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In eight years, what might have been

August 25, 2007|By ROBERT GARY

The true measure of failure in the past eight years is the things that have not been done, but were possible. Everyone is encouraged to make their own list. Here's mine:

1. Drastic reduction in our dependence on foreign oil imports by three methods (a) greatly increased use of telecommuting (b) a deal with Canada to lock up the oil sands and make them a ready resource for the U.S. at a reasonable price over the next 25 years and (c) greatly increased use of hybrids and electric cars. Batteries for these would be available now if the Department of Energy had made it a priority to get them invented, developed and ready for use. Call it energy independence, as if avoiding foreign entanglements mattered.

2. The de-Mexicanization of America by repatriating 12 million people who are not supposed to be here back to where they are supposed to be, then sealing the border using all means necessary, including large scale deployments of military troops and sophisticated detection equipment.

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We could have faced the fact that our social services and physical infrastructure are simply being swamped - the U.S. is a lifeboat destination in a global sea of poverty and misery - the poem on the Statue of Liberty tells it well. But here's why inscriptions on statues don't rule the world - times change.

If we had, in the last eight years, made laws exclusively for the benefit of Americans in the U.S., that would be OK! We could call it legislation, as if services and facilities for U.S. citizens mattered.

3. The elimination of the trade deficit by requiring any nation that sells to us to buy precisely the same amount of valuable goods or services from us in return.

So if China wants to ship $1 trillion to the U.S., then it must show receipts indicating that it has purchased $1 trillion from the U.S. No receipts, no entry of Chinese goods into U.S. ports.

Trade deficit at the end of the year - zero. Some jobs still go overseas, but the same number are created here. Result: Lots of good jobs for the American middle class - economics as if ordinary people mattered.

4. The elimination of guns from the hands of people who should not have guns - for example, violent felons, the criminally insane, drug addicts, gang members, drug dealers, visiting Islamist militant jihadists, children in schools and severely retarded people.

The gun lobby has prevented any practical form of gun control, apparently with the idea that everybody, no matter who, should have guns.

They argue based on their skewed version of civil rights and the U.S. Constitution, but they actually think in terms of gun sales and corporate profits.

They are a little like the tobacco lobby, except much more socially harmful. Regulation as if the lives of innocent victims mattered would require maybe half as many guns in the U.S. as are now out there. That would still give us about 100 times more guns in private hands than any other industrialized nation, so there's no danger of a gun gap.

Making and selling guns will still be highly profitable; the gun lobby need have no fear on that score.

5. Pay down the national debt and put Social Security on a sound footing so it's not using general revenue funds to pay beneficiaries.

We could have used the trillion dollars spent in Iraq - a massively expensive military and humanitarian effort 8,000 miles away - to pay down our own national debt.

We could remove the Supplemental Social Security payments from the Social Security system so that people who have never worked can't just draw money from the FICA taxes paid in by working Americans.

Social Security does not need privatization because it is not a vested entitlement subject to inheritance - it is an insurance fund against the risk of becoming old and poor.

It would be appropriate to allow people whose incomes are at seven figures per year after age 65 to take their Social Security in the form of a dollar-for-dollar tax credit instead of a check from the government.

This is not exactly "means testing." The program would just be reducing the cash outlay in an efficient way. Yhe way it is now, Social Security is a great idea that does not need radical overhaul, but it would be improved if the country were de-Mexicanized, if SSI money were taken out and if dollar-for-dollar tax credits could be given to the ultra-wealthy in lieu of cash payouts.

Had we done these things, they might have been called fiscal management, as if the long-term solvency of the country mattered.

Robert Gary is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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