I need Balanced Political Representation

I’m looking for a political party to represent my interests in the coming decade. The successful candidate will be moderately conservative, but with a demonstrated commitment to the working and middle class electorate. That party will exhibit fiscal responsibility, but recognize education and healthcare are American rights, climate change is an existential threat to humanity, extreme economic inequality is bad national tax policy, and political compromise is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy.

The Trump Party meets none of my criteria; its stock-in-trade is exploiting hatred and division; it demonstrates a thoroughly authoritarian character in its contempt for truth, the rule of law, and democratic institutions as sacred as the right to vote. At the same time as best I can tell the traditional Republican Party, of which I was a proud and loyal member for most of my adult life, has ceased to exist except as a historical brand name. Regardless, neither entity offers consistent, coherent, or even fact-based policy proposals.

Only the Democratic Party under President Biden’s leadership currently comes close to meeting my views of rational US governance in the 21st century. But we need a healthy political counterbalance to challenge any governing majority and help keep extreme ideology in check. Our democracy cannot survive with only one fully functional political party; we must have another, or better yet, two other viable parties actively participating in the political process offering well considered alternative visions and ideas; otherwise political excesses and chaos are inevitable.

If someone is considering starting a new political party that generally endorses my criteria, but can add some counterbalance to and compromise with the Democrats, count me in.

My Credo – National Immigration Policy – Asylum

In an earlier post titled “My Credo – National Immigration Policy”, I outlined my views on a conceptual framework for granting permanent residence to immigrants seeking to come to the United States. In that post I addressed how asylum seekers should be considered as follows:  “6)  Asylum seekers – case by case consideration based on conditions and associated circumstances in their country of origin leading to the need for asylum.”

Currently we have a crisis on our southern border with a major influx of people crossing the border illegally and seeking to claim asylum.  That led me to decide I need to expand my treatment of that particular criteria for granting permanent residence in the US.

Most of the people arriving at our southern border claim either fear of gang violence or poverty as the reason for seeking asylum. It is hard not to emphasize with their plight. It is well known that poverty and violence are rampant in Central America as well as Mexico to a slightly lessor degree. I don’t fault them for trying to get into the US. If I were in that situation I would try almost anything to improve my family’s lives and prospects just as they are. Nevertheless, as the public policy of our nation we must consider whether poverty and local threats of violence alone are the right criteria for the United States to grant asylum to people who simply show up at, or cross, our borders? After a lot of soul searching, I believe it is not!

Poverty and violence are a global phenomenon. According to the World Bank there are nearly 700 million people worldwide who live in abject poverty. Similarly, there are perhaps another billion people who are regularly in danger of or actually subjected to gang, political, racial, religious, and/or ethnic violence. Most of those people would jump at the chance to come to the US. But we cannot admit them all. The question seems to be: should we give preferential consideration to those who simply violate our borders because they have more access than people in other parts of the world? I don’t think so. As one of the wealthier nations I believe we have a broader responsibility to world order.

The United States can only practically accept a small fraction of the world’s population who truly need asylum from war, persecution, and other crises. Therefore we have to choose carefully and humanely who is granted asylum based on some rational criteria and prioritization.

I do not think the people from Central America should be allowed to overwhelm our capacity to process asylum considerations because it is easier for them to cut in line. People in other parts of the world likely have stronger cases for asylum. And in many such cases the crisis may have been precipitated or exacerbated by our own foreign policy. 

Given all that, I offer the following criteria for who should be considered qualified for asylum in the United States:

a)  refugees fleeing from a civil war;

b)  people fleeing violent regional racial, religious, ethnic, or political persecution;

c)  people from areas suffering longterm famine.

In my mind, for the asylum criteria to apply, agencies of the United Nations must have affirmed that the conditions above are widespread in the region designated and have asked that the international community respond to the severe need for relief of this extreme human suffering.

I endorse wise use of US programs, policies, and funding to address root causes that lead Central Americans to want to leave their home countries in the first place; more economic and political stability in those countries will be good for us as well.  I am even willing to consider some mild level of immigration preference to those who live in our hemispheric neighborhood. Any such preference, however, must be limited and conducted within a normal immigration quota system along the lines of what I described in my earlier post. Using political asylum as a vehicle for skirting normal processes, or just accepting those who show up, is never the appropriate option for rational and humane immigration policy.

Book Reviews Number 58 – 66

Following are the books I have been reading since I last posted to the list:

58)  How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy – Mehrsa Baradaran

The central theme of this book is that nearly half of the American population has been deprived of access to financial services at a fair price because of deregulation of the banking industry. The author presents the case that commercial banks have abandoned the poor and working classes. Their banking needs, which  are mostly for small loans and simple financial services, have been left to loan sharks; those institutions with little banking competition can and do charge exorbitant interest rates, often at annual rates of a few thousand percent. The author promotes the idea of reinstitution of postal banking in the US.

59)  At the Existentialist Cafe – Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails – Sarah Bakewell

The author explores existentialism and phenomenalism through the eyes of Simone de Beauvior, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty ,and other philosophers from the 1920s through the ‘70s. She presents these individuals’ philosophical thinking and influences as well as inconsistencies within the context of their personal lives and relationships with each other.

60)  Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism – Anne Case & Angus Deaton

The authors raise the alarm about a decline in life expectance among white Americans and contrast that with the rates in people of color as well as the experience of other developed countries. They demonstrate through statistical analysis that alcohol, drugs, and suicide are a major source of the declining life expectancy among white Americans between 45 and 54. While loss of jobs security seems to be a key part of the problem the authors present the broader US version of capitalism as a major culprit. The US healthcare system, especially, appears to exacerbate a sense of hopelessness many white Americans feel toward their lives, economic stability, and future.

61)  This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality – Peter Pomerantsev

The author explores the disinformation age and how autocrats have learned to manipulate the electorate; through social media they have become expert at blurring factuality and creating alternate realities. Such behavior confuses and misleads people into believing conspiracy theories and engage in destructive political activities. If you are confident that truth and democracy will ultimately win over lies and dictatorship this book is not for you. 

62)  This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom – Martin Hagglund

In the first part of his book the author conducts a comprehensive philosophical discussion of the concept of a finite secular life versus religious ideas of eternal life; he endorses and his arguments support the secular view as the only realistic one. In the second part he advances a strong philosophical argument that a capitalist economic model is exploitative of the people and undemocratic; he promotes “Democratic Socialism” as a superior model of economic fairness, freedom, and justice.

63)  Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World – Lesley M.M. Blume

The author discusses the US military’s unanticipated severity of radiation poisoning from use of the atomic bomb on the Japanese citizens of Hiroshima and its effort to cover up the truth. The central theme is how a journalist, John Hersey, was able to get the facts, publish the results, and change Americans’ attitude about the bomb.

64)  Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power – Brooke Baldwin

The author was until the end of April a senior news anchor at CNN. She resigned her position to promote women’s equality and empowerment full time. The central theme of her new book is how women can and are making progress in “a man’s world” when they support each other and work together rather than compete with each other. This should be required reading for every woman who wants more from life than to be a stay-at-home housewife. Of course that’s from a dad whose kids are mostly girls.

65)  Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop – Lee Drutman

The author makes the case for how a two party political system with clear and strong ideological differences is not compatible with the structure of America’s constitutional democracy. He argues with convincing statistical evidence how throughout most of our political history until the 1990s the US effectively had four parties: Conservative Republicans, Liberal Republicans, Conservative Democrats, and Liberal Democrats. Mr. Drutman shows that starting in the ‘90s the liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats effectively disappeared, leaving extreme ideological partisanship with an associated breakdown in governance.

66)  How to Avoid a Climate Disaster – Bill Gates

The author provides an educational and persuasive tome on the reality of the dangers to humanity of climate change caused by carbon pollution. He identifies what the major sources of carbon pollution are and what is needed to combat them. He also indicates what tools we already have to fight that pollution and what breakthroughs we need to push if we want to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.