Saturday, December 6, 2008

If I Were President of the United States

If I were the president of the U.S., these would be my priorities:

1. No bailouts. Bailouts reward mismanaged corporations and overspending states as well as people who bought more house or car than they could comfortably afford, while punishing the innocent taxpayer and upstart companies.

2. Encourage a thrift-based, much less materialistic society, in which you don't buy what you can't comfortably afford. A home is the only item that one should borrow for. 

When I came of age, I wanted a car and bought only what I could comfortably pay for in cash: a $300 ten-year-old Ford Falcon with a manual choke. (And I loved it more than if I had bought a brand new car and had to endure the constant pressure of car payments 

3.  Increase CAFE standards so that all cars must get at least 40 mpg, with further increases as car efficiency technology improves. That increases energy independence while saving people money and minimally impeding their freedom to travel. Compare that with environmentalist proposals to raise gas taxes (regressive) or not build freeways so people, sick of gridlock, are forced to take time-wasting, often sardined-in mass transit.

4. No sloppy-thousandths spending of taxpayer money on alternative energy schemes. Corporations are investing in alternative energy, but only in what can reasonably expected to be cost-effective over the next decade. What's left are largely those schemes deemed unworthy. I can't look the struggling working- and middle-class taxpayer in the eye and says it's worth my taking more money from your pocket to pay for sloppy-thousandths schemes.

5. I would talk with my enemies, yes, including terrorists. That increases chances of finding solutions.

6. Stop trying to compete with China and India in science and engineering, for example, by forcing even very non-academically-oriented high school student to take Algebra 2 and math-centric science courses. In an era in which ever more science and engineering work can be sent over the Internet, it's too unlikely that the U.S. can ever compete with Asian countries, which have many more people, a culture that has long valued science and engineering, and countless people willing and able to do the work for a small fraction of what American engineers and scientists charge. 

Replace required science/math courses with courses in entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, financial literacy, information literacy, and ethics. Of course, capable students should be allowed to elect to take challenging science and math courses. 

7. Reestablish ability-grouped classes in school beginning in the 1st grade. Ensure that placement is fair and fluid.

8. Replace professors with master practitioners in all professional training programs: in health care, law, business, etc. Master practitioners would not only improve the training but would shorten it--professors add length to their training programs, not because it's time-effective for students, but because it feeds their scholarly interests and keeps them employed. 

9. Eliminate the enormous redundancy in government: Many agencies governed Katrina relief with disastrous consequences. Every word a teacher utters is constrained by multiple government bureaucracies' rules.

10. Tort reform. Too much of American GDP goes to preventing and responding to unjustified lawsuits. 

11. Ensure that basic health care and housing  (dormitory style) are available for all. But the people who pay into the system would get a higher quality of health care. I am agnostic on whether it should be a single-payer system. 

12. Restrict unions' power to ensure lifetime job security despite bad performance, especially among teachers. Lifetime job security (along with other factors) has ruined all the major unionized industries: car, airline, and steel.

13. Negotiate toughly with the World Bank and China to ensure true free trade.

14. Privatize most things, for example, schools, prisons, police, fire, road construction. Example: CalTrans (a public agency) normally takes years to build a road. But after an earthquake, when the San Francisco Bay Bridge needed immediate retrofitting, after Caltrans diddled with it for years, it finally hired a private company CC Myers--and it completed the project in one weekend. I have been told that City of San Francisco carpenters all make each other work as slowly as possible--or they get their tires slit. Even worse, they build, for example, a fence, then tear it down and build it again so they can say they need to hire more workers to complete the assigned workload.

15. Lightly increase regulation of financial institutions. Heavy regulation brings more problems than it solves--to wit, Sarbanes Oxley, which costs corporations billions. If someone smart seriously wants to be crooked, an extra layer of government regulations won't deter. 

16. Prosecute reverse discrimination, which is rampant and devastates the quality of the goods and services we receive as well as deprives the most meritorious candidate of jobs and spots in colleges. I know an eminent person who serves on three large corporate boards (a Latino woman I might add) who said that to avoid government sanctions, all three companies are forced to reject or not promote more qualified whites and Asians in favor of less productive African-Americans and Latinos even to very high positions, and to mitigate the damage, "put them where they'll do the least harm."

17. Reduce taxes by 50%, while ensuring that corporations pay their fair share--I'd look hard at why many profitable corporations pay no tax. Make equivalent spending cuts, for example, the ideas in #1, 9, and 14 above, and in reducing defense and entitlement spending. I would, for example, means-test Social Security.

18. Move toward a balanced budget. It's the only long-term guarantor of a stable economy. 
The result of my proposals: China and India will have more money but America will have a stable, competent, integrity-based quality of life. 


Anonymous said...

# 6 only makes sense if you believe the US will continue leading the world in business and innovation. It's very likely China and India will gain in these areas over the next few decades, which means (1) foreign engineering talent will have more incentive to work for companies at home and (2) We will have to compete with the rest of the world for talent. We also need to stop thinking of engineers as just work-horses or "implementors." They have more to do with sparking innovation than the average suit.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested by number 2. Would there be legislation implementing this? Would it apply to businesses and not just individuals? Other than via legislation, how would number two be achieved?

Number four is just so funny. There are a ton of companies investing in alternative technologies. Current legislation favors the incumbent industries, who have bought and paid for that legislation.

Negotiate toughly with China. Riiiight. They have so heavily invested in propping up the US economy that it's hysterically funny to think about 'negotiating toughly.' What are we bringing to the table there?

While we're privatizing, how about we finish privatizing defense? The majority of force in Iraq is now mercenaries; why not finish the job?

I like the dorms idea. Kind of Ayn Rand meets Soviet gulag.

There's a very interesting laboratory for a lot of libertarian ideas, right here in the real world. I think all libertarians should consider these articles carefully.

In fact, perhaps we should all relocate there. You write and tell us what you think after you've liver there a couple of years, ok, President N?

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for your questions and comments. I'll try to address them here:

-- I would not try to legislate thrift. I'd make it an important part of the financial literacy curriculum I advocated in my post. I'd also launch a public service announcement campaign to encourage thrift.

-- I agree that the govt's alternative energy policy is absurd. Rather than funny, though, it makes me sad. We never learn--fo example, Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, etc. have pushed through ethanol govt. spending even though the scientists agree it is a boondoggle. The same will be true for, for example, solar--the physics just isn't there for solar to be cost-effective, let alone a major solution to our energy needs. Nuclear will, as in most countries, prove to be the wisest answer.

--You're right. It will be ever tougher to negotiate with China. They're holding ever more of the cards.

--You probably were being sarcastic, but an all-private army may be a wiser approach. I don't know enough about this to comment. I do know that the excesses of a private IRAQ contractor or two offers only minimal evidence that it's a bad idea.

--Re the dorms, if dorms and cafeteria-style food are good enough for Harvard students who a fortune for the privilege, they are good enough for people who are living on taxpayers' dollars. Besides, it will then be easier to provide social services such as health, job counseling, etc.

-- Re Somalia, no form of government can solve the other problems that country faces. That is no argument for the massive-government approach the U.S. now will be taking.

Anonymous said...

I think that #3 is the most important. I do not want incompetence rewarded with a bailout of auto companies but still think we need an auto industry that is profitable.

Anon said...

I'd vote for you.

I like almost all of your stances.

Anonymous said...

If Marty were President, I hope he would select me as his Vice-President. If so, I would try to persuade him to:

1. Bring all U.S. troops home immediately from 144 countries around the world. The U.S. has no right to build empires or act as the policeman of the world.

2. Abolish the Federal Reserve. It has destroyed the dollar.

3. Abolish the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It imprisons non-violent drug "offenders", foments violent drug crime, and destroys families. It is immoral and unconstitutional.

4. Abolish the IRS. With no military adventurism, no Fed, and no DEA, the IRS has no excuse for existence.

Dr. Michael R. Edelstein