January 6, 2009
8301 Creekside Circle #920
Bloomington, MN 55437
Dear President-elect Obama and members of your transition team,
We have just polled participants in the Civic Caucus, a tax-exempt,
strictly non-partisan, virtual public affairs educational
organization, http://civiccaucus.org. We asked them to share in 100
words or less--a request for brevity that was not always honored, as
you will see--a central message they would like to hear in upcoming
major addresses by the President-elect.
We're honored to share responses with you and hope that individuals
responsible for advising the President-elect will receive them. A
summary is followed by the complete text of the messages. They are
part of this email and also included as a .pdf attachment. Thank you.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, Civic Caucus
Paul A. Gilje, coordinator
SUMMARY OF MESSAGES TO PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA:
--Sacrifice from everyone
--A more just and humane society for all
--Cannot return to past practices
--Elected leaders should act in the interest of future generations
rather than on behalf of the status quo.
--Staying on the "me first" road will continue the rapid decline of
the American Republic.
--The nation needs to commit itself to maintaining a level playing
-- The world cannot be a better place for our children, if the fruits
of their labors have been spent by their forefathers.
--Let us put a windmill in every prairie, the corn in every car and
the sun in every building.
--Expand jobs for business within the U.S. and internationally.
--Express firm commitment to strengthen, maintain, and grow U.S.
business leadership, including positions in technology, medical, food,
key industries, and other areas.
--Confirm fiscal constraint in all budget categories.
--Take a fresh look at all entitlements.
--Schools need to be redesigned to motivate students. Teachers' roles
need to be expanded. Enable states to be change agents in K-12
--A forceful message of promise and hope. Americans are in this with
our brethren throughout the world.
--Rescue our economy with a massive dose of government intervention
and regulation that will shift the flow of money from the top 5
percent to the rest of the population.
--The message to the world community: change is coming and the U.S.
intends to have a different relationship with them. Domestically: a
message of hope wrapped in the reality of the problems he inherited.
--Communicate with adversaries throughout the world and rebuild the
confidence of people who lost respect for us in the past 20 years.
--Periods of great investment are followed by periods of greater
prosperity. Priorities and desired outcomes will be specifically
identified and accountability will be attached to resource allocation.
--Upgrade workers to carry the burden of government. The outsourcing
of jobs and business has led to more folks without the ability to pay
taxes. Let's find ways to keep jobs here.
--The current economic crisis is providing a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to effect major change. Now is the time to tackle health
care, immigration, national infrastructure, educational standards,
regulation of the finance community, and a return to a multi-polar
--We are a nation, a people, who have individually and collectively
been living beyond their needs. We, therefore, cannot spend our way
back to prosperity.
--Two issues prohibit equilibrium in the American labor market;
organized labor and illegal immigration.
--Despite our differences we want to be a unified people. It will
strengthen us on domestic problems and surely will strengthen us in
dealing with other nations.
--Fixing our economy must be priority number 1. If you focus here you
focus our attention and support with you, even those of us who opposed
--The central message President Obama needs to deliver is one of hope.
He must show us the roadmap. He must set the example he expects us all
--He has to engage citizens as if it were wartime and ask us to
sacrifice and be very specific about how.
--End restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and on trade and
travel exchange privileges with Cuba.
--The middle class cannot bear the burden of our economy.
--The Constitution, which has been decimated, must be preserved and
restored, and senseless war must be ended.
--Create systemic, bottom-up policies that reestablish social and
economic justice, media fairness, educational equity, and voting
-- Retain a strong military but use it as a last resort.
-- Establish a culture of community; individual opportunity joined
with joint responsibility to work together.
-- Tell it to us straight. No sugar coating.
MESSAGES TO PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA:
- Some of the wordings are the same or similar to those suggested to
We are in this together. Recovery requires sacrifice from everyone.
And that means helping each other. The greed of a few does not define
this nation. We can do whatever is necessary to become the fulfillment
of our American ideals.
While there are host of problems to work on (economy, debt, war,
environment, medical, education, etc.) all solutions must maintain our
highest mission of a more just and humane society for all.
We are all in this together and we cannot return to past practices as
the basis for a sound recovery. We must rebuild a private sector based
on less personal debt and possibly a lower living standard, including
a more sustainable environmental economy.
That the citizens must depend more on themselves and their
Neighbors/communities and less on government. Our Government, at all
levels, must face the fact that baby-boom demographics are no longer
an asset but are in transition to a major liability (Medicare and
Social Security)---huge future government costs for which there are no
reserves. Governments at all levels must learn to focus resources
(taxes) more like a laser beam and less like "vomit." Every public
program is not as important as another---police, fire, defense,
transportation and k-12 are probably more important than tax
expenditures to itemizers, whether corporate or individuals, farm
subsidies, non-profit tax expenditures where the majority of the
non-profits income is governmental. Those who oppose single payer
government provided health care for all should publicly oppose
Medicare or look up the definition of hypocrisy and ignorance while
looking in the mirror.
The moral of this short epistle is that the American voter must be
educated on the federal and state budget so that elected leaders can
act in the interest of future generations rather than on behalf of the
status quo. We all need to be reminded of the words of the great
Frederick Douglass on the matter of reform/change, particularly
Minnesotans, who avoid confrontation at all costs: "Those who profess
to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want
crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and
lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters.
The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it
may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without
a demand; it never has and it never will."
Both should argue that: (1) if taxes are necessary, everyone must pay,
sacrifice. (2) if spending cuts are necessary everyone should be
affected, sacrifice. We cannot afford the political games (for voter
support) that most politicians have played for as long as any of us
can remember. Both must engage the hearts. Both should inform
(educate) the business community (who support spending cuts) that the
tax expenditures businesses receive are government spending in the
same way that farm price supports are spending that farm businesses
and farmers receive.
Both should require that non-profit organizations that receive tax
benefits (expenditures) raise over 50%(or more) of their gross
revenues from non-public sources or they will lose their exemption
from the property and sales tax (this non-governmental revenue was the
reason non-profits originally received the tax expenditures to begin
Overall, we need voters to understand that personal savings is a form
of insurance against unemployment, that an annuity or long-term care
insurance is personally responsible behavior since it shields the
taxpayer from having to pay for long-term care for all. We all must
live within our means, recognize that a good education is a key to
economic and personal success and that we are responsible for our own
and children's education.
Change requires tolerating the mighty roars of the ocean. Politicians
will continue to prey on fear ("tax increases and spending cuts")
until the public is engaged enough to give elected officials
permission to act for the benefit of the whole rather than parts and
holds them accountable if they do not act in such a manner.
I believe that we are at one of the most significant forks in the road
of our collective history. Staying on the current "me
first"--individuals matter more than society--road will continue the
rapid decline of the American Republic. Taking the road less traveled
could make all the difference.
As I wrote in my book The Strange Death of Liberal America, the nation
needs to commit itself to maintaining a level playing field. Create
systemic, bottom-up policies that reestablish social and economic
justice, media fairness, educational equity, and voting rights.
David F. Durenberger
Before I switched from the Governor's race to the Senate in 1978 I
went to D.C. to find out why I should from members of the Senate who
had been Governors. I wanted to change the role of government and they
said I might but only if I followed the money and the spending power
to its national source. I became ranking GOP on Intergovernmental
relations subcommittee and then chair until I left for another
committee and IGR was dropped. The National Governors were a force in
getting Reagan to propose a "new federalism" which failed because of
the political power of counties and cities.
History is repeating itself. Obama will do a stimulus package and all
the local governments in America have hired two senators (ex IL) and a
congressperson to carry letters to Santa in Washington. The Tim
Pawlentys of the NGA are doing little/nothing to focus the President
on national purposes and state accountability and capacity.
As we are proving once again, in our historic credit crisis, one
important purpose of a national government is a healthy national
economy as a foundation for the income security of its citizens. In
which local markets play by national rules. Full employment and
realistic income protection. Tax policy that relies less on taxing
income, wages, and the savings/investments they make possible than on
the goods and services we produce.
Private insurance policy that uses national rules to restore
competitiveness to insurance markets so as to minimize the
"catastrophic" role that social insurance must play. Especially as
this relates to health care access and to supportive services for
persons with disabilities. Public assistance (welfare) will remain a
joint national-state responsibility because of the wide variations in
tax capacity and public equity commitment of the states to our
As our nation ages and the global economy changes, the northern states
are gradually losing their taxing capacity to the south. Sam's
Clubbers who live in these states and depend on them for access to
quality jobs and public services are either dependent on more public
assistance or on jobs in the south. They are left to pay off pension,
health and disability insurance promises made in the healthy era to
persons who "took early retirement" so they could "spend their kids
inheritance" in FL or TX or AZ. That's why we need a new national
income security policy to replace the antiquated promises made to the
"greatest generation" before our children and grandchildren have to
rely on them.
We also need better from state government. Education and
infrastructure is what states and local governments can do best.
Reform of education at all levels is a must public purpose of state
leaders which Governors like Rudy Perpich and Arne Carlson led on
decades ago. Transportation, energy/environment, public safety and
recreation, and, critically today, housing policy are part of our
In our federal system the interstate commerce clause of the
constitution does not require Congress to build highways and bridges.
It does require Congress to set national policy on resource and health
protection from energy production, but not how best it's achieved.
Minnesota citizens spoke to that in the Legacy Amendment to our
constitution this fall and to their willingness to tax themselves to
assure healthier lives for us and future generations.
Our governments have to stop spending. For thousands of good reasons,
we have created thousands of programs that would be worthwhile, if we
had the money to fund them. We do not and we are spending the wealth
of generations yet unborn. The world cannot be a better place for our
children, if the fruits of their labors have been spent by their
To help make the point of this fundamental unfairness, each should
point out that in any borrower/lender relationship, the only one who
gets richer is the lender, ever increasing the disparity of wealth. In
this case, it also transfers the wealth not just from future
generations to the present slackers, but from Minnesota and the United
States to a myriad of lender countries, rich by production, while we
make our children poor by our consumption.
I will hang on every word, waiting for a politician to say "No" to the
thousand constituencies who want "more".
Daniel William Sanders
As an independent candidate in the last election, I held a vision of
energy independence, with the cost of fuel reducing, let us not forget
that at any given time the cost of fuel will rise and send us once
again into an economic crisis, I want the commitment from both the
Gov. and Pres. that we must not wait, we must have a new energy
policy, with the commitment of energy independence in just a few short
years, With the cost of fuel reducing it is very easy to shy away from
any new energy policy, we have waited for years. I am committed to
having a new energy independence policy. We must do this for our
children, let us put a windmill in every prairie, the corn in every
car and the sun in every building, let us not pass legislation today
that does not look at tomorrow.
1. Express firm commitment to strengthen, maintain, and grow US
business leadership including positions in technology, medical, food,
key industries, and other areas.
2. Seek to expand markets at home and internationally. Recognize the
benefits of globalization to the US and other nations. Reaffirm that
the US must grow thru internal growth and growth across the globe.
3. Provide for growth thru private capital investments and link the
incentives to manpower thru effective manpower training extended to
all ages--"life long learning" building and strengthening all levels
4. Express importance of addressing regulation of investment and
financial industry but not at the risk of limiting the opportunity to
take risk to achieve innovation. This must also stress the importance
of individual integrity across all citizens in all walks of life.
5. Confirm Fiscal Restraint in all budget categories and measure
constraint by authorization and use of the line item veto
6. Seek to communicate the importance of a "new look" at entitlements
of all kinds--social security-health care-education etc. and look to
public and private funding and management as a positive partnership.
I'm asking the states to take the leadership on education policy. Now,
let me say right away: This is not to diminish the importance of
improving the schools and improving learning. Quite the reverse. This
approach will let the country do more, faster. We've had education
policy upside down, with NCLB. We want to see the standards set
nationally and the implementation happening as the states improve
We have two simple realities here.
First: The federal government, Washington, is not going to be able to
give priority to the K-12 issues for quite some time. That's just a
Second: Even if it could make K-12 a priority the federal government
can't do what needs to be done. Change needs to come to public
education just as it needs to come to every other area: We can't go on
just trying to 'do better' with the old models and methods. We have to
find new approaches. And in this area the states have to be the
change-agents. K-12 is in state law. Congress can't change state law.
All Congress can do is to give a little money with a lot of directives
attached -- requirements and regulations. You don't like this approach
very much; that's clear. And to be honest, beating on you about
performance hasn't been all that effective.
So in my administration the federal role will be to activate a process
of state law-making. I want to see change. So I want to go through the
legislative bodies that have the capacity to make change. I want to
see innovation; big new ideas. Technology needs to play a much larger
role. Schools need to be redesigned to motivate students. Teachers'
roles need to be expanded. There is lots to do.
We will help you in the states. We will also push you -- setting goals
and sampling to check on performance -- especially in the groups
traditionally 'left behind'. And we will report what we find.
But we need the states to take the lead: I believe in pushing buttons
that are connected to live wires. So let me repeat: With this approach
the country will make more progress, faster. I understand that change,
progress, will be uneven. That's fine; it always is. I want to see the
states begin a race to the top.
A forceful message of promise and hope. America and Americans are in
this together with our brethren from throughout the world. We face
foreign and domestic challenges that rival any ever before faced. We
will prevail as a beacon for the other nations of the world.
That he is willing to throw overboard the failed theories and policies
of Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan, and rescue our economy with a
massive dose of government intervention and regulation that will shift
the flow of money from the top 5% to the rest of the population. No
more "let the market decide," because that is simply class warfare at
its worst -- not even a fair fight.
His most important message has to be to the world community that
"change is coming" and that the US intends to have a different
relationship with them. As for the domestic message it should be a
message of hope wrapped in the reality of the problems he has
Paul and Ruth Hauge
The President needs to continue to encourage the people to have faith
in the American system but also to restore the people's faith in the
American government. It is imperative that he communicate with our
adversaries throughout the world and rebuild the confidence of people
who lost respect for us in the past 20 years. Tell the American people
that the job will be expensive and tough and don't get discouraged if
progress is slow.
Even in times of great stress it benefits all of us to contribute to
investing responsibly in the future. History is clear: periods of
greater investment are followed by periods of greater prosperity.
Priorities and desired outcomes will be specifically identified and
accountability will be attached to resource allocation. We will not
compromise our commitments to high quality public education or
accessible health care for everyone. My leadership is committed to
facilitating an informed, bipartisan and shared vision that both
manages today and creates a better, more equitable tomorrow—for
everyone. Our greatness will be based upon our ability to share the
burdens and the benefits of being one United States of America.
This is an opportunity to dream the big dreams. We need to upgrade
workers to the point that they again can carry the burden of
government. The outsourcing of jobs and business has lead to more
folks without the ability to pay taxes. Let's find ways to keep jobs
here. Let's upgrade the buildings and other infrastructure for the
energy efficient future. Let's stop the movement to the bottom among
employers. The Maytag man built products that lasted. Today they break
at the first opportunity. Business has proven that it will not operate
in what was assumed to be the best interest of the country and itself.
Good regulations provide the background of confidence. Congress is a
wayward child that needs to be controlled. Running against them will
give you a base for the future and perhaps force them to be open and
The current economic crisis is providing a once-in-a-life-time
opportunity to effect major change. Now is the time to tackle the
major issues of our times: health care; immigration; national
infrastructure; educational standards; regulation of the finance
community; and a return to a multi-polar foreign policy.
We are a nation, a people, who have individually and collectively been
living beyond their needs. We, therefore, cannot spend our way back to
prosperity. This involves a reduced standard of living and an actual
positive savings rate; in medical care, we must control the supply of
care provided as well as the cost. In tax policy, we should retain
capital gains treatment - the social security tax base should be
expanded to all income, rather than just wages; this is currently
grossly unfair, as children and the elderly are paying tax on meager
wages and millionaires pay nothing.
Two issues prohibit equilibrium in the American labor market;
organized labor (with a formula for better and better jobs for fewer
and fewer Americans) and illegal immigration that swells the national
labor pool placing downward market pressure on wage levels.
Lamentably, Mr. Obama is on the unproductive side of both issues.
The national labor market responds to the free market forces of supply
and demand; unless skewed by government-enabled ideas about social
planning that purport to define how much we should pay for goods and
how well laborers should live. No concept is more fundamental to
productivity and economic recovery.
Your campaign had a strong theme of unity, and it rang a bell with
many. It seems like one matter on which the political establishment is
out of touch with the American people is that, despite our
differences, we WANT to be a unified people. In implementing your
policy goals, keep up the quest for unity in the political
establishment. It will strengthen us addressing our many domestic
problems and it surely will strengthen us in dealing with other
As you have recognized so publicly, fixing our economy must be
priority number 1. If you focus your direction here you focus our
attention and support with you, even those of us who opposed you and
now must support our nation and its President. If on the other hand
you allow attacks on the 1st and 2nd amendments you will immediately
alienate masses and further divide this country at it's worst crisis
since WWII. We are looking to that promise of change to be a positive
unifying thing. History will judge you as well as your predecessor.
Finally, let's end the prohibition of Marijuana, (885,000+ Federal
arrests, 465,000+ Federal prisoners at $65,000. each per year, 1.2
million incarcerated in all federal, state, and county prisons). Does
an intoxicant have to be lethal to be legal?
The central message President Obama needs to deliver is one of hope.
People feel lost in the quagmire of this economy and have found that
many of our financial, industrial and political leaders lacked
integrity. We have quite a road to travel to restore the confidence in
our country necessary to spur reinvestment. He must show us the
roadmap. He must set the example he expects us all to follow.
He has to ask all of us to do our part to get America back on track.
He has to engage citizens as if it were wartime and ask us to
sacrifice and be very specific about how. Reduce debt. Live within our
means. Use less energy. Wouldn't it be wonderful if state leaders
could work that message down to state and local levels.
State Rep. Phyllis Kahn
You should reverse 2 Bush policies on day 1. First restrictions on the
use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. Second,
restrictions on trade and travel exchanges with Cuba. Later, I would
remove the federal restrictions on growing Hemp as an agricultural
crop. One advantage over other suggestions is that these 3 are totally
The middle class cannot bear the burden of our economy. Housing must
be preserved, the mortgage market must be rectified, reasonable
protections must be placed on financial institutions, and recognition
of what unions have brought to the nation through a NLRB which
protects workers is imperative. The Constitution, which has been
decimated, must be preserved and restored, and senseless war must be
Provide proper oversight/regulation of our finance and investment
system. Retain a strong military but use it as a last resort. Tax
fairly on the ability to pay. Invest in research, education and
infrastructure. Improve performance of government.
Establish a culture of community; individual opportunity joined with
joint responsibility to work together, to compromise our separate
interests for the good of our nation; and establish mechanisms to
accomplish the culture change.
Establish the principle of fairness in sacrifice and in the bestowing
of governmental benefits. Establish through government policy a market
for development of renewable energy.
Tell it to us straight. No sugar coating. Give us the truth on
Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, pensions, debt, and whatever else
might be difficult for us to accept. Then give us reason for hope.
The primary concern is for America to immediately shore up its basic
economic and educational structures if it expects to continue as a
leading force throughout the world.
That sometimes when times are tough, citizens need to think about more
than just getting tax breaks. We have seen that our economy has been
gutted, and the deficits continue to haunt the taxpayer, however, we
need to realize that in order to have a good quality of life, we need
to streamline the government and get back to the basics of what the
government is charged with Basically, that would be providing and
equal public education for all, building, maintaining and rebuilding
failing infrastructure, and providing for the public safety. These
issues are too important to be trumped by a cheap "re-election"
promise or bribe to the public to reduce their taxes when times are
tough, however, we should not be bailing out private business, no
matter what the circumstances.