Everyone must come together to solve nation’s problems

An open letter to President Barack Obama:

Mr. President, now is the time to deal with all the issues that we, as a country and a people, have been ignoring and stop kicking the can down the road for future generations to deal with.

We think it is better to avoid the issues and scream and yell at each other, but it shows us as being divided when our society is already divided over so many topics: abortion, taxes, public education, mental health, gun control, etc.

How can we be united when so many issues drive us apart? We need to bring up these issues in order to get past them. With the fiscal cliff, besides raising taxes on the rich as apart of a deal, we need to put all entitlement programs — like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — on the table. What are the biggest debt-driving factors for each program, their budgets and our national budget? When and why will each program run out of money? What independent ideas can or should we use to fix these programs?

Our citizenry is living longer, so we need to have a real debate with all sides — the AARP and other groups — about raising the eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security. Would this save money? Is this a good idea, for the public, future generations, retirees, budget hawks, etc?

For equality, since we have the rich and everybody else, let us explore the idea of means testing to save money and prevent waste. After all, why should the U.S. government fund Social Security if the rich do not use it? The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does this to both save taxpayer money and serve our heroes. Why not do this also for our entitlement programs? It deserves to be debated and considered, in public hearings and town halls and online.

Dealing with gun control, we need to have all the parties at the table. This means gun owners and everybody else. There are gun owners who are calling for some gun control laws and/or regulations for the same reasons as anti-gun control Americans: safety.

So this table needs to include the gun-control group; the pro-gun group; the mental health community, for input about treating and reducing mentally ill-involved shootings; victims of gun violence; politicians, etc. I need to emphasize that I am not picking on responsible, law-abiding gun owners who follow the law. Gun owners have guns for hunting, target practice, self-defense, etc., and all are reasonable reasons for having them.

I am not saying to get rid of all guns, but automatic guns, extended clips, gun show and background loopholes are not acceptable. To close the gun show loophole, all gun and part sellers should have to have a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or other federal permit that will need to be renewed every year with full, annual background checks.

Slavery used to be the dividing issue for America; now it is racism. Women’s suffrage has been replaced by equal opportunity and equal pay.

The pain and frustration of not changing history keeps us going. Blacks would still be in chains if not for the courage of an American president and the American people. Women would still be viewed as only belonging in the kitchen and daycare if not for Americans like Susan B. Anthony, who stood up and said women are to be included from American society. Otherwise, we would not have the CEOs, police officers or politicians that help shape our country.

If not for the courts and the people, we would still see our children not in college or high school but in mines or factories from as young as 8 or 10 working and sweating their potential away. A country can change and the American people can change it if we all choose to.

Michael Villacres

Queens Village

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