Sunday, March 01, 2009



It beats me how the national discourse on the direction of our country continually misses the obvious. The following list of proposals, some using "outside the box" thinking, is my effort to steer the conversation-- and, if we're lucky, the attentions of our Congresspersons-- away from angry chimpanzees and towards issues that matter in the real world:

1. Food stamp programs henceforth will provide only healthy foods. All food stamp eligible products will be computer coded and available for purchase with a food stamp card with the user's photo. No more buying expensive ribeyes, sugar laden sodas, or junk with food stamps- but users will get fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, and rice-- and generic (the least expensive) brands of foods.

2. Normalize relations with Cuba. There is no downside.

3. Sunset all federal agencies and programs (including all military contracts and weapons systems) and all federal employees except constitutional officers every 10 years. Every program/agency will have to be re-authorized by new legislation no sooner than 5 years and no later than 10 years after the last re-authorization.

4. Give Congressmen and Senators $1 million each every year for every $100 billion they reduce the budget deficit in that year. The taxpayers will save $100 billion for each $535 million spent- a good return on that investment.

5. Eliminate all bribes- a/k/a campaign contributions. No candidate can ask for them, no lobbyist or private contributor can offer a candidate anything of monetary value- not a ride on a jet, a drink at a club, a round of golf, or a $1,000 a plate dinner. Publicly finance all federal elections and require all TV and radio stations to provide a fixed amount of free ad time within 90 days of elections to each qualified candidate with voters in that viewing area. Preview all TV and radio ads to any candidate attacked in them, and give him/her a free, twice as long time to run a response ad which will air immediately following the attack ad- but the candidate can be the only person appearing and speaking in the response ad. This will effectively end all of the toxic campaign attack ads polluting the airwaves every four years. Charge a reverse poll tax: $100 per year on every person who does not vote at least once that year. Put the money into the fund for public financing of all federal elections. Provide the rest of the public funding with an advertising sales tax for all tv and radio ads, with a minimum 10% federal sales tax on all ads for alcohol and cigarettes in any medium, print or electronic.

6. Every adult American citizen who wants to work will be provided a public works/public service job. There will be no involuntary unemployment. See the 1993 Kevin Kline movie "Dave" for more on this.

7. Change to publicly financed National Health insurance to cover all annual expenses for catastrophic illnesses (anything totaling more than $3,000 per family per year). Use a single payer plan for all other medical expenses, including medicine, with everything up to $3,000 paid for with a "health care" type credit card. The consumer can repay the monthly credit card bill out of his own pocket, with an insurance plan, or over time like any other credit card- but with a 5% cap on annual interest. Fund the government portion of the program with a national sales tax on all goods and services- so every one who consumes anything will be paying for his or her catastrophic insurance. This will eliminate all unnecessary administrative costs and all issues of employees needing or companies paying for job related health insurance, which will save medical providers and employers billions. It would also reduce stress on employees and their families who have now lost or are afraid of losing their medical coverage.

8. Eliminate all medical malpractice lawsuits from the tort system and replace them with a no-fault system without lawyers, based on the model of the worker's compensation program, funded by a 1 or 2 percent sales tax on all medical services and products (1% provides about $23 billion a year for the fund- more than is paid out right now in the entire country in malpractice awards). This will keep doctors from leaving any specialty because of malpractice insurance. It will eliminate unnecessary defensive medicine and will save billions in overhead for physicians, hospitals, and drug companies.

9. Post all awards from the no fault fund on the internet, organized by doctor, hospital, kind of injury suffered, and dollar amount of payout from the no-fault fund, but confidential as to patient. This will inform patients of problem doctors and problem hospitals far better than the current tort system, which frequently uses confidential settlements with no admission of wrongdoing even in egregious cases of malpractice.

10. Legalize all drugs for adults. Prohibit the private importation and sale of formerly illegal drugs, but have the U.S. Government buy up the coca crops in Latin America and the heroin/poppy crops in Southeast Asia, and eliminate all of the middlemen. Tax marijuana like cigarettes, but all addictive drugs will be given away for free. Users must use them only in a controlled environment-- a plain cinderblock building next to the hospital which has a door A- get high- and a door B- drug rehab. The addict has to stay in the building until he/she is no longer high, but can come as often as he/she wants. Because the drugs are free, this will eliminate 99.9% of all drug related crime, including drug cartels, killings over drugs by gangs in the U.S. or Mexico. There will be no addicts robbing stores, burglarizing homes or shoplifting to pay for their habit.

11. Take all politics away from the tax code- except for tax rates. No more treating unearned income differently from earned income. No more deductions, no more tax credits, which are both ways of spending government money but which give political cover to the politicians, especially when they are giving government money to millionaires and oil companies. When you give a mortgage deduction on income taxes, you are rewarding owners of million dollar mansions, who may shave thousands of dollars off their taxes, while middle class people save a few hundred dollars and blue collar working people who rent save nothing. If it's worth spending money on, do it out in the open by writing a check. If we want a billionaire to get $2,000 for having two children, write him a check from the U.S. Treasury. If we want to reward rich people for getting their money from dividends and capital gains by taxing them less than people who work hard eight hours a day, then do so by writing them a check for the difference rather than excluding their income from taxes or taxing them at lower rates. Obviously, no sane member of Congress would vote to give money directly to those people for those reasons- so we'd all save, and the tax code would be so simple that a 1040 would have only 3 lines on it, including the signature line.


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