The presidential election of 2016 is over and what the country was treated to over the past year amounted to nothing more than a gong show of a campaign. Anybody interviewing for a job has to give more information and actually answer the questions that employers have. We, the people, did not get much information from either candidate on the tough issues that face the new President. Can you tell me where either of the candidates stood on fixing Social Security? Can you tell me what either of the candidates’ specific plans were to reduce health care costs? Did either candidate lay out a vision for how they would improve our infrastructure and how they would pay for it? Can you name one specific way that either candidate was going to reduce our $19 trillion debt? Like it or not, Mr. Trump will be the President and we should give him a chance. I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am someone who cares deeply about the future of OUR country. And it is in that spirit, that I offer these 12 pieces of advice to our new president:
Fix Congress. It is the worst performing branch of government with approval ratings of around 12 percent. If you want to shake things up in Washington, start here. Propose term limits. Two four-year terms for the House and the Senate and if a congressional member has a net worth over $2 million they should work for free. No salary, no gold-plated healthcare program, no pension. We are $19 trillion in debt and there are plenty of well qualified people who would happily serve their country. I saw on 60 Minutes that you will not be taking a salary. Good for you! Demand that other wealthy politicians follow your lead.
Reform campaign finance. One of the reasons you secured the Republican nomination is that you said that you were self-financed. That you could not be “bought and paid for” like many of your competitors. While you flip-flopped on that and raised plenty of money for the general election, your primary message that politicians are bought and paid for is correct. You could be the leader that proposes legislation to eliminate any campaign contributions from businesses, unions, and political action committees. Only people who vote should be allowed to make campaign contributions.
Create a high performance Government. This one should be right up your alley. USA Today ran a story a few years ago that stated that your chances of dying while on the job within 12 federal agencies is higher than being fired. Franklin Roosevelt thought public unions were a bad idea and you could be the one who gets rid of public unions. Pay workers well, provide good benefits, and give managers the ability to put the best team on the field by empowering them to fire poor performing workers. We, the people, deserve a high performance government and you have the experience to deliver it.
Fix Social Security. Social Security is a great program that has benefited hundreds of millions of Americans and it hangs by a financial thread. Just scrap the cap. The current program taxes people at 6% up to $116,000. You pay ZERO over $116,000. If you make $80,000 a year you pay $4,800 in taxes. If you make $10 million dollars you only pay around $7,000 in taxes. The rich should be paying more. A lot more. You would raise $130 billion in revenue and save one of our country’s best programs with one small change.
Cut defense spending. This one is going to be hard. All of your military friends are going to want you to spend more. Here’s the deal: The United States makes up 4 percent of the world’s population and we spend 42 percent of the world’s defense dollars. The $640 billion that we spend on the military is more than the next seven nations combined. We are $19 trillion in debt and cannot afford to spend at our current rate. Let the Defense Department know that they have to reduce spending to $400 billion by the end of 2020. If you need a place to start cutting, look at the current plan of spending $355 billion on our nuclear arsenal over the next ten years. I would strongly suggest that you read President Eisenhower’s farewell address. Though it is only 2,000 words and well worth the read, you’re a busy person and I heard you’re not a big reader so here’s a video of the speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWiIYW_fBfY
Improve American infrastructure. Our infrastructure is rated a D+ and it is in need of help. You talked about this during the campaign and vowed to come forward with a BIG plan that would be TREMENDOUS!!! Just one catch, unlike many politicians before you, would you please pay for it so that our children and grandchildren don’t have to. Simple solution: raise the gas tax by $1 per gallon and launch Eisenhower 2, a massive infrastructure program to rebuild America. If you want to call it the Trump Plan that is fine. Just go BIG and make sure you pay for it.
Simplify the tax code. It is 74,000 pages long and is a complete joke. It only serves the wealthiest people in our country who have the accountants and lawyers to work the system. You will be the first President not to release his tax returns. You know how bad this system is to the average American better than anyone. The average American put you in the White House, do them a favor by simplifying the tax code.
Fix the legal system. If you really want to create a better environment for business there is no easier place to start than reforming the most unproductive legal system in the world. One simple change will do it and every other major economy has it in place. It is called the English Rule of Law where the loser pays the winner’s legal fees. One simple change and you would eliminate over 50 percent of the lawsuits in America and make our businesses more competitive in international markets. This one move will add, as you put it,“Big time jobs.”
Fix the health care system. I know you don’t like the current system but the solution to American health care is not to just eliminate Obamacare. Even before the Affordable Care Act, we had the highest health care costs in the world by a long shot at 17 percent of GDP and the worst results. Two key points to focus on are actually improving the health of Americans so we don’t spend money in the first place and actually reducing costs. You might want to start with the rigged system where the government cannot negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Most drugs are developed in the United States, yet the price of these drugs are twice as expensive inside the U.S. than outside. Focus on healthier Americans and real cost reductions and you can make significant progress.
Reduce the risk of nuclear war. This one scares the hell out of me, especially with you in charge. We have over 2,000 missiles on active duty. We don’t need 2,000 missiles on active duty. There is a great op-ed published in the May 23, 2010 edition of the New York Times written by civilian employees of the US Air Force, Gary Schaub Jr. and James Forsyth Jr., in which they adeptly calculate “that the country could address its national defense and military concerns with only 311 strategic nuclear weapons.”This move would reduce our chances of accidentally causing a nuclear war by over 93.91%, and significantly reduce our costs. Remember we have a debt of $19 trillion.
Reduce Inequality in America. I have heard you say that “Black America has gotten a bad deal from Washington.” The numbers would say that you are right on this one. You want to shake things up, well here you go. Announce a program called “Every Kid Has a Chance.” Three meals a day, free basic health care for the first 22 years, and a free college education for every kid living in poverty. You can pay for this by scrapping the cap on Social Security, and the best part is that the money we invest in kids living through poverty at an early age would save us a ton of cash down the road on the money we spend on social programs and prisons.
Reduce gun deaths in America. Over 12,000 people die every year due to gun violence. Tragic as that is,the number no one talks about is that over 75,000 people are maimed by gunfire every year costing America over $100 billion annually. Your chances of being shot in America is 60 times higher than in Canada and 120 times higher than in Germany. Warren Burger, a Conservative justice appointed by President Nixon had this to say about the 2nd Amendment: “The Second Amendment has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” Introduce a law to make sure that all guns get registered, that all gun owners get a license with a background check to own a gun just like when you buy a car. An interesting fact is that 92 percent of gun owners support background checks.
That is it. Twelve simple pieces of advice as you take on the most important job in the world. These ideas are not conservative, they are not liberal, they are common sense ideas that would benefit all Americans. Harry Truman once said that “the great responsibility of the president is not to represent the 10-15 million people who can afford to represent themselves in Washington. It is the great responsibility of the president to represent the other 150 million people who cannot afford to represent themselves in Washington.” I wish you the best of luck.
John Burke is the President of Trek Bicycle and recently published his new book “12 Simple Solutions to Save America.”