Details unnecessary, I’m back.
Live with it.
At a secluded and undisclosed location within a rocket launcher’s distance from my beloved Highlands, I have spent my time, like many Americans, brooding over the state of our economy. Stealing liberally from the good minds of my policy-wonk friends and dosed with snippets of ideas from the cable news cadre of talking heads, I submit my modestly named CARL BROWN’S TEN-POINT PLAN TO SAVE THE AMERICAN ECONOMIC SYSTEM. Some points (mine) are better than others, but let the raging debate surge around the robust smell of coffeehouse joe.
To set the stage, on September 8, Ben Bernanke told the Economic Club of Minneapolis that the GDP increased at less than 1 percent for the first and second quarters of this year. He disclosed that inflation has risen to 3.5 percent from the 1.5 percent during the previous two years. And for the past two years, slow economic growth has kept unemployment high – recently fluctuating a bit above 9 percent. He also noted a deceleration of consumer spending and confidence.
These stats would astound Marx and send Samuelson into a tale-spin. I believe we are on the lip of a Great Depression and nobody wants to say it out loud (the so-called “Great Depression of 1929” did not actually hit ‘til ‘32 ... just took three years to give it a name).
After staring at the wall of a cave for months and listening to the contradictory opinions of smart friends, my solution is straight-forward and bound to offend both Left and Right:
1. MEANS TEST SOCIAL SECURITY
People receiving a $200,000 pension from Ford, say, do not need to also receive social security checks. Sorry, Charlie, I know you worked for it and all, but let the rich give (up) a little. We now have 15.1 percent of Americans below the poverty level, the greatest number and percentage since 1983 – almost 30 years ago. Yes, the rich earned social security pensions, but they must be willing to give up the largess. After all, they would be paying into a system that made them rich in the first place.
2. REPEAL THE BUSH TAX CUTS
During the Eisenhower administration, the richest and most privileged in America paid up to 91 percent in taxes. Things seemed to work better then, no?
When the rich pay less taxes, they don’t concomitantly hire more people ... they just have larger bank accounts. When asked by a reporter, in light of his magnificent wealth and industrial holdings, what Henry Ford now wanted, the automobile and railroad magnate answered, simply, “More.” (Yet I’ve never seen a Brink’s truck follow a hearse ... )
3. PROTECT RAISING THE RETIREMENT (MEDICARE) AGE TO 67
The fastest growing census block in America is those living to be over 100. Many of us will live, the experts say, to 120.
Understand and defend raising (with various machinations in the new legislation, of course) the new retirement age to 67.
Review this after every census, in light of a population that refuses to die.
4. REDUCE THE NUMBER OF MILITARY BASES
Our Middle-East escapades have yielded many new bases which are superfluous. What of the tens of thousands of military personnel in South Korea (cannon fodder) and Germany (antiquated post cold war)? Our military budget equals that of the next 20 countries combined.
5. REPEAL OBAMACARE
Res ipsa loquiteur (“the thing speaks for itself”).
6. RELEASE NON-VIOLENT OFFENDERS
Primarily with drug offenders, our state and federal prison system is awash with people you wouldn’t mind having as next door neighbors ... and that’s where they should be, next door – not housed, fed and “guarded” at up to $35,000 a year.
7. DEATH ROW APPEAL REFORM
Having been for, then against, then for the death penalty, here’s my current take. Allow one SUPER APPEAL to a SUPER COURT OF DEATH and make sure there is able representation, the best DNA evidence presented and so forth. Thirty years on death row itself is cruel and unusual punishment, not to mention costly and a slap to the face of victims. Appoint Federal District Court judges to represent the accused. Put it on television. Make the whole process transparent, fair and fast – for all concerned – the victim, the convict and the taxpayer.
8. LEGALIZE HEMP
We produce little to export these days ... but with hemp farms and manufacturing facilities, we could supply the world with fabric, soles for shoes, clothing of all nature and even seeds from which to make the oil that could fuel our vehicles.
Kentucky once was and again could be “The Hemp Capitol of the World.” Congress had to pass the “Hemp Relief Act” during WWII. We are again in a crisis and our leaders must think outside the box.
9. LEGALIZE MEDICINAL MARIJUANA
At present, 14 states allow marijuana to be prescribed as a medicine, as does the V.A. in hospitals throughout the land. Marijuana patently treats mood disorders, failed appetite and eyesight, and a host of other disorders. As with hemp, legalize and tax, and create new industries and jobs.
If Kentucky would end Prohibition II and create a medicinal marijuana industry, we could undercut the prices extorted by California and Hawaii (the other two big marijuana producing states) and our Commonwealth could share its “common wealth” by eliminating the state sales tax (like Tennessee) and providing books and tuition-free education.
10. SURGICALLY EXAMINE THE SO-CALLED “AMERICAN JOBS ACT”
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are rightly wary of “Stimulus IV.” Face it folks, government jobs are an inefficient way to reach higher employment levels. People with these jobs pay taxes which are used to give them a check from which the IRS can deduct ...
The private sector is where real jobs sprout.
Unemployment benefits should be extended because there are real people out there hurting badly. Without that check, rent goes unpaid, no gas is bought and the ripple effect is intense and real.
However, in fairness, the Germans (my favorite people, of course) have an Aryan twist: I’ve been told that they pay unemployment benefits AFTER the person is out of work for six months. Starvation is a hell of an incentive.
Anyway, I’m Carl Brown, Louisville’s Plain Brown Rapper, and such is my own damn opinion. If you don’t like it, sue me. Just prepare to forsake party dogma and ideology and consider my commonsense proposal.