Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Under The Radar Issues

Conor Friedersdorf contends that "folks of all ideological persuasions" should lay out "the issues that are unlikely to come up on their own, but that merit attention the attention of candidates and voters." Friedersdorf's list includes mass incarceration:
The United States locks up a higher percentage of its citizenry -- and spends more doing it -- than any other democratic nation on earth. Prison rape is endemic. Many of those behind bars were convicted for non-violent drug crimes. Blacks are disproportionately imprisoned, which affects family formation in many communities. And these morally problematic policies don't even keep us safer than citizens in countries that do things differently.
He also wants candidates to confront the surveillance state.
Technology and post-9/11 attitudes toward surveillance without warrants are factors in an unprecedented diminution of the privacy that Americans are afforded by their government. Private corporations are meanwhile amassing more data about us than ever before, and generally sharing that information with the state -- in secret -- whenever they're asked to do so. As a result, we're vulnerable to abuses that would make J. Edgar Hoover's worst excesses look tame. The human tendency to abuse sweeping surveillance power is unchanged, while the capacity to secretly watch is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Additional safeguards are needed.
Friedersdorf correctly asserts that neither issue will be discussed even though both are important. He adds another issue that I would not have thought of, patent reform.
In various industries, and especially in fields related to computers and the Internet, patent trolling, or amassing patents so that you can sue innovators for violating them, is both rampant and a huge drag on an economy that is already fragile. Corporations are spending millions to buy patents purely as defensive measures against future lawsuits, and too many patents are being granted by the government. Dramatic reform of intellectual property law is needed. 
I'll add a couple of my own.  First, transportation infrastructure:  yes, it's the policy debate topic for 2012-13, but that doesn't mean that it's not important or that  candidates will talk about it.

Second, broadband access:  the US ranks 23rd.  'Nuff said

Like Friedersdorf, I hope others create their own lists.  The discussion needs to go beyond hot button issues.

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