There have been a series of Cassandra video’s floating around this year, actually pretty much from the beginning of the internet. I think the latest one I keep hearing glancing past is Post America or some such. Ed Driscoll has a piece on the free fall of California that takes a lot of its material from this piece by Victor Davis Hanson then mentions the book After America from which the following comes:
In ten years’ time, there will be no American Dream, any more than there’s a Greek or Portuguese Dream. In twenty, you’ll be living the American Nightmare, with large tracts of the country reduced to the favelas of Latin America, the rich fleeing for Bermuda or New Zealand or wherever on the planet they can buy a little time, and the rest trapped in the impoverished, violent, diseased ruins of utopian vanity.
“After America”? Yes. It will linger awhile in a twilight existence, arthritic and ineffectual, declining into a kind of societal dementia, unable to keep pace with what’s happening and with an ever more tenuous grip on its own past. For a while, there may still be an entity called the “United States,” but it will have fewer stars in the flag, there will be nothing to “unite” it, and it will bear no relation to the republic of limited government the first generation of Americans fought for. And life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be conspicuous by their absence.
I agree that things are ugly for certain segments and geographical subsets of the middle class. But I do not see a wholesale breakdown of the American dream. On one side the American Dream has always been time and place focused, on the other I see almost as many positive signs as negative if you look at things from a broader perspective. Conservatives are always going to lament most changes they see around them and conservatives living hyper conservative lifestyles, (i.e. farmers, lawyers, police, military) are going to see things going to hell with more poignancy.
The way I see it we got here because of the sequence of bubbles we have lived through, from the Post Cold War Bubble, Tech Bubble, Internet Bubble, a General Bubble (up to 9/11/01) then the Housing Bubble. All of this essentially enabled the following:
- Pandering to gov’t worker unions
- venal politicians promising money they had no way of knowing would be there
- Bankers divorced from personal financial risk taking too many risks
- Stock investors who should know better always expecting smooth growth
- Managers looking six months ahead instead of six years ahead
- Apathetic voters:
- Voters who vote for the guy who ‘looks’ the best
- Voters who vote for the guy who promises the most
- Young folks not voting because they’re working 60hours and playing 40.
- Middle career folks voting on visceral because their working 60hours and then coming home to another 40 of honey dos
- One issue voters
- Old folks voting for their pensions with scant consideration for other issues
- Gov’t workers voting their pocket book with scant consideration for other issues.
- Bee in their bonnet rich folks using referendum to drive through special initiatives with no concern for unintended consequences.
- Bee in their bonnet single issue political movements who vote gut level issues like abortion or church state separation, lower taxes butleave no room for compromise even when most of the realize that compromise is the only way anything will ever really be done
- Politicians who gutlessly sign pledges that lock out the possibility of compromise, which was the basis on which the US was established.
- Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, as the king of Siam famously said
So…what am I saying?
That while I agree with the Cassandra’s that things look very bad this too shall pass, though sadly it’s not certain it will not pass without disorder and death, I expect that the United States will continue to exist for a few more centuries. The majority of the country understands the general direction we need to go. This majority does not include the rabid left or the zombie right but it does include many on both sides as well as the middle.
- A retirement safety net that is much more focused on those in real need at a fraction of the current cost (means tested and not generally available till 75.)
- A universal retirement savings system that is portable and personally monitored and focused on retiring at 70 only earlier if you have the funds or a real need due to disability.
- A disability safety net that is probably little changed from today. but any federal mandate has to be funded by block grants from the federal gov’t .
- Out of work benefits, system probably little changed from today but any federal mandate has to be funded by block grants from the federal govt’
- Health Coverage:
- A health insurance safety net focused on kids to 18
- Universal Health Savings account (not mandatory you use it, not taxed), portable and personally controlled
- Health insurance available, Insurance companies have to take new people, they can establish different price for different age groups (5 year min span.) If you sign up as an adult with no prior insurance you will pay a reasonable premium for the first two years (25%)
- Health cost published by all practitioners on their web pages, visits, shots, etc etc.
- Health practitioners are not allowed to charge different groups different prices for the same services.
- People will pay their own health bills via a Pay Pal or equivalent system.
- A simple but graduated income tax system without the bands. I’d propose simple linear progression from 0% at 10,000 to 20% at $1 Million. Above $1M ‘income’ is considered capital gains and flat taxed
- Capital Gains 25%.
- No exemptions period end of sentence.
- Special tax deals are special contracts with Department of Treasury / Inland Revenue, which Congress has to sign off on.
- No tax deal can reduce expected tax rate below 10% ever.
- Restrict the volume of regulations and laws.
- A whole bunch of restrictions on length and length of effect.
- You cannot make a regulation ex post facto (after the fact) just like no ex post facto laws restriction in the Constitution.
- Anti Corruption
- Congressmen have to put their money in a blind trusts. No insider trading
- All donations to all elected officials have to be public record, no restriction on the amount. No privacty for political acts.
- Special interest groups who target politicians with adds, have to publish their financials and who provided the funds. No privacy rights for political acts.
- Secrecy Restrictions
- Debates on laws can be held behind closed doors but a proposed law has to be published on the internet at least ten days before the final vote and no special access for lobbyists etc.
- Nothing can be held secret for more the 5 years without special and specific reasons agreed to by a committee of the senate and the maximum is 50 years.
- No program / group above a certain size (10 people, $10 million) can be completely black, it has to have a public face and a public (and honest) reason for existence and its top level budget and basic structure must be public.
- 5 and only 5 Departments of Executive Gov’t
- Department of Treasury
- Department of Defense
- Department of State
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Commerce
- All other departments shuttered and any necessary functions put in one of the others:
- All current agencies would fall under one of these departments. No independent Agencies of Gov’t. But can have an independent board of directors who can act as buffers…&seperate budget line item.
- Recognize that blanket prohibition never works and establish a new regime for bad drugs including tobacco and alcohol.
- Get Gov’t out of the marriage business. Gov’t does care about stable committed partnerships for clear socio-economic reasons but should see it as a contractual issue. Contract of Family Partnership to replace Marriage License. Marriages are religious and can be restricted as the religious group sees fit.
So OK I got carried away, I’ve cut this list down several times then rebuilt it. Not sure it’s really coherent but it does reflect my opinion on a number of topics. I also think it reasonably represents the views of a lot of moderated, be they Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Progressives….I think. I may find out I am absolutely wrong….but then that would require folks to read this…..sigh.