I have been listening and looking for word about such a plan since
mid-September 2001, but it was not even mentioned. I expected it to come
from the administration or in some mainstream news item - I mean, it was all
Big News. But here it has been more than a month and still, on this matter,
silence. If the experts aren't going to do it, we ordinary people will have
This plan would benefit from a whole lot of things that hardly get mentioned
in our media: instant global exchange through the Internet, the shrinkage
of the world, the growth in influence of the U.N., a definition of American
values (although our "values" as a buzzword get plenty of press).
We ordinary people were supposed to get back to business as usual, back to
normal, as fast as possible, and leave the rest to the experts. Supposedly
that normalcy, that business as usual, was good enough for us. It would keep
us busy and out of their hair. I soon found that my letters to my congressmen
and the president and some mainstream media were few among millions. Nobody
had time for millions of letters.
Well, if they aren't paying attention, now is the time for us ordinary people
to start action. The government won't even notice. By the time the year
2006 rolls around, our plans will be ready to put into action, whatever they
are. All it will take is for a good number of nonprofit organizations,
linked by the Internet, to talk together, plan together, and work together.
So what would we use as building blocks for the great future to come?
Obviously, things that are now being ignored.
For instance, the fact that this is supposed to be a government by the
people, not just of the people and for the people. We the people, who are
supposed to be running the show, are looked on as mere consumers. Our job is
to spend money - to shop, to fly, to buy, buy, buy!
If we are needed to spend money and be consumers, there should be more of us.
How about adding in the poor? According to the World Almanac of 2001,
there are over 32,258,000 poor, and they wouldn't mind moving out of poverty.
The thing that government and experts don't seem to understand is that the
poor want and need everything. If they had money they would go out and spend
it. That's what the government and experts say they want, so why not make it
possible? Why waste money on the rich, who will merely put it in tax
Okay, so we have enlarged the numbers of consumers. But exactly who are the
consumers? We are all consumers, even Bill Gates. The one thing none of us
can do without is FOOD. We can live in caves if we want to, or migrate to
southern states where it stays warm. There are enough clothes left lying
around for everyone. So that takes care of shelter and clothing, but there's
still a need, every day, for food. Some of us are picky and want legible
labels on this food, so we know where it came from and what's in it. By the
year 2006 we will find a way to provide that, since other countries are already doing it.
So we have more consumers, with enough food to go around. What does it take
to turn us into citizens? Seems to me we need access and education.
Education for kids is easier and cheaper than we will admit. The money that
would go to testing would make sure every student has a computer. It is
estimated that there are now more than one billion pages on the Web, and by
2005 one billion persons will be connected around the world. I am
continuously amazed at how much I can learn that was not available when I was
a kid. Information about history, literature, economics, nature, medicine,
religion, agriculture, the world.
As for access, suppose we establish an office through which every citizen
could express, not opinions, but ideas. The ideas would be read and
answered, the good ideas would be read by a panel and eventually sent to the
appropriate office. The writers would feel better, the government might be
surprised, it might get some ideas it hadn't had before.
So we have citizens, fed, informed and sheltered, with access to our
government, and with enough money to live on. Or is there enough? The
present financial experts say there is, then they say there isn't, or won't
be, or only if we borrow some. If everyone who now has two jobs only had
one, if mothers were encouraged to stay home and raise kids if they wanted,
would it cost so much?
Why did we vote through a minimum wage but not a maximum? If there were a
maximum wage as well as a minimum wage, there would not be so much
inequality. Anyone who says he needs more than a million a year might think
about living on minimum wage, which is $5.15 an hour, or in poverty, which
is less, and reported in 1999 as 11.8% of the population, or 32,258,000.
And there is the environment, a great asset that belongs to all of us. By
the year 2006 most people will have heard enough about the environment so
they will cherish it too.
And then there are the American values. These showed up this year and there
was much surprise. Such a tremendous outpouring of sympathy, good will,
support, friendship, caring - and not just from Americans, but from the whole
world. That is what will make this plan work. Working together for a
common good, starting now, realizing we have some time to work on it, we
ordinary people have the greatest chance we have ever had.
Ann Gras is a 74 year-old grandmother. She did all the writing for a
computer book published by Macmillan in 1983, The Software Sifter, and a few
chapters for Brookline Books, on Microcomputers in Special Education. She is
currently writing a book about the Five-year Plan, but is eager for company
to start thinking, designing, and working on this plan.