I’d be lying if I said that I’ve been following this whole “sequestration” hullaballoo enough to write an intelligent, informed piece about it. Admittedly, my only two sources of political news these days (really, since I started working) are the New York Times op-ed page and Jon Stewart, and I’ve been too busy at work the past couple of weeks to catch up even on those. However, one doesn’t need to read the Wall Street Journal to know that the American economy is all kinds of screwed up. Needless to say, desperate times call for desperate measures, and with Obummer in control for the Dems and Bonerhead representing the GOP, it’s not remotely surprising that our government has failed to produce even a hint at a rational solution to any portion of our economic woes.
Fear not government, J is here. Following the immortal advice of one John F. Kennedy, romancer of countless women and one-time president of the United States of America, I am not asking what my country can do for me (mainly because I already know the answer to that: “sweet bupkiss”), but I am asking what I can do for my country. Actually, I’m not even asking what I can do to help, I’m just flat-out helping by letting the Internet/U.S./world know exactly what we need to do in America to get out of this mess in which we are currently wallowing (which mess, incidentally, I blame on Reagan). One thing we all need to understand before I begin: you can’t please all the people all the time. Period. Being from San Francisco, my solution probably has a somewhat liberal slant. Nonetheless, I assure you that I have tried to the best of my ability to come up with a solution that defies party lines and that would, if brought to Congress (as it damn well should be), gain substantial bipartisan support.
Okay, enough with the introduction. Without further ado, I present to you J’S MODEST PROPOSAL FOR FIXING THE U.S. ECONOMY AND THE U.S. IN GENERAL:
I. Health Care
The one piece of legislation that has and will continue to define the Obama Administration is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Depending on your political leanings, one may view Obamacare as a G-dsend, a blessing, a blessing-in-disguise, a curse-disguised-as-a-blessing (a.k.a. a “curse in a blessing’s clothing”), or the devil. The particular effects of Obamacare will not fully be understood until several years after all of its provisions have been enacted, but the debate around the law has made two things very clear: (1) healthcare in this country is really freaking expensive, but doesn’t necessarily need to be that way, and (2) Medicare is quickly becoming a huge burden on the federal budget that we simply can’t afford (see this chart below, from the non-partisan Center for American Progress).
I’m no health policy expert and I’m certainly not a doctor, but my mom is a medical anthropologist and my sister has an MPH, and I’ve spoken with both of them quite a bit on the subject of the American healthcare crisis. Based on those ongoing conversations and a fair amount of independent research, I’ve arrived at two feasible and easily-implemented solutions that will at least begin to enable progress on the healthcare front. Bear in mind that these are just the initial baby steps to making healthcare affordable for all Americans, but we all must acknowledge that Rome (and the hospitals therein) was not built in a day.
A. Tort Reform
Ask any doctor what his or her worst professional fear is, and he or she will immediately answer “getting sued for malpractice.” This is far scarier than having a patient die on the operating table—in fact, the only reason that a patient’s death is remotely frightening to a doctor is that it could lead to a nasty lawsuit. To help alleviate these fears, doctors, and the hospitals that employ them, double down on medical malpractice insurance. Of course, this insurance is not cheap, and who ends up footing the bill? Why, John Q. Patient, of course, in the form of inflated medical costs.
Doctors should not be living in constant fear of getting sued. We should be down on our knees thanking anybody who went through the hell of medical school and is willing to accept a good-but-not-great paycheck (doctors make less than lawyers) in order to save our freakin’ lives. The last people on earth we should be rewarding or even encouraging are medical malpractice lawyers. Take it from me, a member of the bar: plaintiffs’ attorneys are the scum of the earth, and medical mal lawyers are the scum of plaintiffs’ attorneys, so that makes them the scum of the scum. Remember John Edwards, one-time potential presidential candidate and infamous adulterer? He was a medical malpractice lawyer.
My solution? Get rid of medical malpractice suits, with no exceptions. Believe me, I know lawyers, and if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, and then sue you for false advertising about the size of what you gave them. Simply pass a federal statute that states that any claim of medical malpractice brought against a licensed doctor will be immediately dismissed, with harsh sanctions imposed upon the attorney who filed the case. What about actual instances of doctors screwing up and harming patients? Yes, patients will have one less avenue for compensation if this happens, but this is a small price to pay for lower medical bills across the board. Also, once this legislation goes into effect, doctors will be under much less stress once the fear of being sued for malpractice is lifted from their shoulders, and will likely perform much better, resulting in fewer accidents in the first place. In other words, everybody wins, except medical malpractice lawyers and insurance companies, but honestly, fuck them. Can I get an amen?
B. Fixing a Broken Medicare System
I have a conservative friend (he’s a bit older) who blames Lyndon B. Johnson for everything that’s wrong in this country, from starting the Vietnam War to signing the Civil Rights Act (this friend is a proponent of the Clarence Thomas “helping black people actually hurts black people” school of thought). However, my friend doesn’t seem to mind Medicare all that much (he’s a doctor, I should add). At least, he didn’t used to mind it. It seems that, for a long time, Medicare was a fine program that people all across the country seemed to love, but now all of a sudden it’s coming under a lot of fire, as we realize that it costs a heckuva lot.
The Republicans want to raise the minimum age for receiving Medicare to 67. I find this disgusting. We already work far too much in America, and bumping up the age at which one is eligible to receive Medicare is tantamount to saying, “sorry bub, we’re gonna need you to work an extra 2 years.” Having recently joined the work force in full swing, I’ll say right now that the day I turn 65, you’d better believe your dippy bippy that I’m retiring, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to take another two trips around the seasons without affordable insurance.
Pushing the age of eligibility up another 2 years is genuinely inhumane, and absolutely not necessary, when in reality there is a much simpler solution that will save American taxpayers a ton of money while keeping health costs down. This fix is to put a cap on the age at which somebody can receive Medicare. I think we can start with 90. From 65 until 90, you can receive Medicare. After that, if you want medical treatment, it’s on your own dime. We can start the cap at 90, then over a few years, or maybe a decade, lower it to 85 and then to 80. Still, that’s 15 years with solid government-subsidized medical insurance.
Why the cap? Because let’s face it, after a certain age, people really don’t need to be alive. Seriously—have you talked to an octogenarian lately? They’re bitter, ornery, and constantly complaining about everything from their prostates to the mailman to the damn bakery that makes its French bread too crusty. They sure as hell aren’t contributing anything positive to society; their days of doing that are long gone. If an old man gets cancer, he’s going to die—and that’s fine. Everybody dies. I don’t think we taxpayers need to pay $200,000+ for some random grandpa in Minnesota to get chemo to extend his life an extra few months. Let these people die with dignity, for Pete’s sake.
Saving money, being humane, and making America a better place. Yes we can!
II. Les Miserables
The “Occupy” movement of 2011 and 2012 brought the concept of percentiles into the American (and global) consciousness, as more and more Americans started expressing discontent and even anger over the fact that the top 1% of Americans hold 35% of the wealth, while the bottom 80% hold barely over 10%. According to recent figures (taken from the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on “poverty”; I was too lazy to read the rest), roughly 15% of the country lives in poverty. Unemployment is still hovering just above 8%, but that figure (which is really already quite dismal) doesn’t tell the whole story, as in some states and counties unemployment is solidly in the double digits. Those who are “gainfully” employed don’t necessarily have easier lives, as stagnant wages combined with skyrocketing costs of living have greatly broadened the “working poor” class.
In these dark economic times, it seems preposterous to cut federal spending aimed at helping the lower classes, but with record spending on welfare, foodstamps, and unemployment during the Obama administration with little to show for it, the social safety net is beginning to look quite porous. I have a very simple suggestion that will create a beneficial ripple effect, bringing back prosperity into multiple spheres of American life.
A. Helping the Poor
Many conservatives, particularly those of the older, white, male variety, say that it’s not the government’s job to help the poor, and that the poor need to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” get jobs, and learn to become contributing members of society. Conventional conservative wisdom dictates that the reason poor people don’t work is because welfare incentivizes laziness—why should I get a job and bust my ass when I can just not get a job and get paid almost as much? The strain on the rest of the country (us hard-working types, that is) is then doubled—not only are we paying for these moochers, but they’re not putting in any taxes to bring down the deficit.
There was a time when I believed that Horatio Alger was a bunch of malarkey, and that people can’t be expected to help themselves. That was before I went to India. In India, the “social safety net” is more like a giant innertube, with a gaping hole through which anybody except for the fattest 30% of the population will slide. Most Indians receive no aid from the government, so do they lay down and die? Some do, but most just learn survival. Do you know how much food a human being actually needs to survive? It ends up that it’s much less than you’d expect, especially if you’re from America where even the poor are morbidly obese. Do you know how often somebody in India buys new shoes? The answer is never—he fixes the pair he has if they get too old. How large of a living space do you need for a family of seven? I guarantee that whatever you’re thinking is quite the overshot; the answer is roughly 160 square feet.
It’s high time for Americans to learn these valuable life lessons. Thus, I think we should reduce spending on foodstamps from $110 billion per year to $0. Unemployment compensation should be cut from $77 billion annually to $0. We spend $57 billion every year on public housing. You know what number would work better? $0. That’s right: a big, fat nuthin’ at every corner. Will some folks die? Well sure, maybe. You can’t make an omelet if you don’t break any eggs, but as many Americans will learn, you can make a one-egg omelet that will feed a family of four. Mitt Romney was full of shit when he said the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes won’t help themselves. They most certainly will, they just need a little kick in the ass.
Don’t believe me? Ask any economist to list the centers of economic growth in the next 50 years, and he or she will undoubtedly mention the “BRIC” nations—Brazil, Russia, India and China, four countries where people aren’t relying on mother government and are instead learning to fend for themselves, with explosive results (that is, explosive economies, not literal explosions, for the most part). The U.S. could easily join the BRIC nations as a breeding ground for unprecedented economic expansion (okay, so maybe it would have more precedent in the U.S., but you get the idea). BRICU—that has a nice ring to it. Or maybe UBRIC.
B. Helping the Homeless
There is one special class of the ultra-poor who are often forgotten: those who are so poor that they must sleep on the streets, beg for food, and shit on the sidewalk. I’m talking about the homeless, pervasive in even the wealthiest cities (like our dear San Francisco). Most people don’t want to think about the homeless. Obama doesn’t. Those jokers up on Capitol Hill certainly don’t. It’s not that they hate the homeless, they’d just prefer to believe that nobody in America is that lacking in…well…everything.
I, on the other hand, think of the homeless every day, as I see them huddled in bunches outside of the liquor stores on my morning walk down Market Street. Old ones, young ones, men and women of all races, sometimes without shoes, sometimes without pants, and always without hope. These people are suffering, and nobody wants to do anything to remotely alleviate their pain. I want to do something for them: I want to put them out of their misery. Yes, by killing them. It’s the only humane thing to do. These people are living miserable lives, waiting for sweet, sweet death to overtake them. I think the least we can do for a homeless man, as good Americans and good Christians (or Jews, as the case may be), is to put a bullet between his eyes.
I use the word “we” here in the most literal sense. We do not have enough resources to pay the military or other government-sponsored officers/executioners to kill our homeless. Our deficit is too large to be using our hard-earned tax dollars to fund large-scale urban euthanasia. Besides, if we left it to the government, they’d probably screw it up, just like they screw up everything. If a senator tried to kill a hobo, he’d probably end up adding ten years to the guy’s agonizing life.
This is why I propose forming a nationwide network of “Angels” to assist the homeless to heaven. Angels would work on a strictly volunteer basis, and provide their own weapons. Obviously they would have to go through rigorous background checks, and no person would be accepted as an Angel if he or she had been in prison within the past 12 months or in a mental institution within the past 6. Also, Angels would be strictly forbidden from using assault rifles or guns with high capacity magazines to kill the homeless. I warned you at the beginning of this piece that I’d take a liberal slant, and I am absolutely pro gun-control, especially when it comes to killing the homeless. A real hunter doesn’t need an assault rifle to kill a deer, and he certainly doesn’t need anything close to a semi-automatic weapon to kill a wounded or sickly deer. Homeless people are even slower than wounded or sickly deer. If some Angel, drunk with power (and perhaps vodka) goes crazy and starts shooting at the homeless and homeful alike, I hope he’s carrying a pistol that holds no more than 10 bullets, for the sake of our children.
Angels would be highly respected in their communities, and would get to wear identifying patches, which would look something like this:
Angels (sometimes referred to as “Angels in America”) would take on many roles in daily American life. They could work as safety guards, helping our kids cross the street. They could work as the National Guard on a volunteer basis, cutting down on unnecessary defense spending. They could officiate weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. I’m just throwing out some ideas here, people.
III. Other Issues Facing Our Nation
There is a veritable hodge-podge of other issues related to America’s economy that are in dire need of some resolution, and I can’t begin to address them all here. I’m just going to present the two that immediately came to mind on my walk to work this morning, when I passed by a young man on the street holding a cardboard sign that said “From Bulgaria, no money. Thank you for you’re kindness.”
A. Immigration Reform
Most people acknowledge that the large population of illegal aliens/undocumented immigrants in this country is some kind of problem. Either they should get on the path to citizenship so that they can contribute to society (and maybe, G-d forbid, pay taxes), or they should kindly go back to whence they came. Most proponents of “immigration control” focus on the latter, and if Republicans are in charge, the results will undoubtedly be racist. Seriously, can Republicans do anything without it being racist?
Republican “immigration reform” works as follows: See a man who looks Mexican. Ask him for proof that he’s American. If he fails to produce proof, deport him.
So. Freaking. Racist.
Being a liberal Democrat, I detest racism in all forms. But just because I hate racism does not mean that I love illegal immigrants coming to our country, speaking all sorts of languages I don’t understand, stealing jobs from Americans, committing crimes, and filling up our emergency rooms while not paying for health insurance. Pu-leeze. I’m an American first, Democrat second. Here’s a simple, non-racist plan for dealing with our immigration problem. If an Angel sees somebody who looks foreign (and over 18), regardless of race or gender, that Angel can stop him or her and demand to see some kind of identification—for example, a driver’s license, a state ID card, or some DREAM Act card that demonstrates that the person is on a state-sponsored road to citizenship. Bear in mind that there are foreigners of all races; perhaps it’s a white man who looks Russian, or a black woman who looks Nigerian, or a dark-skinned man who looks like he’s from India or one of the ‘Stans, or maybe southeast Asia. Angels will not discriminate.
If the foreign-looking person cannot produce proper identification, the Angel will shoot him or her in the head. Our court systems are clogged up the wazoo and lengthy deportation proceedings are a waste of everyone’s time and money. Trust me on this; I’m a lawyer.
This may sounds a bit harsh, but I envision a one-year ramp-up period leading to this, which will give everybody in America who is over 18 (or who looks over 18) enough time to either (a) get proper ID or (b) leave the country. One year—that’s a long time. Anybody with half a brain should be able to get ID within a year. And speaking of having half a brain…
From what I understand, there was a time when the American education system was the envy of the world. Our system had the best funding, we had the highest literacy rate, and we were the best at math. Now, countries all over the world (especially those in Scandinavia and Asia) are kicking our asses in these departments.
Many people will blame our educational system for this. They say that for our children need better schooling, and that means smaller class sizes, better teachers, and more access to high-quality learning institutions. But achieving all of these crucial elements takes money, and if you have been paying attention at all to this blog post or the world in general, you’ll understand that money does not grow on American trees these days.
I’d propose a different approach: instead of trying to make our country smarter, we should focus on making it less stupid. Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. Many years ago, the concept of eugenics gained a bit of popularity among many circles in the U.S. The theory was that stupid begets stupid, so if you prevent a stupid person from begetting, there will be several fewer younglings in the world bringing down the average intelligence of the nation. There is a famous Supreme Court case from 1927 in which the court held that a law requiring the forced sterilization of the feeble-minded was constitutional. In the case, a doctor had sterilized a dumb woman with a dumb mom and a dumb grandma (note that in 1927, promiscuity was equated with a lack of intelligence), and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes lauded the act, declaring that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.”
I know that my readership is smart, so I need not explain how fucked up that is. More importantly, a mass sterilization effort would be very draining on our country’s human resources. To sterilize a man, you need at least three people (two to hold him down and one to cut off his balls), and to sterilize a woman, you really need somebody who has been medically trained. We can’t have all of our able-bodied folks and doctors wasting time sterilizing the stupid. The easier, cheaper and more effective solution is, of course, execution. This may seem like a pretty harsh or even drastic solution at first, and 10 or 20 years ago I would not have suggested it, but let’s face it, in today’s economy, there’s simply no room for the stupid. After however many hundreds or thousands of years of coexisting with the lovable town oaf(s), times are tough and we’ve reached a point where stupid people are no longer capable of contributing to society. Think about it—in the year 2013, you’ll never see a job description that says “stupid people preferred” or even “stupid people welcome.” Those days are over. Thus, to avoid stupid people further mooching off of our resources, we need to kill them. I’m sure that if you explained this to a stupid person he’d understand…or at least he’d understand if he wasn’t so stupid.
Now comes the tricky part—how can we tell who is stupid? Some people may suggest testing, but anybody who knows anything about education can tell you that standardized tests are unfair and don’t actually tell you how smart or dumb different people are. Intelligence is more subjective than that, and usually only the smartest of the smart can accurately and efficiently deduce whether or not somebody has the mental agility to eventually contribute to society. I propose forming a very selective army of our most intelligent Americans, who are willing to donate an hour of time here and there in between curing cancer and composing symphonies to hunt and kill the stupid. This will be an extremely elite squadron, and each member should wear the only insignia worthy of his or her superlative position:
IV. And One More Thing…
I admit, my solution for saving America leads to a lot of dead bodies: dead old folks, dead poor, dead homeless, dead foreigners, dead idiots, dead investment bankers (I didn’t include that part in this blog, but it doesn’t really require much explanation). What should we do with all of these corpses? Cemetery space is prime real estate that we can’t afford to just give away, and burning bodies creates fumes that are bad for the environment. Here’s my suggestion: human bodies are rich in nutrients, right? Why not donate the bodies to local farms (such as the Hayes Valley Farm) to use in fertilizer, in order to produce organic, locally-grown fruits and vegetables! As you can see, my plan for saving America is the gift that keeps on giving.
The way I see it, there are only two ways of solving America’s problems: the Republicans’ way, which involves massive (and massively unfair) spending cuts while genuflecting to the rich, and my way, in which everybody gets what they deserve. I think we all know what needs to be done. Contact your congressperson today today and tell him or her that you support J’s plan.
The future of America depends on it.