Do firsthand research on issues
When Theodore Roosevelt was a member of the New York legislature, he accepted a challenge to look into abuses of tenement owners. He was “a good deal shocked” by what he found and championed a bill to correct the abuses.
When Harry Truman was a senator, he traveled to military bases to see for himself if the charges of waste were true.
John F. Kennedy was deeply affected by what he saw in West Virginia while campaigning for president. “I shall never forget what I have seen,” he said.
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When our politicians and think tanks assert that those receiving government assistance grow dependent, is that an opinion or firsthand experience speaking?
Last year I made a review of the Augusta Community Caring Center, where I volunteer. There were a number of people who came in regularly, but even if I counted all of them as “taking advantage of the system” (which is a questionable assumption), they still represented less than 8 percent of the people we helped.
As a United Methodist, I have been profoundly influenced by the teachings of John Wesley. After visiting the poor, he said, “So wickedly, devilishly false is that common objection, ‘they are poor because they are idle.’” On another occasion he said, “One great reason why the rich, in general, have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them.”
I would like to see our politicians, and we the voters, do a little firsthand research on issues such as poverty, education and taxation. Let us make more of an effort to speak from experience than from ideology.
The Eagle did not report the recent U.S. News and World Report ranking of U.S. high schools, but it is worthy of note. The highest ranking of a high school in Kansas was 1,413th. The state was ranked 45th out of 50.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Kansas was admired for providing one of the best public educations in the country. But you get what you pay for, and state lawmakers do not want to pay for excellence in education. Do all their children and grandchildren go to private schools or live in other states?
1940 saw the end of the Great Depression as the United States manufacturers geared up to produce weapons of war. At that time, the U.S. economy was about 25 percent of the world’s total economy, as it had been since 1900. The U.S. produced war supplies to fight on two fronts and provided the supreme Allied commanders for both fronts. U.S. servicemen became warriors to defeat Germany and Japan.
The U.S. had now become one of the great powers in the world. Scholars declared the American Century had begun in 1941. In 1946 the U.S. economy was 50 percent of the world’s economy. The country moved forward to embrace new opportunities that evolved from science, engineering, medicine and space. It also realized major advancements in its social structure.
Now, three-fourths of the way through the American Century, the United States is still the greatest power on Earth. European, Asian and African countries have unresolved problems that weaken them.
Except for Kansas, with the sitting Republican governor and Legislature – and now, alas, the Sedgwick County Commission – retreating and pulling Kansas out of this American Century. They are embracing ideologies that ignore macroeconomics, which enabled the progress of America, and focusing only on shortsighted “budget” matters, which is our loss. They seem to love single-issue debating.
Blame for this in Kansas lies with those of the electorate who sat on their hands (or whatever) and failed to cast ballots in the election.
A letter contended that “rights, all rights, come with responsibilities,” and cautioned that ignoring this diminishes our “respect for that basic concept of civilization” (May 21 Letters to the Editor).
But our nation’s Supreme Court has already altered that “basic concept” of “rights” and “responsibilities” with the Citizens United ruling. Rights without responsibilities can now be bought with money paid anonymously to a congressional representative’s campaign.
Just as rights can be bought, so responsibilities can be shirked.
The responsibility for oil spills, or earthquakes accompanying fracking, can be denied, excused (lacking scientific evidence) or apologized for simply by instructing the legal and marketing departments to “clean this mess up.” The public is told things will be handled promptly, with care for the environment, and that damage will be contained – therewith, the limit of the corporation’s “responsibility.”
We live in a world where “rights” and “responsibilities” are now disentangled: One does not require the other. Our “basic concept of civilization” in our “social media” (virtual) world, is upside down. The top 1 percent have rights without consequences. The lower 99 percent have responsibilities for the consequences.
And the courts? They’re too late. The Constitution? Words can be reinterpreted – for a price.
ALAN N. REEDER
Regarding “Congress needs to grant fast-track authority,” about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (May 16 Opinion): Columnist Charles Krauthammer objected that “complex, detailed horse-trading” carried out in the open – “especially with multiple parties” – seemed unlikely to achieve agreement. That’s probably true.
The TPP may offer potential benefits to the United States – such as reducing tariff barriers to Asian markets and strengthening protections for intellectual property. And it sounds good – up to a point – to say that Congress’ proper role can be fulfilled by a non-amendable up-or-down vote.
But this nation can’t afford a repeat of the World Trade Organization agreement under President Clinton in 1994, with only three or four days for debate and no copies of the 1,500-page agreement – or 20,000 pages of “side agreements” – available for “our representatives” to examine before voting up or down on it.
Twenty years under that WTO agreement brought the U.S. trade balance and general economic condition to new lows. Our sovereignty was badly compromised. Despite legitimate concerns about safety of food and other products from certain other nations, secretly negotiated WTO provisions prohibit labeling “nation of origin” for products.
“Negotiated in secret” is one thing, but complete disclosure, adequate discussion and public debate are essential before any vote – up-or-down or otherwise – is held.
It has become more and more apparent over the past few years that the Legislature is a dysfunctional body.
In my opinion, we don’t need 165 people to govern a state with fewer than 3 million people, when our lawmakers don’t do anything but try to micromanage our lives until the last two weeks of the session.
The answer is in the state on our northern border. Nebraska has a one house, or unicameral, nonpartisan government. It has a total of 49 legislators who can serve two four-year terms before they have to stand aside for a term before they can run again. They have a 90-day session one year and a 60-day session the next. I haven’t seen anything in the news about the kind of problems in Nebraska that we have in Kansas.
I know promoting this would be a challenge, because the people now running the show don’t want to give up their jobs, but something has to happen.
I don’t know if this will fix all our problems, but it would sure make the failure we have now a lot cheaper.
Not world cops
The United States must stay out of the Mideast disputes until Mideast authorities (and especially armies) show enough guts to stand against ISIS. If they won’t defend their own homeland, why should we? Americans aren’t worldwide policemen.
KEVIN D. PLESS
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