Welcome to my contemporary issues
page. You have a right to know where I stand on the important
challenges of our day. Each week I will present my thoughts on
a different timely issue.
You may not agree with me on all
the details but you will know where I stand. In future weeks we
will look at these topics:
NEW! A Consistent
Position Regarding the Cherishing of Life
* Social Security Reform
* The war in Iraq: What should we do
* Evironmental Policy
* CAFTA and what it means to us
* The Kennedy-McCain bill on immigration
* Improving education in our local schools
* Freedom from dependence on foreign oil
* Affordable housing in the 6th District
* Jesus and Politics: Compassion and Civility
* True patriotism in times of war
* Making our medical practice more efficient and less costly
I look f write my paper orward to receiving your comments
and suggestions. You may write to me at Scott4congress@hotmail.com.
Position regarding the Cherishing of Life
The life of
every human being is sacred and much more valuable than silver
or gold. Therefore human life should be cherished across the board,
from the womb to the grave. Indeed, I am a Democrat because this
party comes closer than the Republicans in providing a reverence
for life across the spectrum. Democrats want to make good health
care available for all. Democrats are stronger supporters
of education than Republicans. Democrats, much more so than Republicans,
defend a strong safety net for all citizens, especially for those
in need: such as head start programs, school lunches for poor
children, public transportation, and funding for foster care.
(At times, Republicans seem merely to be pro-birth, because they
appear so hard hearted on issues that affect the health and well-being
of children) Democrats, more so than Republicans, tend to be more
respectful of our international neighbors through cooperation
with the United Nations, NATO, the OAS, and international treaties
Aspects of human reproduction are
more controversial. There are sincere people in both the “pro-choice”
and “pro-life” camps. What is sometimes lacking is
clarity of thought and a willingness to find common ground in
order to more fully cherish human life. I invite you to accompany
me as we try to find that common ground.
On the one hand are those who defend
a woman's right to exercise authority over her own body. This
is an understandable argument. Throughout the centuries and in
most societies women have not been considered as equals with men.
They have been treated as second-class citizens. I vigorously
defend that women should have the same rights as men. On the other
hand, a child in the womb is more than merely an appendix. A pre-born
child has the potential for full humanity and therefore should
be cherished. A consistent position that cherishes life across
the board (that both Democrats and Republicans could advocate)
would recognize the truth that exists on both sides. It would
also address the tension that exists when the rights of the woman
and the rights of the fetus come into conflict. I am pro-woman.
I lived over 16 years in Latin America where women are frequently
treated as inferior to men. I have learned many lessons from Latin
American women (foremost among them is my wife Dinorah). I wrote
one book, edited a second, published a third and co-organized
several conferences that promoted the full equality of women with
men in all areas of life. I also cherish the life of the pre-born
child. In fact, I have not met a single person who is pro-abortion.
The overwhelming majority of pro-choice advocates admits that
abortions are tragic, regrettable, and should become scarce. Is
there a place for people on both sides of this issue to work together
to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and therefore reduce
the number of abortions?
Before I propose several suggestions
on how abortions can become scarcer, I will address the issue
of Roe v. Wade because my position has been widely misinterpreted.
On the one hand, any change in Roe v Wade would probably come
from the Supreme Court and not from a Congressional Representative.
I do not believe that overturning Roe v Wade would resolve the
controversy. It would push the issue back to the states where
some states would permit abortions and some would prohibit them.
Women who desired an abortion would just travel to a state that
permitted abortions if their own state prohibited them, or worse
yet, would resort to the back alley.
For those who oppose abortions on
religious grounds, I urge that we follow the example of Jesus.
He seldom appealed to laws and their earthly punishments as a
way to change human behavior. His preferred methods for bringing
about change included clear moral teaching, forgiveness of failures,
communities that would be supportive of people, and the offering
of alternatives for people who were trapped by the system or by
their own mistakes.
Let's now return to policies that
a Congressional Representative could vigorously promote that would
both empower women and cherish life in the womb.
1. I will promote federal funding
of day care centers. The most cited reason for abortions is financial.
Many women choose abortions because they cannot see how they can
raise a child on their limited resources. If day care centers
were readily available so that women could continue their education
and/or work to support their family, they would be more inclined
to carry their child to term.
2. I will introduce legislation that requires insurance companies
to reimburse for the costs of pregnancy and birth. This would
ban pregnancy from being considered a “pre-existing condition”
in the health industry. We can end the discriminatory practices
against pregnant women in the health insurance industry by removing
pregnancy from all “pre-existing condition” lists
in health care.
3. I will promote more robust funding for domestic violence programs.
These programs are vitally important because the leading cause
of death against pregnant women is murder. I will urge additional
federal funding for programs that have received grants by the
Department of Justice for providing counseling and shelter for
women and children in crisis pregnancies.
4. I will urge that adoption credits be made permanent. I will
advocate the repeal of the “sunset” on adoption tax
credits. By making these credits permanent we will encourage some
pregnant women to carry their child to term, then give their child
up for adoption, and thus bring tremendous love and joy to thousands
If Democrats emphasize these kinds
of proposals we will more consistently cherish life across the
board. These policies will find broad acceptance by the majority
of citizens because they empower women and cherish life at the
same time. In this way we Democrats can reshape the debate about
what it means to have a true reverence for life.
The problem: As a fiscal conservative
who believes that large deficits are morally wrong, I oppose President
Bush's privatization plan for Social Security. As he himself has
admitted, his plan would not address the solvency issue and would
increase the federal deficit by $2,000,000,000,000 (that's two
trillion dollars!) to make up for the money channeled into private
accounts. I believe it is immoral for my generation to pass this
massive deficit to younger generations.
My solution: We can address the
problem of solvency in several ways. Here are two of the simplest.
Currently, workers pay the 6.2%
Social Security tax only on their first $90,000 of income-and
not on anything above this amount. What this means is that those
who make $180,000 in effect pay only 3.1% of their income into
Social Security. The bottom line? Those who can afford to pay
more are actually paying less (as a percentage) than their less
well off counterparts. I would propose a modest raise in the income
cap from $90,000 to $140,000, a move which by itself would cut
the projected Social Security shortfall by 40%.
A second easy way to reduce the
shortfall would be to preserve some of the estate tax (at the
level set for 2009) and dedicate it to Social Security. This would
reduce the shortfall by another 27%. Together these two simple
measures would go far toward shoring up Social Security, keeping
it strong for future generations of American workers. Let us honor
the "great generation" by making Social Security work,
not by killing it through privatization.
Freedom and democracy are admirable
ideals, but they must be pursued with wisdom. Going to war without
strong international support, without reliable intelligence, and
without a plan to win the peace is not the path of wisdom.
According to Just War theory, four
main tests must be met before going to war can be considered justified.
As I have written in "Terrorism and the War in Iraq"
our country failed to meet the criteria of just cause, just intention,
legitimate authority, and last resort. Instead of admitting any
culpability whatsoever, our administration grasped for illusive
motives and we are now left with a troubled "nation building"
program, a cause Bush rejected in his 2000 campaign.
Let us face reality head on. Our
soldiers and an increasing number of Iraqi police and civilians
are being killed by a shadowy insurgency. An increasing number
of Iraqi government leaders see our presence as a liability. 80%
of Iraqis would like us to leave their country in an orderly manner-a
goal that all Americans share as well. Together, we should seek
the course of action that would permit Iraq the best possible
opportunity to achieve peace and justice.
Let us renounce any desire to control
Iraqi oil. Let us renounce any goal to have permanent military
bases in Iraq. Let us greatly reduce our embassy staff in Iraq
to numbers comparable to our staff in other countries.
We should inform the Iraqi government
that we will withdraw our troops over the next two years and we
will submit to their precise timetable within those parameters.
If peacekeepers are still needed, Iraq should request them from
the United Nations.
This policy truly offers Iraq a
good chance for peace and justice. It also frees up money to fight
the cesspools of terrorism in more intelligent and more Christian
ways. For example, we could provide $10 billion dollars a year
to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and we could offer the technology
and funds needed to cut in half the 30,000 daily deaths of children
due to poverty and curable diseases. Let us retrace our steps
and get back onto higher moral ground.
Environmental policy is at a crossroads. Decades ago, recognition
of such problems as acid rain spurred the development of many
effective policy mechanisms for their abatement. Air and water
quality improvements have been among the most significant achievements
of federal environmental management efforts since that time. But
recent concerns about the burdens of environmental management
have created a quite different regulatory atmosphere. Many complain
that environmental regulation is onerous, and with the government’s
increasing commitment to free trade, some corporations have chosen
to locate operations in countries with lower environmental standards,
spoiling the international environment while further burdening
laborers at home and abroad. But environmental and economic concerns
need not be at odds. Indeed, many important environmental policy
achievements have also been significant economic accomplishments.
The establishment of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards
was originally intended both to reduce harmful air pollution and
to promote competitiveness on behalf of the United States auto
industry. But while such past accomplishments of federal environmental
policy are significant, important environmental issues remain
to be addressed. And we must do so with concern for both stewardship
and justice—between generations and among members of this
Climate change. Due to the emissions
of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, the average surface
temperature of the earth is increasing with important implications
for the global climate. Left unchecked, climate change will have
significant negative effects both in the United States and abroad.
But while it is a truly global phenomenon, its burdens fall largely
upon the poor of this generation and upon our children and grandchildren.
Climate change is also one of the primary causes of the extinction
of certain species and signals the certain demise of some of the
world’s most charismatic landscapes. The United States emits
more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world and
therefore shares the responsibility to reduce emissions and stabilize
climate. For this reason, we should couple domestic measures with
a renewed commitment to international negotiations for a binding
emissions reduction strategy. A recommitment to multilateralism
in environmental policy should be buttressed by a robust domestic
policy. Fortunately, many state and local governments have developed
climate change action plans and taken other measures that may
prove instructive in planning for national strategies. Reform
in energy and transportation sectors can be an important contribution
to a climate stable future and are among priorities in this regard.
Biological diversity. A biodiverse
future is equally important to the environment we leave to our
children. Unfortunately, research shows an estimated three species
are lost every day. And while this is clearly an issue of environmental
stewardship, its social consequences are significant. Biodiversity
is the linchpin of ecological integrity and many environmental
goods and services are dependent upon it. The Endangered Species
Act is the most significant federal mechanism for promoting domestic
biodiversity. Strengthening the act and promoting the integrity
of protected areas are important means by which to ensure a biodiverse
future in the United States. Attending to the emission of greenhouse
gases—thus supporting a climate stable future—will
also promote biodiversity at home and abroad by addressing two
of the most important causes of extinction: climate change and
increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Air and water quality. Setting minimum
air and water quality levels has been an important function of
the federal government’s environmental policy agenda for
decades. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act remain significant
tools for promoting public health and environmental integrity.
Policies such as these, which regulate pollutant levels, help
to secure a better environment now and for the future. Such regulations
also advance equity in environmental quality between states and
localities; without common minimum quality levels, states and
municipalities could be caught in a ‘race to the bottom,’
attracting investment through the elimination of environmental
regulations. These policies provide for environmental integrity
while being sensitive to issues of economy and social equity.
Environmental justice. Social dimensions
of environmental quality are among the many important facets of
environmental policy. Marginalized and vulnerable communities
continue to suffer disproportionately from environmental hazards.
The federal government can play a significant role in the promotion
of environmental justice. But environmental justice should not
simply be a matter of fairly distributing environmental ills.
Rather, we should carefully consider the ramifications of any
policy for the distribution of environmental quality, ensuring
access to a healthy environment now, as well as in the future.
These issues are complex and challenging.
The role of the federal environmental policy should be to orchestrate
a harmonious relationship between environmental stewardship, social
equity, and economic interests. Policy measures should be sensitive
to all three concerns, reflecting their potential concurrence
and taking advantage of mutual gain at every possible occasion.
My policies are definitely a team
effort. Special recognition goes to my colleague Noah Toly, Ph.D.
candidate at the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University
of Delaware, for his excellent work on this issue.
America Free Trade Agreement. CAFTA follows the same pattern of
free trade provisions implemented in 1994 between Canada, the
United States and Mexico (NAFTA) by lowering trade barriers. If
approved, CAFTA would allow 80% of U.S. exports and industrial
goods to enter Central America and the Dominican Republic duty-free
immediately, while the remaining tariffs would be phased out over
10 years. It would also permit Central American products, like
sugar, to enter more freely into the United States. President
Bush and the Presidents of the Central American countries are
pushing for approval of CAFTA. Although I am generally in favor
of lowering tariffs, I am against CAFTA as it is currently proposed
because it would cause further erosion of U.S. jobs and it would
also eliminate jobs in Central America. Eleven years ago, the
North American Free Trade Agreement was hailed as the panacea
for employment in Mexico and in the United States. The fruits
of NAFTA are now evident. U.S. jobs have been outsourced at an
ever increasing rate, largely ending up in sweat shops where workers
cannot make a dignified wage. There has been a race to the bottom
as nations try to attract foreign capital by lowering the minimum
wage rate in their countries and reducing environmental regulations.
Along the U.S.- Mexican border, workers in the maquiladoras make
about $5 a day, but now even these jobs are being outsourced to
India and China.
NAFTA has also caused many Mexicans
to lose their jobs. 1,800,000 Mexican corn farmers have been forced
to abandon their farms, because they were not able to compete
with the large agricultural businesses. Many unemployed peasants,
unable to work their own farms, naturally migrate northward to
the United States as they try to provide a better life for their
families. Free trade agreements will not be helpful for workers
unless there are strong labor unions abroad and strong laws to
protect the environment.
Free trade agreements have not generally
lived up to their expectations. Jobs have not been created in
the numbers that were hoped for. A more just concept is “fair
trade” in which farmers and other producers of goods are
paid salaries that are sufficient to meet their needs. “Pura
Vida Coffee” from Costa Rica and the “Ten Thousand
Villages” handicraft stores are examples of fair trade in
which the producers and the consumers are treated justly.
For those who want to go deeper
in the topic of globalization, I recommend Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization
and its Discontents (New York: Norton, 2002). Stiglitz won the
Nobel prize for economics, served as Chief Economic Advisor to
President Clinton and was Chief Economist at the World Bank.