[ExI] If I were President...

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Sat Aug 27 22:15:12 UTC 2016

Indulge me if you would please.  :)

I have wondered, from time to time, just what a sane, rational,
non-corrupt, yet potentially broadly popular US Presidential candidate's
platform might look like.  Given current discussions on the list, I think
it on-topic to bounce some ideas around - especially, ideas oriented
towards installing someone who shares Extropian ideas in the United State's
highest office.  (Which would very likely result in the promotion and wider
adoption of Extropian ideas.)

Here are some planks I have considered.  These are for a hypothetical
candidate running in the 2024 election: it is way too late to put up a
candidate in this cycle, and whoever wins this year might have an
insurmountable advantage in 2020.  (Yes, doomsayers, this assumes that
there will be a 2024 election - and one that is not essentially a one-party
affair - which assumes survival of enough Americans long enough to have
one, that the US will not be under martial law by that time, and so on.  If
you wish to debate that, please at least change the subject line or do it
in other threads.)  Generally assume continuation of current trends
(insofar as 2016 has been a continuation of trends evident in 2008 and/or
2012), and that the Singularity will not happen prior to the 2024 election.

Note that many of these planks can also be adopted by someone running for
state governor, or state or local legislature.  (Indeed, a successful 2024
Presidential run's chances may be greatly increased if others have made it
into Congress between now and then by running on these planks.)  Also, I
use the phrase "push for laws, and order regulations", recognizing that the
President does not pass laws (though the President's staff could draw up
ones and submit them to Congress for consideration).  Some of these are
probably already being pushed by certain Democratic and/or Republican
candidates; this list does not assume party affiliation (even if some might
find easier acceptance in one party or the other, or if both parties would
reject them and only a third party candidate could hope to get a party
nomination with these planks).

* Subsidize vocational training for anyone who has held a job that became
obsolete, was outsourced, or the like.  (Really, the qualifier is almost as
broad as, "has ever held a job and is now looking for work".)  The jobs we
have lost aren't coming back, but there are these new jobs that reach
overseas because there aren't enough Americans trained in them.

* Push for laws, and order regulations, banning hiring decisions based on
whether someone does not have a given skill, where that person has general
competence in the field and can reasonably be expected to learn that
particular skill within 5 business days on the job.  This is directed at
those businesses - and government agencies - who invent insanely specific
requirements to justify their refusal to hire anyone.  Many of them don't
realize they're doing it; others deliberately do it to unlock "but we
couldn't find anyone" relief clauses (particularly immigration-related

* Push for laws, and order regulations, preventing charging a college
undergraduate a total tuition more than 1/3rd of the average 10 year income
of a college graduate in that field.  Praise the colleges that have already
started to adapt this sort of fee structure, and use them as examples that
colleges do not need to charge far more than this to do their jobs.  Freely
acknowledge that many colleges would rather shut down, than divert one cent
of executive bonuses or construction budgets for shiny new status symbols
that largely sit empty into lowering tuition.  Say good riddance to such
college administrations.

* Push for laws, and order regulations, setting a maximum
highest-paid:lowest-paid wage ratio, perhaps 100:1, adjusted to full-time
salaries.  For example, if your company pays some people $15/hour, which
comes to a full-time annual salary of $30,000, then your highest-paid
employee can not be paid more than $3,000,000 per year.  Bonuses are
specifically included at both ends (so if that lowest-paid person gets a
$10,000 bonus, the upper cap is now $4,000,000, but a $10,000,000 bonus to
that top-paid employee would be over the limit.)  If you do pay more, the
recipient gets taxed at 100%.  Perhaps this doesn't include stocks or other
not-directly-financial instruments tied directly to company performance,
but it certainly includes guaranteed payments regardless of whether the
company tanks.  Make the ratio substantially lower, maybe 20:1, for a
company that ceases to employ at least 10% of its staff in a given year.
(This might apply only to American workers - i.e., a company's cap would be
calculated based on its lowest paid American.  External vendors of products
do not count, but contracts with firms that essentially offer employees
without them actually being directly employed by the company do count.)

* Push for higher maximum tax brackets, as a symbolic measure more than
actual significant income source.  Maybe 44.9% for single-filer incomes of
$600,000-$999,999, and 49.9% for incomes of $1,000,000 and above, with
married-filer levels higher as they are in lower tiers.  Point out, to
those who say this will cause millionaires to flee the country, that we
have had maximum tax rates over 90% before and millionaires continued to
recognize that keeping their money in the US was still the best deal, and
predict that this will continue to be the case.  (Note on the side that
effective tax rates of 0% thanks to loopholes will probably continue to
happen, so few millionaires will probably actually be affected.  Note on
the side of the side that the loopholes amount to approved ways of
spending, so the millionaires who will actually be affected will mostly be
those not going along with the nation's preferences.)

* Order resumption of the construction of the nuclear waste repository in
Yucca Mountain.  Fire all DoE and other executive-branch personnel
continuing to flat-out oppose it.  As a first step, order consulting with
the local communities around Yucca Mountain; make it clear that "no" is not
an answer the nation can afford, but several "yes but"s can be considered.
Consider building waste reprocessing facilities at Yucca Mountain, at least
to separate more-dangerous wastes (which would be stored centrally) from
less-dangerous (which could be used to buffer more-dangerous wastes) if not
to generate new fuel.

* Ask FEMA to investigate the practicality of large air scrubbers for areas
hit hard by smog, such as Los Angeles, New York City, and Houston, or smoke
from wildfires.  (An issue that California, New York, AND Texas can all
agree on?  Sure, I'll take those electoral votes.)  Focus on immediate
ground-level effects, but note that this would reduce emissions escaping to
change the Earth's climate as well.

* Order the DoD to consider more dual-use technology, and more paths to
commercialization, for its science spending.  Note that technology is
inherently more sustainable if it has a civilian commercial base in
addition to military customers, rather than for the military's exclusive
use.  (Hint but perhaps do not make a big issue of it also being more
politically popular.)

* Encourage DARPA, NASA, the DoE, and similar agencies to consider more
small science: projects with total budgets under $500,000, that can
demonstrate principles that can then, with experimental data in hand,
better argue for larger (and perhaps private) funding - or if they fail, do
not fail as expensively.  (Personally, this is part of what I'm doing by
example with CubeCab, but there are plenty of examples in other fields.)
Promote this as an effort toward having more citizen scientists.

* Order the DoJ to study and implement more mental health measures as part
of corrections, as well as vocational training for low-level first-time
offenders, with a goal of reducing recidivism rates and getting more
prisoners able to meet conditions for parole earlier.  Encourage the DoHHS
and DoE to assist with this, and order the DoJ to allow said assistance.

* Order the ATF to establish or endorse national training standards for
firearms (for all US citizens, not just law enforcement as it does now),
with proof of training to said standards to be consulted by gun dealers
conducting background checks on prospective gun owners - though not (at
first) to be the sole criteria for granting or denying.

* Push for laws, and order regulations, allowing the government to go after
executives who willingly and knowingly aided and abetted (and especially
ordered) corporate malfeasance.  If a company's executives were given
bonuses for something that a corporation was later fined for, said bonuses
should be fair game to the amount that the bonuses derived from the illegal
behavior.  (This might be mostly for show, but there is a growing
perception that large corporations are being used in this manner.)

* Order the FTC to establish minimum cybersecurity regulations for any US
company that handles customers' financial data.  (There are industry
standard existing regulations for credit card processing.  Build on them.)
Each time a major hack occurs, either update the regulations if the victim
was in compliance (because then the regulations were too low) or prosecute
the company that failed to adhere to the regulations (yes, this may be
double-punishing the victim, but note the previous bullet point for the
more likely actual target).

* Push for laws, and order regulations, for a new class of immigrant visa,
where anyone capable can do sufficient work for the government - federal,
state, and/or local - so as to pay off their cost of assimilation.  Promote
this as an unlimited cap of new Americans, and emphasize that the people
coming out of this must prove themselves Americans first - not Mexicans,
not Arabs, nor any other primary identity - in order to be granted
citizenship.  Once this is in place, and anyone who wants to be American
but there was no room in other quantity-limited paths no longer has an
excuse, crack down on illegal immigration.  Economies that subsist on
illegal immigrants now get minimum-wage American laborers; provide economic
assistance (perhaps through automation) to economies unable to cope with
the change.

* Eliminate the H1B visa.  There is sufficient evidence that the majority
of visas given through this program are fraud (some of the above-mentioned
"but we couldn't find anyone" types, who lie freely and blatantly - though,
granted, sometimes also unknowingly - as they beg for more visas) and/or
treat their employees as modern-day slaves ("do what we say regardless of
the law, or we'll revoke your visa and your family can starve") that the
original purpose is not effectively being served.

* Order the FTC to put a condition on all pharmaceutical company mergers
expressly preventing substantial increases in the prices of the drugs the
smaller company makes for several years - perhaps at least 10 - after the
merger.  If that makes a given merger so unprofitable that the larger
company actually does call it off, that is evidence that the whole point of
the merger was to extort money from patients, rather than any kind of
socially acceptable efficiency or value, so preventing that merger is a
good thing for the American public.

* Push for laws, and order regulations, restructuring Social Security,
Medicare, and related programs with the assumption that people are going to
have longer healthy working lives.  Perhaps push the age at which they kick
in from 65 to 75 gradually, adding one year every other year (with anyone
who used to be over the age limit still counting).  Since this would take
20 years, any given Presidential administration could only see it start and
set on autopilot, with the hopes that future administrations won't actively
cancel it; whether to extend (or even accelerate) it is to be determined
after 20 years of seeing it in action.

* Tell the US government intelligence community that the American public
doesn't buy their excuses for increased surveillance and increased
classification, and neither does their new boss.  They can back down and be
reasonable, or they can leave government service.

* Push for laws, and order regulations, implementing mandatory
no-person-at-fault declassification for anything that has been classified
for longer than a given number of years.  (Secret lasts longer than
Classified, and Top Secret lasts longer than Secret.)  Allow exceptions,
but require increasing levels of review and signoff the longer a given
thing has been classified.  Perhaps allow no exceptions after 50 years (by
which time everyone involved is probably dead, or at least long since
retired - but lay the groundwork for future times when this might no longer
be the case), save possibly for cases where 50+ year old data is still in
active use (such as the original locations of still-in-use ICBM silos).  If
possible, have these laws and regulations state that improper
classification, especially in the classification-extension reviews, is a

* Push for laws, and order regulations, stating that anything that can not
be stated in court for reasons of national security (or any functionally
similar term), may not be considered as part of that court's trial.
Possibly include a provision that any case which could reasonably be
expected to run afoul of this, through no fault of the defendant, may need
to shift venue to a court where the information can be relayed.  (Only the
defendant so that "You broke the law, but we can't tell you why" is not
allowed, and the court will dismiss such a case.  Classified trials may
happen in a classified-okay court...unless, say, the defendant is some
ordinary schmoe with no security clearance - and thus, no obligation to
protect secrets - who couldn't set foot in that court, in which case
existing rules against trials in absentia would void the case.  The intent
is that "We weren't stealing; we were authorized to take the property you
thought was yours, but we can't show you the warrant" doesn't fly, and the
court would consider that equal to no defense.)

* Order the FCC to favor net neutrality, period.  (Anyone who knows what
"net neutrality" is, probably already knows sufficient relevant background
and detail.  Anyone else can look it up if they care.)

* Announce plans to invite the most prominent flat Earthers,
anti-vaccination proponents, and others who base their entire pitches on
claims that most courts would now consider to have been thoroughly
disproven, to come speak to Congress - just a few Congresspeople who are
among their strongest opponents, not anything that would be broadcast -
then arrest them for lying to Congress.  (That this probably would result
in a fair number of arrests is a sad statement about the devaluing of
truth, but at least there would then be publicly recorded court opinion
that, no, those proponents are simply wrong.)  Make the list of invitees
public, both for those who refuse to come, and so the government is on
record as misfiring for any case where the invitee might actually be
right.  Require court-admissible evidence of the lie to be posted for each
invitee prior to the invitation, and let the invitee go if they say
something else (so as to prevent this from being used to frame someone for
something they are not in fact proposing).

* For any foreign governments we are shoring up, train their governors in
how to govern.  Iraq's government collapsed because much of the installed
government appears to have no idea how to govern except "give stuff to my
tribe, take stuff from other tribes".  Basic things like independent
oversight committees that actually get listened to, or impersonal review of
proposals, seem to not even occur to them.  This could easily be fixed with
training (and backing officials who are willing to be trained, with the
understanding that governing more fairly means a lot less people wanting to
shoot down your government, and a lot more people willing to pay taxes -
not to mention, more money per person on average to be taxed).  Also help
train an independent judiciary and law enforcement: an effective rule of
law goes a long way toward removing bandits who steal food (effectively
causing famine) and drugs (effectively causing epidemics), whether or not
those bandits wear government uniforms.

* Establish an ongoing virtual constitutional convention.  Any issue that
can not be addressed through Congressional laws (especially, ones that
Congress refuses to touch out of self-interest) can be brought up.  Any
that are voted all the way to the top will be studied and, if judged
appropriate by the President, will be submitted to all 50 states'
governors.  If a majority of them agree, it will then be placed on the next
statewide ballot in all 50 states (including those whose governors voted
against) for ratification by public acclaim, although individual states may
skip this if and only if their legislatures ratify it.  Per article V of
the US Constitution, if 3/4 of the states ratify it, it then becomes part
of the US Constitution.  Establish that at most one issue can be submitted
to the governors every two years.  One issue for consideration would be an
amendment limiting corporate personhood ("overturning Citizens United").
(This might be drafted with an eye toward AIs or other entities that might
identify as people, that do not yet exist but might in a few decades - but
this would probably just mean distinguishing between "an individual" and a
corporation rather than "a human being" and a corporation.)  Another would
be one specifying that entities that perform services that are essential
parts of the government, are to be treated as part of the government in the
eyes of the law, with all the limitations thereof.  (Which means that free
speech regulations suddenly apply to political parties, and privatization -
where intended to milk profits rather than to provide actual service -
suddenly becomes a lot less appealing.)

What major (as in, "at least 1% of Americans who vote") issues does this
list miss?  And what does this list get wrong?
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