Important issues for state’s next senator

Over the next several years, legislators will make decisions that will define the path of domestic security for many years to come. In the next legislative session Congress will certainly act on President George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Act, which, among other things, proposes the creation of a Depart ment of Homeland Security. As noted on the White House Web site, the Department of Homeland Security creation “will be the most significant transformation of the U.S. government in over a half-century.” But the domestic security table will have many other issues on it as well. Foremost of these is the possible extension of the sunset provisions of the USA Patriot Act that will expire on Dec. 31, 2005.

Also in the mix is the United States’ continued reliance on foreign oil for energy and the political dependency it creates. Given the impact domestic security measures will have on all our lives, now more than ever we need political leaders who can strike the appropriate balance between freedoms protection and life protection. The next senator needs to do something to pull the poor up from poverty. The current federal welfare scheme has not been updated since the 1980s and is far out of step with the cost of living. As such, where there was initial emphasis on helping the poor help themselves, namely by making schooling and job training an option, welfare now barely sustains the poor at the lowest subsistence levels. It is far more worthwhile to mitigate poverty than to contribute to it with a halfhearted, insufficient funding scheme that only perpetuates the problem.

Social Security, to put it mildly, is in crisis mode. After paying 12 percent payroll taxes all of their working lives, people in college right now will get virtually nothing back when it comes time for their own retirement. Historically, Social Security has had a surplus and currently still does. But the surpluses are expected to turn into deficits by 2017 and the reserve is expected to be gone by 2041. By that time, Social Security will consume around 35 percent of the federal government’s spending. Medicare will consume another 35 percent. Forget pork-belly legislation. The wrinkled bellies should consume the political debate.

In many respects, the international situation has never been more dire. Suicide terrorism has effectively nullified the doctrine of deterrence. Weapons of mass destruction are being rapidly democratized. The globalized world system is spreading its benefits to the few and its ills to the many. Suffice it to say, it is a scary time. For its part, the United States needs now, more than ever, a humane, multilateral and consistently pro-democratic approach in its foreign policy. Much of the global frustration stems from a poverty of freedom. The United States can help reduce some of the threats by encouraging those closed societies to open. In a globalized world, the United States must also view itself as a leader among nations, not as a lone wolf. Otherwise, the frustration, disunity and the threat to our nation will only grow.