The markets are panicking, the recovery is stalling, and political tension is reaching a breaking point. As Americans, we feel like we’re trapped: our nation’s problems surround us, and yet we don’t see anything being done. However, the truth is that there are some really easy, common sense solutions for the problems we face as a nation—the real problem is that there isn’t any political will to put those solutions into action.
Below, I’m going to go through the basics for each solution—these are my ideas, or ideas I’ve adopted from others—and by no means are they perfect. If you have your own, please share them on the site; part of the goal of chuckingrocks is to be a marketplace of ideas. As I’ve stated on the “about” page, I’ll publish any comments that further the conversation, whether or not I agree with them.
OK, so here we go, let’s start with:
We should institute single payer health care. It is simply the cheapest, most efficient system. Now, there are a lot of problems with our current system of Medicare: it doesn’t pay doctors (especially primary care physicians) enough, and on the flip side, it pays for and approves extremely expensive surgeries and pays medical suppliers too much.
I don’t suppose to know enough about the world in which physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals work, but I trust their judgment. So:
1. We should form a convention, like the constitutional convention that gave structure to this nation, and allow doctors, nurses, etc. to find solutions, and propose a straightforward, common-sense structure for our single payer system. Then:
2. Have it audited by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office). Once it had been refined, it could be sent to Congress for approval, under the condition that a “no” vote required a written explanation of their reasoning, and a solution to whatever reservation was cited.
There would be wrangling to be sure, and there would have to be compromise, but as it is, our health care system is bleeding us dry. People complain about how much it costs to pay public employees, but much of that cost is due to skyrocketing insurance premiums that the state and federal government have no choice but to pick up. Additionally, if we relieved corporations and other businesses from having to worry about providing health care, U.S. industries could hire more workers and compete more effectively with foreign companies.
We need a single payer system—one that is designed by people with an intimate knowledge of the medical industry—namely, doctors and nurses.
Unbeknownst to most people, education is one of the most well studied and research driven professions in the U.S. Most teachers, administrators, and other school employees are highly motivated, effective, and professional. The problem, really, with education, is a lack of clear focus in our mission.
First, we need to abolish all laws pertaining to education and start from scratch. We need to allow administrators and teachers to focus more clearly on the true customer in education: the student. Students and parents must be compelled to direct their own learning; otherwise, there is no accountability. Teachers and administrators then, need to respond to student needs by providing them with the skills and knowledge the student demands.
As it is now, education exists as a top down entity. States establish standards which students are supposed to meet, and mandate tests to assess whether they are meeting them. Thus, if educators did a perfect job, every student would possess exactly the same knowledge, the same skills, the same abilities. If that sounds foolish, it’s because it is. We should, in education especially, treasure diversity. We are not manufacturing sprockets—we are educating human beings—each with a different temperaments, talents, and abilities. Yes, we want brilliant engineers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, mathematicians, etc. But we need all kinds of people, and yet, as it is, we try to force everyone through the same mold. Preparing every single student for a liberal arts or state college education is asinine.
More to the point:
1. Administrators need more freedom to design their schools as they see fit and as their school boards, parents, and students direct.
2. We need to do away with standardized testing—we have grades to assess whether a student is proficient or not—assessment beyond that is not only repetitive, but an ineffective use of time and resources.
3. Teachers need to be paid more, and that pay needs to be based—like most professions—on effectiveness and efficiency, not tenure alone.
4. Every school should run year round, and because they’re getting paid more, teachers should be expected to work 245 or 250 days a year.
5. High schools should be expected to have at least one comprehensive program (such as automotive design/repair, construction, industrial arts, etc.) that prepares students to earn and work a job that pays a living wage by the time they graduate, and students should be free to attend any public school they choose.
6. Make parents and students more responsible for their education. We can start by ending bussing. Provide passes to take public transportation, but otherwise, find a way to get to school—if you value your education, you’ll find a way to get there.
If you simply started with those 6 ideals, the marketplace of ideas would yield excellent solutions to carry our system of public education forward, providing each student with an education suited to their abilities, and providing our private and public sectors with a diverse, intelligent, efficient, and professional workforce.
First off, let’s just get this perfectly straight: cutting the deficit has nothing to do with helping our economy, and it should always come secondary to job creation. Spending money to create jobs, in the long run, will do more to solve our deficit problems than anything else. A robust economy will fill the government coffers, and once the economy recovers, we can, and should, phase out jobs programs and other means of stimulus. And just so no one is mistaken, the recent Obama stimulus did create jobs, and if it can be said to have failed, it failed in so far as it was too small, and much of it was in the form of tax breaks, which have proven themselves to be one of the least efficient and most indirect forms of stimulus.
So here’s what we need to do:
1. Revamp the electrical grid. Hire and pay engineers to make it more efficient. Provide grants to spur investment in alternative forms of energy, such as tidal dams, wind, solar, geothermal, as well as grants to design battery systems to store that power.
2. Competitively bid the right to repair our nation’s bridges, highways, railways, and other infrastructure. Put construction workers back to work. Their wages will circulate throughout the economy, increasing demand for all kinds of goods and services, causing suppliers to hire more workers and increase productivity.
3. Start a program where the government buys, using the power of eminent domain, houses in foreclosure at a sharply reduced rate. In high poverty areas, allow people to rent them under rules for low income housing. In low poverty areas, pay people to gut the houses for anything valuable, then destroy and remove them. Then, you could use the land to build parks, roads, schools, hospitals, etc. The program would not only provide temporary employment for those out of work, it would also reduce the housing supply, which would buoy housing prices.
I’m just going to go straight for it here (a separate blog in defense of a progressive tax system coming soon):
1. Reduce and restructure the corporate tax rate on profits, but allow no tax loopholes except for those rewarding job creation. Taxes should be progressive: 5% on the first 10 million, 10% to 50 million, 15% to 100 million, 20% to 500 million, 25% after that. This would give a competitive edge to small and medium size businesses, but still allow large corporations to profit while paying their fair share.
2. Keep income taxes as they are (they’re historically low now), but put a new bracket above $500,000, taxed at 45% after that point.
3. Put a 10% tariff on all imported products, including those made by American companies in foreign countries. This would encourage domestic manufacturing and give an competitive edge to American made products, spurring job creation.
4. Make taxes on capital gains the same as income taxes. This would encourage people to keep their money in the market and reduce volatility.
Again, I’m just going to go for it:
1. Pass a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people, or simply, that Congress has the right to regulate elections and election spending. We need to get the money out of politics and remind our representatives who they serve: the people. Remember to go to: http://movetoamend.org and sign the petition.
2. Pass another constitutional amendment making the positions on the Supreme Court elected. They still serve for life, or until they step down, but with a provision that they can be recalled. The justices need to be accountable, and since Congress refuses to do the job (the Constitution grants them power to do so), U.S. citizens should be given that right.
3. Pass yet another amendment mandating that the President is elected by popular vote, and that Senators are subject to recall. Since we elect House members every two year, a recall provision isn’t really necessary, but Senators ought to be more accountable for their actions. Likewise, the way we elect our president, through the electoral college, is ridiculously out of place. Every U.S. citizen’s vote should count equally when electing our President.
4. Finally, require a moratorium on the revolving door between lobbyists and government positions. To be elected or appointed to a government post, one cannot have held a position at a lobbying firm for at least the prior 4 years. Likewise, one cannot be hired as a lobbyist, or consultant to a lobbying firm for at least 4 years after having served office.
Yes, three amendments is a lot, but after the Civil war we passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, so it is not unprecedented. The issue of government corruption might be more important than any of the previous issues I’ve touched upon above, because in many cases, the reason we don’t have more rational governance is due to political malfeasance—and that, unlike the brain drain on the right, does occur within both parties.