When I’m president, I’ll announce a ten year plan to get government out of the business of printing physical money. That will be plenty of time for private industry to migrate to smartphone and debit/credit card payment systems alone. I’ll make the move in part to save the government money and make things more convenient for everyone. But the main objective is to reduce dangerous drug use. Once you take paper money out of the system, it becomes very hard for dealers to do what they do without detection.
I’m only talking about the most dangerous recreational drugs. I’ll let states decide what they want to do about marijuana. Removing paper money from the system should make it nearly impossible for kids to buy weed without being detected. And in a cashless world, marijuana won’t be a gateway drug because there won’t be a practical way to buy the hard stuff. (I stole this idea from a friend.)
Having solved the drug problem on the first day of my presidency, I’ll have some free time to work on the economy and on healthcare. My plan is to treat those two problems as part of a whole. Allow me to weave this brilliant tapestry of conceptual awesomeness right in front of your eyes.
I’ll start by proposing a new tax to any industry in the healthcare field, including businesses involved in fitness, drug rehab, and anything else that directly contributes to wellness. You hate that part of my plan, right? But wait. I’ll also propose a tax exemption to this new tax for companies that hire anyone who hasn’t had healthcare coverage for the past year, so long as the new job provides health coverage on day one.
The idea still sucks, right? Now you have an obnoxious new federal tax on wellness businesses, and the only way they can duck the tax is by hiring more people than their businesses require. But hold on, the clever part is coming.
Imagine tens of millions of people suddenly becoming new consumers of healthcare and wellness products. That’s a lot of money getting pumped into the very industry I’m forcing to do unwanted hiring. Conveniently, the new employees will be needed to handle the new influx of business.
Obviously it’s hard to add unskilled and wrong-skilled people to the healthcare industry overnight. The industry would need to provide training in many cases. But I’m defining wellness so broadly that jobs might include gym attendants, helpers to visit the elderly and make sure they take their meds, and other back office work that requires no medical experience.
Let’s say this idea is still a big drag on the wellness industry. They simply can’t make enough money from the sudden uptick of new business to compensate for the cost of training, paying, and providing health insurance for the new employees. That’s where the next part of my plan comes in: I’d propose forcing the rich to buy stock in American companies in the wellness field at whatever amounts my team of crack economists figures would support the stock prices enough to compensate for the cost of adding new employees. Forcing the rich to buy overpriced stock in an industry that is experiencing unprecedented demand isn’t nearly as bad as taxing them and then throwing their money down a government hole. The rich would have a decent chance of making a good return on their mandatory healthcare stock purchases in the long run. And it’s harder for a multimillionaire to whine about forced stock ownership compared to direct taxation.
Obviously this sort of plan would need lots of attention to prevent abuse. You don’t want companies hiring a new employee and firing an existing one the same day just to get the tax benefits. I’d propose substantial whistleblower rewards to prevent cheating, and stiff penalties for the offending companies. Most of the bigger companies wouldn’t take the risk of gaming the system and getting caught. And I’d exempt smaller companies from this plan.
Clearly there would be plenty of resistance to this complicated government plan because many citizens believe the government ruins whatever it touches. I am sympathetic to that view. But keep in mind that the government is already deeply into the businesses of healthcare and taxation and economic stimulation. I’m just suggesting the government could do it more effectively by goosing one particular industry in the right direction.
The magic of this plan is that the healthcare and wellness field is one of the few that could absorb vast numbers of relatively unskilled workers. That’s true in part because it’s a profitable industry, and partly because it requires so much human interaction. A robot can’t draw blood samples, drive grandma to her doctor’s appointment, teach a fitness class, or manage a rehab center. I assume most of the new employees to this field would be diverted to the fields of prevention as opposed to standard medical practice. And we know that prevention is better economics than treatment, so everyone wins.
I can also imagine companies getting creative in terms of what qualifies as health and wellness. A new employee might be asked to set up single-purpose Skype systems for elderly people living at home, so they can be reminded to take meds, and checked on regularly. Maybe another job involves organizing a neighborhood to take daily walks. It wouldn’t be hard to create new jobs in that field.
When that many unemployed people get absorbed into the workforce it stimulates the economy and puts the budget back on a healthy trajectory. If you’re keeping count, so far I’ve solved the drug problem, healthcare, unemployment, the sluggish economy, and the budget deficit. That takes care of my first month on the job as President of the United States.
Next I’d deal with those pesky Iranians by offering college scholarships in the United States for the children and grandchildren of the top leaders in the Iranian military and government. My theory is that kids are the only topic with enough emotional power to make a parent forget everything that seemed important yesterday. Sure, the Iranian leaders might want to destroy the Great Satan and the Little Satan too, but what they want even more is for their kids to have world-class educations. In the short run, the offer of college scholarships might make the Iranian leaders more flexible about nukes. In the long run, the cross-pollination would be healthy. And even if the Iranians say no to the idea, it’s hard to fully commit to hating a country that makes that sort of offer.
By my sixth month in office, I would run out of problems to solve.