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January 19, 2017

Things to Hope for in the New Administration

Granted, there’s plenty to fear from the new administration, the temperament of the president-elect not the least. But I hope Trump will succeed; I also hoped Barack Obama would succeed.

The resentments that led to Trump’s narrow victory stem from these legitimate grievances: 1) the wealthfare state with its bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, and lobbyist-designed tax code; 2) a failed educational system mired in political correctness but failing to enable opportunity; and 3) America sputtering helplessly in a dangerous world and not even willing to name Islamic terrorism (I did not say all Moslems) as its enemy.

I’m an optimist. Here are the things I hope a change in leadership can make possible. They won’t all happen but they all require change – which we are getting like it or not –  to have a chance.

Education. Our educational system is in terrible shape. Obviously we have some great teachers. But, at this point, most of the teachers themselves are the product of a shoddy and undemanding education. Democrats are in thrall to the teacher unions which have fought reform to protect their workers. Now Republicans (with Democrat support I hope) can lead us to a system where incompetent teachers are fired, failed schools are closed, and education can be the road out of poverty it was for my grandparents.

Regulation. Our infrastructure is crumbling and deficient; we need the jobs that would come from rebuilding it. That doesn’t mean we need to pour additional trillions of government money into infrastructure as I hope the new president learns quickly. It takes more than 20 years to get through the regulatory process to build even a small road. A pipeline project at either the state or federal level can be held up long after approval and even after it is almost finished by legal challenges or illegal vandalism. We need a permitting process which gives a quick – and lasting - yay or nay to a proposed project after a single very thorough review. Any legal action after approval which seeks to delay a project should require the plaintiff to post a bond equal to the cost of delay, which is returned only if the appeal is upheld. Criminal obstruction of projects should result in criminal prosecution. If these actions are taken, we will have a wealth of new construction in both the public and private sector. Much less money will go to lawyers and the cost of delay and much more to the construction and jobs which are needed.

Local and regional banks need to be freed from the strictures of Dodd-Frank so that they can resume lending to the new and small businesses which actually create jobs. All bank investors need to be exposed to the risk of failure; that’s the most effective regulation. That means dismembering any institution so big that we would be forced to bail it out. It was the bank bailout (TARP) which first ignited the flame under the teak kettle.

Tax reform. An early test of whether the wealthfare state has been overturned will be whether the tax policy which allows venture capitalists and hedge fund managers to pay only capital gains tax on their income is repealed. More consequential to the economy is ending the tax policies which encourage corporations to move their earnings or even their operations abroad.

Health care. It’s still broken. Whether you call the needed fix a repair of Obamacare or a replacement is just political semantics. Yes, many people have been added to the ranks of the insured. However, the cost of doing that, as we’re seeing this year, is a cost shift: those who used to be able to afford health insurance are now seeing it take a hugely increasing share of their income, if they can afford it at all, while deductibles go through the roof. This will need a bipartisan fix. The problem would have had to be addressed no matter whom we elected.

An assertive America on the world stage. Cozying up to Putin is not the way to get there. There are no more reset buttons to be pushed. Where redlines must be drawn – North Korean nukes and Iranian cheating are two examples, we must never tolerate their being crossed. We must rebuild the military. If we free up oil and gas drilling (safely and responsibly, of course), build pipelines to our ports, and encourage exports, our adversaries including Russia, will lose the oil revenue they need to do a matching buildup as well as the ability to threaten our allies with embargoes.

The end of political correctness. College campuses should be cauldrons of controversy. Speech must never be criminalized. Dissent and debate are essential to democracy.

Good luck to us all.

Friday inauguration day it turns out that I’m on a radio show here in Vermont which happens to be at 11am ET right before the inauguration with my friend host Bill Sayre. We’ll be talking about my hopes for the administration. You’re welcome to call in with your hopes and fears or comment here. It’s on WDEV in Vermont at 550 AM or 96.1, 96.5, or 101.9 FM and live streamed from www.wdevradio.com. Call-in numbers are 802 244 1777 and 877 291 8255.

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