Solutions Worth Debating

By Ralph Nader

America has some big problems and it needs equally big solutions. In this current media-frenzied presidential race, the American people are looking to the two major party candidates — Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama — for solutions. However, they are coming back empty-handed as the candidates continue to push their party agendas, speaking in talking points rather than addressing real problems.

Should the candidates care to consider and debate real solutions, they need not work too hard. The country is full of them — applied here and there or ready on the shelf. I propose many in my new book, The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Either candidate is welcome to adopt any of these ideas for ways to improve the lives of all Americans. It is ironic that with the billions of dollars in campaign funds raised in this election, neither party has been willing to put forward solutions to the problems that plague us so.

Here are a few for them.

Let’s start with an issue that Obama and Romney won’t address — the violent and thieving corporate crime wave that has swept the country and drained the hard-earned savings, health and safety of millions of people, with little to no law enforcement. Remember Charles Ferguson, director of the Academy Award winning documentary Inside Job who took the stage to accept his Oscar in 2011 and said: “Three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.” Rampant corporate crime is going to continue unless we start punishing crime in the suites with at least as much fervor and budgets as we do the crime in the streets.

Let’s address Congress, the governing body that has increasingly produced less and rewarded itself more, though it has kept the minimum wage far below that of 1968, adjusted for inflation. I offer two suggestions to this worsening problem — ideas that have always been met with passion and applause when I’ve suggested them at rallies all over the country. First — if Congress and/or the president plunges our country into war, then immediately all age-qualified, able-bodied children and grandchildren of members of Congress are drafted into the armed forces. That’ll concentrate Congress’ pre-war attention on their constitutional duties that they cannot give up to the White House. It’s only fair that if Congress is going to ask the American people to send their sons and daughters to fight and die on foreign soil, they send their own as well. Did you know that during George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, only six members of Congress had children in the military?

Another simple and transformative suggestion is that members of Congress should not give themselves benefits unless the rest of the country is given them as well. No health insurance, no life insurance, no big pensions and fancy gym facilities unless they see fit to provide them for everybody. That’s their job, isn’t it? If we want Congress to work for our best interests, Congress needs to have skin in the game and the moral authority to govern.

Finally, let’s address the issue of civil liberties in America — just recently, Mitt Romney dodged a question about his stance on indefinite detention. These are the very questions that need to be answered by our leaders. For over a decade, the civil liberties of United States citizens have been under attack by the politics of fear. Recall Benjamin Franklin’s famous words, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And so it is, in 2012, the people of the United States find themselves living under the mantra “whatever it takes to protect the American people.” Rampant claims of “executive privilege” and “state secrets” and violations of due process have led to “Big Brother” — The Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, the continued imprisonment-without-trial of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and in the U.S., the invasive TSA agents who harass travelers.

And, of course, the assassinations via drone strikes, including ones on American citizens in Yemen, based on secret grounds by a president acting as prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner and cover-upper. These are wrongs that need to be addressed and righted by the Executive Branch, or if it fails to do so, by an awakening Congress.

Those are just some of the points in The Seventeen Solutions. Now is the time to elevate expectations and take on the greatest challenges that face America. As Romney and Obama incessantly debate the status quo, let us start a new discussion vectored toward action.