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If I Were Running for President

June 10, 2019

When I was seven years old an adult asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied, “President of the United States.” I don’t know why I said that. I may have been influenced by the recent assassination of JFK and the nation’s outpouring of grief for a president who had brought hope and optimism to so many. As I grew older, I shifted my interest to other professions (becoming a writer, or an archaeologist, or a minister), but I have never quite lost my political dreams.

With so many people currently running for president (and my being somewhat disappointed in all of them), I can’t help but imagine what kind of platform I would run on. It’s all fantasy, of course, but I would love to address the most important issues facing our nation and world without pandering to a certain segment of society or worrying about popularity. If I could be entirely honest with the American people, here are the issues I would run on:

Taxes. The fact is, the government doesn’t take in nearly enough taxes to cover the cost of all of the things we demand from it and receive from it now. The result is a national debt that is unimaginably high and virtually impossible to pay off for generations to come. So it’s time to face reality and raise taxes in a smart way to at least cover our current expenses. The middle class needs to pay a bit more, and the rich need to pay significantly more.

The IRS. Over the years the IRS has been eviscerated, greatly reducing its ability to audit tax returns. This only encourages tax cheating–especially by the rich and by large corporations. Employing a lot more IRS agents more than pays for itself; it will add billions to the government coffers and make tax payments more lawful and fair.

Fix Social Security. Democrats in particular are allergic to fixing Social Security, treating it as a sacred cow despite the fact that it will run out of money without a fix. The age at which people can receive benefits will need to be raised, and the benefits for the wealthy will need to be cut.

Audit the Pentagon. The Pentagon has never completed a full audit. The Inspector General’s report in 2016 uncovered 6.5 trillion dollars that the Pentagon cannot account for. Paperwork is simply missing. No government agency has more financial fraud and waste than the Pentagon. If I were president, I would insist on financial transparency and accountability. Related to this is the need to cut military programs that even the Pentagon does not want, but which continue in the budget at the insistence of members of Congress whose constituencies benefit from the spending. This kind of shortsightedness will bankrupt us as well as put us at a great disadvantage with our military opponents.

Cap-and-trade and Carbon Tax. One of the greatest threats to the well-being of the entire planet for generations to come is global warming. The sooner we reduce carbon and methane emissions to near zero, the better (and cheaper) for all of us. According to the economists I have read, the most effective and efficient way to do this is through a combination of cap-and-trade and a gradual tax on carbon emissions. A carbon tax does not distort the market, but rather seeks to recoup the real cost of spewing carbon into the atmosphere. About twenty-five years ago Sweden began a carbon tax. Carbon emissions are down 23% even as the economy grew 55%.

Nuclear Energy. Although we should be investing in the further development of wind and solar energy, these two green sources, by themselves, will not meet our energy needs. The safest and most efficient source of green energy is nuclear. The public is afraid of nuclear accidents, but no one died (directly or indirectly) from the accident at Three Mile Island, and only one person died from radiation exposure at Fukushima. Chernobyl was a genuine nuclear disaster, but that was due to a very poor design combined with very poor management. I would fast-track the building of up-to-date and safe nuclear power plants.

Immigration and Border Enforcement. The birthrate in the U.S. is now below replacement level. If we want our economy to thrive, and if we want enough workers putting money into Social Security to pay the benefits going to the retiring Baby-boomers, then we will need a lot more immigrants. We also need to get the millions living here illegally (who have committed no crimes) out of the shadows, giving them a route to citizenship (or at least legal status). The guest-worker program also needs to be expanded in order to fill our need for migrant workers. At the same time, we need more effective border enforcement. A wall is not the most effective option in most cases; but a lot more fencing, surveillance, and border agents are needed, as well as stiffer penalties for trying to enter the country illegally. Asylum-seekers and war refugees who are fleeing violence and likely death must be given a fair hearing and sanctuary.

Trade and Alliances. A peaceful global future depends, to a significant extent, on expanded webs of trade and strengthening alliances. Our most valuable export is our philosophy and practice of freedom: specifically, human equality and human rights which have resulted in our cultural vibrancy and creativity. At the same time, we need to show respect and understanding for societies that function differently than our own. We need to once again project a positive image to the world. Friendship and admiration make us more secure than intimidation.

National Service. I believe every person, following graduation from high school, should be required to do one year of national service (working in national parks, hospitals, schools, overseas in the Peace Corps, or in the military). This will help to enhance a greater understanding and empathy for our diverse society and world, build a sense of national unity, and provide much-needed services. It will also bring greater maturity and clarity to those who then wish to purse a college education.

Personal Faith. If I were running for president, I would want to be open about my personal faith and how it motivates me and informs my values. I would also like to show how that faith respects all faiths as well as those with no faith–a principle foundational to our nation. The freedom of (and from) religion is what has made religious faith in the United States so much more vital than it is in many other countries with a history of state-sponsored religion.

My list of issues could go on, but these are among the most important. If I were to run on such a platform, I would certainly lose; and even if I were to win the presidency, Congress would almost certainly block all or almost all of these initiatives. So why even run such a campaign? Because if no candidates are willing to tell us the truth and speak about these things, we will never address them, and we will slowly choke on our own selfishness.

[I have been writing this weekly Monday blog for over nine years. I will now be making it occasional. Thanks for reading and commenting!]

 

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2 Comments
  1. Cheryl permalink

    I’d vote for you on that platform!

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