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A "21st Century Vision for America" is a document that describes our country as most Americans would want it to be. It envisions an America that cares about people, protects our rights, provides opportunity for all, nurtures its lands and waterways, and serves as a good global citizen. This America serves as a beacon and model to the rest of the world, reminding everyone of what is possible when people of good will come together to do what is right.
Written by Gary J. Evans, PhD, President, CVR/IT Consulting LLC. Dr. Evans has degrees in biology, psychology, and pharmacology. He currently is consultant and teacher in the areas of project management, business analysis, and project portfolio management. This document is a product of his deep concern about the current state of American politics. For more about Dr. Evans work visit the 21st Century Vision for America Facebook Group and follow on Twitter.
Table of Contents
- Defining America
- Inalienable and Constitutional Rights
- An Economy that Creates Jobs and Pays a Living Wage
- Healthcare for All
- Making High-Quality Education Available and Affordable
- Elections We Can Trust AND Easy Voting
- Equal Protection Under the Law
- Criminal Justice Reform
- A Safety Net that Works
- Respect for Life
- Women’s Rights
- Promoting Global Stability with Good Foreign Policy
- War and Peace
- Keeping Americans Safe from Terrorism, Foreign and Domestic
- Immigration Reform
- Environment: Clean Air and Water; Protecting our Natural Heritage
- Science: Foundation for Good Policy and Human Welfare
- Government that Works for the People
- Taxes that Make Sense
- Protecting American Consumers
- Political Parties that Put America First.
- Religious Freedom
- Balancing Gun Ownership with Public Safety
- Improving Relations with Native Americans
- Why this document?
- Note to the Reader
Today, there seems to be some consensus that we want an America where “…everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.”1 That kind of America:
- Has a government that works for the people, rather than the other way around.
- Provides enough opportunity that everyone can hope to better their lives if they put sufficient effort into it.
- Honors the rights and freedoms that Americans have come to expect.
It’s an America that cares about people, nurtures its lands and waterways, and serves as a good global citizen. That America serves as a beacon and model for the rest of the world, reminding everyone of what is possible when people of good will come together to do what is right.
This document attempts to describe that America. Our rights and freedoms, and the workings of government with respect to criminal justice, the economy, consumer protections, the environment, and much more are all described in sufficient detail that a picture emerges of an America that every one of us can be proud of.
Each of over 20 topics starts with a brief description of context and then breaks into a series of bulleted statements. Each statement describes what we hope for in our country. This document is aspirational; much of what is described does not yet exist. It creates a vision of a possible future. All statements are phrased as if that future is already a reality so that we can more easily imagine the America we all want.
This document is not complete; it leaves room for expansion and detail. As we fill in that space, our vision for America will become more clear, and from that, we should gain better insights on how to move forward.
As you read this document, you may find that you disagree with some statements. That’s to be expected. What may surprise you is how much of this document resonates with your own principles, and this is what gives us hope. Most people will agree with most of this vision for America. So, focus on what you can accept. If we choose to work together where we agree, in time we will find a way to resolve our differences.
As an individual, please send us your suggestions on how to improve this document. As a defined group, consider adopting this vision document as your guide, or creating one of your own based on this one. Then start thinking about how we can meet these goals, and let us know what you have planned.
We all want a better America. Let’s turn this vision into a reality.
We can do this.
A 21st Century Vision for America:
Guiding Principles for a Great Nation
The following rights are asserted in the Declaration of Independence or guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Some rights are described here, while others (marked with an *) are covered in later sections of this document.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
- These are inalienable rights that no government may infringe upon.
- Each American is free to live their own life.
- Each of us can dare to dream, and then act on that dream.
Right to Freedom of Speech
- Freedom of Speech is the law of the land and applies to every person.
- No one has the right to tell me what to think, what to say, or how to say it.
- I can speak freely without fear of prosecution.
- America has a free press that can investigate and write about anything, including what civil authorities have done or are planning to do.
Right to Freedom of Assembly
- We do not need the government’s permission to gather in peaceful, public assembly.
- We can demand an accounting of any elected official or government office.
Right to Own Property
- Every American can own property, whether real estate, goods, or other.
- Government may not take the property of an innocent person without just compensation.2
Right to Privacy
- We have the right to keep our lives private.
- No one, including civil authorities, has a right to intrude on my privacy.
- There can be no search without a warrant. Internet privacy is secure.
Right to Just Treatment in the Courts
- Every American has a right to speedy trial by jury.
- Once acquitted, no one must face the same legal charges again.
- No one can be forced to incriminate themselves.
- Government may not impose cruel or unusual punishment, or levy excessive fines.
* The following are described in later sections of this document
Right to Freedom of Religion *
Right to Vote *
Right to Transparent government *
Right to Safety *
The remainder of this document describes freedoms and government services that go beyond those granted in the U.S. Constitution. Some might call these new freedoms and services “rights,” but they are not permanent as long as they are granted by laws that can be repealed. Rights receive a degree of permanence when they become part of a constitution, more so at the federal level than state.
Economies don’t just happen; they are designed. It is time for America’s economy to work to the benefit of all. We call for economic policies that put more emphasis on job creation. We call for a fair living wage so that more workers can become self-sufficient and lead a productive life without government assistance. We look for an economic revival in our rural communities.
In our America:
- Employers with a large minimum-wage workforce no longer get corporate welfare, where the government effectively paid a significant portion of workers’ salaries through social programs.3
- Every job pays enough so that working families are not dependent on social services, and indexing will keep it that way.
- Because a living wage allows families to pay their own way, there is less need for welfare and other support programs. This has reduced government spending.
- Employers are acting on incentives to create better paying full-time jobs with benefits, rather than a greater number of part-time jobs.
- More money in more people’s hands has boosted the economy.
- Federal policies are designed to increase the number of jobs.
- Trade agreements seek to establish good trade policy with international partners in commerce while creating employment for the American workforce.
- New economic policies favor long-term growth, which provides greater reward to workers and consumers, but less short-term gain for shareholders and CEOs.
- The massive shift to renewables and non-fossil fuel cars is creating jobs.4
- Stock buy-backs and similar practices are controlled so that corporate profits once again recycle back into company growth and higher wages.5
- Government is creating jobs by investing in America’s infrastructure.
- Government routinely takes steps to encourage a robust, sustainable economy while taking care to minimize its interference in the free market.
- Federal and state policies boost the private sector (e.g., Energy Star)
- Broadband internet is as available as electricity in support of education, telemedicine, and personal security (e.g., 911 access). Net neutrality is secure.
- Regulatory safeguards walk a fine line between maintaining a robust capitalist system and reining in those unsafe, unsound, and unfair practices that unfettered capitalism has been shown to favor.
- Government has taken steps to reign in financial sector behavior that can harm the economy (e.g., Dodd-Frank safeguards have been improved).6
- Small businesses and rural communities have benefited as policies that give disproportionate advantage to large corporations are eliminated.
- Any company too big to fail is broken up so that risk to the economy is reduced.
Americans, by a large majority, believe that everyone should be able to get medical care when they need it.7 It is also true that virtually every other developed nation provides guaranteed healthcare to their citizens. It is time that America catches up with the rest of the world.
In our America:
Every American has guaranteed access to affordable healthcare.8
- This includes lifelong access to affordable medical, dental, vision, and psychiatric care.
- Healthcare professionals can earn enough to make it worth their while to serve patients through government programs.
- Agreements that had given commercial organizations unfair advantage when dealing with the government have been rewritten.
- e.g., Medicare and Medicaid have negotiated better prices from the pharmaceutical industry.
- Wellness programs for the people and effective care incentives for providers have reduced the overall cost of healthcare.
- A private insurance market continues to flourish by offering supplemental insurance programs and by managing claims for the government.
Americans today are looking for improvements in public education. They are seeking alternatives for students with special interests, or where public schools have proven inadequate. Parents expect their children to have an effective learning experience that can lead to successful careers. Employers want high school graduates to be properly prepared for work or college. In a world where post-high school education is expected, students looking for affordable options.
In response to this, government has agreed to improve public schools, to supplement those schools with effective alternatives where needed, and to make higher education available to all.
In our America:
- Every American is offered sufficient free education to get a decent job.
- Students Pre-K to 12 can choose between public and other types of schools.
- Tuition-free programs (e.g., distance learning, internships) are available that provide vocational, trade, or technical skills training, or lead to a college degree.
- America has created a first-rate education system.
- Public schools have sufficient funding to deliver an effective learning experience.
- Public school teachers receive adequate pay, plus funding for supplies.
- Excellent teachers are celebrated. Poor teachers are removed from the classroom.
- School administrators who cannot perform adequately are replaced.
- Charter schools (and similar institutions) must:
- Operate in compliance with high standards to avoid known problems.9
- Provide the same educational opportunities to anyone who applies, including those with special needs, or face closure.
- No public funds are used to teach discredited science (e.g., Intelligent Design).
- Public schools have minimized student prosecution that feeds the pipeline to jail.
- Student loans are affordable, with low-interest rates and supportive payment plans
- Government no longer makes money on student loans.
- Public programs provide some financial support for adult-education.
- Public museums and libraries are kept open and free to promote lifetime-learning.
Holding elections is one of the most important government functions. Elections must be fair, open, auditable, and trustworthy. Where there are legitimate concerns (e.g. foreign hacking of voting machines), officials should take action to make our elections secure and accurate. However, no action may be taken that keeps any citizen from the polls. No barriers to voting are acceptable. We believe that we can eliminate concerns about voter fraud AND make it easy for everyone to vote.
In our America:
- Every American citizen of age has the right to vote.
- Registration and voting procedures ensure that every citizen eligible to vote can vote without hindrance or delay (e.g., automatic registration; early voting; same day voting; plentiful polling stations; absentee ballots).
- Steps have been taken to eliminate concerns about voter fraud (e.g., paper ballots at every polling place; random post-election recounts and ballot check).
- Voter fraud protections do not interfere with anyone’s right to vote.
- Both voter fraud and intentional voter suppression are criminal offenses.
- All voting machines susceptible to hacking have been replaced with secure equipment.
- Candidates for high office (e.g., President; Governor; all in line to replace) must make public the most recent 10 years of their Federal Income Tax returns.
- All candidates for state or federal elected office are asked to voluntarily take a civics test to prove that they understand at least the basics of governmental function.
- Elected officials cannot accept money from any lobby while in office.
- Elected officials must wait 10 years after leaving office before becoming a lobbyist.
- The influence of big-money donors has been limited.
- Citizen’s United has been overturned.
- The impact of Political Action Committees and similar groups has been curtailed.
- The Electoral College now operates in a way that better reflects the popular vote.
The civil rights movement in America began as a bold attempt to eliminate the white supremacy and bigotry that had become embedded in American law and culture. After significant struggle, laws were passed that made illegal all discrimination in housing, employment, and commerce based on race, age, gender, religion, and national origin. Over the past 50 years, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community have gained protections in law never before seen, and it seemed for a time that we were making progress. Unfortunately, that progress has proven to be partially an illusion.
The laws remain, but attempts by white supremacists to make a comeback reveal that racial bigotry had only become hidden. Regular incidents of casual racial bias never really went away; people of color still encounter discrimination on a daily basis, and have come to fear any encounter with the police. Structural racism continues to be an obstacle in the lives of many. A large part of our population has been unaware that any of this is happening.
It could appear that the civil rights movement, in the end, failed. But this is not entirely true.
It is a legacy of the civil rights movement that a majority of Americans fully supports the goal of universal civil rights today. There is slow but steady growth in awareness of racism in all its forms. In the face of persistent bigotry, people of all races work together to protect and extend hard-won protections. Those who would set America back falter. There is much reason to hope that, in the end, love will overcome hate.
Our Vision for America fully embraces the concept of equal protection under the law, and we would see it extended to every American. We envision a time when bigotry and discrimination, on whatever basis, are behind us.
In our America:
- Every American, regardless of who they are, has equal rights under the law.
- By default, government at all levels treats every American equally in all matters regardless of race, gender identity, ability, age, religion, national origin, and more.
- No person may be needlessly harassed by the police or any government official.
- It is always illegal to discriminate against another person. Anyone. Anywhere. Ever. Period.
- All discriminatory laws have been repealed (e.g., laws that target trans persons).
- Anyone who is capable of serving in the military has the right to do so.
- All laws and government practices that place an unnecessary burden on specific groups (e.g., by race, gender, gender identity) have been eliminated.
- Federal and state laws respect all marriages regardless of the genders involved.
- Every American receives equal pay for equal work, and has equal access to job opportunities and advancement.
- Religious (or non-religious) beliefs cannot be used as the basis for discrimination.
- As Americans, we respect the rights of others even when we disagree.
America has developed a model criminal justice system. Trial by jury, Miranda procedures, and the rule of habeas corpus set standards that other countries strive to follow. The national crime rate has fallen steadily for years, and safety officials generally do an outstanding job of maintaining order. However, systemic problems exist that must be resolved.
People of color question why they have so many needlessly difficult encounters with police and other authorities. They wonder how the police can consistently escape without consequence after shooting and killing black men and women who were doing no wrong. All of us should be concerned that minorities disproportionately fill our country’s prisons, with profound repercussions in their communities. We should object when individuals guilty of only minor, victimless crimes are imprisoned. We should realize the cost to our nation and its people when millions of people, guilty only of trivial offense, nonetheless carry an arrest record that can destroy their ability to find and keep a job. All of this is avoidable. Improvements in our system of justice are needed.
We believe that reductions in both the number of arrests and the incarceration rate can actually improve safety on the streets10. We call for improvements in police training and tools so that civilian encounters can be less violent; so that people of color no longer need fear interaction with the police. We feel that America can benefit from the implementation of drug policies that have worked so well in other countries.
In our America:
There are fewer people in jail.
- Authorities are committed to the prevention of unnecessary arrests that can unnecessarily harm reputations and lives.
- Obsolete and unnecessary laws are being stricken from the books.
- Municipalities are no longer allowed to use the criminal justice system as a money-making operation.11
- Safety officials are being trained to stop harassment and to avoid nuisance arrests.
- There is greater emphasis on rehabilitation, rather than long-term incarceration.
- Those who had been imprisoned for minor crime have been released and are either free, on parole, or are engaged in community service as a substitute.
- We are making it easier for parolees to find work and avoid reincarceration.
It is understood that police work can be dangerous, but all too frequent deaths from police shootings in recent years have left many Americans, especially people of color, feeling that they cannot trust the police. In response to this, safety officials are implementing a better approach that prioritizes the safety of both civilians and officers.12
- Police have been trained in the use of a suite of non-lethal response options.
- Police are better equipped to deal with people who are deaf, autistic, or otherwise less able to communicate effectively.
- Improved communication is helping police to better serve minority communities.
- Police remain safe even though their use of violence is greatly reduced.
- Police seldom make lethal force their first response.
- Police departments across the nation have been demilitarized.
- Government is researching new approaches to peaceful resolution of civil confrontation.
- Where they occur, “Admit no wrong” police and prosecutorial office cultures are being changed.
- Safety officers who commit unwarranted violence are prosecuted.
- Every American can expect safe and respectful treatment from the police.
Every American can defend themselves in court.
- Anyone who cannot afford a lawyer is given one at no cost.
The War on Drugs is over. Federal and state authorities have adopted a new approach based on drug decriminalization, mentoring, and rehabilitation.13 The intent is to solve problems rather than create criminals. As a result, America is replicating the experience of other countries that have used this approach: less violence, fewer arrests, and safer streets.
- Marijuana is legal in all states for both personal and medical use.
- Anyone in jail or facing charges for minor drug possession has been set free.
- Arrest and conviction records for individual use have been expunged.
- Special programs are in place to help teens avoid drug and alcohol use.
- Drug addiction results in counseling and/or treatment, not jail time.
- e.g., Americans caught in the trap of opioid addiction are getting the help they need to regain control of their lives.
- Legalization has put most drug dealers out of business. The few that remain are being hunted down and put in jail.
- Doctors who write bogus prescriptions for addictive drugs face severe prosecution.
Authorities no longer confiscate property before guilt is proven.
- Civil divestiture has come to an end and its innocent victims have received restitution.
Government has long operated on the premise that no American should go without food or shelter for reasons outside of their control. We can see this in the various aid programs that are in place (e.g., Food Stamps; disaster relief). However, America also has long-standing traditions of self-reliance and personal responsibility which have served us well. On the surface, it might seem that these two views are mutually incompatible.
Our Vision for America embraces both. We expect federal and state authorities to provide assistance when human welfare is otherwise in jeopardy, while also calling on all Americans to accept responsibility for their own lives.
In our America:
Government accepts its unique contribution to the financial security of elder Americans.
- Federal and state policies fully support programs that help Americans save for retirement and that provide healthcare to elders (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid).
- Indigent elderly need not fear that they will be thrown out on the street during the most vulnerable stage of their lives.
Flexible federal and state policies promote individual responsibility and a strong work ethic.
- For those who can work, social programs may provide a helping hand, but never a permanent crutch.
- Persons who can work are expected to pay their own way.
- Job programs provide work when it is otherwise unavailable.
- While unemployed, unemployment income along with services such as training and job placement promote a return to self-sufficiency.
- For those who cannot work (e.g., disability) and lack life’s essentials, social programs are the source of last resort for food, water, housing, and other services.
- No one starves. Food and water are available to all who truly need it.
- No one has to live in their car, i.e., temporary shelter or affordable housing is available to those who need it.
- Being homeless is not a crime.
- Medical/psychiatric, drug rehabilitation, affordable housing, and other services are available to address the root causes of homelessness.
- Anyone who intentionally steals safety net services faces criminal prosecution.
All Americans, whether in states or territories, receive support during disasters.
- The government helps the population respond to significant adverse events, e.g.,
- Shift to new jobs following implosion of the steel and coal industries
- Assistance during a disaster (e.g., hurricane; broken municipal water system).
America is Pro-Life in the Truest Sense. Rather than being only pro-birth, we adopt a pro-life stance through which we value and respect human life from conception to death. This leads us to support public policies that ensure every American’s right to life’s basic necessities.
We also believe that every person’s body is their own, and that no one can tell them what they must do with it. This leads us to say that each individual has the right to make decisions about all aspects of their own lives. These two concepts, the sanctity of life and the right to self-determination, must be held in balance as we consider circumstances in which a human life (or proto-human life) is intentionally brought to an end.
In the larger view, we expect national policy to consider the needs of future generations, and to respect all non-human life on our planet.
In our America:
We honor human life by ensuring that every American can obtain core life services, such as:
- Affordable reproductive health, prenatal, and maternity care services
- Adequate food, shelter, clothing, and other life essentials
- Family leave and high quality, affordable childcare
- Publicly funded education
- Lifelong, guaranteed, affordable healthcare
- Stay-at-home, nursing home, and hospice care services for indigent elderly
There are limited circumstances in which we may find it acceptable to make the difficult choice to terminate a human, or proto-human, life. These include:
- Self-defense: All persons have the right to defend themselves.
- Public safety: Police understand that lethal force is a last resort.
- National defense: The government keeps military action to a minimum.
- Abortion: Every woman has the right, of her own volition, to terminate her pregnancy without precondition, obstruction, or consequence from government or any other source.
- Out of respect for new life, a woman may choose late-term abortion only when her life is endangered.
- Public policies reduce the need for abortion to a minimum (e.g., full access to affordable birth control; affordable prenatal care; effective adoption and foster care services).
- Assisted suicide: If circumstances become sufficiently dire (e.g., untreatable, unyielding, agonizing pain), a mentally fit person may choose to end their life with dignity.
- Assistance with this is legally available.14
- Capital punishment has been abolished.
Public officials consider the impact of every policy decision seven generations into the future.
- We never intentionally leave a mess that others in the future must clean up.
Our respect for life extends beyond the human sphere. We are also good earth stewards.
- We protect land, rivers, lakes, and seas for all species of life.
Over the past 50 years, women have greatly improved their place in America. In sharp contrast to a not so distant past, women now participate in every profession, have access to women’s health services (e.g. birth control), are protected by law from gender discrimination in employment and housing, and have full control over their own money and property. However, gender equality challenges remain. There has been continuing need to safeguard reproductive rights, and violence against women is all too common. Women wonder how they will reach equal pay for equal work, and they continue to hold a distinct minority of high-level positions in both public and private sectors.
Our Vision for America would have women included in all decisions that impact women. It would give every woman total parity with men in areas of education, employment, wages, and opportunities for advancement, and ensure that women have the same rights, privileges, and treatment under the law. It would give women in America greater safety.
In our America:
- The Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution has been fully ratified.
- All men and women have exactly the same rights under the law.
- Women receive equal pay for equal work. The pay gap is approaching zero.
- Women have the same professional opportunities as men, and may not be excluded from any profession.
- Every woman has the right to continue or terminate her pregnancy (described in a prior section, Respect for Life).
- Every woman has full access to affordable women’s health services.
- Infant and maternal mortality rates are decreasing.
- New laws and public policies protect women from domestic violence.
- It is common to find women in the executive ranks in both public and private sector.
- Women are well-represented in both houses of Congress and in state legislatures, and serve as governor in many states.
U.S. foreign policy is one of the most effective tools we have for keeping the peace. State Department staff and others represent the U.S. in countries all over the globe, and help people in those places understand who we are and what we represent. They often defuse tense situations that, otherwise, could spin out of control into armed conflict.
In our America:
- The State Department is fully staffed with highly experienced individuals.
- The government maintains constructive trade, political, and other relationships with the European Union, NATO, and other international groups and countries.
- New free trade agreements safeguard the American laborer, protect the environment, and contribute to the stability and vigor of our economy.
- International security arrangements keep America secure.
- The government works with global organizations (e.g., United Nations) to protect its interests without being the world’s policeman.
- America no longer engages in regime change.
- America does support democracy and human rights around the globe.
- Federal agencies use foreign aid for humanitarian purposes, and to safeguard US interests (e.g., to keep Ebola at bay; maintain peace).15
- America no longer provides military assistance as a form of foreign aid.
After years of unending war, Americans have finally figured it out: willingness to go to war does not signify American power, but rather represents failure to keep the peace. So now, even as we maintain a strong military, our main focus is to learn how to use non-military means to create and maintain a global peace that keeps the whole world safe and allows everyone to live a better life. Today, we use military response wisely, and only when needed.
In our America:
- We will take military action, but only as a last resort.
- When needed, the military defends American sovereignty.
- Except for extreme emergency, there can be no military action without the consent of Congress.
- In select cases, America joins other nations to intervene militarily for humanitarian reasons (e.g., to end a genocide).
- Our military is both sufficient and cost-effective.
- Armed forces have what they need to do their job. America maintains its military response capability.
- The Pentagon is dedicated to reducing costs with no loss of capability.
- Superfluous military facilities have been closed. Congress no longer uses our military as a jobs program for their districts.
- Peace is our goal. In order to reach this goal, the government:
- Supports research into new approaches to achieve and maintain peace
- Exercises all available avenues for peace before calling on the military
- Has committed to policies that prevent an arms race
- Has ended routine arms sales to other countries so that new armaments do not drive new armed conflicts
- Is making every effort to achieve total nuclear disarmament.16
- America never uses torture. Ever.
- America honors its veterans
- Health, training, and other programs help veterans to thrive in civilian life.
- Wounded military veterans receive prompt and effective medical treatment.
Ever since the attack of 9/11, civil authorities have been vigilant to safeguard the American public from similar events. The enhanced security has been welcome, as the threat of terrorism seems to grow over time. Homeland Security, the NSA, and other groups have kept a close watch on potential threats, both domestic and foreign. At issue is the concern that American freedoms are at risk from data surveillance and other security operations.
We believe that government can adopt a healthy balance between internal security and the freedoms that Americans expect.
In our America:
- Security measures at points of entry (e.g., airports) and other public places are sufficient to protect Americans from attack by foreign terrorists.
- Public authorities effectively identify and contain sources of domestic terrorism (e.g., ISIS sympathizers; white supremacists and neo-Nazis; anti-abortion zealots).
- Government is committed to the safeguard of civil liberties even as it works to prevent acts of domestic terrorism.
- Americans have not lost the freedoms that government is supposed to protect.
- Government agrees that there is no room in America for Islamophobia and is taking steps to combat it.
- Guantanamo Bay has been closed. America does not jail people forever without trial.
America has long been a nation of immigrants. It is in our bones to welcome good people from any country who are willing to join in the great American experiment. Although there have been (and continue to be) distrustful, and even hostile, voices who would lock up America’s borders by sowing fear of the “other”, we always find that their concerns are misguided. The people who find their way here from other lands, the infusion of new thinking and different customs, along with the vibrant energy of those working to make their way in a new land, have served to enrich and enliven American culture, giving it depth and power that is unique in the world.
With this experience to guide us, Americans continue to open their arms to those would be new citizens. We welcome those who seek opportunity, even as we take in our share of refugees and asylum-seekers from war-torn areas of the world. While we are vigilant to ensure that terrorists do not cross our borders, we keep our borders open. We recognize that diversity makes America stronger.
In our America:
- Children brought to America by their immigrant parents (Dreamers), and undocumented immigrants with no recent history of significant criminal activity, have been given a clear path to citizenship free of unnecessary hurdles or restraints.
- New undocumented immigrants, and undocumented immigrants with recent significant criminal activity, face deportation.
- There are no walls on our borders, but the borders are effectively patrolled.
- Refugees, asylum seekers, and other new immigrants who pass our security screens can find a new home.
- Discrimination against immigrants is forbidden by law.
Americans have worked hard over the past few decades to clean up the environment. Today, American rivers run clean, and there is minimal air pollution in most places. In addition, since 1872, government has created national parks, national monuments, and other preserves so that current and future generations can enjoy the beauty that nature provides, and be assured of having a bounty of natural resources.
Our Vision for America celebrates the good work that has led to a cleaner America and nature preserves protected for future generations. To those with concerns about the economic impact of environmental protections or natural preserves, we suggest that a healthy environment promotes business, so it is not necessary to choose between them. The way forward can include BOTH a healthy environment AND a healthy economy.
In our America:
- Elected officials, as well as civil administrators, agree: regulatory safeguards must accommodate both environmental protection and the conduct of business. Focus on just one or the other does not work. We need not sacrifice either.
- Regulatory safeguards are being rewritten so that, for example, a farmer can perform routine activities without running afoul of protective rules created for a different situation.
- Industry, along with government at all levels, is working to keep water and air clean so that we are not exposed to pollution that can cause illness and death.
- Legacy pollution sites (e.g., Superfund) are being cleaned up.
- Fracking has been outlawed and its negative environmental impact contained.
- The federal budget supports research on how to make Clean and Green profitable.
- When corporations want to use natural resources, impact on people and environment is of greater concern than impact on corporate profits.
- Federal laws and policies reflect acknowledgement that climate change is a real threat to our people, our economy, and our environment. Officials regularly consider current climate science whenever it is relevant to policy or government action.17
- All federal and state subsidies to the fossil fuel industry have been eliminated.
- America is experiencing a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewables and electric vehicles.18
- America is no longer dependent on Middle East oil.
- America produces less CO2 and other greenhouse gases every year.
- Civil authorities are drawing plans in anticipation of the impact of rising seas and increasingly severe storms (e.g. 2017 Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria).
- There is increasingly widespread availability of mass transit, electric vehicle charging stations, and bike paths within and between urban areas.
- National parks, forests, monuments, and other federal preserves are held in trust for the American people.
- Laws require that they never are sold or given away.
- Federal and state authorities manage public preserves for the benefit of all.
- The public plays a key role in all official discussion of federal preserves use.
- We maintain a healthy environment for the benefit of all living things.
Federal and state officials rely on science whenever they must develop policies or take actions that require an understanding of the physical world, or the human condition. America has been on the forefront of scientific research and leads the world in many fields. Government-supported research has generated mountains of data that are used by researchers all over the world to the benefit of all humanity.
We believe that it is of paramount importance to the welfare of America that government-supported research continue, and that legitimate science continues to be the foundation for public policies and actions.
In our America:
- Appointed officials at all levels understand the value of science.
- Congress and the executive branch assign qualified people to their scientific panels and committees.
- The federal budget supports research in diverse areas (e.g., cancer, physics).
- Federal and state officials, whether elected or appointed, make no politically motivated attempt to influence what research is done or how results turn out.
- Federal laws and policies reflect acknowledgement that all scientific data developed with taxpayer dollars belong to the people.
- All research data developed with public funds are made public and kept safe.
- Federal and state officials use science from recognized, reputable sources as the best basis for understanding the physical world. For example:
- They consider current findings in climate science during deliberations on relevant policies and actions.
- They base drug approval practices on sound science.
- Public programs (e.g., immunization; water treatment; forestry; fisheries management) are based on real science, not fringe science.
- Federal and state authorities are eliminating the excessive influence of big corporations on development of public policy (e.g., official dietary recommendations; energy policy).
- Federal and state budgets support training in science at all levels of the educational system.
- Public scholarships and special programs are available to support America’s brightest.
Government is necessary for the proper functioning of the country. We believe that government is capable of doing much good that could never be done by the private sector alone. However, government has a tendency to expand its operations beyond what is actually required and, where this is true, it must be pruned back so that cost is contained.
Furthermore, some government functions have, over time, become inefficient or overly complex and are in need of repair. We would have these repairs made carefully, so that government continues to deliver much-needed services even while it becomes more effective.
In our America:
- Government exists for the people; not the other way around.
- Government performs those functions that it can do well. The private sector does the rest.
- There are some functions that only government can do (e.g., national defense).
- Government also steps in where the profit motive would be ineffective, cost more, jeopardize essential services, or endanger human life or the environment.
- e.g., private prisons are prone to corruption.
- Federal agencies help bootstrap new markets when the general public will benefit.
- e.g., rural electrification; early support of renewable energy
- Government does not have to be big and costly to be effective.
- We operate with just enough government to do the job.
- Wherever a government function is broken, it is either fixed or eliminated.
- Any government function found to be unnecessary is abolished.
- Whistleblowers who reveal government waste or malfeasance are protected.
- Government can create new functions, but only when cost-benefit analysis demonstrates sufficient value to make the investment worthwhile.
- Government keeps its costs to a minimum, but has enough budget to fulfill its mission while respecting the needs of government employees.
- Government takes place in the open.
- Sunshine laws (open meetings) are the norm.
- Freedom of Information requests provide the requested information without delay and at a reasonable cost, from any and every level of government.
- Government accepts its role as patron of the arts and humanities.
- Art, theater, and literature are available to the general public.
- Ethics laws and protocols apply to everyone working in government, top to bottom.
- No exceptions
- Government works with employers to develop safeguards that ensure Americans are safe in their workplace.
- Employers who maintain unsafe working conditions face prosecution.
- Every American can expect to be free of harassment at work.
No one wants to pay taxes, but they are necessary if we are to maintain a strong national defense, sustain our social safety net programs, and pay for the public resources (e.g., roads, bridges, airports, sewers) required for both private enterprise and government to function. It is to everyone’s benefit that taxation is easy and fair. Americans understand that there is no point in taxing the poor, and that wealthy individuals and large corporations must pay their share. We expect improvements in our tax program so that taxes become more fair and easier to pay.
In our America:
- Government at both state and federal levels is committed to a progressive tax structure that has been adjusted to treat all income levels fairly, e.g., there is no income tax on the poor, an earned income credit is available, and only a moderate level of tax has been levied on middle incomes.
- Corporations and the wealthy are required to pay their fair share of taxes.
- Food, medicine, and other necessities of life are not taxed.
- Lucrative corporate tax loopholes have been eliminated.
- Tax havens used by tax cheats are gone.
- Individual tax preparation has been greatly simplified.
- Federal and state authorities are committed to keeping taxes at a constant (or lower) level by balancing increased costs with savings found in reduced military spending and more efficient government operations.
- Taxes can be raised when there is general agreement that there is sufficient benefit to warrant the increase in cost.
Most American businesses are reputable, provide a good product or service, and treat their customers fairly. Unfortunately, there are exceptions and for these Americans have always felt that there should be some recourse. As an American consumer, I want to know that I can trust the marketplace and not worry that my life savings will be stolen.
In our America:
- I can purchase goods and services without fear of being endangered or cheated.
- Consumer goods are safe to use and perform as advertised.
- Food is safe to eat; pharmaceuticals are safe and effective.
- Consumers who are cheated or harmed can file suit for cost and damages.
- Federal and state prosecutors take disreputable companies to court.
- Financial advisors work in their customers’ best interest.
- Financial institutions no longer engage in predatory practices (e.g., set up customers for failure and then charge usurious fees and fines).
- Money that I put in the bank is secure (e.g., FDIC)
- Lemon laws are in effect.
- Fake universities and other unscrupulous for-profit schools are shut down.
Political parties play an important role in American political life. They help to set goals for the country, identify candidates for office, and encourage the electorate to exercise their right to vote. It is the charter of all political parties to serve American citizens, rather than special interests. When party and elected officials set aside hyper-partisan politics, everyone wins.
We expect elected officials to respect and consider the views of opposing parties, and to operate in a manner consistent with good government practice. When this happens, government can function effectively, as it benefits from a balance of diverse views.
In our America:
- Officials from all political parties acknowledge that no single party has all the answers.
- America benefits because elected officials from all parties are collaborating to find best solutions to problems.
- Parties are working together to prevent the re-emergence of polarized, hyper-partisan politics.
- Every party has renounced one-party rule as un-American, and all have declared an end to adversarial politics. As a result, there is:
- No more gerrymandering or voter suppression
- No more playing with legislature rules (e.g., the nuclear option in the U.S. Senate)
- No more attempts to take over the judiciary (e.g., pack the court; nominate extreme candidates; make judicial elections partisan)
- All political parties have renounced funding from mega-donors who seek to buy influence or swing elections.
- All donations are small donations.
- All political parties operate in the open. Party rules now explicitly forbid any attempt to manipulate the vote in primaries and other party elections.
- Candidates for public office are chosen strictly by the voters.
- Party members caught cheating are tossed out.
Religion has always played an important role in our country, and Americans totally support an individual’s right to seek their own spiritual path. But religion is not a requirement. We can practice any religion, or no religion, without interference from government or any other source.
In our America:
- People of any religion, or no religion, are free to live according to their beliefs.
- Every religion (or non-religion) has the same legal rights. No religion has special privileges under the law. No religion is singled out for persecution.
- There can never be a state-religion in America.
- No religion can be interfered with or oppressed by any other religion or the state.
- Government respects religion while remaining completely separate from it.
- There is no need for civil administrators to pretend that religion does not exist (e.g., nativity scenes, menorahs, and Yule logs can all be found at city hall).
- The fact that one holds religious beliefs does not provide special privileges.
- Religion can never be used to justify discrimination or harmful practices.
- The law forbids federal or state authorities from ever attempting to promote or enforce morality as defined by one religion at the expense of others or against the will of the people.
Gun ownership has a long history in America, and many of us (1 in 5) currently own firearms. Primarily used for sport and self-defense, guns also have a darker side when they are used in criminal activities or cause harm to family or friends. We recognize that gun ownership is a right guaranteed by the constitution, but we also insist that with gun ownership comes serious responsibility.
In our America:
Government recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right that must be balanced against public safety, so that firearms are not misused and no one is harmed.
- Any mentally competent adult who is not a danger to society has the right to purchase a gun. In support of this, every gun purchase requires a background check.
- Authorities can trace any gun back to its owner. In support of this, every gun purchase requires a registration.
- Gun owners are responsible for understanding how to safely store and maintain a firearm.
- Gun owners are responsible for understanding their responsibilities as a firearm owner.
- Every person attends a Responsible Gun Ownership course on their first gun purchase.
- Gun owners are legally liable for everything done with their registered guns, regardless of who does it.
We believe that it is past time for our government to improve its relationship with Native Americans. After a long and sad history of false promises and broken treaties, we look for our government to approach all dealings with Native Americans from a place of fairness, honesty, and respect.
In our America:
- Federal law, policies, and officials respect tribal sovereignty and honor tribal jurisdiction.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs has been reformed. Policies and practices that had, in the past, unfairly put Native Americans at a disadvantage. have been remedied.
- Native Americans have been given more control over their own affairs.
- The government honors its treaties, upholds its trust responsibilities, and assists the tribes in their defense against encroachment by commercial and other interests.
- The Dakota Access Pipeline and other commercial ventures that unfairly infringe on Native American land have been shut down.
- Native Americans can engage in religious beliefs, languages and social practices without fear of government interference.
- Native American sacred sites have been given greater protection.
- Native Americans have the option of holding title to their lands, including mineral rights, so that they can take steps to move out of poverty. 19
Create a Vision for America
Describe what most Americans expect from their government, their political parties, and each other.
Break down Barriers
Present a vision that resonates with both progressives and moderate conservatives.
Get people thinking: How can we create that kind of America? Which strategies can we agree on that will actually work?
This is a visionary document
It describes America as we want it to be
It describes a compelling future
Rights and freedoms align with what we have come to expect.
Government truly exists for the benefit of its people
This document does not provide the “How to”
Progressives and moderate conservatives may disagree about how to improve our country, but they actually agree on most of the goals that drive those changes.
In order to kickstart productive discussion, this document focuses only on goals and their supporting principles.
We can use this document to develop effective strategies
Where we agree on goals, we can more easily develop mutually acceptable strategies that can reach those goals.
We can then build on that success to tackle the more difficult problems.
This Vision for America gives progressives and moderate conservatives a foundation for constructive discussion. That is something that America very much needs at this time: constructive, collaborative discussion among people of good will, who are willing to develop new approaches for a future that works for everyone.
Join in the discussion.
Make this Vision for America yours.
Help us to find our way to a better future.
Here is some guidance on the use of this document.
Step 1: Vision
As you read this document, focus on vision rather than implementation.
- There is no assumption that everything must be carried out at the federal level, or even by government at all.
- Our customary ways of thinking, e.g., “government must do this” or “we can’t afford that” can become a trap that blocks innovative thinking.
- Try to “see” the America that the document describes. If you disagree with something, try to articulate clearly how you would change it, or be clear about what you would add or delete.
Step 2: Strategy
Discuss this Vision for America either within your group or with your friends, both progressive and conservative.
- Identify areas of agreement on Goals and Principles.
- Put aside the usual assumptions about what must be done.
- For each topic, brainstorm for novel ideas. Allow a wide range of avenues for action.
- Choose the course of action that is most likely to work. Be open to discovering new strategies for implementation that work for everyone.
Step 3: Action
Bring your ideas to your political leaders, both local and national.
- Make yourself heard.
For each topic in this document, there is a way forward that most people will find acceptable. We need only to find it.
Make a comment
A 21st Century Vision for America:
Guiding Principles for a Great Nation
3 Thanks to Ken Romley for help with wording in this section.
18 Other countries are shifting to renewables
Party Platforms, Past and Present
Progressive Party Platform of 1912 (Bull Moose Party)
Other useful reading:
A 21st Century Vision for America:
Guiding Principles for a Great Nation
November 19, 2017
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Many thanks to all who reviewed and commented on early drafts of this document. It is much improved as a result of your suggestions and insights.
Copyright 2017 Gary J. Evans, PhD
President, CVR/IT Consulting LLC
Dr. Evans has degrees in biology, psychology, and pharmacology.Â He currently is consultant and teacher in the areas of project management, business analysis, and project portfolio management. This document is a product of his deep concern about the current state of American politics.
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