If I woke up tomorrow in the White House, what would I do? Amidst all of the “big ideas” floating around the 2020 Presidential race, I have to be honest, I’m hearing a lot of hot air. They’re good ideas, but they’re not going to pass. It’s nice to discuss a world with more Supreme Court Judges, no electoral college, and a majority rule Senate, but all of those either aren’t happening or would be dangerous if they did. But what could happen? These are my “big” ideas.
- Overtime pay for all. With the stroke of his pen, President Obama tried to extend overtime pay to millions of Americans, but it has been rolled back since. If I were President, I would extend overtime pay to any American working over 40 hours a week. I’d try to get Congress to pass a law for it, rather than just do it through an executive order. If there’s more than 40 hours of work in a week, either pay up or hire more people. We need to restore the work-life balance, or at least get paid better for being squeezed dry of all productivity.
- Legalized marijuana. See how well Colorado and other states are doing? People want to smoke marijuana. Marijuana is better for them than most medicines or recreational substances they use instead. Locking people up for pot is basically a nuisance to most prosecutors and makes no sense. This industry is ready to take off, and have positive impacts on society. It can’t do that when the marijuana industry can’t use our banking system because marijuana is still considered a “schedule one” drug by the federal government.
- A payroll tax indexed to cover 90% of all wages, as it was intended. When Ronald Reagan signed tax reform in the 1980’s, the payroll tax covered 90% of all wages, and was easily able to fund Social Security. We could make that permanently so, and keep Congress from borrowing money from those programs with a simple act of Congress. Medicare and Social Security would be safely paid for, for the foreseeable future. It’s not a big ask to do this.
- No taxes paid below the poverty line. Americans hate taxes. Many people truly can’t afford any more. It’s time to shift the burden off of the middle class. No American should start paying income taxes until they’ve made it out of poverty for the year. In a perfect world I’d raise this threshold to a living wage, but one step at a time. Instead of shielding income at the top of the economy, do so at the bottom of the ladder.
- End all federal subsidies to the coal industry. This is not about saving money, it’s about getting out of the coal business. Yes, I know some people want their mines back, but at what cost? Should the rest of us breath in their pollution? Should we destroy our planet with their carbon emissions? I’m all for reinvesting in communities losing their main industry and helping the displaced workers, but we need to cut the chord with coal and shift the money towards renewables.
- Approve more nuclear power. Is nuclear energy scary? Yes. Is it overwhelmingly safe though? Yes. Is it clean? Extremely. I wouldn’t power the whole grid on nuclear, but I’d increase it’s share to get rid of dirty energy quicker.
- Mandatory background checks on all gun sales. Sure, Mitch McConnell wouldn’t let it get to a vote, right? Right now though, it would pass the House, and if it got a Senate vote, it would pass again. This would be a place to exert some political capital. There are 60 votes to pass this in the Senate. There’s no reason to have a loophole to allow people on the terror watch list and violent criminals to buy a gun. If we have to add language that the government can’t come confiscate guns from law abiding citizens or something to calm conspiracy theorists, so be it.
- A federal guarantee of the right to a funded public education. We know that the quality of your education is based on your zip code. We all know that’s unfair. A federally binding guarantee to fund the public education of every student makes sense.
- Enforce environmental and labor law portions of trade treaties. It makes me really nervous that the incompetent administration in Washington is re-negotiating trade deals. The main problem that most free trade deals had was their enforcement, not their text. The United States has often been relaxed in enforcing portions of trade deals that dealt with environmental rules, wages, and labor laws. If someone wants access to our market, we should make them play by our rules. We can, through administrative actions.
- Do infrastructure, do it big, do it now. The will is there, in a bipartisan way. Do the bridges. Do the roads. Do mass transit. Do ports. Really, do it all. Go big, go bold. Create the jobs. Rebuild the country.
This is what I would do if I woke up tomorrow in the White House. All of it is possible. None of it is an overreach.