Welcome to my contemporary issues page. You have a right to know where I stand on the important challenges of our day. Each week I will present my thoughts on a different timely issue.

You may not agree with me on all the details but you will know where I stand. In future weeks we will look at these topics:

NEW! A Consistent Position Regarding the Cherishing of Life
* Social Security Reform
* The war in Iraq: What should we do now?
* Evironmental Policy
* CAFTA and what it means to us
* The Kennedy-McCain bill on immigration
* Improving education in our local schools
* Freedom from dependence on foreign oil
* Affordable housing in the 6th District
* Jesus and Politics: Compassion and Civility
* True patriotism in times of war
* Making our medical practice more efficient and less costly

I look f paper writer orward to receiving your comments and suggestions. You may write to me at Scott4congress@hotmail.com.

A Consistent Position regarding the Cherishing of Life

The life of every human being is sacred and much more valuable than silver or gold. Therefore human life should be cherished across the board, from the womb to the grave. Indeed, I am a Democrat because this party comes closer than the Republicans in providing a reverence for life across the spectrum. Democrats want to make good health care available for all. Democrats are stronger supporters of education than Republicans. Democrats, much more so than Republicans, defend a strong safety net for all citizens, especially for those in need: such as head start programs, school lunches for poor children, public transportation, and funding for foster care. (At times, Republicans seem merely to be pro-birth, because they appear so hard hearted on issues that affect the health and well-being of children) Democrats, more so than Republicans, tend to be more respectful of our international neighbors through cooperation with the United Nations, NATO, the OAS, and international treaties like Kyoto.

Aspects of human reproduction are more controversial. There are sincere people in both the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” camps. What is sometimes lacking is clarity of thought and a willingness to find common ground in order to more fully cherish human life. I invite you to accompany me as we try to find that common ground.

On the one hand are those who defend a woman's right to exercise authority over her own body. This is an understandable argument. Throughout the centuries and in most societies women have not been considered as equals with men. They have been treated as second-class citizens. I vigorously defend that women should have the same rights as men. On the other hand, a child in the womb is more than merely an appendix. A pre-born child has the potential for full humanity and therefore should be cherished. A consistent position that cherishes life across the board (that both Democrats and Republicans could advocate) would recognize the truth that exists on both sides. It would also address the tension that exists when the rights of the woman and the rights of the fetus come into conflict. I am pro-woman. I lived over 16 years in Latin America where women are frequently treated as inferior to men. I have learned many lessons from Latin American women (foremost among them is my wife Dinorah). I wrote one book, edited a second, published a third and co-organized several conferences that promoted the full equality of women with men in all areas of life. I also cherish the life of the pre-born child. In fact, I have not met a single person who is pro-abortion. The overwhelming majority of pro-choice advocates admits that abortions are tragic, regrettable, and should become scarce. Is there a place for people on both sides of this issue to work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and therefore reduce the number of abortions?

Before I propose several suggestions on how abortions can become scarcer, I will address the issue of Roe v. Wade because my position has been widely misinterpreted. On the one hand, any change in Roe v Wade would probably come from the Supreme Court and not from a Congressional Representative. I do not believe that overturning Roe v Wade would resolve the controversy. It would push the issue back to the states where some states would permit abortions and some would prohibit them. Women who desired an abortion would just travel to a state that permitted abortions if their own state prohibited them, or worse yet, would resort to the back alley.

For those who oppose abortions on religious grounds, I urge that we follow the example of Jesus. He seldom appealed to laws and their earthly punishments as a way to change human behavior. His preferred methods for bringing about change included clear moral teaching, forgiveness of failures, communities that would be supportive of people, and the offering of alternatives for people who were trapped by the system or by their own mistakes.

Let's now return to policies that a Congressional Representative could vigorously promote that would both empower women and cherish life in the womb.

1. I will promote federal funding of day care centers. The most cited reason for abortions is financial. Many women choose abortions because they cannot see how they can raise a child on their limited resources. If day care centers were readily available so that women could continue their education and/or work to support their family, they would be more inclined to carry their child to term.

2. I will introduce legislation that requires insurance companies to reimburse for the costs of pregnancy and birth. This would ban pregnancy from being considered a “pre-existing condition” in the health industry. We can end the discriminatory practices against pregnant women in the health insurance industry by removing pregnancy from all “pre-existing condition” lists in health care.

3. I will promote more robust funding for domestic violence programs. These programs are vitally important because the leading cause of death against pregnant women is murder. I will urge additional federal funding for programs that have received grants by the Department of Justice for providing counseling and shelter for women and children in crisis pregnancies.

4. I will urge that adoption credits be made permanent. I will advocate the repeal of the “sunset” on adoption tax credits. By making these credits permanent we will encourage some pregnant women to carry their child to term, then give their child up for adoption, and thus bring tremendous love and joy to thousands of families.

If Democrats emphasize these kinds of proposals we will more consistently cherish life across the board. These policies will find broad acceptance by the majority of citizens because they empower women and cherish life at the same time. In this way we Democrats can reshape the debate about what it means to have a true reverence for life.


Social Security.

The problem: As a fiscal conservative who believes that large deficits are morally wrong, I oppose President Bush's privatization plan for Social Security. As he himself has admitted, his plan would not address the solvency issue and would increase the federal deficit by $2,000,000,000,000 (that's two trillion dollars!) to make up for the money channeled into private accounts. I believe it is immoral for my generation to pass this massive deficit to younger generations.

My solution: We can address the problem of solvency in several ways. Here are two of the simplest.

Currently, workers pay the 6.2% Social Security tax only on their first $90,000 of income-and not on anything above this amount. What this means is that those who make $180,000 in effect pay only 3.1% of their income into Social Security. The bottom line? Those who can afford to pay more are actually paying less (as a percentage) than their less well off counterparts. I would propose a modest raise in the income cap from $90,000 to $140,000, a move which by itself would cut the projected Social Security shortfall by 40%.

A second easy way to reduce the shortfall would be to preserve some of the estate tax (at the level set for 2009) and dedicate it to Social Security. This would reduce the shortfall by another 27%. Together these two simple measures would go far toward shoring up Social Security, keeping it strong for future generations of American workers. Let us honor the "great generation" by making Social Security work, not by killing it through privatization.



The problem:

Freedom and democracy are admirable ideals, but they must be pursued with wisdom. Going to war without strong international support, without reliable intelligence, and without a plan to win the peace is not the path of wisdom.

According to Just War theory, four main tests must be met before going to war can be considered justified. As I have written in "Terrorism and the War in Iraq" our country failed to meet the criteria of just cause, just intention, legitimate authority, and last resort. Instead of admitting any culpability whatsoever, our administration grasped for illusive motives and we are now left with a troubled "nation building" program, a cause Bush rejected in his 2000 campaign.

Let us face reality head on. Our soldiers and an increasing number of Iraqi police and civilians are being killed by a shadowy insurgency. An increasing number of Iraqi government leaders see our presence as a liability. 80% of Iraqis would like us to leave their country in an orderly manner-a goal that all Americans share as well. Together, we should seek the course of action that would permit Iraq the best possible opportunity to achieve peace and justice.

My solution:

Let us renounce any desire to control Iraqi oil. Let us renounce any goal to have permanent military bases in Iraq. Let us greatly reduce our embassy staff in Iraq to numbers comparable to our staff in other countries.

We should inform the Iraqi government that we will withdraw our troops over the next two years and we will submit to their precise timetable within those parameters. If peacekeepers are still needed, Iraq should request them from the United Nations.

This policy truly offers Iraq a good chance for peace and justice. It also frees up money to fight the cesspools of terrorism in more intelligent and more Christian ways. For example, we could provide $10 billion dollars a year to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and we could offer the technology and funds needed to cut in half the 30,000 daily deaths of children due to poverty and curable diseases. Let us retrace our steps and get back onto higher moral ground.


Environment. Environmental policy is at a crossroads. Decades ago, recognition of such problems as acid rain spurred the development of many effective policy mechanisms for their abatement. Air and water quality improvements have been among the most significant achievements of federal environmental management efforts since that time. But recent concerns about the burdens of environmental management have created a quite different regulatory atmosphere. Many complain that environmental regulation is onerous, and with the government’s increasing commitment to free trade, some corporations have chosen to locate operations in countries with lower environmental standards, spoiling the international environment while further burdening laborers at home and abroad. But environmental and economic concerns need not be at odds. Indeed, many important environmental policy achievements have also been significant economic accomplishments. The establishment of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards was originally intended both to reduce harmful air pollution and to promote competitiveness on behalf of the United States auto industry. But while such past accomplishments of federal environmental policy are significant, important environmental issues remain to be addressed. And we must do so with concern for both stewardship and justice—between generations and among members of this generation..

Climate change. Due to the emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, the average surface temperature of the earth is increasing with important implications for the global climate. Left unchecked, climate change will have significant negative effects both in the United States and abroad. But while it is a truly global phenomenon, its burdens fall largely upon the poor of this generation and upon our children and grandchildren. Climate change is also one of the primary causes of the extinction of certain species and signals the certain demise of some of the world’s most charismatic landscapes. The United States emits more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world and therefore shares the responsibility to reduce emissions and stabilize climate. For this reason, we should couple domestic measures with a renewed commitment to international negotiations for a binding emissions reduction strategy. A recommitment to multilateralism in environmental policy should be buttressed by a robust domestic policy. Fortunately, many state and local governments have developed climate change action plans and taken other measures that may prove instructive in planning for national strategies. Reform in energy and transportation sectors can be an important contribution to a climate stable future and are among priorities in this regard.

Biological diversity. A biodiverse future is equally important to the environment we leave to our children. Unfortunately, research shows an estimated three species are lost every day. And while this is clearly an issue of environmental stewardship, its social consequences are significant. Biodiversity is the linchpin of ecological integrity and many environmental goods and services are dependent upon it. The Endangered Species Act is the most significant federal mechanism for promoting domestic biodiversity. Strengthening the act and promoting the integrity of protected areas are important means by which to ensure a biodiverse future in the United States. Attending to the emission of greenhouse gases—thus supporting a climate stable future—will also promote biodiversity at home and abroad by addressing two of the most important causes of extinction: climate change and increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Air and water quality. Setting minimum air and water quality levels has been an important function of the federal government’s environmental policy agenda for decades. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act remain significant tools for promoting public health and environmental integrity. Policies such as these, which regulate pollutant levels, help to secure a better environment now and for the future. Such regulations also advance equity in environmental quality between states and localities; without common minimum quality levels, states and municipalities could be caught in a ‘race to the bottom,’ attracting investment through the elimination of environmental regulations. These policies provide for environmental integrity while being sensitive to issues of economy and social equity.

Environmental justice. Social dimensions of environmental quality are among the many important facets of environmental policy. Marginalized and vulnerable communities continue to suffer disproportionately from environmental hazards. The federal government can play a significant role in the promotion of environmental justice. But environmental justice should not simply be a matter of fairly distributing environmental ills. Rather, we should carefully consider the ramifications of any policy for the distribution of environmental quality, ensuring access to a healthy environment now, as well as in the future.

These issues are complex and challenging. The role of the federal environmental policy should be to orchestrate a harmonious relationship between environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic interests. Policy measures should be sensitive to all three concerns, reflecting their potential concurrence and taking advantage of mutual gain at every possible occasion.

My policies are definitely a team effort. Special recognition goes to my colleague Noah Toly, Ph.D. candidate at the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware, for his excellent work on this issue.


The Central America Free Trade Agreement. CAFTA follows the same pattern of free trade provisions implemented in 1994 between Canada, the United States and Mexico (NAFTA) by lowering trade barriers. If approved, CAFTA would allow 80% of U.S. exports and industrial goods to enter Central America and the Dominican Republic duty-free immediately, while the remaining tariffs would be phased out over 10 years. It would also permit Central American products, like sugar, to enter more freely into the United States. President Bush and the Presidents of the Central American countries are pushing for approval of CAFTA. Although I am generally in favor of lowering tariffs, I am against CAFTA as it is currently proposed because it would cause further erosion of U.S. jobs and it would also eliminate jobs in Central America. Eleven years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement was hailed as the panacea for employment in Mexico and in the United States. The fruits of NAFTA are now evident. U.S. jobs have been outsourced at an ever increasing rate, largely ending up in sweat shops where workers cannot make a dignified wage. There has been a race to the bottom as nations try to attract foreign capital by lowering the minimum wage rate in their countries and reducing environmental regulations. Along the U.S.- Mexican border, workers in the maquiladoras make about $5 a day, but now even these jobs are being outsourced to India and China.

NAFTA has also caused many Mexicans to lose their jobs. 1,800,000 Mexican corn farmers have been forced to abandon their farms, because they were not able to compete with the large agricultural businesses. Many unemployed peasants, unable to work their own farms, naturally migrate northward to the United States as they try to provide a better life for their families. Free trade agreements will not be helpful for workers unless there are strong labor unions abroad and strong laws to protect the environment.

Free trade agreements have not generally lived up to their expectations. Jobs have not been created in the numbers that were hoped for. A more just concept is “fair trade” in which farmers and other producers of goods are paid salaries that are sufficient to meet their needs. “Pura Vida Coffee” from Costa Rica and the “Ten Thousand Villages” handicraft stores are examples of fair trade in which the producers and the consumers are treated justly.

For those who want to go deeper in the topic of globalization, I recommend Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents (New York: Norton, 2002). Stiglitz won the Nobel prize for economics, served as Chief Economic Advisor to President Clinton and was Chief Economist at the World Bank.


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