By Ralph Nader
I wish to declare the principle of political equivalence as grounds for the moral authority to govern through shared benefits and sacrifices between these in Washington, D.C. who rule and the citizens who are ruled.
Two simple, short bills in Congress will illustrate this major way to improve the quality of public deliberation, enhance the well-being of the populace and provide equity, now sorely lacking as the gap between Congress, the White House and the people widens recklessly.
The first legislation would state that anytime the Congress and the White House plunge our country, either constitutionally or unconstitutionally, into a war or significant armed conflict beyond our borders, all age-qualified and able-bodied children and grandchildren of all members of Congress and the President and Vice President will be conscripted immediately into the armed forces.
President George W. Bush, who took our country into an illegal, continuing war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 on a platform of lies, deceptions and cover-ups, has caused the loss of 4,200 American lives, 100,000 injuries and over one million civilian Iraqi lives.
At $14 million per hour, plus the long term expenses, this war will cost taxpayers three trillion dollars according to Nobel Laureate economist, Joseph Stieglitz. Imagine how many public facilities throughout America such a sum could repair, expand and modernize. Imagine the well-paying jobs in every community.
Mr. Bush has stated often that the Iraq war and occupation has been “worth the sacrifice.” By whom? Certainly not the Bush and Cheney families. Their children, starting with Jenna and Barbara, are enjoying their comfortable lives far from the horrors inflicted on that distant country and its people.
The clear anticipation that the politician’s offspring be at risk or, at the least, be very inconvenienced by commencing their military career, would induce much more careful public deliberations on Capitol Hill and in the White House.
As long as the political rulers, with the savoring corporate profiteers by their side, can send other young Americans to die and kill – mostly poor whites, African Americans and Latinos—they will be more susceptible to be swept by emotions of giving over their constitutional responsibilities to presidential warmongers who bully and stampede them toward funding violent follies.
Equivalence would provide members of Congress with incentives to avoid the triad of being gutless, spineless, and deliberately clueless so as to acquire deniability.
The second bill would stipulate that no member of Congress, and no President, Vice President or Cabinet member would have any health insurance, pension or other benefits until all Americans are provided these long overdue essential benefits of a giant, modern economy.
With such equivalence, members of Congress would not be so cavalier about indexing their salaries to inflation but denying such to the federal minimum wage now wallowing at $6.55 per hour. Inflation-adjusted since 1968, when labor productivity was half of what it is today, the minimum wage would now be $10 per hour. Even at that level, it would still be far less than the $100 per hour, including benefits that Senators and Representatives now receive.
In the nineteen thirties, John Maynard Keynes thought it would not be long before high-productivity economies would solve what he called “the economic problem.”
After World War II, Western European peoples, rising from the ruins of that conflagration, secured for themselves universal health insurance, decent wages, decent pensions, four-week paid vacation, paid maternity and family sick leave. Most of these nations abolished the chronic poverty such as that which exists and is growing in our country.
Who will introduce these two legislative bills? Congressman Dennis Kucinich? Senator Russ Feingold? Will readers of this column communicate with their members of Congress about the wondrous effects of political equivalence on a much needed sense of community between the rulers and the ruled?
-Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.