In the current environment, the likelihood that the United States turns its ship around and re-embraces the Reagan message of smaller government and greater individual freedom and responsibility is nil; long-term unemployment will change the mind of even the most ardent Tea Party-er as to the benefits of Big Government. That being the case, I've been asking myself what actions the President could actually take to put us back on the right path, that is to increase employment and economic growth, and have the support of both Democrats and Republicans--or at least enough of them to get the actions passed. The following would be my initial suggestions:
1. Bring ALL American combat troops home. Too many Americans have died in an unwinnable war against an idea. Victory in the first Gulf War was easily defined--purge Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The same is not true in Afghanistan. Bush and Obama have flushed a fortune down the drain on 10 years of war and its time for it to stop. After 9/11 the country was in shock; taking offensive action was the easiest course--but it was the wrong choice. If we wanted to protect our nation from future attack, spending a fraction of that money on actual defense (i.e., at the borders, ports, in our cities,...etc.) would have been far more productive and would have given us lasting security. As it is, for all of our offensive forays we are still vulnerable. Have the wars made us safer? Maybe, but not as safe as we should be.
2. The Army Corps of Engineers ("ACE") should be engaged to develop ALL major energy resources on public lands. Franklin Delano Roosevelt put Americans back to work on a myriad of public infrastructure projects that were needed. More important to the country right now, though, than whether new highways are built is energy security and wasting money on uneconomic sources like solar and wind is ill-advised. The ACE could work with American energy companies to engage many of the unemployed to work on this project. The lower energy prices which such a program would produce would benefit everyone in the world and lead to significant job creation as we stop sending our money to the Middle East (which has then, historically, funneled a portion of it to terrorist organizations) and spend it at home.
3. Throw out Obamacare. Providing healthcare to all Americans is expensive and will only get more expensive under this legislation. What we should be concerned about is the cost of care, not insurance. If every American is to have access to care, let's make it happen without enriching the insurance companies who have continually shown a willingness to cheat consumers. Insurance is supposed to be about covering unforeseen occurrences. Annual checkups and the like are entirely predictable and should be outside of insurance coverage. [Insurance companies actually love to cover certain events since they know exactly how much they will cost and then only have to add a profit when they calculate the premium. Insurance is about risk-taking and there is no risk when covering certain occurrences.] Take insurance companies out of the equation and develop a pervasive system of free clinics to handle routine check-ups and procedures. Exempt doctors who are employed in these clinics from malpractice unless there is gross negligence and pay for the education of all medical students subject to working a term (say a minimum of 4 years) in the clinics. [The same type of system can be developed for emergency and major medical though on a smaller scale because fewer occurrences can be expected; doctors would get the same deal--eliminate malpractice (except for gross negligence) and eliminate the insurance middle-man.] Unlike Obamacare, which gives doctors no reason to come to work (and will drive many from the profession due to the significant restrictions on their pay), this plan would eliminate much of their stress and relieve them of financial burdens, encouraging more of them to continue practicing and many more to become doctors in the first place. [The ridiculous thing is that at the time Obamacare was passed everyone already had access to emergency healthcare, it's just that people with insurance were subsidizing those without. Obamacare basically requires everyone to get insurance that covers everything (including certain events) and if they can't afford to do so the government will subsidize it--by taking money, essentially, from the people with insurance, yielding no real change except that government has more control. Ironically, the only thing that kept the cost of insurance under a semblance of control was that people without insurance couldn't get non-emergency care for free. By releasing millions of additional people upon general practitioners who don't exist, Obamacare was a recipe for the huge price increases already being put through in anticipation by insurance companies.]
There are many more actions that could and should be taken to put the country back on the path to prosperity, but these are three with which I would start. Stopping the wars and bringing our soldiers home would boost the country's morale and significantly reduce our spending. The money freed up by doing so could then be spent developing our resources, a project that would have a lasting benefit and employ many of the unemployed. Lower energy prices would ripple through the economy, leading to the employment of even more. Replacing Obamacare with an improved public health system would accomplish the goal of healthcare and would reduce costs by encouraging more men and women to take the Hippocratic Oath. None of these actions would require tax increases or spending cuts.
I may be fooling myself in thinking that both Democrats and Republicans could agree to any of these suggestions. But at some point something has to give. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Its time to start walking.