With a presidential election campaign heating up once again, it’s a good time to consider an alternative vision – something entirely different from the tinkering at the margins offered by both parties – spending a little more here and a little less there; taxing one group a little more and giving breaks to another. Does anyone seriously believe that such timid, warmed-over economic approaches will make any real difference? In the last election, we were promised “hope” and “change.” We got neither. If I were president, you’d get both in spades! Lacking funding and organization, it’ll never happen. But, if it did, the U.S. and the world would soon be a very different place. The following would be my platform:
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Economy / Jobs:
- On day one of my presidency, I’d call for a meeting of the G20 and, separately, call for a meeting with leaders of the WTO (World Trade Organization), with both meetings to take place within a month. At the first meeting with the G20, I’d announce our intention to return to managing trade in our own best self-interest, based on the principles of the economic inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption. Densely populated nations would be subject to a tariff on all manufactured products, indexed to their population density and sufficiently large to restore an overall balance of trade in manufactured products with those nations. The U.S. would engage in free trade with all other nations and with all nations in natural resources. These tariffs would begin at a relatively low level, approximately 25% of what I believe necessary to achieve a balance of trade. They would be steadily raised until the full tariffs would be in effect in year four. The purpose of the 4-year implementation would be to give companies time to build manufacturing capacity in the U.S., and time for universities and trade schools to begin cranking out legions of engineers, electricians, machinists, welders and pipe-fitters. All nations would be warned that any attempt to retaliate with barriers to American products would be matched by the U.S., with the population density-indexed tariffs layered on top. The tariffs would be held in abeyance for any nation who achieves a balance of trade with the U.S. voluntarily, either by limiting their exports to the U.S. or by buying as much from us as we buy from them. Attempts to “launder” exports through low-population density nations will result in the tariffs being applied to those nations as well. All tariffs will be set in ad valorem terms – based on a percentage of imports’ values, which will be determined by the Department of Commerce.
- At the meeting with the WTO, it would be given an opportunity to restructure around the principle that all nations should be free to set trade policy in their own best self-interest. If the WTO is unwilling to change, then they would be informed of our intention to withdraw from the organization.
- A program designed to provide manufacturers easy access to low-interest loans would be implemented to facilitate the rebuilding of our manufacturing base. Any project that builds new manufacturing capacity or expands existing capacity would be eligible. The program would be funded by the tariff revenue.
- Given today’s high rate of unemployment, it makes absolutely no sense and is utterly unfair to American workers to throw fuel on the fire by importing more labor. And, in light of the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption, it makes no sense to worsen our own population density by continuing immigration into the U.S. at current levels. Over four years, immigration quotas would be cut by 75% to approximately 250,000 per year, with an ultimate goal of cutting immigration to a level that matches the rate of emigration, removing it as a factor in population growth. H1-B and other immigrant worker quota programs would be ended. Student visas would be dramatically reduced. Further justification for reductions in immigration will be found under “Environment” initiatives below.
- Illegal immigration will be attacked relentlessly, with special emphasis on workplace enforcement and criminal prosecution of those who knowingly hire illegal aliens. The ranks of the border patrol will be bolstered by 50,000 along the border with Mexico and fences and guard towers will be erected where deemed necessary by the border patrol.
- The above effort may indeed leave the agricultural sector in a dilemma, short of manual labor for harvesting crops. To address that concern, a new program to be known as the “Farm Corps” will be implemented, under which young people can be matched up with the needs of growers. They will be compensated with credits for attending the university or trade school of their choice. The program would be funded by the growers.
- To address our over-dependence on foreign oil and our enormous trade deficit in oil, gasoline would be taxed sufficiently to provide the economic incentive needed to conserve fossil fuels and to make a conversion to renewable energy sources. The revenue raised by the gasoline taxes would be offset by cuts in income taxes, making the program revenue neutral.
- To assure that the benefits realized by balancing trade are made permanent, an amendment to the constitution will be drafted and put to a vote in Congress. Such amendment would mandate a balance of trade and forbid the U.S. from joining any international organization that doesn’t recognize the right of every nation to manage trade in its own best self-interest.
The above initiatives will reduce unemployment to 2-3%, boost federal revenue by approximately $1 trillion per year and cut spending on social safety net programs like unemployment. Implementation of the tariffs will temporarily spike inflation, which will be offset by similar rates of increase in real income as the demand for labor soars. Federal deficit spending will become a moot point and rapid progress will be made in reducing the national debt as a percentage of household net worth. The solvency of Social Security and Medicare will no longer be an issue.
National Defense / Homeland Security:
The “war on terror,” while successful in preventing further attacks on the U.S., has come at far too high a cost, both in dollars and American lives. The same results could have been achieved at a small fraction of the cost. I’ve never bought into the line that says, “if we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them at home.” Why would we have to fight them here if we didn’t let them in in the first place? America cannot be the world’s police force. We don’t have the resources and, in many cases, there is no strategic benefit for the U.S. to intervene.
The new trade policy detailed above will admittedly escalate tensions with some countries, primarily China. Thus, this would be no time to let down our guard.
The above is the backdrop to the following foreign policy/national defense/homeland security initiatives:
- The U.S. will live at peace with the Islamic world. For those more extreme/fundamentalist nations, that means that we won’t offend them by our presence or by our goods. We will close our embassies in such nations and will cease trade, including food and medicine, and will encourage other western nations to take similar steps.
- We will accelerate the withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan, including all American forces. There is no strategic benefit to maintaining a presence in either country.
- We will either insist that South Korea pay the full cost of maintaining an American military presence there, or withdraw all forces. South Korea is of no strategic value to the U.S. It’s too advanced a position to be of use in a defense against the potential for Chinese aggression.
- We will divert savings from the above initiatives to bolstering naval and air forces based in Hawaii and other Pacific islands as determined by the Joint Chiefs, as well as bolstering defenses on the east and west coasts.
- We will also expand the use of predator drones to strike at any nation or group with the avowed goal of the destruction of the West. We will accelerate the development of better drone technology.
- We will accelerate development of the missile defense shield.
- In addition to the immigration initiative above, we will apply special scrutiny to visa applications from nations and people who pose an elevated terror threat.
- We will bolster our defenses against cyber-attack, as well as our own capability for conducting such attacks.
- We will work to strengthen ties with all low population density nations and encourage free trade among them. This includes Russia.
- We will work with high population density nations to help them understand the economic consequences of an extreme population density, and the benefits that could be realized with a reduced population. We will assist in efforts to explore ways to minimize the consequences of their loss of exports and to maintain stability.
The U.S. faces three major environmental challenges: (1) reducing its dependence on imported oil and other resources, (2) making dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and (3) the challenge of rebuilding its manufacturing base without harm to the environment. No nation the size of the U.S. has a right to be a net drain on the world’s resources or a source of environmental degradation. The United States is large enough and is blessed with a wide enough diversity of vast resources that it should be self-sufficient. Given that backdrop and the three challenges presented above, I would take the following initiatives:
- Given the difficulty of the challenges of eliminating our dependence on imported oil and other resources, and dramatically cutting our greenhouse gas emissions, it makes absolutely no sense to compound these problems by importing more oil consumers and more CO2 emitters. This is further justification for the above initiatives to reduce both legal and illegal immigration. But we must go further. Economists have long maintained that mankind is ingenious enough to overcome any obstacle to further population growth. Yet, their only solution to the demand for energy has been to rely ever more heavily on oil imports. The time for economists to “put up or shut up” has passed. I would commission a panel of experts to determine what population could be supported long-term, using existing, proven technology, with our domestic supply of resources, or with resources that we may have in over-abundance and could be traded for those that we lack. The panel’s recommendation would then form the basis for a national discussion on whether and how to manage our population.
- The initiative already mentioned under “economy/jobs” above to encourage conservation of oil and a shift to renewable resources would also go a long way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- The change in trade policy and the resulting move toward more domestic and local manufacturing would eliminate the annual waste of billions of barrels of oil to fuel ships carrying products all over the world, products that could just as easily and more efficiently be made locally.
- Environmental reviews of proposed projects to develop manufacturing resources would be conducted in a timely manner, but there would be no let-up in environmental regulations or in efforts to enforce them.
Our constitution is a wonderful document. But our founding fathers could never imagine the world today, when “free” speech could be sold to the highest bidders, like global corporations, drowning out the voice of individual Americans, and “the people” could be interpreted to include global corporations and other special interest groups who don’t have our country’s best interests at heart. As a result of now-vague wording rendered almost meaningless by centuries of technological development and social upheaval, the supreme court is left with no choice but to take the broadest interpretation, resulting in the “anything goes” deterioration in our values and institutions. The time has come for a constitutional convention to define what kind of country we want to be in the 21st century – a government of the masses by a plutocracy for their own self-aggrandizement, or the government of the people, by the people and for the people envisioned by Lincoln. We need a constitution that returns elections to the people and keeps special interest money out.
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That’s it. Obviously, as president, I’d need legislative help from Congress to accomplish a lot of this and I’d use the “bully pulpit” as necessary to get it. And wouldn’t it be fun to watch their jaws drop when confronted with these initiatives? But much could also be done through executive order to get us started.
Make no mistake, the impact of this platform, if implemented, would be enormous and the world could be a bit of a scary, confusing place for a while. There would be loud complaints about the sudden jump in prices as the tariffs took hold. Global corporations would howl with protest as they are evicted from China, as they likely would be. China, Japan and much of Europe would threaten us with all sorts of things.
Yet, at the same time, new manufacturing plants would begin sprouting everywhere. Americans’ incomes would begin rising. College tuitions would fall when universities suddenly have to compete for students to fill seats left vacant by the decline in student visas. Federal budget deficits would virtually vanish and the national debt would begin shrinking, paving the way for income tax cuts. And many other tariff-free nations like Canada, Australia, Russia, the Baltic States in Europe, all of South America and much of Africa, not to mention all those concerned by global warming, natural resource depletion and environmental degradation, would rush to America’s defense against the protests of the overpopulated nations.
This would mark the start of real sustainability, not the phony kind used as a smoke-screen to justify more development. It would be the first step toward a future with the promise of a high standard of living for all, instead of a world exploited by a few while the rest are condemned to soaring unemployment and rising poverty. Capitalism, now precluded from exploiting population growth and trade imbalances to enrich its leaders, would once again be our servant instead of our master. It’s a vision that would be worth the short-term pain and sacrifice.