The Chihuahua continued, "He knows the difference between packs and PACs and will not sell his loyalty." Already getting a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach, fearing that he was about to get railroaded, he uttered a banal cliche in hopes of dissuading his compatriots - "how about a campaign slogan of a biscuit in every bowl. No-one can object to that." The harder he tried to escape from the clutches of a political ground swell, the tighter the noose was pulled around his neck. Finally, he succumbed to the inevitable and agreed to throw his collar into the ring and run for President.
"An Old Dog Can Teach New Tricks” gushed forth from his lips and it actually sounded good.
Everyone agreed that Underdog could not run from one of the established political parties. After all, one of the major party’s candidates had driven all the way to Canada with his dog in a crate on the roof of his car. How much more blatant can species profiling be? Another candidate made no secret of the fact that when he was a boy growing up, he had eaten dog meat. After a lot of agitated circling and sniffing, a consensus was established— a wholly new, totally independent party called the Gravy Party would be established. No one would beef about it. The Pit Bulls offered to be the political strategy leg and call themselves Gravy Boat Veterans for Truth.
And thus the campaign of Underdog was launched. Of course the major parties were of many minds about this (with so few coherent neurons, what would you expect). Some thought his candidacy was a joke, some a farce, and some a major threat to democracy.
A challenge was quickly raised about whether he could even be a candidate at all. Careful reading of the Constitution revealed that there were only two real hurdles— age and citizenship. It is well known that a human year is equal to seven dog years so Underdog had no problem with that. Was he really a citizen? Attorneys adopted virtually every conceivable position as long as it would get them media coverage. The paperwork from the American Kennel Club was rock solid, witnessed and notarized. Underdog had indeed been born in America so he had automatic citizenship. Protests that citizenship was limited to humans fell on deaf ears when argued before the Supreme Court. Our founding fathers had never included the requirement that you be a Homo sapiens to be a citizen.
The chief strategists of the Gravy Party were masters at keeping straight faces as they plotted their course. All was fair in an election of international significance. Their “playbook” was The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley. For those unfamiliar with the wisdom rich tome , there was a small country called the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. It was in dire financial straights, so the citizens decided to invade the United States. Fully expecting to be vanquished in a matter of seconds, they had no doubt that Congress would award them massive “rebuilding” grants. However, at the very moment their invasion ship landed in New York, all the citizens ducked underground into fallout shelters in a drill to prepare themselves for the possibility of nuclear war. Since there was no one to oppose them, the Prime Minister (Count Rupert Mountjoy) declared victory and was able to play off Russia and the United States so that they were in a state of permanent nuclear disarmament.
Much the same thing happened over the weeks and months while Underdog crossed the country making what were actually very sane and coherent arguments. The population distribution of humans was skewing. More and more of them were in retirement (voluntary or not). Their needs for social and medical services were growing as their bodies slowly weakened. They needed to downsize their residences but the financial bubble of 2008 had left many of them with larger mortgage balances than the fair market value of their homes. They couldn’t afford to stay and they couldn’t afford to leave. The Social Security Trust Fund was running out of money because the ratio of employed contributors to beneficiaries had changed to where the financial models simply could not work. Because of seriously misguided tax reductions and multiple hideously expensive wars, the national debt cast a very dark shadow over everything. Congress made massive cuts in medical safety nets like Medicare. Regulatory structures were gutted in the guise of slimming down government— which freed the insurance companies to raise rates, increase co-pays, and decrease coverage. Hospitals, however, were still required to treat anyone who showed up at the door to the emergency room , even if they were totally destitute. Many in Congress ignored the inescapable truth that in the absence of preventative care (and often medication) by the time you struggled to the hospital, you were really seriously sick.
Lots of jobs were being lost to overseas competitors almost always because labor costs were lower and/ or compliance with environmental regulations were almost non-existent. As complicated as the tax laws were, there were very smart attorneys who could navigate through the tiniest of loopholes. The money that rightfully should have gone to fund the activities that kept the United States competitive and healthy was happily sitting in offshore banks, never to return.
One network at a time, the media began to listen to Underdog and spread his thoughts and observations. The big parties with their hundreds of millions of dollars in “no-strings” contributions continued to spew out their misrepresentation and deceit. They assumed that the American people were brainless and spineless. Never did it dawn on them that the people who made this country great really did have hearts , brains, and courage (as shown so eloquently in the Wizard of Oz).
Suddenly, it was November 6, 2012. The big parties had rented many venues for their anticipated celebrations. The national news networks were predicting the winner within seconds of the polls closing. It would have been nice if they could have even agreed amongst themselves but they didn’t. Within hours, the egg on their faces made the Dewey victory over Truman look mild by comparison. Underdog had won in a landslide— his triumph was even more emphatic than Nixon’s defeat of McGovern in 1972. He carried all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. His mandate for change was so overwhelming that both human candidates called to pledge their bi-partisan support.
In what seemed like only seconds, the world heard Underdog pledge that he would faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.
And so he did, with a fervor and a passion that took everyone’s breath away (please accept that these are hypotheticals intended to make you examine many of your assumptions, not serve as precise blueprints for progress).
He proclaimed that providing universal health care is a solemn responsibility of the Federal Government. It would not be funded by increasing taxes and closing loopholes. It had to be done with a new paradigm. He created the Cabinet position of Secretary of Health and Wellness. The salary for this position would be $ 2 trillion but— and this is a very big but—the Secretary would have to pay for all of the medical care for everyone in the country out of this (and it had to be good quality care). He would get to keep whatever was left, but there would be very precise metrics on what kind of care would be provided and what outcomes were expected. After a clearly audible gasp of astonishment, even the most caustic of pundits had to admit that the Secretary would be strongly motivated to weed out inefficiencies, fraud, and ineptitude. Suddenly there would be personal accountability for the quality of medical care. The Secretary would care because if spent more than his “salary” he would have to find the money. Insurance executives developed severe gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems almost unanimously.
President Underdog then created the position of Secretary of Criminal Behavior and funded it the same way. He showed how much the country spends on law enforcement and what the real cost of crime is. To everyone’s astonishment, what we spend in security devices, police, courts, etc. exceeds the damages to the economy that are directly attributable to crime by a factor of several. Certainly no business executive would run a business where every transaction generated a net loss. The Secretary would be empowered to determine what level of crime is tolerable and also to require all criminal transactions to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. As long as the threshold had not been passed and as long as the taxes were paid, there would be no incarceration for the behavior.
Then President Underdog went after the elephant in the room and created the position of Secretary of Energy Consumption. Who suffered the most pain as energy costs rose— the less well off? The wealthy didn’t notice or care whether they paid $ 3/ gallon or $ 10/ gallon. All the companies in the “food chain” could pass their higher energy costs on and still make their profits, but the person who is trying to feed their family, heat their home, and stay healthy has nowhere to run. The Secretary would have the same funding model as the other two secretaries. When you consider that a past CEO of a major oil company received a $ 1 billion lump sum retirement payment, this doesn’t sound so bad.
The last bastion that the President went after is the financial community. To run this sector he created the Secretary of the Piggy Bank. Step number one was deliciously simply and stunningly effective. There would be no deductions taken out of paychecks for things like taxes. Everyone would be paid in cash and standing right next to the paymaster would be the tax collector. Its hard to get agitated when you see lots of numbers on your pay stub (deductions) as all you really care about is how much you have left to pay your bills. If you had to peel off a thick stack of $ 20 bills and hand them to the tax collector right then and there, you would be a whole lot more interested in where your dollars are going.
President Underdog made these sweeping changes because we all have an obligation to take care of one another. We can no longer just sweep the elderly and the sick under the rug and consign them to decrepit facilities where the staff is heavily dominated by people who can (or must) work for the minimum wage. It is a gross generalization, but if you compensate caregivers properly, the care they give will be a lot better. People who are properly cared for have better quality of lives and will be much happier as well.
Being a dog himself, the President fully understood the beneficial effect that pets have on “ their” people. They live longer, they are healthier, and they have more social interactions. That many seniors have to choose between feeding themselves and providing care for their beloved pets is something that they should not be forced into.
Despite howls of protest, the President ordered universal veterinary care for all pets. This was one of his few strategic errors—made because he didn’t understand mankind as much as he thought. People who have pets almost always appreciate all that their animals do for them. Making their care free looked good on paper, but deprived the humans of the chance to “give back” to their pets. The law was quickly changed to a system that required a $ 5 co-pay for each treatment or office visit. The amount was not major but it gave the humans the chance to say thank you to their pets.
Now that he was in a position where there were legions of people to gather information, he was no longer limited to what he had heard on the “twilight bark.” He now had solid facts and data. He was stunned to learn that hundreds to thousands of times a year someone is rushed to the hospital and in the press for urgent care, no one stopped to check and see if the patient had a pet. Unless someone happens to know or notice, the pets are trapped alone in an apartment or house ultimately to die of starvation or dehydration. The President allocated funds to make sure this never happened again.
After just a single week, Underdog had completely restructured the infrastructures that most impact our senior citizens and people with disabilities. They would have good quality healthcare (it might not be the absolute best and most expensive, but it would be well beyond the minimums). They would be able to stay warm during the cold periods. They would not have to be fearful of leaving where they lived because of high crime rates. They would also know that whatever savings or investments they had would be safer and less would be squandered on layer after layer of bureaucracy.
And now , gentle reader, you have got to be asking yourself— just how does President Underdog propose to pay for this? Money does not grow on trees.
The United States got where it is by hard work, integrity, and a strong feeling of loyalty to family and friends. To continue to be internationally competitive the United States need to leverage the skills that we have and expand our educational system, not strangle it to death with budgetary cuts. Again, it sounds like the President is coining money, but he is not.
When it came time for his first Presidential address he laid out some additional premises that, in retrospect, should have been stunningly obvious, but had been largely overlooked. As a nation, we have myriad skills in an enormously broad range of areas. In our head long rush to become “high tech” and look for pots of gold (tarnished or not) such as one may find at the end of the Facebook rainbow, we are forgetting our skill set in doing things with our hands, with our brains (not necessarily aided by a computer), and against their future needs. Not everyone is driven by money. Many are more interested in securing their legacy— for their children and grandchildren. Part of this new program included creating a repository so people’s skills and contributions could be recorded. The list of opportunities is endless. Imagine the new assistant professor at a college who does not have enough grant money to hire any laboratory help. With the President’s new program, experienced seniors could work part time in the lab, teaching and aiding the junior faculty. In return, they might get permission to use some of the facilities for things they were interested in. Underdog remembers to this day ideas he had that he could not pursue because he did not have access to things such as welding torches, vacuum chambers, chemically safe fume hoods, and automotive test equipment. These were things that he might only have needed for a day or two but were far too expensive to purchase with money from his own pocket. For want of a nail, the battle was lost.
President Underdog’s proposal would “harvest” experience from the work force, both current and retired, such that businesses, both start-ups and existing, could become more competitive. In return, access would be provided— for those who wanted it— that would lead to the creation of new businesses and on and on.
The wild cat area at the San Diego Zoo has these animals living on steeply sloped hillsides with extremely low retaining walls. On first glance it appears quite dangerous until you realize that you cannot jump up when you are running down hill. And so it is with our economy and with the lives of our people. As long as the focus is downward, there is no way to re-energize the economy. Stop the downward slide (in part with facilities but more importantly with permission and recognition) and then stand back and watch the economy take off like a jet plane.
It is sad that wisdom such as President Underdog’s is being sacrificed to petty partisan politics and personal greed.
As the cartoon strip Pogo puts it, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” There is room and need for innovation in providing for less fortunate members of our community and there are ways of tapping everyone’s creative juices to pay for it. We will succeed using our brains and our heart. We will absolutely fail if we believe that monetary policy is the only— or the dominant— way to create a better, cleaner, safer, healthier world.
Pensak, David; Licorish, Elizabeth (2008-10-01). Innovation for Underdogs: How to Make the Leap from What If to Now What. Career Press. Kindle Edition.