First, become informed. Then vote

In some countries, people fight and die for the right to vote. In other places, there are lines, and people wait hours to cast a vote. In America, many don’t bother to go to the polls. The excuse that “My vote doesn’t count” carries some validity in states such as Wisconsin and Maryland, where gerrymandering assures any nominee of election without the necessity of votes or constituents. That’s not true in Virginia. Voting is a right and a privilege which will disappear if not used.

Voters also have an obligation to become educated on key issues and to know where candidates stand on those issues. In these days of fake news, where do you go? Several years ago, I attended a media forum addressing the question of where Americans should go for reliable, unbiased news. Here is their advice:

Print: The Washington Post, New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Nothing else!

Radio: National Public Radio (NPR). Many other sources were considered and rejected.

TV: There was prolonged silence. Nothing. Maybe Al Jazeera, but it is no longer available.

The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NPR are all available locally.

Here’s my list of issues and a synopsis of each. My mother-in-law used to say, “Anyone with half a brain knows that,” so the synopsis may be redundant. Still, Republicans in Washington and Richmond seem remarkably deficient in common sense, so here it is:

1. Economy. Tax cuts don’t work. This really silly idea has been studied endlessly. Economists agree that it shouldn’t work, and it doesn’t. We don’t want less taxes, we want effective government.

2. Education. My soapbox is preschool education. School should start by age two or three. Biggest impediment is money, but that disappears if preschool education becomes part of mandatory public education. Then it’s paid by taxes.

3. Healthcare. Healthcare has become a right. You can’t have life, liberty, and happiness without it. The government must provide healthcare for everyone. Most civilized countries have a single payer healthcare system, with a parallel fee-for-service system for those with money. Costs are typically paid as an additional tax, but coverage is universal. For now, the ACA is the best alternative. Embrace it. the real problem with our healthcare is the high cost of healthcare services, not insurance. No one wants to talk about that.

4. Energy. Coal should be left in the ground. It already costs more than natural gas, without considering the environmental and health costs of mining and burning coal. Train coal workers to do something else. We need to head toward a renewable energy economy. Petroleum and natural gas are stepping stones along that path, but they too will become obsolete in time.

5. Environment. You only get one chance. Rachel Carson wrote that “nothing is valued until it is almost gone.” We’re there. The Paris accord was a courageous beginning. Republicans work hard to trash the environment. Face it. Global warming is real and is caused by man. Fix it now or regret it forever.

6. Science can be helpful by providing objective evidence to guide policies, real facts. Embrace scientists. Collect data. Publish reports.

Become informed by consulting one of the reliable sources mentioned above, and then vote. If you don’t vote, someone else will, and you may not like the result.

Robert Burney

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