The Top Ten issues the candidates are not talking about

Paul Ryan mentioned poverty in a throwaway line about midway through the night but, like the other three men on the two major-party presidential tickets, poverty is not an issue that appears to be on his radar.

In fact, poverty is just one of a number of important issues about which the presidential candidates have little interest in speaking. Here are the 10 issues that should be on the table:

  1. Poverty: about 15 percent of Americans now live in poverty, many of whom work. While the number has grown over the last decade, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that it is purely a product of our current economic stagnation. As I point out in this column, we have come to view high poverty rates as the normal output of our corporate capitalism. There was a time when we had a president who started a war on poverty (a war derailed by his obsession with the war in Vietnam). Now? Silence.
  2. The financialization of the economy: The financial sector now accounts for about 8 percent of the nation's economy -- the highest level in our history -- with nearly a third of corporate profits going to financial firms. This skews the incentives toward quick profits and financial gamesmanship and away from creating sustainable economic models -- and is far more dangerous than the growth of government.
  3. The comprehensive discussion of health care: We insist on talking about the Affordable Care Act and Medicare as though they are completely unrelated. But rising healthcare costs -- which will continue so long as much of the healthcare sector functions under the auspice of a for-profit insurance industry -- have a massive impact on all aspects of the industry. We need to revisit the healthcare debate as a unified debate focused on universal coverage, the elimination of administrative overhead and an expansion of the risk pool (which will spread costs out over a larger group) -- i.e., single-payer or Medicare-for-All.
  4. Women's issues: Abortion came up, and there was a veiled reference to birth control, but women have been treated in this campaign either as voting uteruses (uteri?) or as stand-ins for families in the economic debate. No mention of equal pay, gender equality, access to daycare, after-school programs, the plight of single-mothers, etc.
  5. The erosion of civil liberties: Both parties support warrantless wiretaps, extra-judicial assassinations, the suspension of constitutional rights for terrorism suspects, etc.
  6. The militarization of society: I'm not just talking about the intrusion of the military on American soil as part of the war on terror, but of the shift in approach by local police departments, which now rely on a militarized urban assault mindset (typified by TV shows like  Flashpoint) to quell protests and tamp down even the most minor of disturbances.
  7. The war on drugs: This may seem like an outdated concern, but we are still waging war in our inner cities and attempting to address a public health issue with law enforcement and military means.
  8. Citizens United and campaign finance reform: This gets some lip service, mostly from Democrats who are worried about being outgunned in the murky superpac war by the GOP, but no one has attempted to get either of the major-party candidates to weigh in on whether they support a constitutional amendment that would strip corporations of their personhood rights. And no one is talking about public financing of elections, even though we have to get private money out of the electoral process if we are to have any chance at ending the legal corruption and corporate influence we now live with.
  9. The use of drones: We now fight wars with technology in a very impersonal way. This allows for us to fight more wars without thinking about the potential consequences.
  10. Immigration: There has been discussion of this, in regards to border security and the wisdom of the Obama administration's executive order essentially instituting the Dream Act. But the notion of comprehensive reform that allows for an appropriate flow of immigrants in and out of the country and finds a way to allow the 11 million to 12 million undocumented people now here to stay here. Further militarization of the southern border -- which is really what the anti-immigrant groups have been pushing -- is both inhumane and doomed to failure.

What issues do you think the candidates need to talk about, but have ignored so far?

Send me an e-mail.

Read poetry at The Subterranean.

Suburban Pastoral, a chapbook by Hank Kalet, available here.

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