My political platform
Just like every year, I’m running for president, god-emperor, and tzar of the world. My assumption is that I would have such an incredible popular mandate that I wouldn’t have to negotiate with either political party, nor would I have to respect existing law or precedent. In my mind, I can impose a clean slate on the whole world all at once.
Don’t bother me with the small stuff. Work it out. I’m a big-picture kinda guy.
Here’s the first pieces of my platform:
Low cost, means tested medical care at government clinics.
We can expand the VA for hospital services and add urgent care centers adjacent to most post-offices. Payment would scale from a nominal co-pay (sponsored by tax dollars) up to “full price.” What you pay would be based on your prior year’s reported income. Note that “full price” for services would not be set by the current insurance based model. Those prices are based on a seven layer burrito of profit seeking, obfuscation, and shareholder dividends. I’m not trying to generate profits for anyone here, I’m trying to provide baseline medical care. Prices would be set based on what it costs to deliver particular services.
If you choose not to identify yourself or share your tax data, that means “full fare.” Yes, foreign nationals can be seen at our public clinics. They just have to pay for it. Duh.
Costs at private and for-profit medical centers can be expected to plummet when the current model of medical care is forced into competition with a direct-to-consumer model with publicly posted prices and no insurance or HMOs. I expect private insurance prices to follow suit.
Generic medications will be available in the pharmacy at a nationally negotiated rate. Again, government sponsored “co-payments” would be subject to a means test. Think “food stamps.” This isn’t really all that complex.
Physicians, nurses, and support staff at these clinics would be civil servants under a similar model to the public defender’s office. I’ve always found it pretty weird that you can get a lawyer for free when you need one, but not a doctor. I expect that private practice will continue to be more personally lucrative for physicians. I also know for a fact that many people will choose to serve the less fortunate. We can give extra incentive by expanding existing programs for forgiveness of federal student loans.
Note that this would not replace our existing system of commercial hospitals and private insurance. You don’t need to go to the commie social hospital if you don’t want to. The goal is to provide a safety net. If you have the option, you will probably choose to pay more for private care. I expect these public clinics and hospitals to have to make some very hard decisions about how to provide the best medical care for the largest number of people on a finite budget. My guess is that they will not be providing million dollar care for the last months of a terminally ill person’s life. That they will have to triage and live within a budget. Right now, there is no budgetary pressure on access to medical care. Insurance goes on “forever.” That’s why it costs so much.
Anyway, when I want an MRI of my aching knees, I expect to pay for the privilege of being seen today in a nice upscale office park rather than waiting most of the afternoon in the “non-emergency” line next to the post office.
How will I pay for all this? I’m pretty sure I can get just about anything I want, plus a pony, out of the current Medicare and Medicaid budgets. Give me the social security prescription drug benefit (and the ability to negotiate national discounted rates with the pharmaceutical companies) and I can put some art on the walls.
Invest in infrastructure, public works, science, and alternative energy via grants and open-bid projects favoring small and mid-sized business.
You want “job creation?” I’ll show you “job creation:” Commit to put money on the table, every single year, to fix our crumbling highways, sewers, bridges, and so on. Put more money on the table for technologies and business areas of competitive interest to the US. Slant it all towards small business. Once small business owners know that they can rely on this sort of work being available, they will staff up to meet the need.
Publicly traded companies will be specifically blocked from applying for these grants and programs. How stupid would you have to be to just hand out profits to shareholders from your tax revenue stream? You’re big and successful enough to be on the NASDAQ? Have fun out there with the big boys. If you want to make money off of these programs, get some sweat equity in a small company. You want to make profits? Own a piece of said small company.
You may notice a theme here: If I want doctors, I hire doctors. If I want roads, I pay for roads. No hokey-pokey dance around influencing the market or trickling down or whatever.
Castrate big corporations, biggest ones first
Corporations are not people. They do not have “human” rights. Humans have human rights. Corporations are amoral, near immortal entities that consolidate incredible amounts of power and abdicate personal responsibility. I think that we should invoke the corporate death penalty far more frequently than we currently do. BP and Halliburton, for example, should have lost their right to do business in the US over their reckless endangerment of the whole gulf coast.
Oh stop whining. The business won’t leave the country. The investors may take a bath – but the work will still be there. It’ll just get picked up by other companies who will be more careful with our shared resources. This also provides direct downward pressure on the growth of massive companies, since it’s much harder to be responsible for 100,000 employees than for 1,000. We’re half-assing our way towards this with class action lawsuits – we should finish the job.
As to the money losses, those investors should have been more careful anyway. The component parts of a businesses that was appropriately valued will fetch something close to their market price at a fire sale. I’m not talking about throwing away any piece of valuable equipment or any particular business unit. On the other hand, if you speculated and tried to get rich betting on a company that killed hundreds? Screw you.
We should do the same thing that happens when a company is forced into bankruptcy. Use bankruptcy courts to unwind the various pieces of an executed corporation and sell off whatever was left after reparations had been made to the victims.
I’m also a fan of personal responsibility. Most of the time, corporations do not commit crimes – humans do. Corporations provide a shield that allows people to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. In my world, the corporate officers take final responsibility for corporate crimes. If you’re the CEO of a company, and that company manages to kill dozens – you’ll have a day in criminal court. In addition to the corporate death penalty, I want some human on trial for (at least) negligent homicide.
A tax policy tuned to directly benefit the vast majority of the earners in the country
I’ve already turned job creation up to “puree.” Small businesses are rocking out and medical care is on the way to being sensibly priced. We’ve got infrastructure projects going up all over the place, and we’re steadily moving towards a non-petroleum based economy. We may be going back into space sometime soon.
Let’s take a look at the individual tax code:
My grants amount to massive incentives for small business owners and entrepreneurs by creating more work for them to do. There is absolutely no need to also cater to these people with lower individual tax rates. Why ‘trickle down’ when you can just take less taxes in the first place? That’s nearly as dumb as wanting medical care but hiring an actuary.
The current federal poverty line is $908 per month, or $10,890 per year for an individual. Let’s say that you pay zero federal taxes up to about double that: The first $20,000. If you apply the rule of thumb I learned in high school home economics – you should start your budget with no more than 1/3 of your gross pay going to housing. That puts an apartment for one person who is just scraping by at around $550. We’re not too distant from reality here. The poverty line sucks, and life is expensive.
My social engineering goal is to get most wage earners within one order of magnitude of each other. I have a hard time imagining someone being worth 10 times more than anyone else on a salary basis. I can easily imagine a business, run by an individual, making more money than that in a year – but we’ll should deal with that under the “corporate” part of the tax code. I’m talking about take home pay, not retained earnings in a business. I’m setting $20k to $200k in the “reasonable taxes” range. Above $200k, we tax much higher, and above $2M of income (per year, individual, earned income) we make it pretty brutal.
I have no idea what tax numbers I would need to set for “reasonable,” “high,” and “brutal.” Once we’re agreed on the broad strokes – we can make the numbers work. I’m guessing that we’ll see “reasonable” at around 15%, “high” at around 35% (the current top marginal rate) and “brutal” at or near 60%.
Note the lack of “family” benefits. I don’t see much reason to give a tax benefit to couples. I can see helping out with kids or the elderly via dependent deductions. However, I think we should all file on our own income from now on. Hey look, I just solved a big piece of the same sex marriage argument.
Foreign policy: A strategic shift from military intervention to schools and hospitals
My foreign policy is based on the fact that it’s a lot harder to convince a well educated, well fed person to go to war than the opposite. If you want to reduce wars in the world, focus on education, health, and a decent standard of living for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this takes about 20 years to really start to work – and we haven’t started yet. Along the way, we’ll need to strike a balance in order to protect ourselves. Also, not everyone will accept american schools or infrastructure investment. If they screw up and generate poverty and misery – we’ll need to protect ourselves. The military is not out of business in my world, but they can get back to doing what they’re good at.
We’ll create a new branch of the armed services dedicated to policing and infrastructure efforts. Note the classic difference between “police” and “military” actions. The police are on your team, and their job is to protect you. Think “national guard,” but deployed for the terminal 8 years of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. I would like young people to see the same social benefits (honor, lifelong participation in parades, snappy uniforms, etc) from peaceful service as the traditional military services.
Originally posted at http://chris.dwan.org/?p=2814. Please comment there http://chris.dwan.org/?p=2814#comments. Unless you're a Russian spammer, in which case, please crap your Cyrillic alphabet soup in my spam bucket.