This election year has been insane. Accusations of sexual misconduct, corruption, and endless arguments about temperament have drowned out the issues that actually affect the lives of the citizens the President would represent. I’ve followed the campaigns closely, initially supporting Bernie Sanders and then splitting my support and attention between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.
I know I’ll never be President. I don’t have an Ivy-league education, a background in early political action, or millions of my own dollars to spend on self-promotion. This fact doesn’t stop me from thinking about how I would run the country if I were given such an incredible opportunity.
Here are five things I would do if I were President:
Spark Innovation by Proposing a Tripling of NASA’s Budget
NASA is arguably the single most inspiring and scientifically important government-run organization. NASA conducts research that gives us vital insight into our world and the universe in which it exists. It helped us end the Cold War, gave us countless technologies that affect our lives every day, and gives the children of our nation a reason to pursue education in STEM subjects.
NASA’s budget has been stripped considerably over the years. A department that once took us to the Moon has since had its wings clipped. Our astronauts have to hitch rides with Russian spacecraft to get to and from the International Space Station. Our shuttles have been retired, and we’re slowly rebuilding our resources to hopefully reach Mars in the next 10-15 years.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson has been publicly calling for the doubling of NASA’s budget for some time. While I feel this would be a huge leg up for an institution that has done so much good for our country, it’s still not enough. We need NASA to be fully funded and capable of working with privately owned entities like SpaceX to make Mars colonization a possibility.
Not just for Mars, but for the inventions and innovations required to make that trip happen. How would a new generation of NASA spin-off products change our economy?
Reduce the Deficit by Pushing for the Legalization of Marijuana
I don’t smoke marijuana. But, it’s clear after watching what happened in states like Washington and Colorado that legalization wouldn’t have a negative impact on crime rates. In fact, the impact has been near zero or even a decline since its legalization in these states.
Our economy would receive a very real, very sudden boost. Physical stores would open up, new jobs would be created, and taxes would be collected that could fund programs that improve our lives.
In the state of Colorado in September of 2016 alone, over $19 million in additional tax revenue was raised through legal marijuana sales. That’s one month of data from one state. If that same income level were maintained in all 50 states for one year, the tax revenue would top $11.4 billion. Some educated estimates put estimated tax revenue from all 50 states at as much as $28 billion per year.
That’s a lot of money that could go towards upping NASA’s budget ($18 billion in 2016) or providing higher education grants to students.
Speaking of saving money: anyone currently serving a prison sentence on a first non-violent, low-grade drug offense such as marijuana possession would be pardoned after an extensive review showing that they weren’t also under investigation or convicted of violent offenses. We are spending almost $16 billion per year to feed, clothe, and house prisoners serving long sentences for marijuana-related crimes. That is a lot of money that could go to other, more useful programs.
Fill My Cabinet with Scientists and Engineers, not Politicians
My first choice for Secretary of Education would be Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I firmly believe that science is a cornerstone of advanced civilizations. By putting practicing scientists in places of influence over policies of education and science, we would be able to make more informed decisions about policy and establish a good, solid rapport with these groups.
While yes, it would make no sense to put a biologist in as the Secretary of Defense, it does make a lot more sense in positions of advisory in the areas of energy, climate, and education.
Imagine what would happen if the Secretary of Transportation were an engineer rather than a politician. Someone that has a firm understanding of modern transportation systems and the needs of communities to build out the highways and bridges of tomorrow. That would be a great step forward.
Energy is another big, important area where having a knowledgeable cabinet would be useful. A Secretary of Energy that has a clear and concise plan for bringing renewable energy into our country, working with a team of engineers to do so in a way that puts good use to lands currently being harvested for coal and natural gas, will ensure that there is little or no net job loss in the transition.
Appoint Supreme Court Justices that Oppose Citizens United
Corporations shouldn’t have the ability to outspend individual citizens in an effort to get a candidate that favors them elected. Nominees that meet the requirements to be listed on the ballot in enough states to win the election by way of the Electoral College should be given a stipend to run their campaign on, and rely on limited donations from individual citizens.
If you’re a multi-millionaire you shouldn’t be able to “buy” more influence than a single mother of two.
Companies can spend their millions of dollars on better things, like charitable contributions and health care for their employees.
Propose New Legislation that Sets Hard Limits for Insurance Companies
Automotive insurance companies are heavily regulated. You have to have this insurance to drive in the United States, and because of that legislation was passed that limits what you can and can’t charge for this service. There is a limit on how much an insurance company can profit, keeping their costs down across the board.
While this system isn’t perfect, it also isn’t being applied to the world of health insurance. Right now, health insurance companies aren’t competing with one-another, and aren’t very limited on what they can charge. Families in America are paying as much on health insurance as they are for housing.
I would keep the good things about the Affordable Care Act, including mandatory coverage of pre-existing conditions, no price hikes for females, among others.
By setting profit percentage limits on insurance companies and opening the market up so that these companies can compete in additional markets (many are locked into a single region, having a monopoly on that region) we will be able to reduce costs to individuals.
This still isn’t a perfect system. Single-payer healthcare is what every other major advanced country is using, and while I would prefer it, we are in a situation where health insurance companies are embedded in the fabric of our system. That is… as long as these companies continue to fund campaigns.
These are a handful of the things I would change. I’m not a politician and I’m probably speaking from a perfect-world perspective. Most people would probably disagree with me, but then again, that’s how politics is supposed to work. We don’t agree for as long as it takes until we do.