Monday, December 29, 2008

Letter to the president-elect

Dear President-elect Obama,

Its the end of a challenging year for the United States and the world.
And like many, I am writing to you with a wish list for the new administration.
Let me suggest something a little different...

1)  Encourage Americans to save their money rather than spend it.

The recent expansion of the economy was fueled by spending on credit.  And many of those gains are now being lost, homeowners literaly losing their homes, in part because of an excess of credit.
We have heard some people talk about spending to boost the economy, but what we realy need to do is to encourage the development of a nation of savers.

More than that, we need to encourage investment in small business.  To a degree, the downward pressure on real wages has been caused by massive consolidation of retail, banking and service industries.  Small business is the backbone of the American economy.  We need to do whatever we can to encourage small business.  And we need to stop relying on big business as the partner of government to the disadvantage of small businesses.

2)  Stop using the tax code as a political instrument.

The Federal tax code is too complicated and inefficient.  Congress continues to use the tax code as a policy instrument to suit political fashion.  Others have said that tax breaks have become the political equivalent of crack cocaine.  So in the interest of transparency, and efficient government, have the GAO estimate what people really pay today (with all the breaks); and change the system so there is a graduated tax and no deductions.  Eliminate all tax breaks and remove tax policy from the political spectrum.  Much as it will hurt my own family, stop providing a tax incentive to families with children.

If you want to implement a policy change, just do it directly instead of manipulating the tax code.
For example, if you want to continue to subsidize families with children, write them checks.
Or, set up a discount program to promote alternative energy, like the current program with TV converter boxes.

3)  Simplify health care.

Simplify health care and ensure that everyone has access to it.
Don't enact a system like we have here in Massachusetts, which attempts to cover everyone while protecting private insurers.  HMO's and health insurers exist to deny coverage, not to provide it.  We pay a greatly inflated price for health care because of the burden of insurance and inefficient billing practises.  If we intend to provide health coverage for everyone, then what is the point of playing the averages from one pool of subscribers against another?  Business will be much better off without the burden of providing and complying with increasingly out of control health coverage costs.  More than that, people should have the ability to control their coverage, rather than employers and there should be no price difference for an individual outside of a pool to receive coverage.

4)  Do something simple about immigration.

Create an expanded program for migrant farm workers. Eliminate the competition for H1-B visas between the tech sector and the agricultural sector by creating a seperate program for farm workers.  Find a policy that can normalize the number of immigrants over the long term, recognizing that we all share some responsibility for the current situation, and protecting the families that have grown here.

That's my wish list for the new administration.
Good luck!