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Common Sense Policy

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The financial pillaging of our nation's economy is having a galvanizing effect. There is a rising chorus of people who see lack of accountability from top to bottom for what it is. When the very people who knew what they were doing, and did it anyway -- prompting the massive housing and banking crisis -- are rewarded in the end for their miscalculations, sooner or later there is going to be action. Trillions of dollars in bail-out funds and loan guarantees were funneled into the hands of those found robbing the cookie jar. There has to be a better way.

There is, and there is a movement that wants it. What are the hopes and aspirations of the Occupy Wall Street participants? Ideas about this are as varied as the demonstrators in cities and towns across the United States. One thing I have observed is that participants want better government response to our nation's concerns, beginning with fair and effective economic policy. Common sense policy. Participants want government to address our disparities in more honest ways. They want transparency with respect to the true costs of government action, or inaction.

High unemployment costs, healthcare costs, and environmental costs point to a system that has not been working for everyday Americans. What is most needed in government, perhaps the unspoken wish of the Occupy Wall Street movement, is systemic analysis and policy, not piecemeal troubleshooting, nor money-power dominance in government. Systemic thinking empowers policy analysis and legislation to address a full range of societal costs -- and opportunities -- simultaneously. The results are multiple benefits and societal goods.

For well more than a century, corporations have developed great skill in earning profits while making society pay for the costs of pollution. It could be the dumping of poisons in rivers and oceans, or treating the atmosphere like an endlessly free garbage yard. It could be cancers and sickness, or climate disorder and weather extremes. All of these costs are known by economists as "externalities."

Fortunately, business also likes predictability. We can design a system that encourages companies to make money while noting a price tag on nature. If there is any complaining, it will not last long. Business, even large corporations, will get busy doing what's right for our country and economy.

When there is real accounting for the high costs of unemployment and pollution -- when costs are "internalized" -- free enterprise is provided excellent information. With fuller accounting, entrepreneurs and businesses are assured the predictability to learn from and work with, for example, the laws of physics -- the way things really are. They are better able to respond to consumer demand and ecosystems. This means 21st-century factories and cities, amazing products and services, creating new streams of value. Money is made by cleaning our air, turning food waste into soil, or restaurant grease into clean bio fuels. There are many such businesses. There are many more in waiting, and in the years to come untold millions of new jobs.

It is gratifying to see people give witness to their hopes and aspirations, whether through song or dance, street walks or sit-ins, or ordinary coffee house conversation. The Occupy Wall Street movement appears to be giving voice to the common good. That which benefits everyone, like breathable air and available water -- or sidewalks and bridges -- is certainly worth people coming together to find common cause.

Common sense policy is putting the U.S. Treasury to work for the good of the nation, not just for the good of bankers or the good of the auto industry.

I am running for Congress in the 4th District in New Jersey. I have just begun raising money to give our campaign a fighting chance to earn the Democratic nomination and unseat a Republican incumbent who has been in office for 31 years.

An economy that works for everyone!

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