Introduction to New Stuff
Sometime in the future, when I will be long gone, Leaders will be questioning the decisions they made and the decisions others made. The great question will be "How did we let it go this far without doing everything possible to stop it?"
The people who depended on their leaders to make the proper decisions will be polarized between blame and what do we do now....is it too late?
So what is this "New Stuff" segment going to focus on? Good Question. Dire warnings? Recognition of critical signposts in the present? Possible Solutions. Problem acknowledgement (you cannot sell a solution if no one believes there is a problem...brewing or present)?
First we will generate the list. Then we will identify the road-blocks and denials that the list is accurate or possible. And then we will explore possible solutions or at least directions to take to address the issues facing us and those that will be facing our children. The issues that they will inherit because of the actions we did or did not take when we had the reins in our hands.
The List (USA)
The budget: All individuals, all corporations, all government entities have a single fiscal responsibility: spending must not exceed revenue, but if debt is required then the budget must allow for payment of the debt. For the US there are long term obligations that have been created without regard for our ability to successfully absorb them in the future. Some financial obligations are generated by emergencies, war being one of those, natural disasters being another, Global financial meltdowns yet another (although the latter was self inflicted). Defense spending is needed in the difficult global environment we live in, but, that does not mean we can do this war thing forever. Economically, if not for any other reason, we must reign in our defense spending and take great care on where we commit ourselves as well as come up with alterative solutions.
The Aging Population: We are getting older, surprise! Really though, our population is getting older. It is well known that the majority of our medical expense arises in the last third of our lives, more so in the last years of our lives. Serious illness at this late stage is incredibly expensive. Without insurance it is break the bank time for most. All insurance is a numbers game. I am willing to provide insurance (at different risk prices) because I have spread the risk across so many people(most healthy, only a few needing serious care). A few individuals realized a long time ago that without protection most oldsters would need help with their medical expenses as insurance cost and medical costs would rise beyond most individuals and families ability to pay. For all kinds of reasons, some compassionate, some political, government run medicare and medicaid was born. This in turn brought on a new set of financial obligations for the government and of course the tax-payers. It also created one of the many entitlement programs where a benefit became a right which mushroomed into a rather large political football and an unsustainable financial obligation for future tax-payers.
Health cost concerns: When I first heard from the politicians about the needed reform in the Health Care Industry, I assumed they we talking about getting costs under control. I imagined this meant Tort Reform, Malpractice reform, electronic record keeping and transparency, Accountability for services rendered by hospitals, care facilities, doctors. Proper use of technology, for diagnostics and repair, not to satisfy insurance or legal concerns. If I am treated in Detroit and have a problem in Georgia then the doctors have immediate and ready access to my treatment records in Detroit. The emergency room free lunch: Correct the imbalance that this practice creates. To get Hospital cost under control, these costs (those who cannot pay) must not be absorbed by the Hospital but taken care of in another way. The Pharmaceutical industry also needs reform.
Tax Reform: Every new or old politician talks a good game about the US tax code, its complexity, inherent unfairness, loopholes, and the basic fact that it is riddled with (I can't figure out what this means parts), special interest segments, incredible complexity and a complete inability of the average citizen to understand how it works or why it has to be this way. The Government says we must get our financial house in order, the Republicans shout loudly and with great fanfare that the democrats want to spend us into bankruptcy, and of course our ability to adjust our fiscal policy to meet revenue and spending needs is non existent. The simple approach is not implemented ( I make a dollar, I get some services from government, government has to protect me and when necessary help me, so how much do I owe out of that dollar). By the way it does not matter how I use that dollar, to eat, to create a business, to raise a family, it is still a dollar whether I am a corporation, a small business, self employed, rich or not rich. How much do I owe? This owing thing is not very straight forward. Much of the tax code is aimed at supporting selected behaviors. A low long term Capital Gains tax pushes us toward investing in the growth of the businesses that generate jobs, grow the GDP, and provide research and development funding in key areas. A high unemployment tax tempers the desire to willy nilly fire employees. High short term capital gains tax inhibits short term investments. Implementation of the tax code shapes our fiscal behavior in hundreds of ways. The main problem is our revenue (funding the Government) is unclear, so our control of spending is also unclear. The tax code also helps the rich more so than the middle class because the majority of their income comes from investments. So the middle class pays a disproportionate share of the tax as a percentage of income. This is not to ignore cheating which, and I am guessing, cost billions in unpaid taxes. The debates over spending and tax rates, entitlements and subsidies, estate taxes, and others get everyone taking sides and using rhetoric in unproductive ways rather than focusing on the real issues facing this country. The individual(s) that scrap the Tax Code and come up with a sane alternative, who have the guts to admit our taxation system is flawed and change it will become the heroes of future generations.
Resource Management: Do you believe that regardless of technological advances this planet earth has a fixed capacity (resources) that we can tap for our needs (both necessary and somewhat willful)? If you do then having awareness of where those resources are and how they are used would be a good thing, even a necessity. If you do not then we can discuss what we need to create or discover that can supplement what this earth can and does provide. One of the problems is we are divided up into Nation States and not all resources are distributed equally. In most cases we barter our way out of this dilemma but more and more conflict replaces peaceful barter and if the finite resource idea is correct this conflict will only escalate. There is an additional element in this resource management thing, quality of life or living standard spread among a rising population. If as projected the population increases to 9 Billion by 2050 (plus or minus) and if climate change continues along its present trajectory, then serious difficulties can be imagined. This is not catastrophe based thinking, it is awareness that if the US is currently consuming 25% of the worlds resources with .057 % of the worlds population and the rest of the world reaches our standard of living model than something has to give. So much more so when we add 2.5 billion more people to the dinner table. Speaking of the dinner table, it is not only the energy and mineral resources we are discussing. It is Top Soil, water, food production (land and sea), Types of food, food used as fuel, genetic alterations. Every time we "manage" the food chain the long term effects are often not what we wished for. Biodiversity is not an idle concern. Over millions of years life has fought and changed and adapted to become what it is. When we meddle we do so at our peril. It is not just the mono - corn or wheat or oats, it is not just the fisheries or the specialized salmon, it is not just the loss of the bees, it is not just the fact (fact) that we are ingesting pesticides every time we eat, it is the cumulative effect of our meddling and the ignoring of the warning signs. Resource management across the Globe will require political changes, Usage changes, manufacturing and distribution changes, it will require a new look at the United Nations, at Nation States, and it will require a new Global Constitution, implementation of the Rule of Law everywhere. Disaster Assistance, Disaster Aid, Sharing of Technology, Research and Development, Education Programs will not only be unique to the Nation States but specialized programs will be unique to the Global Community. Implementation of the Rule of Law, Disaster Assistance will require a United Nations enforcement arm. As you can see, this Global Community thing is complex and at the moment out of our reach. But, changes are coming, and the right people will become the leaders of the future. These leaders will move us every so carefully into our next phase of civilization, a Global Community aware of the impact we have on each other and on our home, Planet Earth.
Political Instability: When we are getting what we need or need something important to us we (our government) will deal with and support many different leaderships, including dictatorships and some really bad people. When these leaders abuse the human rights of their people, we often turn our heads. Why? For one we cannot police the world, though we often try (very expensive behavior). Two, changing governments is not as simple as oust the old and bring in the new. Three, As people get more and more informed they rise up and recognize the suppression they are living under. They want out from under. So we have not only unrest but out and out rebellion. This instability reaches far and wide, not the least of which is other dictatorships efforts to infiltrate and manipulate the uprisings to their own advantage. It does not help that the most powerful Democracy in the world continues to back dictatorships, either because they have resources we need or they have agreed to protect our back door from other threats to our safety. This is complex stuff and though it appears contradictory to our values as a Democracy better minds than mine feel compelled to do deals with the devil.
Time: The interesting thing about time is the sense of urgency we get when for whatever reason we believe time is running out. Of course time in the literal sense will never run out, at least not in our life time (sorry bad joke). For example the Earth in Cosmic time has been around for 4 to 5 billion years and will if not destroyed by some Galactic calamity last a few billion more. Our Sun has a limited life span, maybe another 5 or more billion years. I myself have only been around for 70 of those years. So who has the time perception problem, me or the earth? The reason I bring this up is our sense of urgency around fixing problems (or just dealing with them) is directly related to our belief in their impact on us in an important time frame....our lives at this moment. Only a few project time past their own lifespan to include future generations. So it is not just recognizing we have a problem, but recognizing that we have a problem now, that needs our full attention, now. Serious climate change is an example. Water and wind in abundance, just not where we need it. Geologic upheaval, causing great disasters. Warming that shrinks the Glaciers that feed the rivers of India, North America, China, South America. Waste management and pollution that does and will continue to cause illness and death all over the earth. The giant question? How do we establish a sense of urgency for a problem that is not perceived as a ticking time bomb?
Getting Along: If I am right and you are right but our rightness is different, who is right? This is only important if my belief in my being right makes you wrong. The pope gathered leaders from all the religions and made some impressive efforts to have a dialogue among equals. This was the part where everyone listened to and even tried to accept the culture and traditions of all other religions. It seems that allowing others to be right in their own space is easier that allowing them to be right in our space. Our history, cultures, and belief systems still divide us even to the point of death. This sense of being the bearers of the Truth causes no end of grief and discord. To find common ground, to really come together, requires each of us to be conscious of our own identity, what makes us who we are, and then give the same courtesy to all others. And then to let it go. Our great question to answer, soon I hope, is to ask ourselves what is more important, to be right, to be isolated, to be separate, or to become an authentic human in the human race, a blessing and not a curse.
Politics and our Government: Term limits, Seniority, Election Finance Reform, Retirement, the End of Amendments not pertaining to the Bill being considered, Voting Rules, Lobby Reform, All spending Bills transparent and voted on independent of other Legislative Activity.
The Global List
The interlocking dilemma: People, Resources, Energy, Nutrition, Fresh Water, Shelter, Disaster Assistance, Education, Purpose, Hope, and the Opportunity to unlock their potential. Every person added to this network increases its complexity and the bias of that individual as well as all others toward self interest. Since we cannot really change the weight of the load humans bring to this planet and onto each other what avenue can we take to balance between the haves, the have nots and those who want it all? Is this a really ridiculous question? Is the pyramid the only symbolic representation we can model our civilization on? Color me crazy but I really do believe that we are capable and smart enough to reconsider our self interest approach to our survival and quality of life. I also believe that we can find the solutions for food and energy and all of our other needs. However between the problem and the solution is an in between period. How we live in that in between period will be our defining moment as a species. This Web Site addresses one of the most important changes we make amongst ourselves as we go forward.
The United Nations: A Global Constitution, the Politics, the Organization, the Military, Funding, Representation
A Global Community(Within the United Nations): the relationships, ownership of resources (land, minerals, waste products)
Agriculture, Education and Technology: Sharing, programs, Global Universities, Rights and Patents, Soil, water, GMOs.
Global Management vs Global Control
The current and historical model of our societies is the pyramid. Hierarchies exist in every organizational structure we create. We either elect our leadership or as in the past leadership is attained by force. For every problem facing our Nation States the solution has always been conquest. Wars riddle our civilization and the idea that we can or should take what we need from others who have what we need has a long history. Even in our Democracy our hierarchical organizations focus the decisions among a small few. It has not been lost on many that even in our Democracy there are constant attempts to dilute the power of our Check and Balance System and focus the power among fewer and fewer people. Our Democracy is messy and there are many who want to make it un-messy. The last ten years show subtle and even outrageous efforts by a few to change the constitution and isolate the Executive Branch from the check and balance system. Even the Supreme Court has played politics with Corporate identity, Patents on life forms and support of legal action to protect those patents.
This paradigm of leadership leaves the rest of the population to follow, resist or get out of the way. Dialogue and diplomacy are our attempts to at least minimize conflict when our interests conflict with another. But either way you cut it, it is always my interest vs yours and if I have all of the power then I make the rules.
While all of this is obvious it illustrates that cooperation among nation states and the balancing act needed to share critical resources is out of our reach at this time. Everyone will logically assume that management of the Earths resources is equal to control of those resources. Global Management cannot be envisioned because it will be assumed a Hierarchical Organization will be formed and Nation State Control will be lost to a Global Government.
The joke on us all is that Governments have taken a back seat to the new power brokers on this earth, the Trans-national Corporations. They effectively own the process. Deforestation, Land Grabs in Africa, Destruction of the rivers and valleys by easy but devastating mining techniques, Industrial Agriculture, Species elimination, continuing erosion of bio-diversity and many others will and have had serious consequences to all of us. While they contribute enormously to our standard of living they have only one check and balance, the consumer. People can be bought, governments can be bought, so the real question is what is the appropriate checks and balances that need to be created to permit Global Management. Is the Hierarchical Organization the only path we can pursue.
When faced with chaos, war, or devastation we all turn to powerful leaders to guide us through. The paradox is that powerful leaders do not all have our best interests at heart and many are themselves led by the crisis of the moment. Many are corrupt, many have good intentions but the system has many buried interest groups who pursue aggressively their own self interest and very quickly convert a visionary into a compromiser. Compromise is not bad but when serious changes need to take place the visionary effort becomes so diluted as to be ineffective.