This Wish List involves changes that might conceivably be made, though I suspect it will be a frosty day in the nether regions, since most of them would have to be implemented by politicians, and they and the interests that own them would face losing the most. But they nevertheless may be distinguished from the truly impossible, such as altering our political system to break the grip of the Democratic and Republican parties or requiring an intelligence test for holding national political office (good-bye GOP).
GET US OUT OF AFGHANISTAN (AND IRAQ) NOW
Why wait another two years? Iraq is actually a country with an infrastructure, albeit damaged, and a serious potential revenue source in the form of oil, yet it is already collapsing, only weeks after the departure of our military. Afghanistan is less a country than a space defined by the nations surrounding it, and virtually every one of the four major ethnic groups would like to lord it over the others or create its own country. The last national election was a farce, corruption is an embedded Afghan tradition and any sort of real loyalty can be found only at the tribal level. The only time Afghanistan has come even close to a national entity is under autocratic strong men, and while the locals might appreciate the odd school or clinic, they clearly do not like foreign military on their soil, especially when that military tends to be a bit casual about collateral damage. Yes, we have pulled most of our military out of Iraq, but do we need a “diplomatic” presence of some ten thousand, guarded by five thousand of the mercenaries the locals have come to love? What will all these people be doing as Iraq slides into civil war and/or Iranian control? With Kuwait (and to a lesser extent Bahrain) being little more than a giant American military base, why do we need Baghdad?
REGULATE THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY
This should be simple. A relative handful of people almost brought down the global economy, yet very little has been done to correct this liability. There remains a dangerous lack of transparency, especially regarding arcane financial instruments, and major banks are still finding ways to dodge what little regulation exists, especially given the increasing globalization of banking. The EU is considering a tax on financial transactions, which would help against the growing number of parasites whose manipulation of markets produces nothing except wealth for themselves and helps distort the relationship between supply, demand and price. But unless all the industrialized countries participate, this activity will simply move to New York. Meanwhile, the income gap in America is reaching unprecedented levels.
IMPOSE TERM LIMITS
An incumbent in Congress, unless he is a complete fool, may essentially keep his seat until he dies, which means he can spend his whole life running for reelection. In the eighties the turnover in the Soviet Politbureau was greater than that of the American Congress, and even in the unhappy year 2010 the Congressional reelection rate was 97%. Polls indicate that the public feels that all these political lifers should be thrown out, but the feeling apparently rarely extends to their own Senator or Representative. This reform is actually talked about, but it is hard to imagine someone in Congress voting to limit their own access to the federal gravy train.
PUBLISH CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
It is clearly impossible to limit campaign contributions and thus the power of big money to influence elections: even those laws that do not run afoul of the First Amendment are always easily sidestepped. Instead, allow anyone or any entity, even foreign governments, to contribute money, but all contributions will be published on a dedicated website, on a periodic nationally broadcast television program and in major newspapers across the country. Any violation would result in the immediate termination of the individual’s candidacy. Monies spent by advocacy groups rather than by an individual will be treated similarly, and violations will be rewarded with huge fines. If Americans cannot be bothered to avail themselves of all this information concerning who is buying whom, which is likely, then we get what we deserve.
DETERMINE OUR POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST ACCORDING TO AMERICAN INTERESTS
For reasons that have everything to do with domestic politics we have with Israel the sort of “passionate attachment” to a foreign power that George Washington warned against. The interests of Israel are not always the same as America’s; they are in fact increasingly divergent. Israel is permitted behavior that would immediately stir official outrage were it any other country, and our unqualified support for a state that routinely violates accepted international law, especially regarding Arab populations, contributes mightily to our reputation as self-serving hypocrites.
CONFIGURE OUR MILITARY RESOURCES ACCORDING TO REALITY
The size, nature and equipment of our military should be determined by realistic evaluation of the actual threats out there rather than based on outmoded thinking inherited from the twentieth century, the insatiable desires of the Pentagon and the needs of politics and the defense industry. With economic globalization the chance of a real war with a major industrial and military power like China is becoming vanishingly small and with it the need for $100 million fighter aircraft and more attack submarines. And any (for the moment inconceivable) war with a power strong enough to require all the systems the Pentagon wants must inevitably go nuclear.
For several thousand years the approach to pirates has been summary execution. Why are these people now being given trials, especially at a time when we are executing from above even American citizens if they are designated terrorists by the government/military? Any man who attempts to hijack a ship clearly designates himself a pirate and should thus be liable to execution, preferably by the traditional hanging. Make it clear to the denizens of Somalia and other places that any unidentifiable vessel found in certain delineated international waters will be immediately destroyed.
STREAMLINE NUCLEAR POWER
Nuclear fission is a proven non-fossil fuel source of power, requiring nothing more than easily produced fissionable material and water for cooling. It produces no pollutants, and examined sensibly, the issue of what to do with the radioactive waste disappears. We already have the technology to bury and secure this stuff for the next several centuries, by which time we will have better technology or more likely, no longer exist. The imagined need to secure this waste for ten thousand years is simply silly. Further, the industry must produce standardized designs and streamline the licensing process, as has France, which has for decades successfully generated some 75% of its power through fission. Other green technologies are not yet developed enough, and nuclear power could easily carry us through until technologies like solar and even fusion are perfected.
SERVE THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST
A mature society should indeed look after its disadvantaged, but not at the expense of those who can contribute the most. A major problem, among others, in our public education system is the waste of resources and time on those who simply will not learn, a waste exacerbated by the tendency of these same people to degrade the education of those who would learn. There is of course the problem of what to do with the negative element, but keeping them in school is not the answer, inasmuch as they harm the educational environment of others and end up joining the underclass of the uneducated anyway. And while we should look to the education of those with “special needs,” mainstreaming them clearly comes at the expense of those who have functioning intellects and bodies. I cannot confirm this, but I have read that for every $1 spent on those who are in some way dysfunctional, about 3¢ is spent on the gifted. This is no way to secure the future of our country. Incidentally, it is of course impossible to remove big money sports and its corrupting influence from American higher education, but at the very least the NBA and NFL should be paying for all those athletic scholarships.
TELL THE “GREAT SUCCESSOR” TO PISS OFF
OK, this is emotion-based, but make it clear to the ruthless jerks in Pyongyang that any assault on South Korea or anyone else will result in their capital being turned to glass, China notwithstanding.