Friday, January 25, 2013

The Roadmap To A Prosperous America

The road map to a prosperous America.
Origionally posted January 16th, 2013.

Please copy this, save it, and distribute it. I'm trying to send this to everyone. Especially journalists.

Below I will be describing our problems, solutions, and why we haven't achieved them yet. As well as informing you of our current status in the US as I've found with my research on news, because sometimes the solution is just simply being informed.
 
The categories are bold and underlined, some have sub categories.

Income Inequality:
Income inequality tends to have dramatic effects on a society as a whole, It's a good indicator on how healthy the structure of your society is. (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/research/why-more-equality) Solutions to this category will be brought up with other categories, since income inequality is part symptom and part cause. Though this will at least give you a good idea on where we stand and where we need to go.

A recent video has come out that explains how drastically unequal wealth in America is, I HIGHLY recommend it: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM)

As of today the top 1% own 40% of all the wealth in America, Where as the bottom 80% own 7% of all the wealth. (http://salemsage.newsvine.com/_news/2010/06/06/4471117-20-of-americans-own-93-of-american-wealth-and-they-should-all-get-tax-cuts) The 1% also take home 24% of national income, where as in 1976 they only took home 9% (http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/top-5-facts-america-richest-1-183022655.html),
The top 400 Richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 60% of America, That's about 187 million people. Which is about a 1 to 467,000 ratio. (http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/mar/10/michael-moore/michael-moore-says-400-americans-have-more-wealth-/)
93 percent of all income growth in the U.S. in 2010 went to the top 1 percent of Americans. And 37 percent went to the top .01 percent. (http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/is-america-still-the-land-of-opportunity/ ) (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-02/top-1-got-93-of-income-growth-as-rich-poor-gap-widened.html)

According to the CIA world fact book, the US rank's 42nd in income inequality in the world, but the chart is reversed, meaning that #1 has the most income inequality. So we're actually 95th in the world, meaning that 94 other countries have less income inequality than us. (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html)

The reason this is important is because of how much income inequality effects, countries with less income inequality have:

Less Violence. (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/research/violence)
Social mobility is an important one, since America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, (http://www.economist.com/node/15908469 , http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905141920.htm)

Upward mobility has hit an all time low, and our economic diversity has been called a “hollowing out of the middle class”. (http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/09/26/upward-mobility-in-america-now)

Here's a summary. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFOEe6M2VT4)

Here's an analysis of a banned TED talk that describes how income inequality is slowing down the economy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVO73NLmSkQ),
and the interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOsZSIcU9OM).

The problem with this is that, in our democracy right now, money equals influence, and that influence over the government causes the direction of money to be directed toward whoever is spending the money on candidates in the first place. So basically, those that legally bribe politicians, get a higher return on their investment, so they end up having more money to spend during the election cycle. The problem is feeding itself, and the rest of are left out to dry. Not to mention that there is an active fight to keep things the way they are as you can see here: (http://www.alternet.org/economy/bill-moyers-plutocracy-will-go-extremes-keep-1-control)

Additional Sources: (http://www.currydemocrats.org/american_pie.html)

Finance Industry, Banks, and The Federal Reserve:
The Federal Reserve is the reason why we have a fiat currency, meaning that it is money that derives it's value from government regulation or law, not an actual material like gold or silver. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx16a72j__8)
As you see in the video, our very system of currency drives wealth to the top and promotes income inequality, So, we either need a new system, or we need a force that cycles that money back down to the bottom. That force used to be the government, but the government has been influenced by people who profit off of this system.

From 1944 to 1971 (one of the greatest economic time periods in recent American history, though this could be attributed to the new deal, the fact that we were the only world power left unscathed after WWII, tax rates, unions and/or proper regulation like the glass-stegal act. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCPg8fDYq_Q )), the Bretton Woods agreement fixed the value of 35 United States dollars to one troy ounce of gold. Other currencies were pegged to the U.S. dollar at fixed rates. The U.S. promised to redeem dollars in gold to other central banks. Trade imbalances were corrected by gold reserve exchanges or by loans from the International Monetary Fund. This system collapsed when the United States government ended the convertibility of the US dollar for gold in 1971, in what became known as the Nixon Shock. To learn a little bit about our current situation and its history, I suggest watching this: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZrQilGtzP0)

There seems to be some long term problems with a gold standard (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPM4doWhfNQ), but there's good and bad with any system, as well as our current system. A fiat monetary policy has a number of benefits, high levels of liquidity, the ability to apply monetary policy and less expensive to maintain. The negatives are inflation/hyper-inflation, bad monetary policy, corruption, and it can not expand with the economy. Right now I believe that we are headed towards another economic collapse because of bad monetary policy, specifically quantitative easing, which is believed to be causing inflation by endlessly printing out money. Because of our current situation with debt and borrowing money, it may have the possibility of destroying our economy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0NtDzNzdTM), as well as our currency. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEUjxpFKXGI)

The problem is that the regulatory factor of the Federal Reserve doesn't exist because many board members on the federal reserve hold the top spots on the banks that they're supposed to regulate, with no transparency. It was recently revealed that 76% of board directors of the Federal Reserve are president or CEO of their company. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugz4DFzdUOY)

Some solutions to this would be to disclose possible conflicts of interest by law, annually disclose all financial interest by law, prohibit directors working for or having material financial interest in financial institutions within it's own country by law, and of course the only way to actually get any regulation like this is to cut out the corruption in our government with campaign finance reform. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUQyRhcP0B0)

Side note: (because we have a federal reserve, we don't have a “Free Market”. Whether that's good or bad is up to debate. (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-september-18-2007/alan-greenspan))

Another issue is that the finance industry and banks are now operating under a completely different set of rules than the rest of America. They can launder millions of dollars for drug cartels and terrorists, and they only get a fine. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/opinion/how-bankers-help-drug-traffickers-and-terrorists.html )
You on the other hand could spend years in jail for a small amount of pot, like Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow did for $31 dollars worth of marijuana sales (http://newsok.com/how-31-of-pot-gave-mom-a-10-year-prison-sentence/article/3542585 ), in some cases, more than rapists or murderers, for crimes related to pot as you can see here: (http://www.beyondbars.org/ten_extreme_prison_sentences_marijuana_offenses)
As for giving money to terrorists, Mahamud Said Omar was charged life in prison for aiding a group of local men who went to Somalia, and contributing up to $2,400 to them and al-Shabaab, a terrorist group. (http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_21803389/omar-convicted-aiding-somali-terrorists )

Now I'm not advocating or justifying this act in any shape or form, this is just an example of how different the people at the top are treated compared to those at the bottom. It's a major problem when an international bank funnels millions of dollars to drug cartels and terrorists, and there are no criminal convictions. We're supposed to have equal application of the law, it's a clause under the 14th amendment. The Equal Protection Clause, which requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction (http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/equal_protection ), but because we allow money to corrupt our system (http://influenceexplorer.com/organization/hsbc-holdings/3c3f0a2212224ab38161e5c7abbb9fbe ), then justice isn't blind anymore. So if you’re rich, you can get away with just about anything, but if you’re poor, well then you’re out of luck.

In 2008 major banks committed fraud with a get rich quick scheme and crashed the economy (with the aid of the government that is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXQ-5KVRaQ ), yet they get bailed out by the American people, where as the American people get to lose their homes. Basically a situation has been created where the richest among us can socialize the losses while privatizing the gains. (http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/2/22/matt_taibbi_why_isnt_wall_street_in_jail )
Iceland had a different approach, actually following the rule of law, and charging their banks for the crimes they committed. Their economy has since seen a great recovery. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb3AGqZJE68 , http://www.businessinsider.com/olafur-ragnur-grimsson-iceland-2012-4 )
Even Alan Greenspan has stated that we should have let the banks fail. (http://www.advisorone.com/2012/10/23/greenspan-to-wall-st-banks-drop-dead?t=wirehouses )

A solution that would help in preventing this from happening again, would be restoring regulations like the glass-steagall act and other financial regulations. (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-wall-street-killed-financial-reform-20120510 )

Now I could go on and on about crimes committed by Wall Street and the banks, but I'll just direct you to a journalist who does an amazing job at reporting on Wall Street, Matt Tiabbi. (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog )

The main problem is that they have control over our government through campaign funding, lobbying, and the revolving door. So there's no check and balance to them. It really is as simple as that. (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?Ind=F , http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=F03 )

Economy, Jobs, Taxes and Trade:
The economy is made up of three major sectors business (normally corporations), government and the people (normally households). Right now the balance has been heavily shifted in the favor of business and government and away from people.

Corporate profits are at an all time high, and worker wages are at an all time low. (http://www.businessinsider.com/corporate-profits-just-hit-an-all-time-high-wages-just-hit-an-all-time-low-2012-6 )
Even though productivity is at an all time high. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/opinion/global/jobs-productivity-and-the-great-decoupling.html ) Something is off balance and CEO's have managed to cash in on this, in many cases not because they did a better job. (http://blogs.hbr.org/martin/2011/06/volatility-the-nasty-truth-abo.html )
 
Union membership is down to 12%, where as in the 40's 50's and 60's it was around 32%, this explains some of the wage issues we have. (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/06/who-killed-american-unions/258239/ ).
The current unemployment rate is 7.9%, but that is misleading because it does not count discouraged potential employees who have quit looking, those who are underemployed, or those wanting to work full-time but forced to work part-time. Under that standard, unemployment is at 14.9% as of Aug 2012. The lack of jobs means lack of competition between businesses, therefore lower wages. (http://www.cnbc.com/id/48468748/039Real039_Unemployment_Rate_Shows_Far_More_Jobless )
 
The most disturbing fact about this is that there are 24 empty homes for every homeless person in America. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/02/03/1061611/-STUNNING-When-a-Single-Image-Cuts-to-the-Core-of-an-American-Injustice , http://kennytruong.com/market-report/1-in-7-american-houses-are-empty-1-in-402-americans-are-homeless/ ).

All of these statistics have put Americans in a position where they are desperate, and more accepting of taking jobs for lower pay, no matter their skill set. Thus the status quo has become very abusive to the public well being.

There's a tricky balance that needs to be acquired, it's between becoming fiscally responsible for abolishing debt and continued spending to keep the economy running. What needs to happen is that consumers need to make enough money so that they can get out of debt, save money, and continue spending all at the same time. The issue isn't that Americans aren't working hard enough, worker productivity is at an all time high. The problem is that all the wealth in America is being transferred upwards, this is why the economy is getting worse, and will continue to get worse. The blips of improvement that we are seeing are only because of the government spending money that we don't have. The only time that it makes sense to spend money you don't have is when you’re investing in something that will generate wealth and capital. Things like infrastructure, education, and healthy workers. Businesses do it all the time with business loans, it works as long as it's a smart investment that will generate wealth. Government isn't doing that though, they've invested in war, corporate profits, and austerity. This only assures an eventual economic collapse in the process.

So what we have to do is restore balance in our economy, while minimizing damage. Income inequality needs to be balanced out again for the sake of society (See: Income Inequality). Preferably not so much through redistribution, but actually holding the people who damage our society accountable for what they've done. Wages need to be balanced out with inflation. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in 1968 would today be worth $10.58 per hour. Going straight to $11 would be wise considering inflation is going to continue.(http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/14/1099619/-A-few-reasons-why-raising-the-minimum-wage-is-a-necessity# )
This would increase spending and the demand for jobs, because of the increase in demand businesses will have something to invest into in again. It's not just minimum wage that needs to be adjusted, but all wages. Right now, people aren't making enough to cover their expenses and debt, which is stifling the economy. Raising the minimum wage by law is wise, but to raise wages besides the minimum wage by law, is not. It simply distorts the market too much.

We can't spend more to create jobs, unless it's an actual investment that will generate more wealth, because our government has to get it's debt under control. We're going to have to raise taxes on the rich to be able to make some investments, they've benefited greatly from the economic environment of this society, and have not done their part to support the economic environment we all live in. I'm advocating for an “effective” tax rate of 40-50% on the richest among us, this means getting rid of tax loop holes for the top tax bracket in our country, loopholes like carried interest (http://www.forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2012/08/24/romneys-taxes-its-the-carried-interest-stupid/ ).
In return, allow them to bring their wealth from offshore accounts back into the country without taxing them this one time. For the future though, income and corporate tax evasion through offshore accounts needs to be eliminated. That's much easier said than done, but it is simply extracting too much wealth away from the country. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/corporate-taxes-offshore_n_1842553.html )

Besides the incentive of personal profit, banks have incentivized corporations to put money in offshore accounts, because they want to only invest in entities that are reporting short term profits. The best way to show short term profits is not create a good product, but to dodge or cheat on taxes. (http://www.dylanratigan.com/2011/12/14/americas-tax-code-a-rigged-system-written-by-a-bought-government-that-you-get-to-pay-for/ )
This means that, those who create the best product or work the hardest aren't the ones who benefit, it's just who's the best at cheating.

Jobs have to be created so people can survive, and produce. Hence we should lower the corporate tax rate to 20% - 25%, but make sure that it's effective, meaning everyone pays it since 1 out of 4 corporations pay nothing at all. (http://www.politicususa.com/bernie-sanders-1-4-profitable-corporations-america-pay-0-federal-taxes.html )
Basically to solve these tax problems we have to simplify both the individual tax code and the corporate tax code, because it's become so complex and convoluted that it just makes it easier to abuse. The individual tax code needs to be progressive, meaning the more you make the more you get taxed, because income inequality has gotten completely out of control. A lot of the time money just sits there and accumulates because smaller groups can only spend so much. After time, it puts a drag on the economy because only the richest among us have money to spend, so the problem just continues to get worse. As for corporations, they need an effective flat tax with no loopholes or ability to evade taxes, this is to create an equal playing field, corporations who do better will succeed, those that do worse will fall.
 
We also have to restore unions, they are an intricate part in creating a better quality of life for the American worker, it will also help in the return of fair wages. There is a problem though, Unions have the same corrupting force over our government through campaign financing and lobbying. Because of this, they have become a force that centralizes power in favor of them selves, this is part of the reason they're known for using “mob” tactics. Unions need to be fixed and monitored by the government, once their influence over the government through funding has been eliminated, then they can be restored. (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=P04 )
 
The biggest issue with jobs is that there's a lack of investment in America because of trade. The lack of jobs decreases competition between businesses here, which then also leads to lower wages for workers. Our trade deficit is currently at $42.2 billion dollars. Meaning that amount of money is leaving the country, and jobs are going with it. Right now our trade policy promotes exporting jobs and wealth to other countries, thus supporting other countries in the name of profit.
 
The main reason that that this has occurred is because of our trade tax policy, U.S. Exports to China are taxed at 25%, Where as Chinese exports to the U.S. are taxed at 2.5%. So let's break this down with an example: If I have a phone that costs $100 dollars to make, and for the sake of argument right now, let's say it costs that much to make it in China and we're excluding market value/maximizing profits on pricing, the scenario is the same. Now I can make it in America, and sell it here without having to worry about the trade tax so it'll still be $100, but in China I'm going to have to sell it for $125 dollars to cover the tax. If I make it in China I get to sell it there for $100 and to America for $102.50, meaning a profit of $22.50 for every phone I sell. Thus there's a financial incentive to ship jobs overseas. Now you may ask, why don't corporations have industries in both countries? Therefore they can sell it without the trade tax and don't have to worry about the cost of oil with shipping? It's a good question, here's where the issue is and the moral aspects as well.
 
In the scenario the phone costs $100 dollars to make, but that's not true for China and many other countries. In China corporations routinely short change their employees on wages (which are already lower than ours), withhold health benefits, expose their workers to dangerous machinery, as well as harmful chemicals, like lead, cadmium and mercury. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/business/worldbusiness/05sweatshop.html?pagewanted=all )
This is part of the reason the Chinese lose out in quality of life, and why the cost of living is far from what it should be. This article explains that very well, and why other comparisons might be misleading. (http://english.people.com.cn/90780/7605927.html )
 
All of this means there are fewer regulations, less worker pay, and less liability. Therefore cheaper products, and high corporate profits. It's the main reason that corporations like Walmart do so well. It's why the Walton family (Owners of Walmart) have more wealth than the bottom 40% of America. Because they've become so good at exploiting humans who live in places like communist China, at the expense of jobs and wealth in the U.S., all for personal profit. (http://www.tradereform.org/2012/07/not-made-in-america-top-10-ways-walmart-destroys-us-manufacturing-jobs/ )
No wonder they're trying to do the same thing here. (http://www.pbs.org/itvs/storewars/stores3.html )
 
Now we could say that this is the governments’ fault for A: having a trade policy that promotes this, or B: not stopping this type of exploitation, but Walmart seems to have a firm grasp over the government. (http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000367 )
The same way that many other corporations who are looking to fulfill their bottom line do.
China plays a big part in this trade manipulation as well (http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/21/opinion/la-oe-navarro-trade-china-20110621 ), but that's a whole separate issue with this economic/currency war we have going on with them. It's to be expected from China, therefore predictable and preventable, but having American companies exploit the U.S. like this, that's a whole different story.
 
“Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.”― Thomas Jefferson
 
That's the moral implication of this. The rich taking advantage of the poor. Be it here or in China, that is the extent of their actions when they're only guided by profit. Also where you do business, send jobs to, and send money to, supports that form of a society. It's the price of globalization. You now vote on societies with your dollar. When you buy from China, or export jobs to china you’re supporting a communist dictatorship. That's the moral implication that this has caused, and America's suffering for it.
 
It's sadly not just Walmart. For more information on this and everyone else who exploits China and the U.S. for corporate profits check out (http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/ )
Also, it's not just China, we have all kinds of trade agreements (http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements), and a very dangerous trade agreement called the TPP on the way. (http://truth-out.org/news/item/13082-the-trans-pacific-partnership-what-free-trade-actually-means)

Now remember it's not that trade is bad, there are cases where it's beneficial to both countries, it's the fact that we don't have any decent regulatory system in D.C. to protect us, basically because they've been compromised by big money.
 
Additional Sources for Trade:
 
An overall assessment from the world economic forum (Though I disagree on some of their points): (http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_CountryHighlights_2012-13.pdf)
 
Infrastructure:
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function. It can be generally defined as the set of interconnected structural elements that provide framework supporting an entire structure of development. It is an important term for judging a country or region's development. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrastructure )
 
The American society of civil engineers currently gives America a D grade on its infrastructure. (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/ ) Infrastructure is necessary for a strong economy, ours is currently crumbling and will come back to bite us. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O55_Ntudjn4)
 
The categories and scores are:
 
The problem with this is that the estimated 5 Year Investment Need: $2.2 Trillion, that's 440 billion dollars a year, but Without Infrastructure Investment, America Will Lose $3 Trillion In GDP And 3.5 Million Jobs (http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/01/15/1452811/infrastructure-jobs-hole/?mobile=nc)
The up side is that studies show that for every $1 of infrastructure that you spend, the economy gets a boost by $2. (http://www.businessinsider.com/infrastructure-economic-multiplier-2012-11 ) And it'll create jobs. (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2011/08/22/are-infrastructure-projects-the-answer-to-americas-jobs-problem)
There aren't many investments that give you a return like that, so the sooner we're able to do this, the better.
 
People are a form of infrastructure as well, they are necessary for an economy to function, hence having a healthy and educated society is important for growth and economic strength. (See: Healthcare and Education) The nice thing about the healthcare and education plan I've explained below is that they cost less than what we're paying now.
 
Healthcare:
The World Health Organization has ranked America 38th in quality of Healthcare, France is #1 with a similar system and the UK is 18th with single payer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Health_Organization_ranking_of_health_systems).
Our health when compared to other developed nations comes in dead last. (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/new-health-rankings-of-17-nations-us-is-dead-last/267045/#)
The odd thing about this is that we pay a little over twice as much in America. Currently Americans spent $8,362 per person on health care, France $4,021, and the UK $3,480 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jun/30/healthcare-spending-world-country).
 
This takes away a lot of money that could be invested in more productive ways, Ex: Education, Infrastructure, Preventive health measures, and Money in the pockets of Americans. Healthcare is not going to have an easy cut and dry answer though, Part of the issue is the lifestyle of America, We have a high rate of Obesity (see: Food and Agriculture) “More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.” - (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/facts.html).
 
We don't have an education system that would cover the cost of medical school (see: Education), and there is a religious factor as well. Many business owners aren't happy that they would have to provide coverage that goes against their views Ex: Contraception and birth control. That's why I'm advocating for single payer, because businesses wouldn't have to worry about things like birth control, as well as insurance, which would free up small businesses greatly to create more jobs or pay workers more. It's less complicated and it would also provide healthcare for everyone, Single payer health care has better results, as seen with the United Kingdom, and it costs less.
 
Remember, there's big money to be made off of healthcare policies. (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07102009/profile2.html)
 
Food and Agriculture:
My main focus in this area is going to be on Monsanto, considering they lobby the most and are in the top 5 campaign contributors (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=A07). Also one of their top lobbyists/VP, Michael R. Taylor was appointed by President Obama to the head of the food and drug administration, which is about as big of a “conflict of interest” as you can get. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/monsanto-petition-tells-obama-cease-fda-ties-to-monsanto/2012/01/30/gIQAA9dZcQ_blog.html)
 
GMOs
Michael Taylor is the same person who was the Food Safety Czar at the FDA when genetically modified organisms were allowed into the U.S. food supply. He was warned about serious health concerns, such as toxins, new diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and hard-to-detect allergens. Here's the break down of situation: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/youre-appointing-who-plea_b_243810.html)
 
The documentary Genetic Roulette does a wonderful job of explaining the possible dangers of GMOs. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyPkByTabsw )
Also 70% of all processed foods in America have GMOs in them. (http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/campaign/genetically-engineered-food/crops/)
They don't even seem to produce better yields because of a disruption in their genes.
So trying to avoid them is proving to be difficult especially since food companies like Monsanto, Dupont, Pepsico and Nestle spend millions of dollars trying to make sure GMOs don't get labeled. They spent $45 million to defeat California GM label bill Prop 37. I guess they feel that America doesn't deserve to know what they're eating. (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/05/food-companies-monsanto-dupont-pepsico-and-nestle-spend-45m-to-defeat-california-gm-label-bill-prop-37/)

The confusing issue to keep in mind is that there haven't been many studies that show harmful effects on humans, but that's because studies have been blocked by Michal Taylor/FDA and other corporate influences in our government. So the only way to actually have a regulatory force that's trustworthy in handling these situations, is to restore accountability in the government.
 
Subsidies and Corn
Subsidies currently favor corn and soy, which has helped bring us high-fructose corn syrup, factory farming, fast food, and all the health problems that come with it. If we just transferred the subsidies to healthier foods like fruits and vegetables, we would incentivize healthy eating again, thus saving lots of money on our medical bills. (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/dont-end-agricultural-subsidies-fix-them/)
 
Strangely the government paid millions of dollars last year in farm subsidies to wealthy city-dwellers – many of them receiving taxpayer dollars not to farm their rural country estates, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/city-dwelling-landowners-paid-millions-farm-secondary-estates/story?id=13916915)
This used to be because there was so much supply that costs went down, farmers were losing their farms so the government decided to put a bottom on the market. Times have changed though, and it seems that these subsidies are just wasted when they could be put to better uses.
 
Addictive Food
Manufacturers have created combinations of fat, sugar and salt that are so tasty many people cannot stop eating them, even when full. They are designed to trigger a "bliss point" in our brain, making them addictive. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/5673512/Why-junk-food-really-is-addictive.html)
 
60 minutes digs into the business behind making food addictive here: (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7389748n)
 
Some studies have shown that Junk food may be as addictive as heroin and smoking. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7533668/Junk-food-as-addictive-as-heroin-and-smoking.html)
 
“Supersize Me” portrays this very well, as Morgan Spurlock eats McDonalds for 30 days. He documents the effects on his body, one of which is withdrawal. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-eRXuuH9AI)
 
This higher rate of obesity means that we're basically transferring the cost of our food over to the cost of our healthcare, at the expense of our bodies. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/01/06/us-usa-chronic-idUSTRE5050S920090106?sp=true%20was%207%)
 
Summary
Basically our entire system for food has been compromised. Specifically because the same people who are supposed to be regulating companies and protecting the American people from possible dangers are the same ones who profit from those companies. This is a tremendous danger. We've already seen multiple issues that come from this system regarding our health, but we don't know what the long term dangers are going to be on health. So I suggest that we turn back, and focus on organic farming until more can be learned. There have been political issues as well, such as massive suicides, and a monopoly on food itself. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7DqaJ3QgHU)
 
Food Inc. does a good job of showing you where your food comes from, and what has happened to the food industry. I highly recommend it. (http://documentaryaddict.com/Food+Inc-2174-documentary.html)

Hemp, Marijuana, and The War On Drugs:
Hemp is not marijuana. Even though they both come from Cannabis sativa L., the varieties that are used to make Industrial Hemp products (seed, fiber, etc.) and those that are used to make marijuana (flowering tops and leaves) are distinctly different. They are scientifically different and are cultivated in very different ways. The THC levels in Industrial Hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it. Moreover, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high. Hemp, it turns out, is not only not marijuana; it could be called "anti-marijuana." (http://www.industrialhemp.net/)
 
Yet in 1970 the U.S. Congress designated hemp, along with its relative marijuana, as a “Schedule 1” drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal to grow without a license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. No licenses have been given out in the United States. (http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/hemp.htm)
The U.S. Is the only industrialized nation where hemp is illegal. (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/hemp)
 
Uses of hemp
It can make hemp fiber, which is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber. According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of biofuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power. (See: Energy) Hemp grows well without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides, leading to less damage on the environment. Almost half of the agricultural chemicals used on US crops are applied to cotton. Also hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce waste water contamination. Hemp's low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and it's creamy color lends itself to environmentally friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical byproducts. The uses are endless. It can be turned into different textiles, paper, foods, fuel. But most importantly, it'll create jobs, and save us money. (http://rense.com/general49/could.htm)
 
The reason hemp is illegal is because it will create competition for current industries. Big oil, the timber industry, big pharma, agriculture. You see, big business would rather stifle productivity for their own personal profit. They're legally inclined to, because of their share holders. The role of government is supposed to look out for what will be best for the American people, in this case, that would mean opening up an industry that could bring great wealth to this country. Not stifling the market for the profits of a few. There's no logical reason for hemp to be illegal, it's not marijuana it's just branded that way so it's easier to suppress. But the case for marijuana is starting to come around too. (http://www.dailypaul.com/241707/this-is-why-we-should-legalize-hemp-and-the-real-reason-it-is-illegal)
 
For legalizing Marijuana the case is pretty clear
There have been no reports of overdoses, Ever. It would save money on our prison system because it's filled with non violent drug offenders. (See: prison) Also we wouldn't be wasting tax dollars through the police and DEA for searching it out. It would destroy a source of income for drug cartels, thus lowering crime. (See: Illegal Immigration) Just think about how well prohibition worked on alcohol. Also it takes away the factor of pushing harder drugs onto people for those that want to use marijuana and can only get it from said cartels.
 
Studies have shown that marijuana is not a gateway drug chemically, other studies don't include other social factors that may lead to hard drug use, thus their analysis may be misleading.(http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20015429-10391704.html)
Drug use has not gone up in countries with more relaxed laws. (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/netherlands_v_us)
It's less addictive and healthier than cigarettes and alcohol. It's a civil liberty to consume what you wish because you’re not infringing upon anothers’ liberty. There's a huge market for it to create jobs and then tax for revenue. Safety issues should be dealt with through regulation, to limit toxins, but when compared to cigarettes, there isn't much argument to regulate it at all. It has multiple health benefits, from cancer to PTSD: (http://www.cannabis-med.org/studies/study.php)
For those that say there isn't much research on marijuana, that's because it's hard to research the use of something that's illegal. (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/10/18/research-into-marijuana-medical-benefits-limited-scientists-cite-challenge-studying-illegal-drug/tfBIDWRcS1e46R3wFituZP/story.html)
 
The War On Drugs has been an absolute failure.
In 1925, H. L. Mencken wrote an impassioned plea: "Prohibition has not only failed in its promises but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more. ... The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished." The same can be said for today's approach on drugs. We've spent 1 trillion dollars on the war on drugs, and what do we have to show for it. The U.S. Is #1 in drug use. (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500368_162-4222322.html )
The United Nations estimated the global illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion. This is giving the underground and drug cartels a massive economic system to profit from, leading to an increase in crime. In the U.S. if illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $46.7 billion in tax revenue. Legalizing drugs would save the U.S. about $41 billion a year in enforcing the drug laws. That's $87.7 billion dollars that could be put to a much better use. We wouldn't be wasting it running a police and prison state. We could put it towards education and health. Treating drugs as a health issue could save billions, improve public health and help us better control violence and crime in our communities. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from overdoses and drug-related diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C, because they didn't have access to cost-effective, life-saving solutions. Basically we would be investing in people instead of prisons. (http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/branson-end-war-on-drugs/index.html)
 
I understand that legalization may be too much for some people, specifically when it comes to things like heroin and meth. So let's look at a more relaxed approach. Portugal decriminalized their drugs back in 2001, here are the results. Drug use has been cut in half, STD's and overdoses have dropped dramatically as well. (http://www.businessinsider.com/portugal-drug-policy-decriminalization-works-2012-7 , http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=portugal-drug-decriminalization)
The problem with just decriminalizing it, is that it doesn't solve the drug cartel and crime issue. They still have a market to finance their crimes, and we don't gain any revenue from this method. Also it still leaves a terrible problem for our neighbors down south, which seeps into the US. Hence why I recommend legalization (http://www.businessinsider.com/methamphetamine-breaking-bad-mexico2012-7)
 
Additional sources:
 
Prison:
The United States has less than 5% of the world's population but it has 25% of the world's prisoners. We hold at least 2.3 million people behind bars. China (A country that's a “prison state”) has 4 times the population, yet only 1.6 million people behind bars. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/world/americas/23iht-23prison.12253738.html?pagewanted=all) It's affected veterans quit heavily as-well. About 200,000 vets are now behind bars. (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/romeo-vitelli/veterans-prison-ptsd-crime_b_2376038.html)
Louisiana has become the prison capital of the world. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran's, seven times China's and 10 times Germany's. (http://www.activistpost.com/2012/05/worlds-prison-capital-is-also-1-in-for.html , http://www.npr.org/2012/06/05/154352977/how-louisiana-became-the-worlds-prison-capital)
 
Coincidentally they have the most private prisons. Private prison firms rely on steadily increasing incarceration rates for their continued survival. For instance, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit, private prison owner and operator, admitted in its 2010 Annual Report that its “growth is generally dependent upon its ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. This has created an incentive to lock up as many people as they can. CCA spends over $1.2 million each year lobbying for more expansive crime laws. In addition, CCA's performance as a company hinges on contractually guaranteed occupancy rates of up to 90 percent by the government. (http://www.businessinsider.com/10-ways-to-reduce-us-prison-population-2012-10)
 
They also benefit from prison labor. We have to house, feed, and provide healthcare for prisons so the cost is socialized, where as their profits are privatized, while also benefiting from cheap labor. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CySzoJFkTA8)
It's basically slave labor, and the taxpayer gets to pay for it. Incarceration costs us taxpayers $63.4 billion a year. (http://www.alternet.org/story/155199/private_prison_corporations_are_modern_day_slave_traders?akid=8678.225075.rakSV-&rd=1&t=12)
Prisons are even advertising their labor force to corporations as you can see here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUJHaELZQrc&feature=youtube_gdata_player).
So people become commodities for corporations to exploit, a lot like what they do in China. This is simply an abusive system, promotes income inequality and it hinders jobs outside of prisons because people can't compete against this form of labor.
 
This is why the war on drugs is so important. More than half of America's federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession. (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2109777,00.html)
 
So we have a situation where people are profiting off of incarcerations and prison labor, then can turn to the government, lobby and fund campaigns for stricter laws to lock up more people. Thus giving them more profit to influence more laws. (http://www.republicreport.org/2012/marijuana-lobby-illegal/)
 
Illegal Immigration:
The number of illegal immigrants in the United States was estimated at 11.5 million in 2011, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. 58% of which is from Mexico. (http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/15/facts-on-immigration-in-the-united-states/)
 
A big part of this is because of the war on drugs (See: War On Drugs), there's a big underground financial system that incentivizes Mexican drug cartels to come here. Hence my approach on legalizing, taxing, and regulating drugs and turning it into a public health issue. This will break that whole system apart and will lower crime, illegal immigration, and spending on our whole police and prison system.
 
As for those that come here looking for opportunity, let them. Let's take them in, the hindrance comes from them being in this middle ground. As if they're stuck in purgatory. Trying to police them and throw them out just costs a lot of money and frankly isn't working since illegal immigration is still growing. It also does nothing to make this country a better place, it just reinforces this police state mentality we have. If we take them in, they'll be paying taxes, we can educate them (See: Education) and turn them into an asset for this country. Also it will put them on the same playing field as other workers, so businesses can't get away with using cheap labor for personal profit. (Which hinders our tax paying work force and increases income inequality.)
 
Aren't we supposed to be the land that says “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” as it is described on the statue of liberty? (http://www.howtallisthestatueofliberty.org/what-is-the-quote-on-the-statue-of-liberty/ )
 
In terms of drawing in educated workers though, countries like Canada attract a greater influx of immigrants with higher education levels and specialized skills through immigration policies that specifically favor visa applicants with advanced degrees or work experience. In contrast, U.S. policies place more emphasis on family relationships and less consideration on skills or education levels when granting permanent residence. Thus pushing skills into other countries. (http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/11/opinion/ghadar-immigration-policy/index.html)
 
The birth rate in Mexico has dropped from 7 in the 1960's down to 2.2, so the stream of immigrants is about to slow down anyway. Hence building a fence is illogical as well as being costly. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/us/politics/border-fence-raises-cost-questions.html?_r=0)
Here's a new way of looking at the problem, and understanding that immigration is an economic benefit if we approach it correctly. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OWJwR8eiWM ) One major benefit in doing this is that it will aid in keeping agricultural jobs here, as Stephen Colbert describes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1T75jBYeCs ). It seems that most Americans don't want to do the jobs that immigrants take up, though a part of that is because of pay, which stems from so many other issues. (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/why-americans-wont-do-dirty-jobs-11092011.html)
 
 
Education:
The U.S. Is 17th in education, and improvement is declining, for the first time, we're about to have a generation that isn't more educated than the previous one. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20154358)
Other Asian countries are up there with them, but, their method requires a lot of time, stress and has raised some social issues (http://www2.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/07/05/10-year-old-korean-girl-kills-self-leaving-letter-saying-life-too-tough.html), so instead I'm going to talk about Finland and why the US should switch to their method.
 
Their focus was to create an environment that gave equal opportunity, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/)
Also 66% of all their students go to college, for the US it's 66% that graduate high school. Meaning 46 out of 100 students in the U.S. go to college. That's a 20% difference. Switching to this system simply provides better quality, and it happens to be cheaper, Finland”s annual cost per child is $5,653, The US it's $7,743. Even if we just dropped it down to $6,000 using these methods we would save $182.2 billion dollars a year. (http://rossieronline.usc.edu/u-s-education-versus-the-world-infographic/)
 
 
Now the problem with achieving this ourselves, is that all that extra money that you spend on education goes into someone's pocket. Then those people use that on campaigns to compete for making more money. (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=W04)
 
Also there is a fight to privatize schools. Education is a recession-proof industry that will always be in high demand. The corporate money-changers know if they can get their hands on this industry, "reform" it to replace decently-paid teachers and faculty with cheaper teachers, and then get taxpayers to foot the bill, quarterly profits and lavish bonuses for CEOs can explode. Even in so-called "non-profit" charter schools, management can make big bucks. (http://www.alternet.org/education/why-you-can-kiss-public-education-and-middle-class-goodbye?paging=off)
This method has proven to have poor results. Especially when placed next to a country that has no private schools, like Finland (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/ravitch-why-states-should-say-no-thanks-to-charter-schools/2012/02/12/gIQAdA3b9Q_blog.html)
 
Environment:
The environment affects everything. Iit affects weather, infrastructure, agriculture, health, animals, water, anything you can think of. So taking care of our environment is of the utmost importance for our civilization. I'll break down some of the concepts, but the US Global Change Research Program released a major analysis that does a better job than I ever could.
 
Weather
Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense including heat waves (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-08/national/36207396_1_noaa-analysis-climate-change-thomas-r-karl) (http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/catastrophic-heat-wave-burning-australia), heavy downpours/floods (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-11-01/national/35507223_1_flood-insurance-flood-risk-climate-change) and in some regions drought. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/11/climate-change-america-hotter-drier-disaster) Droughts, heatwaves and downpours are significant because they affect our agriculture, thus leading to rising food costs. (See Food and Agriculture)
 
Greenhouse effect
Scientists say the earth's climate has been warming because carbon dioxide and other human-produced gases hinder the planet's reflection of the sun's heat back into space, creating a greenhouse effect. Another result is the likely release of large amounts of methane -- a greenhouse gas -- trapped in the permafrost under Greenland's ice cap, the remains of the region's organic plant and animal life that were trapped in sediment and later covered by ice sheets in the last Ice Age. Methane is 25 times more efficient at trapping solar heat than carbon dioxide, and the released gases could in turn add to global warming, which in turn would free more locked-up methane. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jKKr0IRUKbR6Se7mFZu_qfcFWZTw)
 
Polar Ice Caps Melting
The arctic ice coverage recently hit a record low. The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday (16 Sep 2012), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about 1.32 million square miles, or 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent. When satellite tracking began in the late 1970s, sea ice at its lowest point in the summer typically covered about half the Arctic Ocean, but it has been declining in fits and starts over the decades.
 
The issue with this is that the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice. While also releasing more methane into the air, to create more of a greenhouse effect. The problem is now feeding itself. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/science/earth/arctic-sea-ice-stops-melting-but-new-record-low-is-set.html)
 
Big oil has a huge incentive for denying climate change, when it comes to melting ice caps. In July 2008, the US Geological Survey released the first ever publicly available estimate of the oil locked in the earth north of the Arctic Circle. It was 160 billion barrels. (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/unlocked-by-melting-icecaps-the-great-polar-oil-rush-has-begun-2349789.html , http://science.time.com/2012/09/11/arctic-sea-ice-vanishes-and-the-oil-rigs-move-in/)
Not to mention that the energy to help divert us from a climate crisis is also their competition. Total lobbying cost for Oil & Gas for 2012: $103,814,662 (http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=E01) And a heavy amount of campaign funding. (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E01)
 
Shipping companies have an incentive as well because shorter routes that used to be covered by ice open up, ironically the shorter routes will save a lot of fuel. (http://www.france24.com/en/20120826-arctic-melts-developers-new-shipping-northern-sea-route-russia-china-ice-loss)
 
A radical solution to this has been to spray chemicals into the air to refreeze the icecaps, cost wise the solution is viable, but it doesn't solve the problem in the long run, and who knows what kind of damage we may end up doing. (http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/12/10/one-solution-to-the-melting-ice-caps-refreeze-them-it-wouldnt-even-cost-that-much/)
 
Past The Point Of No Return
It's been reported that we may already be past the point of no return.
 
The Earth will be even hotter, sea levels will be higher and rising faster, water and food resources will be increasingly stressed, extinction rates will accelerate, and our forced expenditures for climate adaptation will be far, far greater than they would otherwise have been. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-h-gleick/unavoidable-climate-chang_b_786158.html)

The reports I've gone over vary from, THE HUMAN RACE IS DOOMED! (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2012/09/03/2003541826) to, we may still have some time to turn this around, but the clock runs shorter every day. (http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Warming-nears-point-of-no-return-scientists-say-3615965.php)
 
Personally, I feel that you should put everything you can into a problem until it's truly and absolutely over. This world is very unknown to us, and amazing things happen everyday that we could never think of. Maybe if we can slow climate change down enough, we can buy some time, giving technology enough time to reach a point for a solution. The first thing we're going to have to do though is reform our energy policy. To do that, we're going to have to fix the mechanisms that are corrupting our government.
 
Energy:
Energy is one of the most complicated issues that we have.
It affects the military and national security because of the need for oil. (See: War and Military)
It affects our health and environment through CO2 emitions (which also affects agriculture), radioactive waste and the high rate of risk that comes with nuclear, chemicals in fracking affect our water. Also it affects the economy because of how much we have to spend on it. Hence the more efficient we become the better off we will be.
 
It is affected by how healthy our economy is and our education system which determines innovation. Also the political sphere, and our resources determine what approaches we are able to take.
 
Fixing our political sphere (separating special interests from government) will aid in fixing our economy, and education system. All of which will help us solve this energy problem, which is also affected by the political sphere. In turn this will aid in solving health, environment and military issues. This is how everything works together in our society. These are complex issues that are all interconnected.
 
It's takes a cost benefit approach to solve energy, the thing is, for a business, let's use oil as an example, the benefit is profit, and damage to the environment is the cost. So here we have a situation where the cost is socialized yet the benefit is privatized.
 
This is where government is supposed to step in and protect the people, but if... let's say a big oil company has more influence over the government than the people do, through something like campaign contributions (Contributors: http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E01
(http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2012/06/12/revolving-door-oil-gas-companies-hire-former-texas-regulators/) then the cost benefit analysis stays for corporate profits and not for the people as a whole. Hence why we can't seem to push forward into new energy ideas, because we're fighting the tide. The cost benefit analysis of our government has shifted away from all of the American people to favor the profits of a few. That is the barrier between now and self sustaining clean energy.
 
Going into all the problems of the different forms of energy is going to take forever, but I'll at least leave you with some ideas and solutions that we can start moving forward on to solve this crisis.
 
War and the Military:
Since 9/11 you could probably include a few more depending on how you count them. Like Libya and Palestine. (https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/16-9)
 
Anti war has a critical analysis of specifically the drone war: “The drone war violates both domestic and international law, and the Obama administration’s vehement disdain for transparency in government is the only thing keeping it from public and legal scrutiny. Beyond the law, it’s terrorism.” (http://antiwar.com/blog/2012/11/07/obama-bombs-yemen-hours-after-winning-reelection/)
 
“People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs.” - Chuck Hagel, our new secretary of defense. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-moore/chuck-hagel-iraq-oil_b_2414862.html?utm_hp_ref=politics)
 
Funny how it doesn't seem to be as much of America's interest, as it is in the interest of major corporations like Halliburton or KBR, who of course have people that end up in positions of power in the government. Like Vice President Dick Cheney. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Koar01Ug_Cw) Who appears to still hold ties to Halliburton. (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-250_162-575356.html)
 
This is one of the reasons that having self sustaining energy is so important, because there are so many additional costs that come up in other areas, be it lives or money. (See: Energy)
 
70 percent of the 108 three-and-four star generals and admirals who retired between 2009 and 2011 took jobs with defense contractors or consultants. (http://www.citizensforethics.org/pages/strategic-maneuvers-generals-defense-department-revolving-door)
Warcosts.com does a wonderful job explaining why this is such a big issue for our country in this video: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jv4CQJuANYM)
 
Here's the budget breakdown for the military in 2012 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States)
 
Defense-related expenditure 2012 Budget request & Mandatory spending
DOD spending $707.5 billion
FBI counter-terrorism $2.9 billion
International Affairs $5.6–$63.0 billion
Energy Department, defense-related $21.8 billion
Veterans Affairs $70.0 billion
Homeland Security $46.9 billion
NASA, satellites $3.5–$8.7 billion
Veterans pensions $54.6 billion
Other defense-related mandatory spending $8.2 billion
Interest on debt incurred in past wars $109.1–$431.5 billion
Total Spending $1.030–$1.415 trillion
 
Now a lot of this is necessary, because we do serve as a global stabilizing force, but it's impossible to tell how much we waste because it's going into the pockets of the people making these deals. There's a serious conflict of interest between the government and big business that has become quite obvious. (http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/09/army-to-congress-thanks-but-no-tanks/)
 
The overall concept is that, we are basically being sold $500 hammers and in some cases $500 of useless items. (http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2011/09/contractor-waste-iraq-KBR , http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/30/military-spending-waste_n_942723.html)
Now this doesn't mean that you just stop buying hammers and quit building. You have to eliminate fraud and waste as best as you can, to do that you have to understand that fraud and waste are symptoms of a conflict of interest in our government. As long as people can make money through this collusion of business and government, they will, whether they realize the damage it does to the country, or not.
 
Dwight D Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex, it appears to be that we didn't listen to him. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCd5ZVeK90U)
 
We need to keep in mind the similarities of this situation to the Roman Empire as well. The Roman Empire collapsed because it could not afford the upkeep of its military that was spread all around
Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. There is a balance that needs to be kept between a strong military and a strong economy, but focus between these two always needs to be on the economy first, because you can have a strong economy without a strong military (Iceland), but you can't have a strong military without a strong economy. At least not for long, because the military is dependent on funding.
 
War Crimes under the war on terror
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict (also known as international humanitarian law) giving rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of such conduct include "murder, the ill-treatment or deportation of civilian residents of an occupied territory to slave labor camps", "the murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war", the killing of prisoners, "the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and any devastation not justified by military, or civilian necessity" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_crimes)
 
Cornell explains the US code on war crimes here: (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2441)
Common article 3 violations are: Torture, Cruel or inhuman treatment, performing biological experiments, murder, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, rape, sexual assault or abuse, and taking hostages.
 
The US has committed a list of war crimes throughout history. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_crimes_committed_by_the_United_States)
I'll just be focusing on recent ones, and war crimes committed under the war on terror.
 
Transferring to other countries to torture (http://progressive.org/mag_impunity)
 
Bradley Manning and Wikileaks
The story of Bradley Manning has opened up knowledge into endless dynamics, like international relations, global surveillance state, the rule of law, democracy, and the freedom of speech. None of this can be summed up here so I recommend that you do your own research on Bradley Manning and Wikileaks to learn more about it.
 
Here are some video's to give you some idea of the situation, as well as the size, scope, and importance of this situation.
Frontline on Bradley Manning (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QObu1CD0TF0)
TYT on the treatment of Bradley Manning (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvmfOaZ34Pk)
Wikileaks Documentary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvmfOaZ34Pk)
Web surveillance infrastructure (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9WVTrufLhA)
Julia Assange on the state of democracy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9gdjfSa6zs)
 
Guantanamo Bay
The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a detainment and interrogation facility of the United States military located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. The facility was established in January 2002 by the Bush Administration to hold detainees it had determined to be connected with the opponents in Afghanistan and later Iraq. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Bay_detention_camp)
It has been since surrounded by much controversy for things like:
 
 
Deaths in the war on terror
Military
6,518 Service Members have died in the war on terror, 4,977 in combat. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war)
Their lives are priceless, and they will be missed.
 
Civilians
In the early days of the 'War on Terror,' US General Tommy Franks declared, "We don't do body counts". Meaning non US personnel, be it terrorist or civilian, all you can do is find an estimate through reports. (http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/NEWS-ANALYSIS-How-many-Iraqis-died-We-may-2650855.php#page-1)
 
To give you an idea I'll be presenting some estimates.
 
In Iraq: The estimates are 110,000 – 120,000 (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/)
In Afghanistan: 15,500 – 17,400 (http://costsofwar.org/article/afghan-civilians)
Drones: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has reported extensively on drone strikes, of 474 to 884 civilian deaths since 2004, including 176 children. (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/24/world/la-fg-drone-study-20120925)
 
To get the full scope of how many civilians we've killed either directly or indirectly see: (http://stopwar.org.uk/index.php/usa-war-on-terror/1573-how-many-civilians-have-been-killed-in-11-years-of-the-war-on-terror)
 
Blowback
Blowback is unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government. To the civilians suffering the blowback of covert operations, the effect typically manifests itself as “random” acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public in whose name the intelligence agency acted are ignorant of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack) against them. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowback_(intelligence) Though this definition says “covert” blowback could also be considered as retaliation for something that is public, but portrayed differently through media, because of the lack of knowledge that the public has of public events.
 
To understand the concept of blowback you’re going to need a dose of empathy, so I heavily suggest watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKfuS6gfxPY
 
The more people we blow up, the more that you can expect to retaliate and try to harm us. Especially since we've harmed so many civilians in the war on terror. As I listed above.
 
A wonderful speech was delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC. He basically explains how war is a racket, how it equates to trading blood for profit, and describes a situation that's incredibly similar to that of today. (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4377.htm)
 
Compilation: (Warning: Extreme) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duLPbu8ZYmk )
Solution
A Rand report made systematic examination and comparison of 268 groups using terror tactics in the period from 1968 to 2006. It showed that several approaches have been much more effective than military responses at eliminating future attacks. They include criminal justice responses and attempts to address the well-being concerns of both combatants and the broader populace that might support them.
 
The study found that 40 percent of the 268 groups were eliminated through intelligence and policing methods; 43 percent ended their violence as a result of peaceful political accommodation; 10 percent ceased their violent activity because they had achieved their objectives (“victory”) by violence; and only 7 percent were defeated militarily.
 
Military responses have often created more extensive violent response and terrorism against the civilian population caught between two opposing forces. Civilian deaths also become incentives for terror group recruitment and revenge attacks. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have instead served as an effective recruiting device for new terrorists. In addition, wars often create the conditions for additional violent conflicts over the new resources and new political alignments created by an initial invasion or occupation. The civil wars and criminal violence that erupted in both Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of this phenomenon. (http://costsofwar.org/article/alternatives-military-response-911)
 
 
In summary, the wars we wage and our military are on a strikingly different course than what we believe, it's put our national security at risk because of it's overly aggressive actions and excessive spending. That's not to say that we don't need to be hunting down terrorists, or that we don't need a strong military to defend ourselves as well as our infrastructure. It's just that we've taken a very authoritarian approach that seems to be counterproductive and just produces more war. It's as if we're trying to put out the fire of terrorism with gasoline instead of water. At a great cost of finances, human life, and Americas’ integrity at that. Maybe if we learned a little more about these situations, then we could prevent them from happening again. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16990-2004Nov1.html)
 
The only way to balance out the military so it isn't being pushed into excess or creating problems for financial gain is to get rid of the conflict of interest. That means closing the revolving door and ending corporate campaign contributions. Because financial donors are profiting off of the status quo, therefore they shouldn't be able to influence our government, because they are legally obligated to generate more wealth for their shareholders. Meaning that their intent is not for the safety and protection of the American people, it is simply for profit, and war can generate a lot of money. (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?Ind=D , http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.php?ind=D)
 
The costs of this have been many. (http://costsofwar.org/)
 
Civil Liberties:
Civil liberties are civil rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights. In the US they are supposed to be assured to us through the constitution, especially its bill of rights. Though that doesn't appear to happen all the time.
 
Story: NDAA 2012 and 2013 take away due process for U.S. Citizens. Meaning it strips our right to jury trial. (http://rt.com/usa/news/obama-ndaa-detention-president-288/, http://www.paul.senate.gov/?id=665&p=press_release)
Bill: NDAA 2013 (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4310)
Liberty infringed upon: Due process, under a clause of the 4th and 5th amendment, and 14th Amendment. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Due_Process_Clause , http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html)
 
Bill: H.R. 347 (112th) (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr347)
Liberty infringed upon: 1st Amendment, Freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html)
 
Bill: H.R. 3162 (107th) US Patriot Act (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/107/hr3162) S. 193 (112th) Sunset extension: (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s193)
Liberty infringed upon: Multiple, specifically the 4th Amendment (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html)
 
Story: CISPA, infringes upon privacy rights. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UERicIJ2J5U , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpIP71dDufw)
 
Bill: Secret Memo
Liberty infringed upon: Right to life and due process
Note: The legality of this is disputable considering the circumstances, but the lack of accountability because of withheld documents should be heavily noted, because clear answers can not be obtained though the lack of information. As seen with this and a similar story, the presidential kill list. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all)
 
Now another very important liberty has been in the news recently because of the attention brought to mass shootings. The 2nd amendment. It's been pointed out that the president has used an executive order to ban assault weapons, and imposed other restrictions. (http://spreadlibertynews.com/breaking-news-obama-outlines-gun-control-plans-executive-actions-taking-place/) This has caused an uproar in the country.
 
Ben Shapiro does an excellent job explaining the necessity of assault weapons and the purpose of the 2nd Amendment (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8DqCy1TvSU) the full interview is just as good (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJdhAm_oUUs), personally I prefer to take a page out of history for this.
 
"A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution
 
"And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms;…" Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789 quoting Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State by the Honorable Samuel Adams, Esquire.
 
"No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson Papers, 334 (Julian P. Boyd, Ed., 1950).
 
"To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them …" George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 380 (June 14, 1788).
 
We have also seen this in history as this link points out (http://mediamattersaction.org/emailchecker/200910200006 ), I picked the fact checked version of this because some of the details are sketchy. Many aren't though and the point still stands.
 
In summary
Compilation: (Warning alarmist.) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlZZ-87iPyg)
 
Solution
Accountability of the government has been greatly diminished, the media (Specifically cable news) has done a poor job informing the American people of these issues, and our ability to hold politicians accountable through the electoral system has been completely manipulated to allow people in power to stay there. (See: Structure of our Government.) One thing that we need to do is make sure the government is more transparent so we can be informed to hold them accountable for their actions. (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/02/the-obama-administrations-abject-failure-on-transparency/252387/ , http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/73606.html)
 
The Structure of our Government:
We are supposed to be a republic (a form of government in which the country is considered a "public matter", not the private concern or property of the rulers) that has a foundation of democracy (a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives) which we use to elects officials.
Campaign Finance
The problem is that we no longer have an equal say in our government, because money equals speech. Therefore the more money you have, the more you can influences decisions. Meaning we don't have a democratic foundation anymore because the influence over decisions is not equal, which is causing us to also lose our republic, because decisions made in government have become a private concern, and politicians basically equate to the property of those who fund their campaigns. This is because they/we are allowing them to be blackmailed/bribed. Either they play ball with their corporate backers, or they lose to a competitor who's willing to for the campaign funding. 90% of the time, the candidate with the most amount of money wins. (http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2008/11/money-wins-white-house-and.html)
 
This form of campaign funding has caused additional problems besides just corruption. Congressmen spend 30-70% of their time raising money, leaving significant less time to do the job they were elected to perform, so they have become more distracted. (http://www.campaignfinancereform.us/education/effect-of-money-in-politics)
This, plus additional problems have led to a complete lack of trust and approval of our government. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/159401/congress-approval-remains-during-fiscal-cliff-debate.aspx)
So what we have now, instead of a democratic republic, it is a corporatocracy (an economic and political system controlled by corporations or corporate interests).
 
Fixing this is going to take more than just overturning Citizens United (a bill that basically says money is speech and corporations are people), because unequal influence corrupted our system before then, the Citizens United decision just sent it into overdrive. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/corbin-hiar/lawrence-lessig-on-campai_b_1311163.html)
 
What we have to do is adopt a system of small-dollar public funding for Congress. Here's just one way of doing this: almost every voter pays at least $50 in some form of federal taxes. So imagine a system that gave a rebate of that first $50 in the form of a “democracy voucher.” That voucher could then be given to any candidate for Congress who agreed to one simple condition: the only money that candidate would accept to finance his or her campaign would be either “democracy vouchers” or contributions from citizens capped at $100. No PAC money. No $2,500 checks. Small contributions only. And if the voter didn’t use the voucher? The money would pass to his or her party, or, if an independent, back to this public funding system. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/opinion/in-campaign-financing-more-money-can-beat-big-money.html)
 
Revolving Door
The concept of the revolving door is simply that people who work for corporations are put into positions that influence policy decisions that affect the corporations they worked for. It is an extreme conflict of interest. Here are some examples:
 
Defense Contractors (http://geke.us/DefenseVenn.html)
Motion Picture Association Of America (http://geke.us/MPAAVenn.html)
Social Networking Sites (http://geke.us/SocialNetworkVenn.html)
 
We've had recent issues as well, Bill Moyers explains the connection between Obamacare, Liz Fowler, and Johnson & Johnson (http://billmoyers.com/segment/bill-moyers-essay-washingtons-revolving-door/)
Obama promised for tougher rules on lobbyists, politifact marked this as promise broken. (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/promise/240/tougher-rules-against-revolving-door-for-lobbyists/)
 
There aren't many solutions to this, you have to simply put pressure on politicians to close the revolving door, but that pressure isn't as significant when politicians rely on corporate funds for reelection, so fixing our campaign finance system will aid in solving this problem.
 
Gerrymandering
In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan or incumbent-protected districts. This is a form of controlling our democracy. It creates more partisan and extreme politicians as well giving power to incumbents. (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/55565199-82/congress-elected-party-republicans.html.csp)
The documentary “Gerrymandering” does a wonderful job of explaining the problem. (http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/255611)
"The fact is, the system is rigged. Seventy-five percent of the congressmen come from gerrymandered districts in which they’re bulletproof. They only play to one constituency. There are no swing states. They don’t go home and have to prove their case, because they’ve got a choir back home. And that’s a huge part of the problem here." - Tom Brokaw (http://www.politico.com/blogs/politico-live/2012/12/brokaw-the-system-is-rigged-152993.html?hp=r9)
This is part of the reason that a congress with a 10% approval rating get's a 90% reelection rating. (http://ivn.us/2012/08/15/congress-approval-rating-10-percent-all-time-low/)
 
I would say that the only way to actually fix this is to take the human element out of this, thus eliminating the conflict of interest (http://rangevoting.org/GerryExamples.html ), but there are multiple solutions all with varying effects. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mky11UJb9AY)
 
Presidential Debates
Presidential debates were run by the civic-minded League of Women Voters until 1988, when the national Republican and Democratic parties seized control of the debates by establishing the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). Posing as a nonpartisan institution, the CPD has often run the debates in the interests of the national Republican and Democratic parties, not the American people.

Since 1988, negotiators for the Republican and Democratic nominees have secretly drafted debate contracts that dictate how the presidential debates will be structured. The CPD, which is co-chaired by leading figures in the Republican and Democratic parties, has implemented those contracts.
CPD control of the presidential debates has harmed our democracy. Fewer debates are held than necessary to educate voters. Candidates that voters want to see are often excluded. Restrictive formats allow participants to recite memorized soundbites and avoid actual debate. Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an "unconscionable fraud". (http://www.opendebates.org/theissue/)
 
This video will basically explain the history of the debates, and how we got to this point. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd92HaEbYhM)
 
The best solution to this would be to return the presidential debates to the League of Women Voters, and make the rules more lenient to allow more voices to enter. Also, polls that determine if a candidate has reached enough support need to include all candidates who are running.
 
Election Fraud
America has had a rise in vote rigging and suppression in recent years. From flipping votes with Diebold electronic voting machines, to making people wait for hours to vote. Murder Spies and Voting Lies does a wonderful job explaining vote flipping software, and the circumstances around the 2004 election. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhBtfiRKaVY)
You can see Clinton Eugene Curtis testify under oath, before the Ohio State legislature about being asked to create a program to flip votes. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbf3iaEbAuY)
 
Not much has changed since then though (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/art-levine/mia-in-voting-machine-war_b_2054411.html), except that our voting system is becoming more privatized, corporatized, and computerized. Thus progressing this corruption.
 
Here are some explanations and examples.
 
The difficulty in solving this problem is that each state has its own issues, but to start, we should at least get rid of electronic voting machines that can be tampered with and make our whole voting system more transparent.
 
Lobbying and Super-PACs
Lobbyists spend about 3 billion dollars a year in DC. (http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/index.php) Though there has been a recent decrease in lobbying, It can be attributed to a rise in Super-PACs, just the top twenty PACs spent about 47.5 million dollars. (http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/toppacs.php?cycle=2012&party=A)

There's a lot of money being spent in DC to influence politicians. Not only does it diminish the integrity of our government, it's affecting the quality, because politicians are spending about 4 hours a day calling potential donors. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/call-time-congressional-fundraising_n_2427291.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008 )
 
Lobbying itself is protected under the freedom of speech, as it should be. It's just that because of Citizens United, money = speech, meaning that the rich are able to shout over the rest of the population. Creating unequal influence in our government, which isn't democratic at all.
 
The 4th Estate:
Corporate Media
The initial problem is that the media is based solely on profit. I wouldn't say that it is under absolute control by any means, but the atmosphere favors self profit over informing the people. Also as time goes on, the media becomes more monopolized/centralized. In 1983 50 companies owned 90% of what we read, watch, or listen to. Now 6 Media giants control 90%. They are GE, News-corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. Only three of these have 24 hour cable news stations. (http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6)
 
Information from diverse, competitive, and independent sources is vitally important to the health of a democracy. Allowing this monopolization has become a major hindrance in informing the American people.
 
“Journalism is the only profession explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, because journalists are supposed to be the check and balance on government. We're supposed to be holding those in power accountable. We're not supposed to be their megaphone. That's what the corporate media have become.” - Amy Goodman from Democracy Now.
 
This, plus recent government actions, is why we're 47th in the world, when it comes to freedom of the press. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57366186/u.s-ranks-47th-in-media-freedom-org-says/)
And it's getting more consolidated. (http://ivn.us/2013/01/08/an-fcc-vote-could-result-in-the-expansion-of-big-media/)
 
Another great example of how the hammer is coming down on information can be seen here. (http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/12/biggest-social-news-sites-censor-alternative-media.html)
 
The Left-Right Paradigm
The left right paradigm is a concept from political sciences and anthropology which proposes that societies have a tendency to divide themselves into ideological opposites. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_right_paradigm)
 
There are multiple issues that come with this. First of all, it divides America, we've seen this heavily in the battles between Fox News and MSNBC. Secondly it has resulted in dividing our politicians as well, because it promotes extremism, this is what helps cause gridlock in congress. A third issue is that it has created a duopoly in our politics, it locks out ideas that differ from the main two perspectives, ideas that may benefit Americans more than what the two parties are talking about. Also, when they actually agree on something, it is not talked about as much in the news media because they can't use it to attack the other side. This allows bills that could be very damaging to American to go unnoticed. Like NDAA. (See: Civil Liberties)
 
This has basically destroyed the public discourse. It has turned the use of the media as a problem solving mechanism into, an entertainment/war against the opposing team machine. Thus lacking some of the qualities needed to hold our government and corporations accountable for their actions.
 
“The problem with the discourse deal is capitalism... you can make a lot of money by being an assassin, a lot of money, right wing or left wing, alright. You go in, and you’re a hater, radio, cable, in print, whatever. You get paid, and there's a lot of people who do that, and they go in, they don't even believe half the stuff they say, and they just rip it up, and they get paid a lot of money, and that has coarsened everything. They're phonies, um, and capitalism drives that, there are people, Americans who want to hear hate, and they hear it, and that has just blown it all up.” - Bill O'reilly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0pPicOxOzo)
 
Here's an ironic example of how the left right paradigm creates conflict and then goes through an echo chamber to get blown up and create ratings. While leaving out important information that is necessary for Americans to make informed decisions: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv74YD05LaI)
 
I've created a different way of looking at politics to break the two party paradigm, as you can see here: (http://imgur.com/M50yAEh)

Personally I think we shouldn't even have parties, it's just too much of a manipulating and destructive force. It seems to be so easy to portray a message that has roots in thoughts like this: “Hey we're on the same party so you should vote for me and hate the other guy because he's evil.”
 
Propaganda
Propaganda was recently legalized in this years’ National Defense Authorization Act. (http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/05/bipartisan-congressional-bill-would-authorize-the-use-of-propaganda-on-americans-living-inside-america-because-banning-propaganda-ties-the-hands-of-americas-diplomatic-officials-mil.html)
Propaganda is media primarily intended to influence an audience, as opposed to educate that audience. This is the most dangerous threat to our democracy. Information is power, and when information can be used against the American people, to instill fear, or manipulate the hearts and minds of the American people, then they aren't able to make informed decisions, and are basically under the control of whoever is informing them. This is the reason the internet has fought so hard against bills like SOPA, PIPA, and many other bills that may take freedom away from the internet. Because the internet is currently the most open information source there is. That may come with its own set of problems, but at least its not dictated information from a centralized source like the pentagon. The press needs to remain free, open, and honest. Without that America will never truly be free, because they won't be informed enough to even know if they are free.
 
 
This clip from The Newsroom does an excellent job of portraying why a diverse, intelligent, and honest media is necessary. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJWKccHQFOA) The first step to solving any problem is realizing there is one.

Summary:
We have six major issues to solve in America, The first three are the most important, they are:

Campaign Finance
The Revolving Door
The Consolidation of Media

These three issues have consolidated an immense amount of power into the hands of very few people, an “Elite” you could say.

Campaign Finance affects everything. Every policy and decision that matters gets warped in favor of whoever has the most money to spend on politicians, whether or not you vote for a democrat or republican, because both have the incentive to get re-elected, and under our current system, that desire forces them to focus on who's funding them more than the general populace. Therefore, policies lean more in their favor, because if they don't, the rich will just fund someone else who will favor them.

The Revolving Door is also a part of this centralization of power because people are put into positions where they have a conflict of interest. Ex: Working for a corporation, then being put into a position that regulates said corporation, then going back to work for said corporation. This gives a financial incentive to have a bias to the corporation, thus, directing more power and money to that corporation.

The Media has become centralized, thus their narrative is less diverse. Also its focus is on profits instead of reporting. Therefore creating an atmosphere that favors entertainment more than informing the public, which is its societal function. As well as not reporting about certain corporations for fear of losing their funding through advertising. This has been seen on cable news channels more than anywhere else.

After that, we have to fix the structure of our government, because of the manipulation that has happened to our democracy, they are highly unaccountable to the American people. (see Structure of our government), the issues are:

Gerrymandering
Election Fraud
Open Debates

Gerrymandering distorts and manipulates our democracy, It disenfranchises voters and allows politicians to manipulate the elections in their own favor against the will of the people, by drawing districts however they want.

Election Fraud is completely unethical. It is literally the stealing of political positions. This cannot be allowed, because it is another form of taking or holding on to power that the people did not actually entitle to the individual who won from a rigged election.

Open Debates are an important part of our democracy. They allow the American people to become informed of our political situations from different perspectives. If other perspectives are not allowed in, diverse concepts and solutions are not heard about. This lack of competition allows politicians who may not have the best ideas or interest to obtain power without challenge.

The reason we have to fix these things, besides the fact that this is our country, is that they are what hinders us from solving our economic, debt and social issues. We have an insane $16.4 trillion dollar debt and a $1 trillion dollar deficit that's making it worse (http://www.usdebtclock.org/).
We lose 220 billion dollars a year just to the interest on our debt (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/11/19/how-the-nations-interest-spending-stacks-up),
this is basically money wasted because we haven't been fiscally responsible, and it looks like it's about to get worse because interest rates may go up. (http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/05/news/economy/national-debt-interest/index.htm)
This is not just a spending issue though, it's a revenue and growth issue as well, because we've dug ourselves into such a deep hole.
Though there are many things that we waste money on that could be eliminated. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2012/01/16/nows-the-time-to-start-cutting-wasteful-government-programs/ ,
http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=b7b23f66-2d60-4d5a-8bc5-8522c7e1a40e)

We also have an economy that isn't sustaining us with jobs or wages, and a social crisis in the form of the health and welfare of the American people. Our environment is going through changes, and we need to prepare for the effects whether you believe it is man made or not. Either something has to give, or something has to change, because right now we're headed towards an economic collapse.

We can't default on our debt, because that would crash everything. We can't implement austerity and cut social programs, because it just drags down our economy, and thus revenue for the debt. Not to mention people will end up rioting in the streets because of basic things like food costs. Just look at Greece. (http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/we-are-now-one-year-and-counting-from-global-riots-complex-systems-theorists-say--2)

So we're left with one option to get out of this situation, restore and grow the economy as quickly as possible with the least amount of damage done to the people. To do that, you have to implement new solutions. Like restructuring our trade and tax code, to drive wealth into the country, not out like we've been doing. Education reform like Finland, because it's a long term investment into the American people, as well as costing less. Fix our food and agriculture issue, so we can produce more food and save on health costs, Switch to single payer healthcare, again it costs less, it frees up small businesses because they don't have to deal with insurance, and you’re investing in the American people, which always helps the economy. Open up a new market with hemp and marijuana, it'll create new jobs, bring money into our economy, save money on prisons, bring in revenue through taxes, and lower crime because drug cartels lose a source of income. Restore our infrastructure, a common investment that generates wealth. Shift our energy policy towards both self sustaining and clean, this will help with the environment and lessen the need for creating wars for our “national interest”, and finally, cut as much fraud and waste out of the military as you can. It's more of a national security threat to have an unstable economy than it is to not constantly keep our war machine going at 120%.

There's just one major problem, Corporatism. Or one could say at this point, Fascism. You see, fascism is the fusion of government and industry. Basically it's a force that centralizes power into the hands of the few. It's a subtle thing, something that creeps into a society through a system of constant justification and responding to situations with fear. Politicians won't be branding swastikas, they'll just respond to problems with austerity and authoritarianism, because it's what they've been doing, and that's what has been getting them re-elected because it's profitable for corporations bottom line, and CEOs pockets. Politicians need corporate campaign funding. So they will continue down this path to keep their job.

Here are the 14 signs of fascism, see if you notice any similarities to today's society. (http://rense.com/general37/char.htm) I highly recommend reading it.

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini.

“America slipping into a fascist system ruled by big business”- Ron Paul

“A handful of billionaires own a significant part of the wealth of America and have enormous control over our economy. What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to say to these same billionaires: "You own and control the economy, you own Wall Street, you own the coal companies, you own the oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we're going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.”” - Bernie Sanders

In summary, a soft version of fascism has come to America. Possibly in the form of conspiracy (Meaning malicious intent.), but I have a rule to remember about people, it's that “Most people in the world aren't evil, they just don't realize that what they're doing is.” So no I don't think this is a conspiracy, I really do believe it's here in the form of our own human nature. In some ways that's worse because people don't ever like to believe that they're wrong and getting people to check themselves is proving to be difficult. Specifically the people up top, they can't really see what they're doing because they're isolated. They don't see the world like everyone else does. Millionaires and billionaires are the ones that influence government, and nearly half of the members of Congress are millionaires according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington watchdog group. (http://money.msn.com/investing/latest.aspx?post=70cc8f98-07b4-4e4e-923e-5569bd82627d)

So we've created an atmosphere that promotes greed, profit, and the love of power, over humanity and its well-being. The people in power have become isolated in the center of this atmosphere in a small bubble away from the rest of the American people because of wealth. A great example of that can be seen here: (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/george-washington-didnt-have-too-much-influence-the-koch-brothers-do/263693/)

This situation is the reason that none of these solutions on improving the country can be implemented, that is until the public is informed and they stand up for themselves by taking control of their government again. It's most likely not in the interest of anyone who's profiting from the status-quo, meaning CEO's who profit from lobbying and funding campaigns, and those that get elected from selling out their position for campaign dollars. So I doubt that they're going to do anything about it. If nothing is done, power and money will continue to get consolidated in the hands of the “Elite”, and Americans will continue to lose their rights and their influence over the government. America cannot survive under this course. Its’ economy and social structure cannot survive under this course. You can see the results of our current path here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdPkaCTdxBU).

Also the opportunity for extreme fascism opens up. America won't be in a position to lead the world, nor maintain order throughout the globe, so the possibility of WWIII is greatly heightened, and we will sadly be on the wrong side of it simply because we don't have control over our country anymore. Here's a clear sign of business and government getting too cozy with each other, and why we're running out of time. (http://www.businessinsider.com/us-banks-and-law-enforcement-together-ows-domestic-security-alliance-council2013-1)

It's strange, but we fought this same battle not too long ago. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot) , (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTdx6vEUtIA ).
Even stranger that Prescott Bush, father of George H. W. Bush (41st President of the US) and the grandfather of George W. Bush (43rd President of the US), was in on it. The BBC reports here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/document/document_20070723.shtml) Video here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BZCfbrXKs4). Naomi Wolf describes how the legacy has lived on through Prescott’s grandson, George Bush. Though I would say it's much more subtle, and not as harsh when compared to other regimes in history, but that's how it starts. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/apr/24/usa.comment)

Summary of a 1944 Henry Wallace speech, VP under FDR.
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
Full speech here: (http://newdeal.feri.org/wallace/haw23.htm)

One would hope that things would have changed with President Obama. That maybe he would have an FDR moment, but as you can see he's continued many of President Bush's policies.
(http://stpeteforpeace.org/obama.html ) - (Warning: excessive)

It seems that history is repeating itself, it's just much more subtle, therefore more dangerous. It seems that the American experiment is coming to a close, the light of democracy and freedom will no longer be there to guide the world out of the dark. If nothing is done that is.

“The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.” - Thomas Jefferson
 
If you want to solve Americas’ problems, then you need to decentralize power, which stems from its conflicts of interest, it is the silver bullet to a prosperous America. That means fixing Campaign Finance, The Revolving Door, The Consolidation of Media, Gerrymandering, Election Fraud, and Opening up the Debates. Everything else will fall into place after that.

So I ask that you please spread this around and inform as many people as possible. I've simplified (I know it's long, but that's the complexity of our country) and sourced this article as much as I could. Everyone is authorized to publish this, though I can't say the same for all the links, but all the links are public, so it should be ok. If this doesn't get through to the country, then I am left without ideas or hope, and I fear that all is lost.

I'm willing to put my name to this, even though we've seen a slight risk of that in the past. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/brandon-j-raub-marine-detained_n_1817484.html).
Though much of it is not in my own words because it's from sources, I've put time, energy, and research into piecing this together. So I feel that it is necessary to stand by it.

My name is Charles Karter, and I'm here to help the people of my country.
"Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity" - Horace Mann

Feel free to contact me at charles.karter@yahoo.com for questions.

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