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What the president and America must face

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By Rick Howell

This is one of those awkward moments when your heroic Bulletin columnists can’t write about the election’s conclusions because we don’t know it yet!
    Therefore, Id’ been thinking about issues that would have to be grappled with by either person who won the November 6 election.
    I’ve settled upon four matters I believe rank as the most important. Some of these weren’t even considered important issues in the election just concluded.
    First, there is no justification whatsoever for the amount of money – roughly $722 billion in the last year – that this country spends on the military. Anyone, Democrat or Republican, who is serious about cutting the deficit has got to understand that.
    The Pentagon is not holy; military spending is not sacred. Yet it has ridden a wave of increased funding since the terrorist attacks of 2001, and the costs of two wars, one of which is over and the other one soon to be over.
    There is no better time than now to get back to realistic levels of defense spending. We should spend exactly what we need for an adequate defense and not one penny beyond that. This will necessitate major cuts in a military budget now bloated beyond any legitimate need, a key element in reducing the deficit.
    Secondly, the government should ignore those who continue to insist that there’s no climate change caused by man, whether they are conservative ideologues, bought-off scientists, or simply “the average citizen,” who for reasons of his own, doesn’t wish to admit it.
    There’s an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real, and that man’s activities – especially the industrialization and fossil fuel use of the 20th century -  have greatly contributed to it.
    Those who continue to deny it are no different than those in the tobacco industry who resisted for so long the painful truth that smoking causes cancer. History swept those people aside, and it will do the same to those who deny global warming.
    The president of the United States should work with other world leaders to plan strategies to combat global warming.
    Related to that is the third issue, the question of how we provide energy for this country’s future. It’s popular on the right to make fun of “green energy,” but the fact remains that states that have pursued a strategy of wind and solar production have not only created large amounts of energy but added good-paying jobs that go with it.
    During the campaign, coal companies and conservative politicians that pandered to them blamed Obama and the EPA for “ruining our way of life,” supposedly with too much regulation.
    Well, sometimes it’s necessary to face painful truths. Coal mining cannot be the future of this country’s energy needs. There is no such thing as “clean coal.” By definition, coal is dirty, a major pollutant of the air and water.
    If coal mining is suffering, it’s largely because of the increasing demand for natural gas. We should mine the coal that’s left, but the procedure should be regulated, and so-called “mountaintop removal” should be banned. Coal is the past; not the future.
    Fourth, and finally, the American government – which is created by the electoral decisions of the people – is us; it’s not an enemy. Conservative propaganda that tries to tell you otherwise should always be rejected.
    Our government must be guided by a sense of compassion for the whole people. As Mahatma Ghandi said, “A nation is judged by the way it treats its weakest citizens.”
    Let us be judged that way, and if we are to pass the test, we must not be ruled by conservative forces that only promote selfishness and greed.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.