ANNOUNCEMENT OF A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY NEW DEAL
This speech was born from my frustration with the terms of debate in this country. I began to imagine what would happen if the political system were functioning effectively, and the happenings of recent times got me dreaming about what America could look like. Piecemeal reforms are no match for the historical and emergent forces we’re dealing with today. Leaders with bold vision are sorely needed. So, this is a speech of a potential president-elect — it includes the things I wish current politicians talked about and imagined. I tried to imitate the style of the Fireside Chats of the 1930s, with mixed success.
Announcement of a Twenty-First Century New Deal
(Written by Jordan T. Weiers)
My fellow residents of this place called America,
In 2015 we find ourselves at a juncture of national historical reckoning. This evening, in this chat, I am going to discuss the current situation of this country and, because I believe in the possibility and extraordinary hope of those who came before us and of the great unharnessed power of our diversity, I will lay out an ambitious plan — a plan which my administration, the Congress, and the States will work to implement in the coming months. The plan will require sacrifices, attentiveness, and compassion from every person in this nation, all of which are qualities the people of this country, young and old, are more than capable of delivering on splendidly, if imperfectly at first. So, as I begin, I ask of all of you to follow me closely and with open mind and heart. With responsibility, mercy, and humanity we will reach together toward a New Deal for the twenty-first century that will sweep long-awaited freedom and opportunity across America.
I will not speak to you, the American people, in sound bites, nor will I skirt issues of grave national importance for political expediency. In speaking directly to you I will begin an honest and frank national discussion driven by goodwill and animated, respectful debate.
To make sure we all begin on the same page in this discussion I will use some of my own interpretations and knowledge to explain some more obscure terms, and the discussion may then proceed more clarified than before.
I will not valorize Franklin Roosevelt in calling for a new “New Deal.” His sweeping reforms offered nothing to many classes of people in the 1930s, however valiantly he and his administration tried to help. Nonetheless, I will say that the idea of vast, sweeping reforms offered by the concept of a “New Deal” is applicable to our current unrest. What we need now is political leaders unafraid to propose what FDR called “bold, persistent experimentation.”
We do not need piecemeal. We have tried small reforms and status quo on many fronts and those strategies have led us to scary places. Our political discourse must grapple and be woken from torpor and hesitance. The fear of the past and of our present will depart as we “ask the hard questions,” as First Lady Michelle Obama once said. Unless we evict skeletons from our collective closet once and for all, we will find ourselves unsatisfied. This New Deal will provide a bold reimagining of America that tackles history and future with conviction, sweeping shared prosperity, national happiness, and vision from coast to coast.
The issues that plague us today warrant extensive explanation, clarification, and discussion, which I will begin to provide now. I encourage you to write to me or to email me with your suggestions for our reconciliation processes and my office will consider your opinions.
Without further ado, let us begin.
First, let us focus our attention on what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. As evidenced by the recent engagements in Iraq and other middle-eastern nations, the military industry has gained a significant amount of influence on our political system. The country spends an extraordinary amount on military operations each year. This fact should provide us an opportunity to step back and reevaluate together our national priorities and values.
Politicians often say that our society cannot afford certain things. I would agree. The amount our country spends on the military is quite frankly unthinkable. Given that poverty and destitution blanket our nation, it is immoral that we spend an exorbitant amount on such a despondent institution. While military proponents would have us believe that such an immense amount is necessary for any number of reasons, we may use common sense to conclude that our military, many times larger than that of other countries, is far too large. One does not need extensive military knowledge to think that our society should be investing its money, time, and person power in positive ventures more than in creating a force of unnecessary expense, aggression, and purview.
Granted, an equipped military is certainly necessary. I do not dispute that. However, we will rethink our definition of a sufficient military, and de-militarize appropriately. Regardless of any other consideration, it is unconscionable that our society spends so much on the military while its citizens suffer and lack in proper employment and life amenities. We will downsize meaningfully. In doing so, we will free up funds for other ventures in more socially productive areas. To assuage a pressing concern, I would also now like to point out that those previously employed in the military sector will, it is guaranteed, gain ample opportunities for employment and education in the programs announced shortly.
It has been suggested that such formidable alterations might upend the economy and cause unpredictable changes. My administration will ensure that the transition is smooth and very gradual. With moderation and responsibility any social effort can see great success, and I assure the American people that this change and those I shall announce shortly will be enacted in a most responsible and caring manner. I am confident that the efforts of this twenty-first century New Deal will realign our priorities and reality with careful consideration for small details and great transparency.
Next, we shall discuss the system of criminal justice.
I come now to a word that holds great meaning to many of you listeners, and that word is Ferguson.
It is the case that an epidemic of horrific police brutality continues across the nation. Black people and brown people are targeted at rates absolutely disproportionate. Beatings occur. Murders occur. Certainly not all police forces exhibit problems of racism and murder. However, the problem is of large scale. I will not mince words, and my administration will not waste time with placations but rather take swift action. In the United States of America we will work arduously to end police brutality and murders committed against communities of color once and for all. In rooting out violence we will strengthen relations between the races and create greater national unity. Only when our communities of color have utter security of person can we begin to experience broad prosperity and national happiness.
My administration and Congress will begin by ensuring that police forces do not have access to military-grade weaponry. It is unthinkable that tanks and implements of war are used in neighborhoods of color. The weaponry used there will be dismantled responsibly and appropriately. Secondly, to ensure accountability in a system that has proven prone to systemic violence, departments will implement the use of body cameras. The police shall serve no longer as an internal military. Neither shall they suppress dissent with rubber bullets, grenades, or teargas. Dystopian photos of police overreaction such as those that emerged from the Ferguson demonstrations will not be tolerated. All people in this country deserve to air their grievances publicly; in fact this is one of the Constitutional rights America holds most dear.
I recognize that issues of police brutality are best dealt with on the local level. Thus, once the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, using funds allocated for this purpose, identifies instances of police brutality or violence, the department will submit a plan for reconciliation and community building within six months. If brutalities and violence continue or the Division meets with recalcitrance, all federal funds for the offending state’s activities and budget will be withheld. We as a nation will now pursue with vigor and priority the justice that has been long denied for our citizens of color. To America’s white people I urge reconciliation, open-mindedness, and an easing of guilt. The past has occurred, and America may move forward together with bravery only if every person sets aside prejudices and moves into the future with humility and willingness to love. America will affirm not only that black lives matter, but also with time and healing this nation might together atone for its sins and sing the sacredness of black and brown lives from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Next on the agenda for this chat is the prison system.
Our prison system incarcerates vastly more than any other on Earth. As part of the twenty-first century New Deal, we will rethink our conceptions of crime, criminality, and rehabilitation. The War on Drugs begun in the 1970s and 1980s failed by almost any account. Indeed, it was used to target vulnerable populations, and that is immoral. Black people and Latinos are incarcerated at far higher rates than white people, and American crime policies break apart families, create a school-to-prison pipeline, and lead to cyclical poverty. Instead of fostering cohesion, economic independence, and secure communities, the prison and justice systems have created broken cities and bleakness.
What we might call “mass incarceration” is not a good use of our society’s resources or people. It is not an effective tool, and it has proven its destructive nature many times in the past decades. Again, we will reevaluate our social priorities. Certainly some crimes should require imprisonment. However, many things considered criminal must lose that status. Prison does not prevent much social disorder, but rather reinforces it. The failure of prisons has sealed their fate. My administration will move in an entirely new direction to ensure for cohesion. Where prisons have housed and struck fear in the hearts of many, America will create employment and education opportunities.
I assure you that the Congress, the states, and my administration will take the utmost care in reimagining criminality. Rest assured — we will not eliminate all prisons, but merely the large segments that have stood too long as a drain on society. Many of you listeners may be wondering what will come of the displaced prisoners, the prison workers, the military workers, the police workers, and so forth. Now, the broad proposal will have its day, and in due course an America transformed will be clearly visible.
I’ll begin my proposal with some reflections.
Our society has chosen in past decades to prioritize tax cuts for extremely wealthy people. Some pointed out that taxation alone would not solve social problems. I would disagree. Coupled with proportionate amounts of spending in realms across society, reasonable taxation of fortunes will provide us with resources to pursue pressing priorities. Coupled with significant decreases in military spending and large disinvestment from the prison system, taxation will allow us to shift our resources to the social programs we have been dreaming of but that we have been convinced are too expensive.
As you all have become aware as your pocketbooks have become empty and day-to-day facts of life have become increasingly unattainable, the income of people stagnated long ago. In fact, listeners from the inner cities and the country’s rural areas may remark that you have not had access to an economy at all. There is no money to be had in many places, in fact. It is an unfortunate reality that the free market has not provided an economy at all in some sectors, and that is not necessarily the fault of any individual person. It has, nonetheless, happened, that millions do not have access to good jobs because the market has not created jobs for them. My administration has envisioned a plan to remedy the economic straits we find ourselves mired in at the current moment.
As part of the original New Deal there existed something called the Works Progress Administration (or WPA). It was an agency that employed millions of Americans in socially productive sectors of the economy such as infrastructure construction and other national improvements. As America saw in the Depression and as we see now, the economic markets do not always work as we hope, and indeed they often malfunction. What we might call the “free market” unfortunately does not have the power to solve every social problem. The WPA died in 1943 after mixed success. A new, well-funded incarnation of the program will solve many problems of inequality, unemployment, and stagnant economic growth, revitalizing the free market.
The Works Progress Administration will undertake economic shifts that have been long due. It may be clear to you all that shifts from prisons to clean energy plants and from unemployment to activity will require education to transition workers. Therefore, the Works Progress Administration, using funding redirected from the deconstruction of the prison and military complexes, will establish schools across the nation in blighted and historically excluded areas of all races and locations. The WPA will use funds to establish these schools and to train teachers and faculty members to provide the employment education. Our overtaxed university system will also be greatly expanded, spurring new educational and construction employment opportunities.
The infrastructure of this country is crumbling in many places, and repairs and modernizations are of the utmost importance. In addition to the well-paying green energy construction jobs, the Works Progress Administration will work with the private sector to create a great many new construction jobs to revitalize our national infrastructure. It does not seem that we should accept this deterioration as fact. In working with private contractors the construction funds allocated will both update our infrastructure with the most modern construction techniques and reduce inequality by providing well-paying, living-wage employment to people in these blighted communities, thereby keeping the cogs of our economic machine well-greased and working smoothly.
Any military worker, former prisoner, displaced police officer, or soldier who is enterprising will be able to participate in the WPA schools and get a useful education that can be used to go into the new segments of the economy. The schools will be funded by the WPA. They will be numerous and of good quality. However, not every single person will be able to gain admittance to the schools, and preference will be given to those who have been unemployed for a significant period of time, or those who have come from economically isolated locations such as inner cities, Southern rural communities, and Native American reservations, among others. Of course, the most enterprising individuals will gain admittance regardless, but historical circumstance will be duly factored in.
Finally, a brief word on education.
No person looking for an education should be saddled with the loans that we see young people with today. Therefore, we will significantly expand the system of Pell Grants, allowing more middle class students to take advantage of these as well as expanding their purview for poor students. We will use money obtained from taxation and spending cuts in the military and in the prison system. With something akin to poetic justice the prison system will pay for scholarships for students that it previously might have hoped to hold in its clutches. The school-to-prison pipeline will thus be severed for good, between college scholarships and the efforts of employment education schools and jobs created by the Works Progress Administration. Finally in the realm of education the government will lower the interest rate on the loans it provides, of course funded by money that has been long withheld from previous and unwise tax cuts.
The Congress, the administration, and I urge you to submit your ideas for socially productive projects and job creations to my office via email or letter. The goal of the Works Progress Administration of the twenty-first century is to revitalize the nation, reduce historical inequalities, and finally integrate everyone into the economy. I know that many of you have ideas and dreams for how you wish this country might look, or ideas for improvements to the places you live. If you submit these to our administration we will look through them carefully and take them into consideration as the Works Progress Administration begins its operations.
The extensive reimagining I have outlined for this time of crisis and the excitement embodied in this American New Deal are mere reflections of the wishes for transformation and reconciliation that exist in corners and kitchens across America. For so long the political parties have excluded these ideas from the realm of possibility. It is with great joy that my administration and the Congress cooperate now to finally manifest the mission that lives in the hearts and minds of the American people — justice, freedom, and reconciliation that might echo from every rooftop from Compton to Baltimore.
The discouragement that has reigned in this country is going away as we prepare to undertake a surge of respectful, loving national discourse. The enormous historical questions and wounds that this nation must valiantly grapple with will define us as we wrestle for mastery over our own history. We have only one choice: to think big, and that is exactly what my administration and the Congress shall do in the following months as we implement our new program. We expect the respectful discourses across the nation to be productive and unifying in our mission.
I look forward to speaking with the American people again in due course as we continue to push diligently forward on other reforms and issues that were not discussed today. I look forward to your letters and electronic correspondence.
Thank you, and good night.
This was originally posted on my Wordpress blog.