Change we need at a time when we need it
In the past few years, progress has come slow in North America, if it has come at all. An extremely Conservative Government in Canada and a Tea Party controlled House in the United States has made nearly all attempts at enacting progressive changes impossible.
2013 was a great year throughout most of the United States for the LGBT community. It was a good year if you were an American still lacking affordable health insurance. A few small victories however is still pocket change to someone like me.
We need to make 2014 our year. While I can write a book on the Progressive changes I’d like to see, especially where I live, here are the main five we need to make. It might seem like a wish list, but we can make it happen.
Peace with the Middle East
I know what you’re thinking, the first one is a pretty tall order. Perhaps, but I’m not just referring to peace between Israel and Palestine. I’m talking about withdrawing from Afghanistan, making peace with Iran, etc.
Domestic policy might seem like a priority these days, and it is, but the world doesn’t stop because we have personal problems. Now more than ever, the US has an opportunity to make up for its past mistakes and be an honest broker for peace.
Over the last few decades, the United States has made many enemies in the Middle East by waving and dipping their fingers where they don’t belong. What better way to reconcile some of these transgressions than by moving toward peace with Iran? Arguably their greatest enemy of the last thirty plus years.
Unless you live in the state of Colorado or Washington, marijuana is still illegal and punishable by fine and/or jail time. While there has been progress when it comes to marijuana legislation, the road is still long and rough. For a drug that harm’s no one, the social harm of keeping marijuana prohibited can be… high.
Think of the 5.9 million Americans who can’t vote, largely due to bogus drug convictions. How about being denied work based on those same convictions? Marijuana constitutes almost half of all drug arrests and disproportionately affects minorities.
According to Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron, the legalization of marijuana would save tax payers $8.7 billion annually. That’s a lot of money that can be better used to build and fund drug clinics for people who want to stop. It’s time we changed our priorities.
A Minimum Wage Raise
Stuck making $7.25 an hour? The United States has one of the lowest minimum wages among developed economies. Only Japan and Spain trail the US in how much the lowest paid workers make, compared to the rest of the workforce.
A man or woman living on minimum wage ($14,500) lives below the poverty line for a family of two ($15,130). Politicians need to realize the working poor is forced to rely on public assistance to survive. By raising the minimum wage to a livable salary, millions of people will be able to fend for themselves and save tax payers millions, if not billions of dollars.
Raising the minimum wage is just common sense and should be the easiest among these five progressive changes to accomplish.
This one is probably more wishful thinking than anything, but it is also the most important. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, the only way to get money out of politics in the US is with a constitutional amendment.
In MovetoAmend’s words, we need “the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.”
The only real way to bring serious change to the country is to take the trough away from the pigs. Take the corporations out of the picture and see what happens when the country is once again ruled for the people.
Publicly funded elections is the only real solution here, but one thing at a time. If you have not signed on to movetoamend.org’s petition to amend the constitution or heard about their cause, I encourage you to do so. The only people who can change the constitution is you.
A Democratic House of Representatives
If Barack Obama wants to avoid being a lame duck president his last two year in office, the Democrats have to take back the House in 2014. In fact, if this past year has proven anything, it’s that nothing gets done when Republicans control any part of government.
During the government shutdown earlier this year it looked as if a Democratic House was a sure thing. Too bad nothing in Washington is that simple. In order to win, Democrats, liberals and progressives of all shapes and sizes are going to have to get out and vote like they’ve never done before.
They will first need to overcome Republican voter suppression efforts. They will need to vote in overwhelming numbers to overcome gerrymandered voting districts. It will not be easy to be sure, but if we fail, all possible attempts at change and progress will be lost for the next few years.
The first three progressive changes I mentioned hinge largely on a Democratic victory this coming year. Even then it might not be enough to see the change we need. It’s up to all of us to keep fighting the good fight.
So, here’s to another year of conversations, arguments, protests and fighting for what you believe in. May your 2014 be a progressive one.