I know that as a country, we have a lot of problems right now.
I also know that we have a lot of great people. People who dearly love this country, but who feel like they've been left behind.
Not only that, but as a country, we've maybe never been quite so divided.
It seems like every issue now is "us vs. them." The art of compromise--the "art of the deal," if you will, seems like it's dying a little bit every day.
And that division comes at a great price. As we bicker over endless minutia in the hopes of scoring hollow political victories, the real problems remain:
-A divided citizenry that thinks they hate half the country
-A skills gap that keeps a growing number of people out of the workforce, and (to a lesser extent),
-A corporate tax base that continues to dwindle due to tax inversion.
These problems are serious, and require a serious effort to fix.
But What If You Had a Plan to Address ALL Of These Issues... And TRULY Make America Great Again... Within a Decade?
It's not going to be easy... and it'll require a little deal-making ability... but if you can pull it off, it would cement your legacy as one of the greatest Presidents in our history.
I present to you:
The basic idea is simple:
-After graduating high school, allow young adults to sign up for a 1-2 year term of national service in an area vastly different than the one they grew up in.
Think "Green Acres." Urbanites heading out to rural America and vice versa.
First of all, this will expose our young people to people from other walks of life.
Part of what divides us currently is the simple fact that people are insulated within their own little "bubbles."
The working class family from "rural, red state America" watches Fox News and has little time for "academic, Ivory tower" liberal ideas that just "aren't practical."
Similarly, many urbanites in "blue cities" don't get to see what rural life is like in America these days. Many haven't even gotten to see open fields, or see that there's a "different way" than the way they grew up.
By transplanting people across the country, you'd start to see people gain that one crucial thing that you can never get from inside a bubble:
They'd start to learn a little bit of empathy for people who are different from them... and in the process, perhaps they'd come to understand that yes, these people are Americans too!
Sure their problems may be a bit different... and they may live differently and have "funny ideas" about certain things... but ultimately, we all live under the same flag... and we should all be proud to do so.
-This program will be completely voluntary...
NOT compulsory. I think the concepts of liberty and freedom should be honored, and baked more into our national consciousness. However...
-To entice young people to participate, for every year you serve, you'd get ten years of access to highly discounted, "public option"healthcare.
So serve one year, you'd get ten years of access to health care.
Serve two, you'd get 20 years.
Essentially pay a small premium every month (like $100) and you'd get access to a V.A.-like system of hospitals.
Each child that the person had could be covered for an additional $50/month. So 3 kids would only cost $150/month extra.
Now before you go saying, "The V.A.?! What is this guy, nuts?!?"...
The V.A. is actually getting better. A lot better, actually. High-quality doctors are increasingly considering the V.A. since they don't want to deal with salary structures that rely on how many patients you can get through the door in a given year.
People would flock to America Serves in droves just for ten years of deeply discounted healthcare.
Not only that, but it gives Congressional Republicans a political "out," since they can give in on the public option for some Americans, but in exchange for real, honest work that helps the country.
It's a win-win.
What Kinds of Projects Would America Serves Folks Work On?
As a part of America Serves, you'd get a huge workforce to help with a variety of projects, including:
-Infrastructure Projects: First we could repair our crumbling bridges and roadways. Then we could work on building high-speed rail lines, hyperloop lines, airport improvements--things that matter to help people and goods get places.
-City and Rural Modernization: Think bringing broadband to rural areas, or computerizing the records department of a city.
-National Park Improvement: Would be great to get urban young adults out in the fresh air to make our National Parks (the lasting legacy of the great Teddy Roosevelt, mind you) even better than they are now. I'm thinking new trails, new lodges, improved accessibility options, and more interactive displays.
-Tech Projects: I'm thinking of things like mapping roads for driverless cars. I don't even know if this is a thing anymore, but doing the kind of "grunt work" that would vastly improve our country down the road, and save lives.
-"Manhattan-Type Projects": I'm a firm believer in big projects, like the Manhattan Project and Moon Landing, that energize the modern tech sector, build jobs, advance technology through pure research, and frankly inspire the country to greater heights. A project like this may not be feasible for a few years, but once we set one (nationwide hyperloop network potentially?), it could be a huge source of ongoing jobs.
This would only be the start... and you could get a lot more projects than this, simply by surveying every city and county in America and asking, "If you had the people, what would you like to get done right now?"
All you'd have to pay them would be a stipend for housing, food, and basic goods that would vary with the area of the country you were in with the cost of living.
Not Only That... But These Projects Would Help Build Skills Too...
A lot of these projects help build either:
-Engineering skills, or
These are exactly the kinds of skills we want to build in our young people, right?
And even better, they'll learn them in the field, on-the-job, getting real "resume experience" with real-world projects.
Better still: once done, these people will be better prepared to continue their educations formally if they so desire.
In fact, if it's feasible, I'd like to add some sort of "G.I. Bill" component to this... or at least 2 years of college assistance at a heavy discount (so that someone could do 2 years at a Juco and then finish their degree at a 4-year University if they'd like). But it might be "too much" to make it work at the start.
Not only that, but I'd like some kind of "skills training" requirement to be a part of the program.
Basically you identify a dozen "highly marketable" skills... then hire folks (as part of the program) to teach those skills to participants 1-2 nights per week for 6 months.
After 6 months, the participant would switch to a different "highly marketable" skill.
This would give them at least 2 marketable skills to help them find work after their America Serves term is over. And as Scott Adams notes, becoming "pretty good" at 2 skills is often enough to make a person wildly successful in the job market.
These skills could be wide-ranging, including:
-Private Space Program / Rocket Science
Really, wherever we "need more people" to compete with China and other potential challengers in the next century.
So where would we find these instructors?
That brings me to my next point...
What About Older Americans Who Haven't Had the Chance to Participate? And What Happens When the 10-20 Years of Coverage Runs Out?
These are kind of related, so I'll address them at the same time.
After an initial 3-year "shakedown" period, America Serves would be open to ALL Americans of any age for a one-year term.
Yeah that's right--I want the 52-year old programmer who just got downsized from her job to be able to sign up, get her 10 years of healthcare, and learn new, transferable skills.
I want the homeless guy who's lost hope to be able to sign on the dotted line... find housing and a fresh start... pick up a shovel... and get to work if he so desires.
I also want people who have developed skills to bring those to the program too.
So if someone works at SpaceX or NASA... and they wanted to teach some aspect of (presumably non-proprietary) rocket science to America Serves participants... they could do so 1-2 nights per week, and gain eligibility for the public option health insurance, and any educational benefits it would afford.
This would require a public-private partnership to teach these skills... and ensure that nothing proprietary was released to potentially the wrong hands.
But employers would be incentivized to participate for one very simple reason:
They'd instantly gain a pool of potential employees with skills that they desperately need!
(More on that in a second...)
And every eight years after your initial America Serves term... you'd be eligible to "re-up" in the program. Either by taking a working/learning position again, or by taking a teaching/mentoring position in the program.
This would also continue exposing participants to people in a variety of different industries, from different walks of life, with different problems. The bubble collapses further!
About That "Corporate Inversion"...
Oh yeah--so here's the real kicker:
America Serves would help fix corporate inversion too!
Forgive me Mr. President, but this is an open letter, so for those who don't know what corporate inversion is, it's when a country moves to another country to avoid paying the going U.S. corporate tax rate.
It's quite a bit more complicated than that... but that's the general gist of it.
So for example, right now, the tax rate in Ireland is a lot lower than it is here in the U.S.
Because of that, a lot of companies have created Irish holding companies (or merged with Irish companies and headquartered themselves there) for the tax benefits.
It robs us of billions of dollars of tax revenue from these companies... and contributes to the crushing deficit we now face.
But America Serves would fix that, and here's how:
The Carrot: For every America Serves graduate you employee who makes at least $50,000 per year, the employing company would get to take a $50,000 tax credit (or deduction--accounting wasn't my best class in law school).
This provides the incentive (the "carrot") for companies to hire more employees, as it would effectively lower their tax rate.
They could help develop the "skill curricula" that America Serves participants would get, which would make the participant more valuable after graduation.
They'd also be helping create more value in the America Serves program. After all, if graduates are highly sought after, that makes serving in America Serves all the more appealing.
It could also lower corporate healthcare costs. More employees on America Serves could mean fewer who needed to be on expensive corporate plans... though it would be great to come up with a way for employers to give employees an America Serves "supplement" as an enticement to come to their company.
Lower taxes, more jobs, more good jobs... what's not to like?
However, in case that doesn't do enough to entice companies... we'd need an alternative way to compel them should they still remain abroad:
The Stick: No non-American Citizen or Company should be able to lobby Congress or the Executive Branch
If you want to influence policy in this country... then you have to have some kind of skin in the game.
It makes sense, doesn't it?
This would provide strong incentive for an Apple or similar company to come back home.
If you need to have some sort of repatriation holiday to make it happen...so be it.
But it doesn't make sense to allow these countries to move abroad... and then let them lobby for favorable treatment in our government.
In short: you can't have it both ways.
And We'll Pay For This... How?
It's a fair question. This all seems like it's going to take a lot of cash.
But I'd counter that it makes a lot of entitlement programs either obsolete, or able to be drastically reduced.
If someone has the ability to get a "restart" in their career once every 8-10 years, then long-term welfare can be drastically scaled back.
We can also scale back social security (since older folks could take their biggest financial worry--healthcare--out of the equation by passing their skills on to the next generation).
And we could up the age for medicare by 8-10 years as well, practically overnight.
Remember, we want to incentivize folks who have these skills to pass them along to the next generation. If people could be retired for all intents and purposes and teach a couple of classes a week for a year for deeply-discounted healthcare? I'm guessing they'd hop on-board immediately.
Democrats may scream "bloody murder" at any entitlement reductions. But since they'll effectively be getting a form of single-payer healthcare, we all have to compromise here. It's not going to be neat and pretty, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs in this instance.
America Serves Would Bring Us Into the 21st Century
It would fix our infrastructure...
Create great, skilled, relevant jobs...
Build our workforce...
And it could help end corporate inversion.
Not only would it bring our great country into the 21st century...
But it would also be a big positive experience that a lot of people could get behind.
Sure, you'll have the nay-sayers who'll crow that "It'll never work"...
"It's too expensive"
"It's not feasible"
"How are you going to run it?"
And while sure it'll probably need a few tweaks along the way... I'm sick of hearing why we can't do things as Americans... when half a century ago we were putting men on the moon and paving the way for democracy worldwide.
This would finally be something that would put us on the right track... and help us grow the economy (after all, all of the participants would pay taxes, and would pay even more once they were in teh workforce).
It's the fastest way to Make America Great Again that I know.
What's not to like, Mr. President?