My 12 Worries about America and What I'd Do About Them: The stump speech I'd give if I were running for president
By Marty Nemko
I'm certainly not running for president but if I were, this would be my stump speech. I call it: My 12 Worries About America and What I'd Do About Them.
Politicians are supposed to be upbeat on America, but if I am to be honest with you, I'm worried about America.
And if I am elected president, I'll particularly worry on your behalf about 12 things, and here are my thoughts on what I'd do about each:
Of course, I worry about our jobs. How can we keep America employed when, in our global economy, employers can hire people overseas for 80% less and paying for fewer benefits, and subject to fewer regulations. Of course, there are obvious approaches to creating U.S jobs such as carefully reviewing regulations and employer mandates like FMLA, ADA, Workers Comp, and yes ObamaCare to reassess their cost-benefit and the extent to which those employer costs are keeping employers from hiring workers.
But here are two less obvious ways to create large numbers of new good jobs. One is entrepreneurship education. Instead of requiring all high school students to learn things they're unlikely to ever use--for example, quadratic equations, the intricacies of the periodic table of the elements, or the vagaries of the Peloponnesian Wars, I will encourage schools to teach high schoolers how to become ethical and excellent entrepreneurs--That creates jobs and better products and services for us all.
A second idea I'm excited about is what I call Americans Assist. Unlike big-government approaches to job creation which, as we've seen, despite being wildly expensive, have not created quantities of good, enduring jobs, in Americans Assist,all the government would need do is a PR campaign--which would cost a tiny fraction of current job creation efforts-- to encourage individuals to hire a part-time assistant: from helping with their newborn child, to a homework helper for their school-age child, to a personal assistant to do the errands and wait for the plumber, to a tech assistant to teach the person how to use technology, to a patient advocate to help get the needed health care, to someone to look in on their aging parent.Americans Assist would create large numbers of rewarding jobs, jobs that are not offshoreable, with minimal use of tax dollars.
I worry about our jobs and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry about our health care and that of our families. ObamaCare is so complicated and so overlapping in agency responsibilities, in private sector responsibilities, in patient responsibilities, that even most of the legislators who passed the 2,500 page bill didn't even read it. Can you just imagine what it will be like for the entire nation to implement it? Can you imagine how job-kiilling ObamaCare will be--It requires employers to provide health care not only for employees but an additional surcharge to pay for the 32-40 million who assert they can't afford insurance.
Instead, I'll fight for FreedomCare, in which, yes, the truly indigent would have a basic safety net that is both humane and save taxpayer dollars by, for example, emphasizing preventive care rather than panicked runs to the emergency room, and with most care provided by nurse practitioners and general physicians rather than by expensive specialist physicians. Beyond that safety net, FreedomCare would have government's involvement minimal but potent: simply to mandate that all doctors, hospitals, and so on, prominently publish their prices andtheir risk-adjusted successrates for the common procedures they do. That will empower all of us to make informed choices and improve quality, in contrast with ObamaCare's disincentives, even if the unimaginably jury-rigged, Rube-Goldberg-machine-like ObamaCare were somehow to work.
Another critical point on health care, not often discussed: Caring for the millions of currently minimally cared-for patients will require more doctors, nurse practitioners, etc.To provide them while improving quality and lowering cost, I will fight for provider training to be shorter and practical--wrested from the university and provided by master practitioners. Physicians, let alone nurses, do not need a year each of college-level inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus, and physics. Their training should be provided by the finest clinicians, not by academics, who mainly do research on esoterica.
I worry about our health care, and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry about our schools. In a time of ever greater global competition, despite ever greater spending of your tax dollars--the U.S. ranks #1 or #2 in per-capita spending on education--our schools continue to underperform. In the latest international comparison, we tied for 23rd with Poland.
In polite company, most people won't discuss all the reasons for that but if we are to improve, discuss them we must. For example, in generations past, most of our best and brightest women saw teaching as the highest-level career to which they could reasonably aspire, but today ,half the students in law school, half the students in MBA programs, half the students in medical schoolarewomen. We must attract some of those women--especially the lawyers--we have too many of those--into teaching.
How will I do that if you elect me as your president? First, teacher training must be reinvented. Currently, prospective teachers must take course after course of largely real-world irrelevant theory taught by academicians who've never taught K-12, let alone been master K-12 teachers. I'd replace that absurdity with training by master teachers, in school districts, in private schools, and in new teacher training academies that private entrepreneurs would create.
I'd also not allow the teachers unions to continue hurting our children. How unconscionable that the unions refuse to allow the best and brightest teachers to receive merit pay, rewarded for their excellence instead of being forced to accept exactly the same pay as the worst teachers get. Why would the best and brightest women (and men) want to go into teaching when they'll never make a dime more than the worst teachers get? How unconscionable that the teachers unions insist on giving teachers lifetime job security after just two or three years in the classroom. What if after 5 or 10 or 20 years in the tough job of teaching, they burn out? Thanks to the phalanx of teacher's union lawyers who will defend nearly any teacher, it's practically impossible to replace that teacher with a better one.
The teachers' unions would really hate me for this idea: If you elect me, I will replace our nation of variable-quality teachers with online top teachers.The nation has, for example, 30,000 high school math teachers, some magnificent, most not. Why not have ten of the nation's best teachers team-teach courses on video, available on the Internet, with local paraprofessionals or even teachers on site to answer student questions and provide the human touch. That would enable every child, rich and poor, urban and rural, to be taught by a dream team of teachers.
And what about our obsolete curriculum? We must replace curricular esoterica with essentials. Kindergarten-through-grad-school curriculum has long been selected primarily by professors, a group that has deliberately opted out of the real world and loves esoterica. Hence today, nearly all high schools students, even those reading on a fifth-grade level, must study the doppelganger, quadratic equations, stoichiometry, the Peloponnesian Wars, etc., even if that means they leave school unable to make change, critique an editorial, resolve conflicts, or prioritize ethics over expediency. Essentials must be prioritized over esoterica. I'd wrest curriculum choice from the professoriate and replace them with a diverse panel of people from plumbers to CEOs, nurses to, okay, professors, who have been issued the following mandate: That which is most important for living must be taught and learned before teaching the less important.
If you elect me your president, I would do everything I could so schools and colleges were required to post a areport card on themselves.We require students to receive report cards every few months. We even require tires to have "report cards" molded into their sidewalls.Well, if education is as important as everyone claims, shouldn't schools and colleges be required to post a report card on themselves? For example, shouldn't they be required to report their students' average annual growth in reading, writing, critical thinking, and mathematical reasoning, compared with national norms for schools with similar student bodies? Shouldn't colleges additionally be required to post their four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates (disaggregated by high school record and SAT score,) and the actual average total cost of a degree, after financial aid, broken down by family income and assets? Shouldn't all schools and colleges be required to post the results of a student satisfaction survey and a summary of the accreditation visiting team's report?
I worry about our schools and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry about war. I worry about how many wars our government has gotten us into and whether they've been worth our taxpayer dollars, not to mention that thousands of young men have died, yes men, not "men and women" as the media likes to say. More than 99% of the deaths have been men. Countless more soldiers are injured and with psychological scars that may hurt them and their families forever. Can we afford to continue to act like an empire, the world's policeman, at enormous financial and human cost when we are 14 trillion dollars in debt? Yes, trillion with a T. Our debt is so large that for the first time in American history, Standard & Poor has, twice in the last month warned that the U.S.'s credit rating is at risk of going from stable to negative.
Yes, I am aware that if the U.S. had intervened when Hitler was first coming into power in 1933, we might have prevented the Nazi Holocaust and World War II. But do military incursions into Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya rise to that level, especially with us being in such mammoth debt? Especially when radical Muslim groups use our military adventurism as a tool to recruit terrorists to fight jihad against America, the Great Satan? And as uprisings mount in Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Yemen, do we have a strategic or even a moral obligation to plunge yet deeper into debt to be the world's policeman in those regions and in the next regions to erupt? There are no easy answers but I promise to lead full and open, rather than ideologically stacked, discussions about such issues. I worry about war and about your tax dollars, and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry about how politicians spend your money. We, your government, must steward your tax dollars as carefully as if it were our own. As every triage medic knows, we must prioritize investing our resources not in those with the greatest deficit but in those with the greatest potential to benefit. Yet we often don't. For example, our hearts reach out to children who are most at-risk, those with the biggest deficit: special education children, inner-city kids, etc. So we've reallocated huge percentages of education spending from the now-eviscerated programs for gifted kids to the lowest achievers. We've spent literally trillions of dollars in a failed attempt to reduce the achievement gap: everything from Early Start to Head Start, No Child Left Behind to dropout prevention, adult literacy to job retraining programs. Perhaps the most blatant example of poor stewardship of our tax dollars and of our freedoms is that government is making ever more massive efforts to attempt to cool the planet with insufficient analysis of the likely extent of benefit, the opportunity costs, etc. We spend on boondoggles rejected by every energy com company, for example, ethanol or, a decade ago, a national network of electric car charging stations, very rarely used and now obsolete because current electric cars can plug into homes' regular outlets. Environmentalism too often has moved beyond science to religion. If legislators and policy makers were investing their own money, I predict they'd invest differently. I worry about how politicians spend your money and if you elect me your president, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry about your tax burden. Not just the enormous amount you pay--which IS among the world's highest when you add all taxes-- from usurious fines for a stop sign violation to crossing a bridge costing the price of a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, and a pound of vegetables. I worry about the enormous time it takes all of us to do our taxes or even to get the paperwork in order for the accountant to do our taxes. I worry that while big corporations have high-powered attorneys to keep their taxes low or zero, you and I don't. And I worry about our metastasizing, tax-eating government that gets ever bigger, with ever more expensive and contradictory regulations that no one except a deep-pockets corporation can understand let alone abide by without being driven to its knees--no wonder small business is moribund, no wonder this is a jobless non-recovery.We need a simpler, fairer form of taxation, in which NO tax return is required--a value-added tax (VAT), which means that a fair amount is added to the price of each item we purchase, with basic items exempted so the poor and working class is protected. That would ensure far greater fairness, eliminate the monumental amount of time we spend in tax recordkeeping and in preparing our tax returns. And it would greatly reduce tax cheating. I worry about your tax dollars and about your time, and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry that we the people are devolving into we the peopleS. We are ever less of a nation, ever more a collection of balkanized so-called "communities:" the African-American community, the business community, the gay community, the environmentalist community, and so on. I worry that a people that thinks first about what's best for its community than what's wise overall is doomed to ever greater partisanship, strife, and civil unrest that endangers us all.We need less pluribus and more unum. I worry about our wonderful nation devolving into separate communities, and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry about America's ethics. When I read that half of people lie on their resumes and income tax returns and 3/4 cheat on tests, the malfeasance of corporate executives and yes of politicians, not to mention clerics taking advantage of innocent parishioners, even children(!,) I am convinced that it is high time for America to become a Land of Ethics First. And it has to start with me. You may not agree with me on all the issues but you will ALWAYS get a straight answer from me, not the evasions for which politicians are legendary, let alone me be beholding to some special interest. Yes, I'll need to raise money to get elected but I will be utterly transparent about who is donating to me and will promise favors to no one for any donation no matter how large--you can go to the bank on that. But while integrity must start with me, it must not end with me. I will use this bully pulpit in nearly every talk I give, from Town Hall meetings to presidential debates, to raise the absolute criticality of ethics in the hearts and minds of the American people. A nation in which trust is not at its core will fail. I--will--not--let--America fail. I worry about ethics in America, and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
Speaking of elections, I worry about how we elect our political leaders. If you elect me, I will do all I can to change our electoral system from one that encourages bought politicians to one that encourages wisely selected leaders. I would consult Congress and you the public on which of these two approaches you prefer. In one, all campaigns would be two weeks long, 100% publicly funded, and consisting only of a neutral body such as C-Span or Consumer Reports posting the candidates' voting records and positions on key issues, plus a broadcast debate followed by a simulation of the candidates running a meeting. In my other approach to reinventing our election system, our government officials would be selected using passive criteria, like a stock index fund. For example, it might consist of the most newly retired of the nation's 10 largest nonprofits, a randomly selected CEO of the S&P MidCap 400, the Police Officer of America's Cop of the Year, the Teacher of the Year, the most award-winning scientist who finished her or his Ph.D. in the last decade, plus five random citizens.You protest, "But the incumbent politicians would never allow it--the foxes are guarding the hen house." My approach would be to get the media to urge voters to vote against candidates that oppose a fairer electoral system. I worry about the quality of our elected officials. And if you elect me your president, you and will do something about it--finally.
I worry about the lack of ideological diversity in society's mind molders: the schools, colleges, and media. The people who run our schools and media are, by and large, people who've opted out of the real world and instead pontificate about how to fix a world they've barely experienced--few of them have spent much time in, let alone been successful in, business, a non-profit, or in government. As a result, disproportionately affected by America's overwhelmingly leftist professoriate, journalists give us an overwhelmingly leftist presentation of the issues, which of course, means that our next generation grows ever more leftist. Yes, much wisdom resides left of center, but not all of it. The best policies come from a fair-minded consideration of benevolently derived ideas from the full rang eof the ideological spectrum, not when ideas that dare veer right of center are censored or dubbed disparagingly as "conservative" or "that focus-group-concocted phrase, "failed, risky schemes of the Bush administration." If I am president, I can assure you that my advisers will consist of the best minds and hearts from across the ideological spectrum so instead of fighting our problems with one arm tied behind our backs, we can fight with all the brilliance and hard work we can muster, from wherever it comes. I worry about the lack of ideological diversity in America and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
I worry about our gene pool. Real solutions to social problems require us to acknowledge that they have both environmental and genetic roots. Just as a VW Bug cannot run like a Ferrari no matter how well tuned-up, a person won't behave intelligently and responsibly unless both genes and environment are sound. Every mother of two or more children knows that each child emerges at birth with a distinctive, enduring personality: No matter how much effort parent and schools make, laconic infants rarely become high-energy adults, retarded toddlers rarely become intelligent, hyperactive children rarely become laid-back adults.So we must not reflexively reject genetically oriented approaches to reducing social problems. We tend to viscerally reject such approaches because they evoke comparisons with the horrific Nazis' attempts to create a master race. But there's an infinite difference between the Nazis, who wanted to kill all non-Aryans, and a society that would, for example, attempt to reduce teen pregnancy by making available in schools not only comprehensive sex education but abortion and birth control, including new implantables such as the easily-insertable and removable five-year-lasting Jadelle.We should even consider, fair-mindedly, the wisdom of funding research that would give parents the uncoerced option, subsidized for the poor, to ensure that their children be born without strikes against them: with high cognitive ability, immunity to cancer, and even perhaps the ability to love. I worry about our gene pool. And if you elect me president, I work to ethically change things--finally.
Last but certainly not least, I worry about our children. I've already stressed how we must improve our schools, but our children will be dramatically affected by other factors. For example, our ethics, and our incomprehensibly large $14 trillion national debt puts our children, if not ourselves, at great risk. Like a family that lives well beyond its means, America's mammoth debt puts us at grave risk of collapse especially since a trillion dollars of our debt is owed to China, which can call in that debt at any time. I worry about our children, and if you elect me, you and I will change things--finally.
My fellow Americans, those are my 12 worries for America and what I, with your help, will do about them. I ask that you consider voting for me as your candidate. I will spend every waking moment working to make our nation an America we can all be proud of and secure in. I will spare no energy, I will spare no time, I will spare no effort, but I will never spare my ethics. You and I will change things--finally.
Dr. Nemko holds a Ph.D. specializing in program evaluation from the University of California at Berkeley and subsequently taught in its graduate school. 600+ of his published writings are archived on www.martynemko.com.
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