Pillars for a Better America, Chapter 7

A Series on Priorities for the Biden Administration


Yes, the last week or so has been pretty dramatic. And we still don’t know the long-term, or even the short-term, outcomes. Wait for it – history is unrolling before us, perhaps in some very big ways.

As if that were not enough, the pandemic is on an accelerating rampage. We were warned not to let our standards relax over the holidays or there would be hell to pay on a national level. Too many of us blew it off. Well, here we are. Hello, Hades.

While we sort all this out, let’s get back to our list of proposed priorities, or pillars, for the new administration. Back to the pillars.

Pillars for a Better America – Pillars 16-18

The standard introduction: This Pillars list will run up until inauguration week. It is not all inclusive, nor is it in any priority – Biden and team can sort that out.

The list is a mix of international, domestic, and regional/local issues. The list calls out our both shortfalls and opportunities. It is also is here to encourage dialogue about what we want to be as a country. We have important work calling us out to meet history head on.

What Do We Have So Far?

We have about 80% of the 21 pillars identified:

Pillar 1: Hunger is Not Allowed                                                     Pillar 2: Affordable Care and Drugs
Pillar 3: Infrastructure and Broad Band                                      Pillar 4: Benchmarks Out of Poverty
Pillar 5: Civil Policing                                                                     Pillar 6: Court and Penal Reforms
Pillar 7: Transportation                                                                  Pillar 8: Education Costs and Access
Pillar 9: Education for Thinking                                                    Pillar 10: Campaign Reform
Pillar 11: Childcare                                                                           Pillar 12: Medical Breakthroughs
Pillar 13: The Environment                                                             Pillar 14: Civics + Civil Discourse
Pillar 15: Election Security/Voter Access

Let’s keep going – three more today.

Pillar 16: National Security for the 21st Century

This is, by definition, way too large a category. But I put it down this way for two reasons. One, this is Biden’s wheelhouse. He has forgotten more on this turf than most of us will ever know. Two, National Security is the essence of intertwined issues and resources. This is especially true in foreign policy. Over compartmentalization here does no good. Looking for the broader whole serves us well. So, how about these for a starter?

One, right wing and white nationalist terrorist groups need to be dealt with. Perhaps you noticed this problem particularly over the last week. Calling these gangs militias is misleading, to say the least. These are a serious threat to democracy. Allowing them to fester only makes them a more ingrained cancer on the body politic.

Two, make some long-term decisions on how we deal with China. There are literally hundreds of issues where we can compete or cooperate. Failing to take the long view will do immeasurable damage. More on this in a separate blog.

Three, rebuild our traditional alliances. Make it known we can be relied upon (easier said than done now). While we are at it, build some new alliances. Focus on shared interests in democracy, opportunity, and ecology.

Four, make it true that mischief carries a price. Those seeking to damage our elections and our electronic infrastructure must pay a terrible price. More on this one later.

Five, rebuild a coalition within the Congress that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” This is more doable than it may seem.

Six, prioritize key vulnerabilities (domestic terrorism, rare materials access, pandemics, etc.) and build solutions, including legislation.

Pillar 17: A Relook at What Should be National vs Local

There will be some real fights on these. Many issues are sacred cows for local control. But the reality is that many such allocations no longer make sense. Children are growing up in a global economy. They are likely to move several times over their lifetimes. Setting educational standards differently for  every township is not working. It is a formula to being a second-rate society.

How long I have to stand in line to vote should not vary by orders of magnitude based on where I live. This is about exercising my citizenship as an American. Being able to have an Obama Care type of lifeboat in some states but not others makes no sense.

Surely by now most of us can agree that health care in 21st Century America should meet minimum standards.

We learned a basic lesson years ago in areas like transportation and air quality. What any of us do has effects on all of us in many areas; national standards make sense. Time to expand that circle in support of equal opportunity and protections.

Pillar 18: IT Security, Writ Large

The security of our IT systems, at every level, remains a joke. The current massive penetration by the Russians is only the latest example. Our elections remain vulnerable. Your personal and financial data is readily accessible. Our infrastructure is dangerously vulnerable to disruption. Imagine air traffic control, damns, nuclear plants, traffic lights all failing at once.

All this has gone on far too long. It’s inexcusable. We need a Manhattan Project type of commitment, between government and industry. We need to solve this problem. Constantly finding vulnerabilities and plugging holes is a stupid track to be on.

We need better engineering and more aggressive postures. We need to make better use of Artificial Intelligence to stay ahead of cyber stalkers. We need government employees and legislators steeped in this domain. Most of us do not know how profound our vulnerability is right now. If you did, you would not sleep well. I don’t.

Our Pillars List is Near the End

Eighteen pillars identified, three more to go. Please continue to share your thoughts, especially online in the COMMENT section.

5 days until the inauguration, taking on another “virus” in America. Stay safe.

Bill Clontz

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