Happy Easter or Passover or whichever holiday you choose to celebrate today.
For those of you who have been following my blog for the past 4 months, you have probably gotten the impression that I am pessimistic about our future, and that I am cynical about the persistence of the human condition. I have harped on the coming financial crisis in Europe and how it will impact the US, and I have bitched about the free ride that banks have gotten from this administration. I constantly remind you all that Greece is headed for a massive loan default, a huge and ugly political uprising and an unstructured and messy departure from the European Union, most probably followed soon thereafter by Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy.
You all know how I feel about the disappearance of the middle class in this country and the dangers of such a dramatic consolidation of wealth among a very few and a collateral consolidation of poverty among a growing third, soon to be half of the country. I carp about the Republican platform moving to exacerbate the problem by lowering taxes on the wealthy while rolling back education, health care and social programs. All of this is true, yet I am NOT a pessimist, nor am I cynical about the inevitability of the human response to crisis. I am actually an optimist, and I always have been, preferring to see the glass as half full as opposed to half empty, and instead of simply pointing out the problems, I have always tried to point out the solutions.
One of you asked me, if I am always wringing my hands over the future of America amid an almost complete vacuum of leadership, what practical, workable things I would do differently to change the direction this country is headed, and to prepare for and guard against some of the speed bumps and outright disasters that await us should we stay the current course. OK, since you asked, here it is:
1. Congress. Work a full year. Either vote to make your health care and pension plan law for everyone else, or vote yourselves into private health care plans and a non-matching 401(k). Pay for your own transportation to and from work. Reduce your staff to twenty people, and pay them market wages. Make all Congressional and employee perks competitive to private industry.
Pass the following laws effective immediately: a) Crowdfunding, without SEC restrictions. This will create jobs. b) Banks must within 30 days, re-structure all home mortgages to real-estate appraised market values, no exceptions. This will be grandfathered as a condition of the earlier bailout. The effect of this law will stabilize the housing market. c) Pass an emergency Banking law that gives homeowners who have been un-employed for 6 months or longer a free ride on their mortgage payments for an additional 12 months, and do not accrue those carry costs onto their existing mortgages; in short, the Banks eat the difference, further stabilizing the housing market. d) All banks who have foreclosed and now own REO properties must keep those properties on their books for a period of 5 years, and will not be allowed to bring those homes to market during that period but must maintain them in sell-able condition, but without sales signs in the yards, and without MLS listings. This shift in mortgage risk will result in the proper distribution among the two parties who have taken the risk of an ever rising housing market, and will completely stabilize the housing market.
e) Pass another emergency Banking law which restricts investment in European banks and Sovereign bonds and requires US banks to withdraw their positions in European banks and Sovereign bonds to 10% of all foreign holdings. This will mitigate the impact of Eurozone failures and defaults on US banks. f) Re-enact a version of the Glass-Steagall Act, restricting US commercial banks from investment banking, and break up the current US banks within a 90 day period, restricting derivative trading to it’s purest form and disallowing exotic contracts to be traded under the guise of derivatives. This is a lot easier to do than it appears and it will greatly reduce volatility in the markets. g) Raise taxes 6% on those earning over $250,000 per year, and 10% on those earning over $1,000,000 per year. h) Reduce the capital gains tax to 10%.
h) Eliminate all subsidies for Oil companies and Industrial farms. i) Repeal the Citizens United ruling. j) Freeze existing lobbyists and restrict lobbying spending to $1,000,000 per firm. k) Pass an emergency job-funding bill that invests $200 Billion in infrastructure construction projects administered by the Federal, not the State government. l) Repeal No Child Left Behind and re-direct that money into teaching, arts, music, science and sports. m) Sponsor a National Program equivalent in funding to putting a man on the moon in today’s dollars, that has a goal of getting America to the number one position in Reading, math and Science across all grade levels within 5 years, and create ridiculous rewards for students and teachers who achieve those goals. n) Reduce the number of Federal cabinets and Agencies to 500, and fully pension all of those people whose jobs will be eliminated.
o) Eliminate the Federal Energy Management Program and create a single Agency whose only goal is to achieve fossil-fuel independence by 2020, and staff it with proven entrepreneurs who are vested in a ridiculous amount of Federal stock options, so that when they achieve that goal, they will be rewarded just like in real life. p) Nationalize all Police and Fire and create a single intelligence agency while eliminating the CIA and the FBI. q) Cease the prosecution of all wars and withdraw combat troops from current theaters of war, while re-building the VA and re-distributing those funds to veterans hospital care and housing, education and job benefits. r) Pass a law that eliminates filibustering, and requires that every bill that is introduced into Congress be written in plain, 8th grade English and posted on the Web for a period of 60 days with automatic response mechanisms that requires the authors and proponents to respond to every citizen query in person, and the attendant dialogue be required to be appended to the bill prior to allowing a vote by Congress. This may eliminate any bill from being enacted by Congress, other than those emergency bills.
s) Shut down unemployment, and instead write a tax-free check for $100,000 to everyone who was drawing those benefits and give them one year to prove that they could start a successful business and employ at least one other person. If they succeed, they could draw down additional funding to expand their business. Half may fail, but the other half that succeeds would eliminate unemployment, and it would cost only slightly more than the banking bailout of 2008. Think about it: Eliminate Unemployment!
While I am tempted to suggest that we should create a single cabinet post called Really Smart Guys in a Room and require 2 years of national service from people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Robert Reich, Bill Clinton, Marc Andreesen, Vinod Khosla, Joichi Ito, Jonathan Ive, Diego Rodriguez, Michael Arrington, Charlene Li, Marc Benioff, Jack Dorsey, Jim Breyer, Reid Hoffman, Andy Rubin, Sebastien Thrun, Sheryl Sandberg and Rich Rubin, I guess that might be going over the top. I left a bunch of really bright people out, but you get the idea. Let them create the kind of wealth, innovation and prosperity they created in Silicon Valley, but instead of a measly $800 million Venture Fund, they would have access to an $800 Billion Venture Fund. Darn. How cool would it be to get these guys together and tell them they can do anything they want, but just make the world a better place, and don’t forget make us money while your doing it.