Last night I dreamed I was running for President of the United States.
I know, I know — to many of you this sounds like a nightmare, but for me it was a pleasant dream, in part because my campaign slogan was uplifting and inclusive (“Forward As One People”), and in part because my policy positions were so well-defined. They came spooling out of my subconscious as though my subconscious had spent a great deal of time thinking about them, and before I forget them, as I do most of my dreams, I’d like to share some of them with you now.
First, there’s the category of positions that are simple reversals of Trump’s executive follies. As your President in my dreams, I would
- Recuse myself from commentary on the work of the Federal Reserve;
- Recuse myself from use of Twitter for anything but my reactions to the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the NCAA basketball tournament;
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Change Accord;
- Rejoin the Iranian Nuclear Accord;
- Rescind the Muslim travel ban;
- Rescind the ban on transgender persons serving in the military;
- Reaffirm the central importance of NATO (and visit the capitals of each member);
- Rescind the Trump tariffs on steel, aluminum, washing machines, and solar panels, work with China on realistic quid-pro-quos for eliminating tariffs on other Chinese imports, and while we’re at it, join the Trans-Pacific Partnership;
- Inform Kim Jong-un that, unfortunately, we are not, and never will be, in love.
Then there’s the realm of urgently-needed bi-partisan domestic initiatives:
Improve Health Care. Work with Congress and state governments to
- shore up the best aspects of Obamacare (coverage for pre-existing conditions, a functional online insurance marketplace, need-based premium subsidies);
- propose legislation that would require care providers to afford their customers transparency and regionally-adjusted uniformity in pricing;
- require insurers to streamline treatment approval processes;
- constrain medical malpractice lawsuits and cap jury awards;
- penalize practitioner conflicts of interest and pharmaceutical company incentives for the over-prescription of drugs;
- reduce regulatory disparities across state lines so as to reduce the cost to insurers of operating in all states and encourage pass-through of those savings to the insured;
- incentivize pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the availability of generic versions of their most-needed drugs.
Return to fiscal sobriety. The national debt has ballooned under Trump, and Republicans have abandoned their traditional fiscal restraint. I would work with Congress to minimize annual budget deficits and reduce the overall national debt. This will probably require, among other things, rolling back the Trump-era tax cuts on upper income brackets, and selectively reducing military and entitlement spending (see preceding and following items).
Reform Social Security. The current system is universally recognized as unsustainable and unless reformed will become a burden on our children and grandchildren through greater taxes and reduced benefits. We need to move to a more means-based system, combined with a gradual increase in the age threshold for eligibility.
Improve American Democracy.
- Enlarge the size of Congress. The current House of Representatives is too small given the current population of the country, resulting in distortions in representation. As discussed here previously, in 1790, the average size of a Congressional district was just shy of 40,000 persons; in 1929, when the number of House seats was fixed at 435, the average district numbered around 280,000, and today stands at almost 750,000, a number that would have astounded the Founders. (“Astounded Founders” would make a really good name for my traveling campaign band.) Allocating an arbitrarily limited number of seats among states of wildly disparate populations results in a situation where, for instance, Montana and Wyoming each have one representative even though Montana’s population is twice that of Wyoming’s, while Rhode Island, with only a slightly larger population than Montana’s, gets two seats. One long-proposed solution to this problem is the so-called “Wyoming Rule,” which would increase the number of representatives in the House to the level where the ratio of representative to population would equal that of the least-populous unit – i.e., Wyoming. This would result in a ratio of one representative per every 520,000 or so persons and, given the current size of the US population, a House composed of 545 representatives, compared to the current 435. Larger states would gain representatives to bring their number more in line with their populations. California would gain 13 seats, Texas 9 seats, New York 7, Florida 6, while places like Alaska, the Dakotas, and West Virginia would gain none. No state would lose seats, and the House would be more representative of the population at large, as our hallowed Founders intended as a counterbalance to the deliberately un-democratic Senate, where two seats are given to each state irrespective of population.
- Correct gerrymandering. Encourage and work with State legislatures to reform their redistricting processes to minimize partisan gerrymandering and make Congressional district boundaries conform to the goals of contiguity, conformity with natural and political boundaries (e.g., county lines), and compactness (low perimeter to area ratio). Push for more states to adopt independent, non-partisan commissions to oversee redistricting following the 2020 census.
- Reform the Electoral College. The 2016 election marked the second time in the last five presidential elections that the ostensible winner failed to receive even a plurality of the national vote. Our next president should work with Congress and the states to either eliminate the Electoral College through Constitutional amendment or, failing that, work with state legislatures to accelerate approval of the pending multistate compact requiring award of a state’s electoral votes in conformity with the national popular vote. At minimum, states should dispense with the winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes in favor of an allocation of a state’s electoral votes in accordance with the results in each Congressional district, as Maine and Nebraska already do.
- Rationalize executive appointments. Establish a permanent, bi-partisan commission to develop and maintain a list of eminent candidates for cabinet posts, the Supreme Court, and other senior governmental positions over which the President has appointment or nominating authority, and pledge to select my nominees and appointees from those lists.
Strengthen national cyber-security. Convene a national cyber-security summit including programming and engineering heads of major tech companies and universities, and of the FBI, CIA and NSA, to advance the goals of hardening the electrical grid against hacking and EMP attack, preventing use by foreign actors of bots and false-flag avatars on social media, and educating the American public on the nature and extent of potential cyber-security threats.
Regulate Social Media. Work with Congress to impose legal requirements of privacy and security on social media providers, similar to the General Data Protection Regulation currently in force in the European Union.
Reform Immigration. Work with Congress on comprehensive immigration reform, in part modeled on the recently-proposed, bi-partisan King-Suozzi proposal, providing a path to legal residency and citizenship for undocumented minors, funding to stem out-migration from Central American countries, and improved border security through enhanced technological infrastructure and increased border personnel.
There were other points — public-private partnerships to overhaul infrastructure, combating climate change — but then I woke up. Note what’s not here. No Green New Deal. No Medicare for all. No wealth tax. No micromanagement of corporate governance. No Supreme Court-packing schemes. These are loser propositions, sure to alienate the bulk of the electorate and confer on Trump a mandate for another four years of partisan chaos. Avoiding these policy sinkholes may seem like a return to the pallid incrementalism that many voters rejected in 2016 in favor of a soulless showman, but in my dream it’s the center that will hold in 2020.
And that slogan – “Forward As One People” – that’s a winner. In my dreams.