Dear President Obama, Senators Grassley and Harkin, and Representatives Loebsak and Braley:
Now that the election has been decided and each of you will be serving our nation during the course of the next two years, I want to share my thoughts on issues that I hope you address. I know these are difficult issues, and not ones that politicians seem to want to avoid. Nevertheless, I think these are the issues that are in desperate need of appropriate action:
1. Economic Growth & Not Austerity as Our National Goal. We need to assure the long-term fiscal health of our nation, but we need to make sure that we do not torpedo badly needed economic growth and the restoration of good jobs in our nation. Going over the fiscal cliff would be among the stupidest decisions that our nation could make at this time. The main legitimate concern with the deficit comes from rising healthcare costs, and to the extent that controlling health care costs demand further attention, that issues should be addressed. We also need tax laws that benefit more than just the wealthiest Americans. Wealthier Americans need to accept a tax increase as a part of long-term fiscal stability. We always need to consider the efficiency of government and the appropriateness of programs, but slashing government programs at this time the kind of austerity that we’ve seen failing Britain and Europe and that would likely prove disastrous here.
2. Campaign Finance Reform. We need to reform our campaign finance system. Each party and each candidate and each PAC spends immense amounts of money on campaigns that usually sully the public discourse and that do not benefit voters. Much more importantly, each of all of us know that money talks, and that your honorable intentions notwithstanding, those who pay the piper call the tune. In the immediate aftermath of Watergate and the corruption of the political process that we experienced during that era, we had campaign-finance reform that did a reasonable job of leveling the playing field. That reform has now been hacked away and no longer provides us with meaningful protection. No billionaire, liberal or conservative, should be in a position to buy an election. An immediate change in our campaign finance system is imperative if we maintain the integrity of our political institutions. I don’t have an easy answer on how to do this, but this is an issue where Republicans and Democrats should find common ground if each side acts in the interest of American political institutions and not with an eye towards short-term advantage for their respective party.
3. Reasonable Firearms Regulation. The availability and abuse of firearms in the U.S. is disgraceful. As a resident of Iowa City over more than 30 years, our prosperous and generally law-abiding community as seen too much gun violence, and we are normally a sedate and happy group of people. As I’m now abroad, I am shocked and ashamed to read of continued gun violence in the U.S.: innocent victims are mowed down by individuals who’ve have quick and easy access to firearms. I won’t ask you to repeal the Second Amendment (although I would support repeal and replace it with something much more understandable and reasonable—I’m not talking about banning or confiscating firearms.) However, I understand that repealing the Second Amendment is implausible. Instead, I do urge you to take every reasonable step to regulate firearms, as we do automobiles, pharmaceuticals, and any other number of items that could prove lethal. There are reasonable ways to do this, and both parties should be able to find some common ground as they did in the past to make some reasonable regulations that protect Americans from the random violence.
4. Action on Global Climate Change. Global climate change is no longer an issue that we can pretend doesn’t exist. The presidential campaign attempted to ignore it, but then came Sandy. I applaud President Obama for his acknowledgment of the issue in his victory speech. We must get past the head-in-the-sand approach that we’ve been taking and begin to think about how we can best address this common threat to humanity. It’s time for the U.S. to become a global leader again; not a laggard.
5. Avoid Wars. We must avoid military adventures as much as possible, acting only when no other option exists and when we are compelled to act by a very clear definition of our national interest (and not any other nation’s). This does not deny the importance of our allies; rather, if we act foolishly and continue to diminish our national resources on wasted wars we do no one any favors except those who would benefit by a diminishment of our capabilities.
Gentlemen, thank you for your continued service. I wish you the strength and courage that addressing these issues require. Thank you for your consideration.
Stephen N. Greenleaf
Permanent address: 345 Magowan Ave., Iowa City, IA 52246
Temporary address: 4 Bhawani Singh Lane, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India 300005