Presidential elections provide a unique opportunity for our nation, all eligible and registered voters, collectively, to express our opinion about those issues which are of most concern to us. Thus, while we are still in the preliminary Democratic and Republican party primaries, I am going to recite some of those issues that appear most important. Accordingly:
1. Immigration reform: We need to cease the political opportunist's semantics. A person is either in our country legally or illegally. Assumed "politically correct" use of such words as "foreign national" or "undocumented" don't cut it.
Persons here "illegally" should have the opportunity to remain, if they can satisfy uniform eligibility criteria, whose satisfaction, will enable them to qualify for citizenship. Immigrants who entered the country legally should be given a priority over "foreign nationals" or "illegal immigrants." Presidential candidates of both major politics parties should be required to address this issue with specifics, not banal platitudes
2. Homelessness: It is estimated that there are approximately 2.4 to 3.6 million people who experience homelessness in any single year, where a large majority of them experience it at least temporarily, and a minority experiences experience it on a permanent basis. (See more here.)
Why is this?
In each state where there are homeless persons, a survey should be conducted to obtain the best numerical demographic estimate of how many homeless people there are in various States, nationwide. An estimate should then be made of the cost of providing quality low cost housing for such homeless persons.
For example, if the cost of providing such housing in "X" State is $100 million, private individuals or companies who provide $50 million of this amount to a private/government partnership, would receive tax benefits and incentives.
In the case of military veterans who are homeless, the government should underwrite 100 percent of providing housing for them.
3. Police and African-Americans, nationwide: This issue is now best exemplified by the current Black Lives Matter movement. It arose in response to several consecutive police shootings or other applications of lethal force against Black men and women, under circumstances when a choice of non-deadly force was or may have been an option.
President Obama and James Comey, director of the FBI, have publicly spoken about this issue. Traditional civic, community and political leaders have also spoken. Several have been critical of some of the statements and actions by Black Lives Matter's leaders and participant supporters. Often, such persons condescendingly advise them that they should "model" their protests to those consecutive instances of apparent or proven police violence against African-American men, for example, to earlier forms of non-violent protests used in our civil rights movement. (See recent article in the LA Times: "Longtime L.A. civil rights leaders dismayed by in-your-face tactics of new crop of activists.")
There is a time-honored expression: "Different strokes for different folks."
The Black Lives Matter movement is in the tradition of some of the greatest African-American movements for freedom and equality in our history. In1857, Frederick Douglass, an anti-slavery abolitionist said:
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle... If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
In the late 1980s, after a decade spent engaged in traditional routine interest-group politics, thousands of lesbians and gay men responded to the AIDS crisis by defiantly and dramatically taking to the streets. Looking back now, one could say, that the Black Lives Matter movement is mild compared to the disruptive actions of the predominantly white middle class movement, act up.
Neither Democratic or Republican party candidates for president of the United States should be permitted to mouth their repetitive platitudes about police misconduct in African-American communities; or, propose "the best behavior" the Black Lives Matter movement should emulate.
4. Income and wealth inequality: The earlier "Occupy Wall Street "demonstrations were an effort to highlight this issue. Since then, the income/wealth gap has widened. "The wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families, and that wealth is about 10 times as unequal as income," according to a Fortune article. Part of the urgent solution to this problem now will require reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act.
The Act was the most important legislation to evolve out of the Great Depression, from the stock market and bank failures, in the late 1920's. Its legislation separated commercial and investment banking, it was repealed under former President Bill Clinton. Its repeal has been cited as the primary contributory factor to the economic disaster of 2008 because it eliminated the financial barriers, prior to its repeal, that safeguarded our financial institutions. More importantly, it prevented banks and their affiliated companies from engaging in predatory lending and mortgage financing that wiped out much of homeownership wealth of many American, especiaoy African-Americans.
Again, Republican and Democratic candidates should be required to commit themselves to reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall.
5. United States foreign policy in the Middle-East: What is required is more than our current pre-occupation with the issue of when and how many "boots on the ground" there are or will be in this or that Mid-East country. Among the principal issues required is a full discussion in and authorization by Congress, not just about the issue of ISIS, but our current policy in assisting a resolution of the long standing Israeli Palestinian dispute.
Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates, again, should not be permitted to mouth the same platitudes about how valuable Israel is an an ally to us (it is); but, what specifically they propose to do to resolve the Israel Palestinian dispute, without further inflaming existing or igniting dormant anti-Semitism, domestically or internationally.
6.The suspension-dropout from school to prison pipeline: Chief Justice Earl Warren in the unimous 1954 Brown vs. Bd of Education decision outlawing racial segregation in our national public schools wrote:
In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunities of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available on equal terms.
Today, the school-to-prison pipeline is an epidemic that is plaguing schools across the nation. According to PBS.org:
Far too often, students are suspended, expelled or even arrested for minor offenses that leave visits to the principal's office a thing of the past. Statistics reflect that these policies disproportionately target students of color and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty or learning disabilities.
No candidate for the presidency of the United States should be elected who does not unequivocally address this urgent issue.
These are just a few issues that have been prompted by some of our recent news headlines
As I repeatedly say: If not us who?
If not now, when?