Dear President Obama,
One issue I believe your administration ought to address is that of access to justice by ordinary citizens. As you are no doubt aware by virtue of your legal training, the American legal system has been radically reshaped during the Republican years under so-called tort reform. The consequence of this is that ordinary Americans are often being denied their day in court because new statutes governing torts make it economically infeasible to pursue litigation. The Republicans have implemented this legislation in an obvious effort to insulate their corporate allies from being held accountable for devious and unfair business and policy practices. I realize that much statutory regulation of access to the judiciary is done at the state level, but there has been some significant legislation at the federal level that has adversely affected the legal rights of citizens (e.g., restrictions on class-action lawsuits). My recommendation is that you directly advance the repeal of the nefarious federal legislation and that you take a leadership role in urging the states to make their court-access legislation fairer for ordinary people. To deny citizens basic access to justice is something your administration should not countenance. After all, millions of Americans voted for you in the hope that our political and legal systems would be made fairer.
Re-establish Respect for the Constitutional Separation of Powers
Mickey Edwards, Princeton University: Despite repeated assertions by both Barack Obama and John McCain that their policies would differ significantly from those of the previous administration, virtually no attention was paid during the campaign to the worst feature of the Bush presidency: the determined undermining of America's constitutional framework. Read more
Restore Public Faith in Science
Sunshine Menezes, Ph.D., University of Rhode Island: Before the tumbling economy sucked the air out of other issues in the 2008 presidential campaign, there was laudable effort to bring attention to a largely overlooked but critical policy issue: the decline of American science funding and education. Read more
Eliminate the Electoral College
Len Sellers, CEO, Hammer2Anvil: I was at a business dinner in Asia shortly after the 2000 election. Jokes were being made about still not knowing who will be the next U.S. president: "Isn't it typical of Americans to bring in the lawyers?" And so on. Read more
Close the Turkey Farm
Thomas A. Birkland, Ph.D., North Carolina State University: The president should remove FEMA from Homeland Security. Minimally, he could issue an executive order that indicates that the FEMA director reports directly to the president during disasters. Read more
Return Balance to the Federal Judiciary
Cornell W. Clayton, Ph.D., Washington State University: You will have the opportunity to nominate many federal judges and no doubt one or more individuals to the U.S. Supreme Court in the next four years. Please restore balance to our federal judiciary. By balance, I do not refer to partisanship or ideology but to life experience and public stature. Read more
P. People O.
Bill Savage, Ph.D., Northwestern University: Piss people off. Piss off the right-wing Cuban Americans in Florida by normalizing relations with Cuba. (If we can work with the commies in Vietnam or China, then we can work with the Cubans.) Piss off the agribusiness industry by ending subsidies for farms not owned and worked by individual families. Read more
Pay More Attention to Our Own Backyard
Douglas Massey, Ph.D., Princeton University: A clear lesson of the last eight years is that the world is now too large and complex to be dominated by a single power. Nations that try to exercise unilateral economic and military power will only undermine their moral and material position in the world and contribute to their own decline. Read more
Find a New Immigration Perspective
James La Valle, Ph.D., Murray State University: Conspicuously absent from both 2008 presidential campaigns was a fair, honest and decisive proposal to solve the immigration problem in the U.S., especially with respect to our southern border. Read more
Make Real Racial Progress
Phillip Atiba Goff, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles: There are few places where the United States is further away from achieving "post-raciality" than in our prisons and courtrooms. ... It is distressing to think that this election's celebration of moral progress could coincide with the largest incarceration of a people in the history of the world, with recent reports estimating that as many as 1 in 9 black males between the ages of 18 and 34 are held in penitentiaries. Read more
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