Pillars for a Better America – Chapter 3

Pillars for a Better America – Pillars 7-9


As noted earlier, the list will run up until the inauguration. It is not all inclusive, nor is it presented in priority order. It offers important choices for the new administration to tackle.

This is a mix of domestic and international, of national and regional/local. This list exists in part to address our requirements and shortfalls. It is also exists to encourage dialogue about what we want to be as a country. We need t to get things done.

What Do We Have So Far?

We have started with the first six pillars:

  • Pillar 1: Hunger is Not Allowed
  • Pillar 2: Affordable Medical Care and Drugs – No More Excuses
  • Pillar 3: The Ghost of FDR for Infrastructure and Broad Band
  • Pillar 4:  Benchmarks for Advancing Out of Poverty
  • Pillar 5:  Civil Policing
  • Pillar 6:  Court and Penal Reforms

Let us continue our list.

Pillar 7: Transportation

An easy one to overlook, but one that is one of the connective tissues of modern societies. It affects the quality of life so very much. Unfortunately, it is something we generally do not do all that well in America. We seldom think of transportation as an integral area of life; we just think about going from Point A to Point B. Here are a few areas we could do better, if we so choose.

One, how difficult is it for someone to get to work and back by public transportation? It is not unusual for people to take 2 hours or more, with multiple transfers, to get to work. Or to find that there is no public transport for the times they work. We should have standards on this. Two, how hard is it for people in a county to get into the nearest city? Oftentimes, the link does not exist. Three, how well are seniors supported. How close are bus and subway stops to people’s homes?

Four, how can we make bold use of new technology, especially driverless vehicles. Could we, for example, replace buses with small driverless vehicles, easily called for by passengers, without need for set routes? How well are we doing with enabling people to access and track public transport.

Fifth, how connected is the transport system? Can I go easily from an airport or train system to a bus or metro system? Europe routinely does this well. We seldom do. Speaking of trains, I really hope Amtrak Joe Biden really boost our rail system. Sixth, how best to price transport? No transport system can survive charging full cost for services.

Should it be low cost, or perhaps no cost. Several local governments have made innovative choices on this front.  Good transport changes everything, for workers, for tourists, for all of us. So often in the US, the only people who ride public transport do so because they have no other choice.

We should build systems we all are eager to use. Much more to say on all this, but for another post all about transportation. We can say that with Pete Buttigieg coming into Transportation and Jennifer Granholm into Energy, prospects are very bright.

Pillar 8: Education Costs

I am optimistic that we will make progress on this one in the near term. I like Biden’s approach of finding relief from backbreaking debt but not writing off all such debt for everyone. A means test seems reasonable. So, too, the option to write off such debt in return for public service and setting a percentage of income as a ceiling for repayment of student debt.

Lastly, let’s continue policing the more predatory of private education institutions (Hello, Trump “University”) and financing student debt by the government loan program without layering on banking intervention and fees. I have hopes that Dr. Jill Biden will be a boost to the role and resources for community colleges and skills training not related to college degrees.

Pillar 9: Education for Thinking

It is ironic that much education still seems focused on rote memorization in a time wherein we can easily access more information than we could ever use. We traditionally treat education as a local matter. I challenge the wisdom of that in this interconnected global community that we are all connected to, whether we recognize it or not. A lot of places are innovating, but not enough, it seems to me.

Two things lead my list. First, put priority on education for thinking, specifically for critical thinking. How do we assess new information? Where do we cross check? How do we communicate with those with other views or priorities?

Second, teach how to collaborate and process. Some schools now use homework/at home time for reading and video taped lecture, using classroom time for problem solving, both collaborative and individual. Bravo. That is the future.

We see a country today seized by false narratives, fake news, and false realities. This set of problems is likely to get worse unless we get a grip on the tools (social media, talk radio, etc.) and teach each other how to analyze, argue, and assess. If we don’t start doing better here, many of the other pillars on this list will not happen. May we stop thinking in bumper sticker language!

We Are on Our Way

That is nine pillars so far, twelve more ahead of us. Your comments on the pillars (or deletions/additions of any) are, as always, welcome. The comments that are coming in so are on the first ones are very thoughtful. Email is welcome. But it’s REALLY great when you make your comments in the COMMENT section of this blog, allowing others to enjoy your viewpoints and perspectives. Talk to us!

The vaccines are starting to arrive, but we have dark and stunningly dangerous still ahead. Stay safe, stay well. By all means, stay home for the holidays. By now, better than 1 in 20 Americans have the virus. Every outing carries real risk. Wear the darn mask!

    Bill Clontz

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