AN OPEN LETTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

[This document was written in 2012 during the Obama Administration.  Reading this will give you an idea of the focus of this website.  Nothing in this document has been changed in order for you to compare issues of seven years ago with issues of today and to evaluate changes that may have occurred with the new Administration.  New posts on the website, backbonespeaks.com,  will begin September 2019 regarding the current situation in our country].

This is a document that I have written after serving our country for many years in the military, having exposure to the workings of our government in Washington, D.C., and having the opportunity to meet many people from different cultures around the world.  My wife and I have had the opportunity to travel across this great country and meet many people from diverse backgrounds.  What follows is my general overview of how I feel our current Federal government is not supporting the majority of hardworking, honest Americans.

I don’t expect you to agree with my observations, concerns, and recommendations.  You may not agree with my selection of topics that I think are critical for our country.   However, I believe these topics should be of concern to our country (and especially to you) and should be addressed by those personnel whom we have elected to represent us in government. 

The issues in the current Congressional/Executive Branch [Obama Administration] battle over government revenue, spending, and foreign policy have adversely impacted our status as the world’s leader.  The future of our country, the perpetuation of our opportunity to enjoy the principles and freedoms established by our forefathers, and the continuance of our way of life hangs in the balance.

Let me remind you we live in a Federal Republic.  Article IV of the Constitution “guarantees to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government”.  To put this simply, we have a government that is indirectly controlled by the people through representatives chosen by the people—representatives we chose to exercise their judgment in doing what is right for the country.

It is imperative now that “we the people” let our Congressional Representatives, Senators, and the White House know exactly what we expect from them and, if they do not have the “intestinal fortitude” (guts) to do what is right for this country based upon the principles on which our country was founded and governed, let them know we will not re-elect them to serve as our governmental representatives.

Ninety-four million of you are registered to vote but did not exercise that privilege in the last General Election [General Election 2014].  It is time now for you (what I consider the “silent majority”) to make your voices heard by emailing, writing, or telephoning your Congressional Representatives, Senators, and the White House.  Democrat, Republican, Independent, Tea Party, Libertarian, Conservative, Liberal, different ethnic and culture groups, different religious groups, different sexual orientations, different income groups—none of that matters.  What matters is we are all Americans and we want our governmental representatives to do what is right for our country.

The website, https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials, can be used to contact your Representatives and Senators.  By clicking on your state you can see all your elected officials from local to national.  By clicking on the name of your elected officials, you can see their contact information.  Contact information for the White House is found on the https://www.whitehouse.gov website.

I strongly encourage all of you to contact your Representatives, Senators, and White House.  You might think your voice will not be heard; however, contact information is collected and tallied.  If a campaign is initiated that floods their offices with opinions of their constituents, they will have to take notice.

The topics that follow should be addressed in detail by those persons whom we elected to the Executive and Legislative branches of our government.  If they are unwilling to address these topics and will not publicize in detail why these issues should or should not be considered critical, they should not be elected to public office.  I would ask you to do me the courtesy of reading the entire document and deciding for yourselves if these items are important.

TOPICS

Federal Budget

We have not had a balanced budget in years. With the current Administration we have not had a budget until the recent “compromise” budget. When you spend money that you do not have, you pile up debt. Our country has major debt that is growing rapidly. We need Congress and the Executive Branch to work together for the good of the entire country and take the necessary (and strict steps) to make us solvent. If I don’t pay my bills and continue to use my credit card, living outside my means, I build a massive debt that eventually leads to bankruptcy. Is our country going down this path? It is unless we make some major changes in revenue and spending.

Income Tax/Corporate Tax

The current Income Tax schedule is complicated with many loopholes allowing many people to escape from paying little or no tax. The schedule needs revision and simplification. A flat tax schedule mandating that all entities, personal and corporate, pay some tax needs to be considered. A schedule that is shared across all economic classes but does not hurt the lower income class and does not prevent higher income entities from having the money to invest in the economy needs to be developed. An alternative is a national consumption tax.

The USA has a very high corporate tax rate at 39.5%. This rate should be reduced in order for U.S. companies to have increased capital to use for developing business and jobs in this country, not overseas where many countries have very low corporate tax rates and cheap energy which attract USA companies to relocate.

Entitlement Programs

An entire generation of Americans has now grown up with social programs of welfare, unemployment compensation, healthcare and Food Stamps, etc. There are personnel in this country who, for whatever reason, need these programs either short-term or long-term; however, the associated programs to assist these personnel to become self-sufficient are essentially nonexistent or are poorly managed. The criteria for participation in these programs must be reviewed. Some citizens have conditions which will never allow them to become self-sufficient; others should have “temporary” approval while they are educated and prepared to become self-sufficient. Refusal to participate in these educational programs should result in their expulsion from the programs. Also, if a person is to be supported by tax dollars, permanently or temporarily, they must be required to be drug-free and must be subject to random drug testing. We already have a generation of Americans who have grown up thinking that the country owes them a living. If these “entitlement” programs are not restructured, we will eventually have a majority of the country living off the honest work of fewer citizens. A large percentage of Americans do not pay income tax and participate in entitlement programs funded by the Americans who do work and pay tax. The system will break when over 50% of the country is supported by less than 50%.

Entitlement program benefits into which participating citizens do not make direct payments in specific taxes such as medical assistance, cash assistance, food assistance, and social/housing assistance, if the entitlements were converted into cash payments, are 20% above the median income level which is taxed. The entitlements mentioned are not taxed. This information comes from the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff. In simple terms, people who are working, trying to make ends meet, and are above the poverty line compared to the entitlement population (many of whom are working but are below the poverty line) are supporting the entitlement population. Granted there are many people who legitimately need the assistance (either temporary or long-term); however, there is much abuse of the system. There are roughly 80 federal welfare programs that comprise the single largest Federal budget item and the current Administration wants to increase this spending by 30% over the next four years.

Social Security and Medicare

Social Security was begun when America needed to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression. At that time many working Americans contributed Social Security tax to support one retired worker. Now, the ratio of workers to retirees is much smaller and the “pay as you go” Social Security funding will not last much longer under the current system, especially since the Johnson Administration wiped out the Social Security General Fund.

The Social Security system must be restructured in order to support the Americans who are now paying into the system when they retire, especially those personnel who are nearing retirement age and planned on the support of Medicare and Social Security. The programs need restructuring so they are self-sustaining and will be available for those citizens who are now our children and grandchildren. I do not have an answer to the problem, but I’ll bet that there are economists, businessmen, etc. in this country who can develop a system that will be fair and solvent for many years.

Healthcare

National healthcare is a major concern (access and cost) for the American people. All U. S. citizens should have access to basic healthcare; there are personnel in this country who legitimately cannot afford basic healthcare and there should be a mechanism for these persons to obtain care. The entire healthcare system needs an overhaul including Medicare and Medicaid. However, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is not the answer. Since this Act was interpreted by the Supreme Court to be a tax, it should go back to the House of Representatives to be voted on as a revenue bill. (Revenue bills are supposed to originate in the House; this bill was not voted upon as a tax as it should have been after the Supreme Court decision).

Like Social Security I don’t have an answer for national healthcare, but I’ll bet there are medical professionals, health insurance personnel, economists, and sociologists etc. who can also develop a system in which all Americans can at least obtain basic medical care at a reasonable cost. All of these programs must be critically reviewed and the criteria for being in the programs tightened and closely managed.

Health

Obesity is not a disease (even though the government has deemed it so) but it is an epidemic in this country. This is a result of no longer teaching nutrition in public schools, promoting “fast food”, and not requiring physical education in public schools. I also suspect that what we feed our livestock and poultry have an impact (and not necessarily a good impact) on our nutrition. Obesity coupled with diets that do not have adequate vegetables and fruits along with lack of exercise is associated with increased incidence of cancer compared to people who are not obese, have a diet high in vegetables and fruit, and have regular exercise. Having the government declare obesity as a disease has created a surgical industry of obesity operations. If these programs do not include behavior modification and nutrition education, they will fail. There are people with co-morbid conditions worsened by their obesity and require the surgery to survive, but again, if they had had proper education in nutrition and physical fitness early in their lives, they probably would not have reached the obese state that worsened their conditions that now require the surgery. Also, there are complications, acute and chronic, associated with the surgery and we are already seeing the results of these procedures. This aspect of healthcare needs better oversight.

Energy

Our country is too dependent upon foreign oil. Some profits from foreign oil are presumed to fund terrorist organizations. This country has more than adequate untapped oil resources but US oil companies have not been allowed to develop these resources because of environmental concerns and, possibly, political concerns. This oil crisis should be managed as if it is the 2013 “Manhattan Project”. Develop domestic oil production while simultaneously aggressively developing alternative energy sources. There has to be a reasonable balance between concern for the country’s environmental status and dependency upon foreign governments’ fuel sources.

Environmental Controls

Again, there must be a balance between controlling pollution and keeping this country economically afloat, especially when a large portion of our power generation comes from coal (which we have in abundance). The Environmental Protection Agency must be overseen by the Legislative branch of government. Industry cannot ignore the fact that we do pollute our environment; however, the controls imposed must be shown to be effective, must have a reasonable implementation schedule, and must be overseen with common sense. How we are handling this problem is impacting our credibility internationally as we address global environmental issues.

Recycling

We are a disposable society. Urban areas already have difficulty in handling refuse from private residences and industry. When we were a less populous society, land was available for refuse containment. Recycling and composting is expensive, but not as expensive as it is going to be when we run out of room to dispose of our waste. This goes along with environmental controls.

Infrastructure

If you look at the report of the country’s infrastructure (aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit, and wastewater) done by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009, the overall grade is “D” with an estimated $2.2 Trillion needed over the next 5 years to keep the infrastructure from further degradation and to start improvements. We spent a lot of money to build the country’s infrastructure but have not done a very good job maintaining it. The cost to improve systems, some of which are over 50 years old, is high but cannot be ignored. Our country cannot have a complete economic recovery without a modern, reliable infrastructure to support it.

War

No matter what the current Administration says about the “war on terrorism”, we are still at war; this is a war unlike any we have ever fought before on a global basis. Terrorism (Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups) is not dead, but is expanding throughout the world. Even though our military operations in Iraq have ceased and will be diminishing in Afghanistan, the threat against our country still exists and is not going away; there are active groups globally whose goal is to eliminate our country and our way of life (See Item 12).

Men and women volunteer to join the military for many different reasons: they like to drive tanks, they like to fly, they want to obtain specialty training, they want to qualify for the GI Bill, etc.; the reasons for joining are almost as numerous as the number of individuals. However, there is a common thread that binds these men and women together: they all think that this country is the greatest country in the world and will do whatever it takes to keep the USA safe, secure and on top. These men and women do whatever the country asks them to do. They make sacrifices for our country now in return for future personal financial and health security. During the maneuvering in Congress to attack the budget deficit, the military (approximately 1% of the population) and their families should not be used as pawns. These men and women should not be put in jeopardy (men and women who willingly put their lives on the line for our country) because of mandated cuts that will markedly reduce military capability. To drastically reduce the budget of the Department of Defense at a time of marked global unrest places our country in a position of limited capability to respond to multiple threats.

Islamic Fundamentalism Threat

After the events of September 11, 2001, the Islamic religion became a very visible major player on the world scene. It is the fastest growing religion in the world. The ultimate goal of Islam is world domination, either by violent or peaceful means. The terrorist acts that have occurred (including the recent attacks on U.S. Embassies in the Middle East) have been instrumented by Muslims who practice political Islam. They are a very small minority of the Islamic religion but control the actions of many Muslims world-wide. Europe is already on track to be overwhelmingly Muslim by the end of the century; the USA is not far behind. The use of Islamic Sharia law in the United States received support in 2011 when a Federal judge in the appellate court in Oklahoma blocked the overwhelmingly supported state constitutional amendment to disallow the use of Sharia law (and other international laws) in the legal system in Oklahoma. Wahhabism, considered by some to be Islamic extremism, is funded in USA mosques and in U.S. Islamic schools by the Saudi Arabian leadership; it is not only a religion but also a socio-political organization. To obtain more information about the threat that Islamic extremism is to our country look at Dr. Zuhdi Jasser’s organization, American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AFID) [http://aifdemocracy.org/] and look at his DVD “The Third Jihad”. David Rubin’s book, “Islamic Tsunami” is well researched and worth reading. Look at former Congressional Representative from Florida, Allen West, a U. S. Army officer who was relieved of his duties because of actions he took in the Iraqi war to protect his soldiers. Also, Brigitte Gabriel, a native of Lebanon and founder of ACT! For America, travels the USA speaking out against Islamic religious education in USA public schools; she is considered radical but her presentations are what I would call “where there is smoke, there is fire”; Google her and review her presentation at a Nashville conference on anti-Sharia law.

Immigration

This country was built on immigration, immigrants who came through the “front door” and worked their way into prosperity. We need to continue to encourage immigration, especially immigrants who have needed skills (especially in science, technology, engineering, and math), but it must be controlled. Granting illegal immigrants access to entitlement programs, health care, and public education maligns the honest effort of immigrants who arrived legally and worked hard to achieve success. There is something wrong with granting illegal immigrant children resident status for college education when children of military personnel who are stationed in a state because of military orders cannot be granted the same status (Maryland is an example). The current immigration policy must be revised in a practical and fair manner.

Education

Everyone does not need to attend college, but everyone needs to be able to read and write English and needs to be able to perform rudimentary mathematics. The United States currently lags far behind students in other countries in math and science skills. The “Leave No Child Behind” program should be the “Hold No Child Back” program. The current educational system is geared to the lowest achievers and adversely impacts students who could advance at a much faster rate. Everyone is not in the middle of the bell-shaped curve and the educational system needs a major overhaul to be able to accommodate the educational needs of all students. One of the first areas of overhaul needs to be in the teaching vocation. Teachers should be paid well for educating the future of this country; however, there should be an objective method of identifying good teachers and weeding out the unproductive teachers. Vocational and technical education needs more emphasis, especially when skilled workers in this country are in short supply. Curriculum must be reviewed, especially the Common Core Curriculum and CSCOPE. These programs appear to be aimed more at “political correctness” indoctrination of students K-12 than in teaching these students the basic values and actions that established and made our nation a world leader.

SUMMARY

[Remember, this was written during the 2nd Obama Administration].

There are many areas on which I did not comment; I’m sure that you can add many topics of your own. Our country is now reaping the rewards of many years of financial mismanagement. We cannot keep spending money that we don’t have. We do have to pay for the things that we have taken for granted, things that make our quality of life different from any country in the world. To continue to enjoy our standard of living and quality of life in a safe and secure country is going to require a balance between revenue and expense. There are efficiencies that can be obtained in the Federal government, but it is going to take harsh measures to succeed. Our leaders need to be honest with us and exhibit the required strength of character and willpower to make the hard decisions necessary to pull our country out of this economic abyss. If they refuse to do what is right for our country, our children and grandchildren will not be able to enjoy the freedoms and quality of life that we have enjoyed throughout our lives. If our leaders refuse to do what is right for our country, we should vote them out of office. I urge you to contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators and the President and let them know exactly what you want them to do to get this country back on track as the leader of the free world.

© Backbone Speaks 2013-2015.

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