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Finneran: An Amnesty for America

Friday, November 30, 2018

 

Might we—the American people—put the rhetorical guns away?

Are we to be at war with each other every minute of every day? Must we march to the beat of television and cable companies whose mad and obsessed pursuit of profit is their cleverly masked agenda?

In their desperation for clicks, ratings, and dollars they light bonfires and then dance around the flames.

Enough already.

America has a new Congress and some serious issues. Might 218 of those members of Congress stop the kabuki theater and step up to the plate on behalf of 330 million Americans? Might they find the time to stop chanting talking points and start working on America’s needs? Is there not an amnesty they might confer on themselves, for the benefit of the rest of us?

A thought or two which might tempt Republicans and Democrats to take off the gloves and actually listen to each other’s ideas:

INFRASTRUCTURE:

This should be an easy one. The underlying facts are in plain view every day, causing pain and heartburn to anyone who leaves their house. Roads are clogged. Bridges are crumbling. Tunnels are leaking. Buses and trains, most of them relics, operate on roads and rails which need investment. Seaports are overwhelmed. Harbors need dredging. And airports are a nightmare.

This should be a big fat pitch for America. We have the tools—modern construction equipment—and we have the skilled trades to bring the country into the 21st century. Engineers, iron workers, carpenters, tin-knockers, sand hogs, electricians, and laborers all across the country would leap at the chance to re-build America’s core. Our sagging and decrepit infrastructure is not a red state or a blue state issue. Rather, it is a national crisis and scandal.

Regarding the cost of a serious national infrastructure re-building program, I simply point out that the assets gained would have a thirty to fifty-year span and that the economic and quality of life improvements would be of immediate and continuing benefit. United States bonds are rock-solid investments and the interest rate environment remains favorable. Borrow the money and get it done.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM:

Perhaps the stars are aligned. Liberal pundits have long spoken of the over-criminalization of American life. Conservative commentators see the same problem in the undue concentration of coercive government power. President Trump seems to have signaled an interest in the issue.

America has far more citizens rotting in its prisons than any comparable Western country. What a waste. What an expense. Are there not better ways to secure a tranquil domestic order than the lock ‘em up and throw away the key mentality? Prison certainly has its place in the equation. Violent offenders belong there. Repeat offenders probably need a taste of it too. But it should be a last resort rather than a constant bullying impulse.

Curiously enough, Texas, that bright red death penalty state, has seen the light and initiated a host of reforms designed to keep people out of jail, keep families intact, and preserve community order. Yes, Texas! Call it Longhorn lessons for the rest of the country.

There you have it—two issues for the new Congress in 2019. Who knows what else might flow forth when they stop screaming and actually start talking? We already know that 2020 presidential politics will be bad enough. Congress need not add to the national bile. America needs an amnesty from all the nasty noise.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.

 

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