Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Thoughts on Gun Control--Again

On March 23, 2018, shortly after the Parkland massacre, I posted the following item about gun control.  Sadly, it is time to post it again.

On Saturday, I hope to join the local walk for gun control inspired by the students in Parkland, Florida.  In preparation, here are some thoughts on what a reasonable gun control policy might look like.  First, a reminder of the second amendment to the U.S Constitution.  It reads: 
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.

Automatic Weapons
            Automatic weapons—the AR15s and weapons like them, along with bump stocks and other devices that allow a gun to fire as if it were automatic—are weapons of war and should not be available to individuals.  These are not weapons of individual protection and have no value to hunters.  Since the Constitution encourages states to establish a “well-regulated militia,”  automatic weapons and related devices, to the extent that they are needed at all, should be maintained in a well-protected armory, so that they are available to the militia in emergencies.  However, they should not be available for individuals to purchase in sporting goods stores, gun shows, or anywhere else.
Other Weapons
            The situation is different for hunting rifles and pistols, given the long tradition of hunting in many American communities and concerns for home safety.  Here, we can learn from the experience of states to control motor vehicles and drivers:
  • States should conduct background checks on all individuals seeking to own or use fire arms. 
  • Owners and users of weapons should be tested on their ability to safely use the weapons and, having passed the test, should be licensed.  Just as some states have separate licensing to drive motorcycles, cars, and certain trucks, states should require separate licenses for hunting rifles, pistols, and other weapons.  User licenses should be renewed annually. 
  • Fire arms ownership should be registered and that registration should be renewed annually, as is done with motor vehicle ownership.
  • Owners should be held legally responsible for any deaths or property destruction caused by fire arms that they own.  States should require owners to maintain insurance on their weapons, just as is the case with automobiles.
  • Owners should be required to report missing/stolen weapons to the local police within 24 hours of discovering that they are missing.
  • There should be adequate penalties for possession of unregistered weapons and for unlicensed use of weapons.
            The infrastructure to administer these requirements already exists in the Department of Motor Vehicles in most states.  It should be relatively easy to add these requirements and support the work through registration and license fees.
            Over the years, the process of registration and licensing around motor vehicles has become accepted as a part of daily life in America.  The driver’s exam and first license are seen by many as a rite of passage.  There’s no reason to assume that the same would not happen when similar requirements are tied to fire arms.  Since it is unlikely that Americans will give up their guns, we need this basic regulation to help protect citizens.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Promoting Social Investment

I serve on the Board of a small nonprofit organization.  This past week, during an executive committee meeting, the Chair noted a disturbing trend in our funding.  The new federal income tax law gives individuals a much higher standard deduction.  As a result, he noted, individuals are less likely to make donations to nonprofit organizations, since that donation is less likely to be used as a tax deduction. The result?  Nonprofits and charities that depend on individual contributions are starting to suffer.
It is intriguing to explore the implications.  On one hand, increasing the standard deduction would seem to promise individual taxpayers an easier and more equitable way to support their government.  A standard deduction simplifies taxes for the majority of Americans.  Only the well-off would want or need to itemize deductions.
But there is another lens through which to view this. A larger standard deduction greatly reduces the incentive for average citizens to donate money to nonprofit social services agencies—from the local library to food banks to the cancer society and other health research and service agencies to museums, and so forth. And, of course, to social rights advocacy groups and other social advocacy groups.  This serves to weaken the impact of these organizations in the community,  It also serves to weaken citizen  investment—that is to say, citizen’s moral investment—and active involvement in social organizations.  That, in turn, weakens the viability of community and, ultimately, democracy, which depends on citizen involvement in society.
Here’s a thought:  Why not keep the standard deduction, but also allow citizens to claim a percentage of that amount as additional deductions for the taxpayer’s contributions to community-based nonprofit organizations?  This would encourage citizen participation in social causes.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Reading the Mueller Report, Post #1

            I have decided that I need to read the Mueller Report myself in order to understand the truth of what may well be the most important political, legal, and moral controversy facing the U.S. Presidency in my lifetime.  This is a first posting, based on Mueller’s Executive Summary and early sections of Volume One.
            When I began reading this section, news coverage of Donald Trump’s hour-long telephone meeting with Vladimir Putin on May 3 was fresh in my mind.  Trump used part of the call to share with Putin the fact that the Mueller Report had been released and that it reinforced the argument of conservative pols that the Trump was innocent of any wrong-doing.  Trump called the entire investigation “the Russian hoax” and did not use the phone call to warn Putin against repeating Russia’s election interference in 2020.
If there is one thing that is clear in the Executive Summary to Volume One, it is that Russian interference with the 2016 election was nota hoax, but in fact was a three-year campaign by the Russian government to interfere with our elections and put into place someone who would be sympathetic to Russia.  The earliest attempts were carried out by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a company based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and funded by a Russian oligarch with ties to Vladimir Putin.  The Mueller Report notes that, initially, the IRA organized “social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States,” adding:
The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed "information warfare." The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.Selectoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidateTrump and disparaged candidate Clinton. The IRA' operationalso included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.Sgrassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials in the United States.
            This suggests that, originally, the Russian goal was not focused specifically on Trump, but more generally on disrupting our election process.  However, in November 2015, Trump became more visible to Putin when he signed a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.  This began a sequence of events as Russia focused more specifically on the Trump Campaign.  Notes from the Mueller Report:
January 2016: Nine months before the election—Michael Cohen spoke about the project with Russian government press secretary Dmitry Peskov.  As late as June 2016, the Trump Organization was considering a plan to send Cohen and candidate Trump to Russia.
June 9, 2016:  “A  Russian lawyer met with senior Trump Campaign officials Donald Trump Jr.Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to deliver what the email proposing the meeting had described as ‘official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.’ The materials were offered to Trump Jr. as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."  
June 142016: The Democratic National Committee and a security firm reported that “the Russian government hackers had infiltrated the DNC and obtained access to opposition research on candidate Trump, among other documents.”
July 2016:  Wikileaks released the first set of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.  The FBI opened an investigation into “potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.”
October 2016: Less than an hour after media released film of Trump talking about women, WikiLeaks released another collection of stolen Democrat emails.  The Mueller report notes, “That same day,October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint public statement that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.’ Those ‘thefts’ and the disclosures’of the hacked materials through online platforms such as WikiLeaks, the statement continued, ‘are intended to interfere with the US election process’.” 
In sum,” the report notes on page 35, “the investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidentialelection through the ‘active measures’ social media campaign carried out by the IRA, anorganization funded by Prigozhin and companies that he controlledAs explained further in Volume I, Section V.A,infra, the Office concluded (and a grand jury has alleged) that Prigozhin, his companiesand IRA employees violated U.S. law through these operations, principally by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections.”
            I was amazed that, when the Mueller report was released, several senior Republican members of Congress—Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator Mitch McConnell among them—argued that, because the report did not implicate Donald Trump, there was no need for further Congressional investigation or discussion.  To them, the issue was “closed.”   Set aside the question of who might have “colluded” with the Russian actions. The question remains:  How is the United States going to prevent this kind of interference in the future?  
We have another election coming in 18 months.  Free elections are the soul of a democracy.  What will Americans do to protect our election process from foreign interference this time around?  This is the question that both houses of Congress need to address as a high priority.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Forgotten Majority: Two Decades Later

            Sometimes, cleaning house can have unforeseen benefits. The other day, we were cleaning out an old drawer to make room for new junk.  Among the old photos and other memorabilia, we found a copy of the June 2000 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.  I took a close look and could find no particular reason why I saved the issue.  But then I found a surprise: one of the featured articles was “America’s Forgotten Majority” by Joel Rogers and Ruy Teixeira.  In 2000, Rogers was a professor of sociology, law and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Teixeira was a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.  The article itself was excerpted from a book they were about to release, America’s Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters.  So here we are, almost two decades later.  What might they have to say about the electorate as we look toward the 2020 election?
            They begin the article by reviewing the common understanding of the American majority that emerged in the 1990s—the idea that American voters were dominated by “soccer moms,” “wired workers,” and suburban married couples—or, as The New York Timesreported in a 1999 article, “affluent independent voters and high-technology employees who work miles from any city.”  Rogers and Teixeira argued that this stereotype missed the mark.  Instead, they noted that more than 75% of American voters lack four-year college degrees, that more than 70% do not hold professional or managerial jobs, and that “the median income of American households is actually quite modest.”  They noted the popular idea that the white working class had, in fact, become “politically irrelevant.”  But they offered a different take on the data, that “the white working class is alive and well in American politics today.”
            What had changed by 1999, however, was how that majority saw itself.  Rogers and Teixeira noted that the members of this majority tended not to be working in factories or other traditional blue-collar jobs.  Instead, they saw themselves as “middle class” voters who, while they did not benefit from policy changes in the 1960-1980s, nevertheless made up 55% of the total voting population.  As Rogers and Teixeira noted, they were also working to overcome some old stereotypes:
·     The majority had at least a high school diploma and 40% had some post-secondary education.
·     They earned a “moderate income”—most on the low side of what was considered “middle class.”
·     They tended to hold low-level white-collar and service jobs, rather than unskilled blue-collar jobs.
·     They were increasingly unlikely to work in factories.
·     They lived in and, in fact, dominated the suburbs.
“In sum,” they wrote, “the white working class remains numerically dominant, even if its form has changed.”
            Rogers and Teixeira argued that “the core values of the forgotten majority must be reunited with their economic experience.”  They suggested the following policy agenda to attract them:
·     Universal access to health care.
·     Adequate retirement income.
·     Access to quality education at all levels—elementary, secondary, college, and beyond.
·     Access to effective job training for people who need to change jobs to keep up in a changing economy.
·     The right to a decent wage and the right to speak out and organize.
·     A work schedule that allows time for family.
·     Access to affordable, quality child care.
·     Government investment to ensure continued economic growth.
The authors noted that “Republicans and Democrats will have different ideas about how to use government to achieve these goals.  But each party must try to achieve them if it means to build a durable majority.  The insecurities of the new economy cannot be remedied without effort; the need to confront them politically is inescapable.”  They closed by calling for both political parties to embrace “the forgotten majority” in order to “revive active, strong government and build a twenty-first century prosperity that includes all Americans.”
That was two decades ago.  
In the intervening years, several things have happened:
·     The “Great Recession” put a squeeze on savings and retirement income for Boomer members of the Forgotten Majority.
·     The cost of higher education grew, requiring many students to carry significant debt as they begin their careers.
·     The first web browser was launched in the early 1990s.  It has since transformed personal and business communications, creating a major impact on how we work and how we conceive “community.”
·     Manufacturing and other industries have become increasingly globalized, creating a global supply chain that is having an increasing impact on manufacturing jobs.
·     The combination of online communications and globalization has created a new work environment, allowing employers to call upon global expertise and allowing many to work from home. 
·     Social, economic, and political change, increasingly complicated by the impact of climate change, have contributed to a global migration of people in search of physical safety and economic and social security for their families.
This leads me to ask: Is the eight-item policy agenda that Rogers and Teixeira outlined in 2000 still relevant?  My view is that all eight elements of the platform issues are still with us.   Progress has been made on some, but none have been totally resolved.  Three of the eight are currently hot topics as we look to the 2020 election:
·     Universal Access to Health Care:  The Affordable Care Act was a major step toward universal access.  As the 2020 election approaches “Medicare for All” has been proposed.  Clearly, though, the country still has work to do before all citizens have equal access to health care.
·     Retirement Income:  Social Security has been under attack for several years.  Clearly, though, the majority of voters would support protecting their retirement investment in Social Security.  Regulation of private insurance plans remains an issue.
·     Education: There has been an increasing demand for open access to postsecondary education—a “K-14” system—to better prepare young people for work in the new, technology-driven environment.  New York, for instance, recently passed legislation allowing resident high school graduates to attend the first two years of college tuition-free at selected public institutions.  Several candidates are also calling for adjustments to the national student loan system in order to relieve young adults from the burden of long-term student debt.

In many ways, the three generations that constitute the Forgotten Majority two decades down the road are shaping a new world.  They have the unenviable chore of trying to keep pace with technological change while building a social structure for a new world. This contributes to a backlash that has only grown over the past 19 years and that is increasingly defined by domestic terrorism, religious intolerance, and hatred of minorities and immigrants.  It is not a question of becoming “great again.”  We cannot go back.  We must instead work together to build a new social structure for the world that was born out of the post-war push for internationalism and technological revolution. The policy agenda that Rogers and Teixeira gave us two decades ago can still guide us as we look around for political wisdom and look forward.

Friday, April 26, 2019

"Crooning" with John Gregory Dunne

            I have just finished reading Crooning, John Gregory Dunne’s collection of essays, reviews, and general articles about life in the latter half of the 20thcentury.  The collection, published in 1990, includes anecdotes and observations that Dunne has gleaned from his multiple perspectives as a screenwriter, novelist, and critic.  Nine of the thirteen pieces were first published in the New York Review of Books.  
            Dunne was married to writer Joan Didion, whose own work (Slouching toward Bethlehem, The White Album, and others)also chronicled contemporary life.  Over their 40-year marriage, they collaborated on a number of screenplays, including the 1976 version of A Star is Bornand True Confessions, the latter an adaptation of Dunne’s novel.  Dunne died in 2003.  In a way, his death was their last collaboration:  Didion’s 2005 memoir, The Year of Living Dangerously, recounts her life in the year following Dunne’s sudden death by heart attack over dinner in their New York apartment on the evening of December 30, 2003.  For it, she won the National Book Award.
            Dunne grouped chapters them under several themes. The first, “West of the West,” explores people and events he encountered during his early career in Los Angeles, beginning with the story of his personal and professional friendship with Dan James, a screenwriter (and one-time landlord of Dunne and Didion) who was blacklisted during the Red Scare of the 1950s, but who continued to be productive as “Danny Santiago.”  He also writes about how the need for a steady supply of water changed lives in California communities around Los Angeles and about what he learned as a reporter about the life and death struggles facing residents of South Central L.A.
            A section entitled “The Public Sector” contains five essays about well-known public figures from the period, including Edward Kennedy, William F. Buckley, and Tom Wolfe, along with an essay entitled “REMFs” a close look at how class defined who fought in the Vietnam War and how the Vietnamese calculated their path to victory.  “REMF,” it turns out, was military slang in those days for “Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers” (a term that he considered as a possible title for the collection).  It is a compelling take on the Vietnam War.
            Dunne includes four essays in a section on “The Industry” that recalls his experiences, often in collaboration with Joan Didion, as a Hollywood screenwriter.  Two chapters detail the role of the screenwriter in the “industry” as he learned it negotiating deals with producers and directors, and working on a variety of films.  He also profiles some early Hollywood executives, such as Sam Spiegel (Lawrence of Arabiaand The Bridge on the River Kwai), Sam Goldwyn, and others.  
            A section called “Laying Pipe” looks at the environment that produces the events that journalists cover.  A major chapter is about the trip that Joan Didion and he took to Israel in 1987, just before the uprising of that year.  Dunne gives us a close look at the people of Israel and Palestine, the policies that separated them, and how their interactions shaped the Middle East in those years in ways we still feel today.  It is a powerful piece of real-time reporting.
            The book concludes with several chapters on writing both as a creative process and a business.
            What makes the collection special is that, in every instance, Dunne writes not from the perspective of a detached journalist, but from his own direct experience with the subject.  His essays come across not so much as objective journalism, but as memoirs, and that makes the content come to life in a fresh way.  
For three decades and more, Dunne chronicled life during decades of major social change from the Sixties onward.  However, Dunne and his contemporaries were not Baby Boomers. Dunne was born in 1932; Joan Didion in 1934.  Tom Wolfe, who Dunne writes about in Crooning, was born in 1930.  They were, ironically, members of the Silent Generation who grew up during the Depression and came of age after World War II.  As an early Baby Boomer myself, I am often surprised that some of the great figures of the period were younger members of Dunne’s generation.  John Lennon, for instance, was born in 1940. So, I get a bit concerned that the great insights into American culture and world events from my younger days—the days that Dunne, Didion, and others of their generation documented—will be lost on future generations.  If and when that happens, we lose a generational perspective on a remarkable period in our history—a period marked by Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, assassinations, the first landing on the Moon, and the first flowering of the Information Age.
There is a concept of social development called the “expanding communities” model.  It describes how, as we age, our identity as a member of a community expands. Initially, we see ourselves only in terms of our immediate family.  As we grow and enter school, our family becomes our private identity, while our classmates become part of an expanded public identity.  Later still, our profession becomes our public identity, and our school friends become part of an expanded private identity.  And so it goes.  I wonder if we should also be aware of our “place” in time, moving from the immediacy of childhood to a sense of ourselves as part of a yearly school cohort and, later, as part of a generation.  Then, we can look beyond our generation to see ourselves as part of a culture.  This, perhaps, is the ultimate benefit of reading writers like John Gregory Dunne, who give us a fresh perspective on times we may have lived through, but did not fully experience.  
I bought Crooning last year at the annual used book sale of the local American Association of University Women here in State College.  The next sale is in a couple of weeks.  It is like foraging in the culture.  Can’t wait.

Monday, March 18, 2019

A Lesson From Dwight Eisenhower

In his memoir To America, historian Stephen Ambrose describes the legacy of World War II.    He notes that when Dwight Eisenhower was made commander of the American Zone in occupied Germany, he worked to establish democracy at several levels.  He called the German press into his headquarters, told them of the importance of a free press to a democracy, and encouraged them to feel free to criticize him in their papers when they thought he was doing something wrong.  He told the labor unions that their job was to represent workers, not the government.  He told school teachers to encourage students to think for themselves.  Eisenhower’s actions illustrate that America’s post-war role was not just to be the victor, but to set the example of how a free society works and to build new democratic infrastructure in Germany and Japan.
            As President, Eisenhower confronted British and French military attacks on Egypt as they tried to maintain control of the Suez Canal.  Eisenhower refused to bring America into that battle, saying “We cannot subscribe to one law for the weak another law for the strong; one law for those opposing us, another for those allied with us.  There can only be one law—or there shall be no peace” (p. 122).  He noted that the Cold War was a continuing crisis and that “our most realistic policy is holding the line until the Soviets manage to educate their people.”  Education, he believed, would sow the seeds of destruction for Communism.
            Eisenhower was right on these points.  Germany and Japan both became democracies and powerful allies.  The Soviet Union failed in the 1990s.  This was part of Eisenhower’s post-war legacy.        
Applying the Lesson
            Eisenhower’s strategy is a lesson to today’s generation as we deal with the continuing crisis in the Middle East—itself a product of the World Wars, with roots that date back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.  The World Wars stripped Britain of much of its influence in the Middle East.  However, the United States stepped in.  Driven by business interests (mostly oil and investments) and political/social interests (driven by our support of Israel), we have toppled national governments (starting with Iran in the 1930s) and infused our interests into the region.  In the 21stcentury, we have seen the rise of nationalist movements and international terrorism in the region and, most recently, the rise of ISIS in response to failed governments in Iraq and Syria.  And, we’ve seen a massive flow of refugees out of the area as normal life becomes untenable.  After invading Iraq in the 1990s, Americans have been in military conflict in the region since the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.  Fifteen years of simmering military conflict.
            What to do?
            Well, the first task must be to defeat ISIS, resolve the civil war in Syria, and end the need for continuing military conflict in the region.  This must be done in partnership with our allies and with the legitimate governments in the region.  We need peace, and we need that peace to lead not just to better trade but to a more just and sustainable social system in the region.  Ideally, the goal would be to encourage a collection of democratic states, rather than strong-man tyrannies.  
            More important—and in keeping with President Eisenhower’s example—we need to build peace from within, starting with a commitment to funding the education of both men and women.  There is evidence that education of women in Saudi Arabia is having a positive impact on that culture.  The same needs to happen in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Democratic Platform

            Today’s political environment is so oppositional that it is difficult to truly understand what either party stands for.  Increasingly, Democrats and Republicans are defined not by what they stand for but by who they stand against.  The State of the Union Address and the minority response did little to convey a true strategy for the coming year.  I have been a Democrat all my life, since my grandma took me to see Jack Kennedy give a stump speech in 1960, but I think the time has come for me to articulate what that means.  
            At the most fundamental level, my personal political philosophy is based in a view of why we have governments.  I believe that, in a democracy, government is not a separate ruling elite or an impersonal bureaucracy.  It is how individual citizens come together as a community to protect each other and our communities and to improve the lives of all citizens.  We elect representatives from within the community to act on our behalf to ensure safety and to encourage continuous improvement of the community itself.  Government is how we establish and sustain community in a democracy in order to main the quality of life in our community. Sometimes the impact is a direct result of governmental action; other times, it is more indirect.  The interstate highway system is an example of direct governmental action to benefit the community.  National safety standards for vehicles that use those highways is an example of indirect action.
            The question for all citizens is simple:  to what extent do we want to help our neighbors be safe, secure, and happy—or, as the Declaration of Independence put it, to what extent do we want to ensure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—the three “inalienable rights” of all citizens?  There is a continuum of feeling on that issue which, unfortunately, is often perceived only at the extremes.  Ultimately, however, these criteria should be the basis of a party’s platform or governing strategic plan:
            First, we should use government to ensure a physical and regulatory infrastructure that is equally available to all citizens, giving them equal access to resources.  A good example is our national highway system, but infrastructure also includes proper control of rivers and other waterways, safe drinking water, access to electricity and other forms of energy, and so forth.  Ultimately, the role is an infrastructure that ensures that all citizens have equal access to a healthy environment and the ability to make a living.
Second, our government should also ensure that all citizens have equal access to health, education, and other services that help ensure a standard quality of life for all citizens and that helps ensure the ability of all citizens to realize our potential as members of the community.  
Third, our government should protect citizens from threats.  This can be threats from other nations, natural threats like climate change, or threats to our economy and health from uncontrolled actions by individuals and organizations.  The goal of government in this context is to protect our ability as citizens to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  One factor that must be considered is that America’s place in international conflicts has changed greatly since the end of World War II. We now live in a highly integrated, global, information-based economy in which many industries—and countries—are increasingly reliant on each other for materials in an international supply chain and as a marketplace.  This does not mean that we don’t have enemies or that our partner nations don’t have enemies. However, it does mean that, increasingly, we cannot limit the impact of our actions on us alone.  We need to consider global impacts—on our political allies, on our industry partners, and, yes, even on our competitors when we act internationally.  
With these broad purposes in mind, here are a few items that I think should be the basis for a platform and governing strategy in the political debate as we move toward the 2020 President election:
Climate ChangeThis may be the most critical issue facing our society today.  We need governmental action to reduce emissions and minimize the damage that has already been done and to provide citizens with alternative sources of energy (solar, wind, nuclear) that will do no further harm to the environment. We can only do this at the national level.  In this case, social interest must override commercial/industry interests.  We must demand that our representatives take this issue seriously and build an international coalition to minimize climate change and find ways to overcome its inevitable impact.  
An Infrastructure for the Information AgeWhile a national transportation system—first trains, then the Interstate highway system—were hallmarks of the Industrial Revolution, we are now seeing the need for an online information system that makes the Internet truly accessible to all communities.  Today, more people are working remotely, linking in from their homes rather than commuting to offices.  At the same time, the supply chain in almost every industry has become international, requiring easy communication with distant colleagues. And, traditional retail stores are giving way to e-tailing.  Unless communities have easy access to the web, they cannot thrive. It even affects the ability of local schools to access knowledge for their students.  Universal access to the Internet is as important today as roads, trains, and Rural Free Delivery were to the last revolution.
Universal K-14 Education As the Information Society matures, the need for new services that enable citizens to be successful is becoming clear.  One of these is universal K-14 education—providing public funding for the first two years of a college education.  This reflects a simple truth:  the Information Society has made work more complex and requires greater entry-level skills.  New York has already taken steps to provide free tuition in its public institutions for resident high school graduates—essentially funding a K-14 education for all.  We need to ensure this in every state.
Universal Health Care  Of equal importance is the need for publicly funded access to health services, combined with governmental control over the price of medicines.  As lifespans increase in the new environment, all citizens deserve equal access to health services.  This is a complex issue, but one that must be addressed.
Immigration  The current concern about immigration is not just limited to the border between Mexico and the U.S.  It is a global concern, driven by the huge disparities in governance, rights, and economics in a new global society where everyone can easily see the alternatives. It is driving political discourse in developed countries around the world as they try to limit the economic and social impact of refugees.  This will only increase as the new global economy continues to evolve and, perhaps most important, as global climate change forces dislocation in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.  Clearly, fences and family separations, etc., are not a true solution.  While we need to maintain control of international entry points, that is not the sole issue.  For a long-term solution, we need to help our neighbors to the south respond to the political and economic problems that are driving their citizens away from their homes. The factors that contribute to the issue also suggest that we need to take a long view and work with other developed countries to address the core problems that are forcing families to leave their homelands in search of a better life.  
Competition  It has become clear that, in this new environment, our ability to function as an independent nation is being challenged by long-time opponents like Russia and China who can use technology and the internationalized economy to interfere with our democratic processes.  This is not, in the final analysis, a simple question of cultural or political or even military competition.  The real challenge is how we maintain our political independence in an increasingly “connected” cultural and political environment.  This is how we can be strong as a nation in this new environment:  we remain proud of our personal identities as members of a national culture, but we increasingly must also see ourselves as public members of a broader community that knows no national boundaries.  We are Americans, but also citizens of the world.
Controlling the Use of Guns  The first month of 2019 saw more than 1,000 gun deaths in the United States.  The Hill reported that nearly 40,000 people were killed by guns in the U.S. in 2017.  Mass gun killings seem to be on the rise. Here in State College, the new year began with four people (including the shooter) being killed in one incident.  This week, Pennsylvania legislators discussed allowing deer hunters to use semi-automatic weapons.   Gun control is one of the most divisive issues in the U.S., pitting gun manufacturers and gun advocacy groups against the general citizenry.  It is time to solve this problem.  We test drivers before licensing them, and we require that all motor vehicles be inspected and registered.  We need a similar universal system to control access and mis-use of guns.