By Somar Wijayadasa*
After an acrimonious election that lacked a dialogue on policy issues but filled with animosity and innuendo, Donald J. Trump won the presidency in a stunning upset that has surprised the whole world.
He single-handedly won the election despite the Republicans in Washington shamefully spurned the Republican nominee with disdain and contempt. Even the major media outlets jumped on the bandwagon indiscriminately bashing Trump’s every word. Even three days after elections, the media was still stirring the cesspool.
Trump’s win is not a win for the Republican Party because Americans voted to prove their absolute repugnance and distrust of the “established political order” in Washington.
As a former Republican, I wish to point out a few important policy changes that Trump has proposed, and if implemented would bode well for all citizens of this great country.
Unity in Diversity
Trump promised to unify the Republican Party and the country. Republicans should seriously contemplate on reorganizing the Grand Old Party (GOP) to recognize the aspirations of ALL citizens of this country – especially to embrace changing demographics if it wishes to be recognized as a true national party.
I doubt whether GOP could truthfully embrace changing demographics of this country. It may continue as a shrinking party of middle-aged and older white men. I hope Trump would take the courage to motivate the Republicans in Washington to mobilize the diverse ethnicities in our country with status, direction, purpose and dignity.
Health Care Reform
Almost all GOP candidates vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) known as Obamacare. Though Obamacare is not a panacea for all ills, let’s not forget that regardless of its deficiencies and rising costs, it is a blessing for millions of people.
It is shameful that the richest country in the world has miserably failed in its duty to provide universal health care for all its citizens – even though the United States (U.S.) spends more per capita on publicly funded health care than almost every other country in the developed world.
Combined public and private spending on health care in the U.S. came to $8,233 per person in 2010, more than twice as much as relatively rich European countries such as France, Sweden and Britain that provide free health care to all their citizens.
The problem is that in America, health care is used as an “opportunity” to get rich, not as an opportunity to provide compassionate and affordable health care services.
Why can’t care providers (doctors, labs and hospitals) have a standard fee that is fair, just and reasonable to all – rich and poor, insured or not? Why do we have to pay five times more than what Europeans pay for the same medications? Health care cannot work as a for-profit enterprise. It is a basic right of all human beings.
Therefore, instead of repealing Obamacare, Washington should strive to improve on it by converting it into a single-payer health insurance system, and find ways to stop price gauging on life-saving medications.
Rebuild America: Infrastructure Development
Trump promised to boost spending on new roads and bridges to build infrastructure in this country which is a monumental task when we are bogged down in a $22 Trillion dollar deficit, and spend colossal amounts on foreign wars.
Since Trump is a successful businessman, I assume that his Tax Law changes and his plan to encourage U.S. multinationals to bring back the 2.5 Trillion dollars they hold overseas would provide – to some extent – the much needed funding for infrastructure development.
Trump can also save trillions of dollars if he keeps his promise not to engage in foreign wars.
Many American researchers estimate that the costs of our wars in the Middle East could be more than $6 Trillion dollars. This colossal amount could have been invested in our schools, hospitals, rebuild collapsing infrastructure, and provide Universal healthcare to all our citizens.
Let’s not forget that wars make millionaires out of our tax dollars, and no matter how much we spend or sacrifice, these countries in the Middle East will form radical Islamic governments that hate America.
According to Foreign policy expert Michael Burleigh, the Trump Presidency could witness “the end of a cycle of ill-conceived overseas interventions and fifteen years of incessant war, and the dawn of a harder edged attitude to America’s friends, ‘frenemies’ and foes alike”.
Term Limits for Congressmen and restrict Lobbyists
Vowing to “drain the swamp in Washington D.C.”, Trump proposed a package of ethics reforms.
Saying that “decades of failure in Washington, and decades of special interest dealing must come to an end,” Trump called for an amendment to the Constitution to implement term limits on members of Congress under which members of the House of Representatives would serve a maximum of six years, while Senators would be limited to 12 years in office.
For this initiative, Trump has a partner in Congress. In 2012, the Washington Post quoted (current Speaker) Paul Ryan: “I’ve always supported that in Congress. That takes a constitutional amendment. I’ve always believed that this should be something that you serve temporary, not for an entire lifetime.”
In 2013, a Gallup survey noted that, if given the option, 75 percent of Americans would vote for term limits for both the House and Senate.
Furthermore, Trump said that he would ban executive branch officials from becoming lobbyists for five years after leaving the government and would never allow senior officials to lobby on behalf of a foreign government.
I would like to see politicians act on their words. Never in our history has the need for term limits been more desperate.
Trump has not taken a firm position on nuclear weapons. His comments range from “biggest problem, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation”, “I will be the last to use nuclear weapons”, “I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody”, but “I don’t want to rule out anything.”
Nuclear weapons are the most inhumane and dangerous weapons on earth which can annihilate whole cities, potentially kill millions of people, and destroy the natural environment and lives of future generations through its long-term catastrophic effects.
Saner American Presidents have spoken about the need to abolish nuclear weapons.
For example, John F. Kennedy said that these nuclear weapons “must be abolished before they abolish us”; Ronald Reagan said, “We must never stop until nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the Earth”; and in a 2009 Prague speech, Barack Obama vowed to take “concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons”.
But that never materialized. Hope Trump takes steps to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Trump has threatened to pull America out of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change that commits almost every country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He also proposed an incoherent energy plan aimed at reviving the coal industry.
If implemented, these are disasters that would create lasting harm to everything from global biodiversity to food availability. I hope his advisers enlighten him that “climate change is not a hoax”.
All of the above issues did not surface overnight. These should have been resolved decades ago for the common good of all Americans.
*Somar Wijayadasa was a Delegate of UNESCO to the UN General Assembly from 1985-1995, and was Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000.