Real habeas corpus, real privacy and a real right to protest are Democracy 101 and we don't have those now just some mutated versions of what they used to be. Someone forgot to give American Democracy a funeral as it deserves one so we could give it a good cry for its loss. Right now democracy in America is like a mannequin in a store. It looks real from a distance but close up it's as fake as fake can be. How about we fix this ASAP?

On Infrastructure:

Karen Hurtz says:
Public Works Projects. It's time for construction of a national transportation system that people can use and understand - something that has a scale of the interstate system with the efficiencies of light rail.

Martin Zehr says:
For the long-term we need to recognize that the public infrastructure has to be invested in for it to demonstrate significant positive paybacks for the future. Here, I am talking about mass transportation, public education, resource management, railroads, public health care, levees, urban housing, water delivery systems, wastewater treatment, localized energy production, local commodity markets and sustainable communities. These things will require not just a military drawdown, but also an increase in revenues. We can get it from taxing stock market transactions, as Ralph Nader has proposed. We can get more by increasing capital gains taxes as things stabilize. We can get it through bloc water rates and impact fees. We can create incentives for green investments and move forward to a better and sounder future.

Susan Bruce says:
Communications Infrastructure Our communications infrastructure is dismal. Many parts of rural America don't have Internet access because of antiquated telecommunications wiring. This kind of electronic communication is essential in today's world. Other countries are much further along than we are. The telephone and cable companies that hold monopolies in many areas have no interest in expanding into rural areas, because the population isn't big enough for them to justify it. In places where paper mills are closing, and no new businesses are coming in telecommunications wiring is essential to the future. Just as President Roosevelt enacted the rural electrification program, we need a similar program to guarantee that all Americans are able to move into 21st century communications.

On Prosecuting the Bush administration and Accountability:

Dan Pompili says:
Trying, convicting and harshly sentencing the Bush administration, for treason, murder, and extortion (among other crimes).

June Fredman says:
Those members of the Bush Administration who have broken the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible as a warning to future office holders and aides that absolutely nothing illegal -- whether ignoring subpoenas or politicizing the Justice Department -- will be tolerated. The Constitution has taken a terrible beating during the last eight years, and it is our last and only hope for viable social order. When the law itself is abused, those who value justice will take it into their own hands. That must not happen.

On Tax policy:

Anthony Irwin says:
Reversing the tax cut policies of Bush/Cheney and the Republican party. The heinous tax cuts to the rich and the greedy corporate entities which include not only oil companies but corporations that move jobs out of the country are, along with deregulation, the main drivers of the current economic nightmare we find ourselves in.

Cybershaman says:
Taxes. Taxes need to be restructured so that those who profit from this system have to pay for the system that allows them to prosper. Business taxes should be funneled into education, since THAT is where their future workers are coming from. Property taxes should go to keeping the infrastructure sound. Gas taxes used for road repairs, sales taxes used for research and development, sin taxes used to pay for the cost involved with the freedom to indulge, and so on. With computers we can now handle the complexities of this.

As I said earlier, three issues did not make it into double-digit responses. Without demeaning any of the issues you are concerned about, I picked these three to highlight as I feel they are morally imperative.

Guantanamo Bay and Torture:

Emerald Behrens says:
Guantanamo needs to be shut down. It goes against US and world-wide standards for keeping prisoners there. No security information has been gained from keeping and torturing those people and I believe that as a free country we should not submit people, no matter what the label (terrorist, enemy combatant, insurgent, etc.) --to torture or unusual punishment. The Military Commissions Act goes against all laws of Habeas Corpus, Torture and indefinite imprisonment. It should not be allowed. This I feel is the most important issue, more than anything else because it is an issue of humanity!

On Immigration:

Rich Monk/ Thomas Yellich say simply:
Seal the borders of the USA, and enforce immigration laws that already exist.

Giselle Stern Hernandez says, conversely:
Immigration. My husband was deported from Chicago Illinois, back to Mexico in April of 2001. We were legally married, and I'm a US-born citizen. I would like the incoming administration to tell a US citizen like me, a wife like me, what they are going to do to fix the immigration situation in the United States. The present US immigration situation is a byzantine and macabre comedy hyped up on "anti-terrorist" slogans. And the incoming administration needs to know that I'm not the only US-born wife of a deported man. I'm not alone in this.

On Poverty:
Karen Sosa says:
Poverty: The onus for prioritizing poverty is squarely on the Democratic party, but since John Edwards' unfortunate and embarrassing exit from the political arena, not one word has been said about poverty. Americans are panicking over not being able to afford their SUVs and fourth mortgages. What about those Americans who can't afford to feed their families or clothe their children? If our society is to be judged on how we treat the most unfortunate among us, how will we fare? Nearly 60% of Americans spend at least one year of their adult lives under the poverty line, which currently is an annual income of $21,200. These people lack political clout, so election after election they are ignored. But it is a reflection on all of us that we are more concerned about the value of our $200,000 houses than we are about families of 4 surviving on $20,000 a year.

In conclusion, I want to say that - again - the responses thrill me. I am also enjoying the debate. What do you think? I won't be able to feature your responses, but you've got the HuffPost comment threads to keep this going. Feel free to continue the discussion, you have done so well so far!

Keep an eye out for next week's topic!