Here are 10 policy goals I’d like to see candidates work towards enacting.
1. Lower the cost of living, especially housing
Housing should not be used for financial speculation—it should be as affordable as possible. People flipping homes for a quick profit keeps real families from having good places to live.
The cost of housing is the single biggest driver for overall cost of living. Owning land is where wealth really accumulates.
It wasn’t that long ago families could buy homes in good places to live for 2x the median household income—we should get back to that.
I am in favor of denser cities, incentives for building smaller and less expensive homes, land use policies that are fair and not overly burdensome for new construction, and robotic construction. Denser cities could also mean people can work closer to their jobs and cut down on traffic, which has become a terrible problem.
I am also in favor of higher taxes on real estate that is used for speculation, that is unoccupied, or that is owned by non-US citizens/permanent residents.
Our government restricts housing supply and subsidizes housing demand, which has the predicted consequence of runaway prices.
The high cost of living hurts poor people the most, and it’s destroying our country. I want to see the government stop enacting policies that make housing, education, and healthcare so unaffordable.
Unfortunately, a lot of our political leaders today seem to believe that if you’re poor, it’s your fault. But it’s not—hundreds of years of oppression have led to an unfair system that tends to push some people up and others down. The runaway cost of living in our country is at the root of this.
2. Move to a Medicare-for-all system over time by gradually reducing the age of eligibility
This will only work with a significant investment in technology to bring the cost of care down—we must invest more in research and development to cure diseases and create better IT systems.
But we can do a few things quickly, like banning the advertisement of prescription drugs (like almost all other countries in the world)—it’s not fair that we pay so much more for medicine than anywhere else in the world, and it’s always seemed so weird to me that pharma companies do this. We can also demand clear prices for services, and reform medical lawsuits to reduce the overtreatment in the country.
Of course, there will still be a fully privatized health care system alongside this, and for people who want to pay for that, that’s ok.
3. Set a target of 90% clean energy in the country by 2050
We definitely need a major research and development investment to make this happen.
We should impose a carbon tax in the country and at the border, and impose trading penalties on countries that don’t meet the same target.
4. World-class education
We must teach our children the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. We need to invest in technology to make teaching better—currently, we have declining results even though we keep spending more money.
We should require that Californian politicians and senior civil service send their kids to public schools. They need to be aligned.
We should offer free college in exchange for national service. We can make the economics of this work, and we certainly need talented people to work for our country.
We should also incentivize companies to re-train people for new jobs. The days of education stopping at 22 are long over—the economy is too dynamic now.
5. We need to reform our tax system
Specifically, we should reduce the financialization of our economy—in 2008, we saw the danger this recklessness can cause. Our system rewards short term thinking and speculation and this threatens to drive our country off a cliff.
We can fix this by taxing very short-term capital gains at a high rate. Longer-term capital gains should be taxed at the same rate as ordinary income—we need to bring back the balance between labor and capital. People like me should pay more taxes.
We should also consider a nationwide land tax. Land ownership seems to be the fundamental way that inequality builds up over time; in general, I’m in favor of taxing wealth, not work. Along the same lines, I’d support some version of a consumption tax if it meant reducing the tax burden on basic necessities.
Corporations are the last great American tax shelter. Corporations keep their money offshore without paying taxes, and then this money is not reinvested in America. We should tax corporations when they earn money, and then they can immediately re-invest it in the US.
6. Shift 10% of our $600 billion annual defense budget to the research and development of future technologies
We currently spend hundreds of billions of dollars per year preparing for World War II style wars that are unlikely to ever be fought. Instead, we can spend this money on technologies that will prepare us for the future, prepare us for future threats, and truly improve people’s lives. We used to do this on projects like the Apollo project and the internet. Developing important new technology is how we maintain our global dominance. We should lead the world in the development of things like artificial intelligence, biotechnology and healthcare, clean energy, cybersecurity, and new education technology.
We should also reform our immigration system to prioritize high-skilled people who can help us do this.
Finally, we should do a much better job of figuring out how to keep Americans safe in the face of major new technological advances.
7. Fair trade and fair jobs
US workers are the most productive in the world when they are allowed to compete on a level playing field. Too many countries are taking advantage of our free trade policies and dumping products in our markets made with inferior materials and underpaid labor. This hurts American working families.
We need nationwide family leave, and better collective bargaining for fair wages.
We also need less burdensome procedural regulation on businesses to encourage more job growth.
Also, unlike most politicians, I don’t think it does any good to lie and pretend massive job changes aren’t coming. But we should be the best in the world at creating new jobs and training our people for them.
We also need to change the incentives of Directors at public companies. I personally believe that all of their compensation should be stock that they have to hold for at least five years, which will align them with creating long-term value instead of doing short-term looting.
The world is becoming more complex and changing more rapidly than ever. We need to protect Americans with a better cushion so that they aren’t worried about not having enough to eat or a place to sleep.
For now, we should research several different solutions. I am especially interested in the concept of universal basic income as a way to help level the playing field and eliminate government bureaucracy in aid programs.
If it turns out to be a good policy, I could imagine passing a law that puts it into effect when the GDP per capita doubles. This could help cushion the transition to a post-automation world.
We should set a goal of eliminating poverty in the country—I’m not yet sure what a reasonable timeframe for this goal is, but I do feel a moral obligation to figure out how to do it.
9. A fair government
We have one set of rules if you’re rich and powerful, and another if you’re not. This, obviously, is unfair. We need equal enforcement of our rules.
The way our government works now is not sustainable. It guarantees huge waste and delay. It incentivizes elected representatives and civil servants to focus on their careers rather than the public interest.
We must reduce the power of both parties and empower people outside centralized bureaucracies. America became great by being the most open system in the world, economically and politically.
Many of our problems come because these systems are closing and strengthening established interests. America will stay great by applying this lesson from our history with new ideas and technologies to improve government itself.
We need to provide public funding to bolster a free and independent press. The press has always played an important role in educating citizens and providing a check on the government; in the new world of click-driven journalism we are at risk of losing this to publications that are driven by generating shallow outrage to get attention.
We should try to move to a multi-party system—the two party system is bad, and everyone knows the existing two parties are failing except for them.
We need to move towards a nation where one person has one vote in our presidential elections. The electoral college is not fair, creates a deeply broken process, and it’s time to end it. The National Popular Vote Compact is a promising start.
We need better safety and security, and we also need to get much better about rehabilitating criminals. We especially need better enforcement of our laws around sexual violence. And we need to enforce our laws equally, no matter what people look like.
Our leaders need to be fair to everyone, and not persecute those who disagree with them.
We need a reasonable path to citizenship for undocumented people living in the US to sort out the mess created by both parties over many years. Going forward, we must also set and enforce fair laws for immigration, and we need to have a real conversation about how much and what kind of immigration we want. A country that does not take the rules for citizenship seriously has a bleak future.
10. World-class infrastructure
If we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, the economy will get much more efficient. We can use technology to do this effectively, and we should be able to do this at least as efficiently as China does it. This would be a good time for a New New Deal.
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