My housemates an I were enjoying another spontaneous dinner gathering–one never knows what percentage of 8 people plus signfigant others might show up–and with the Washington Post strewn about our table as normal, I asked what they thought of the current Tibet situation. What resulted was an interesting half-in-hour conversation that brings home the reason it can be nice to live with smart people in an interesting city.
This is a paraphrase of the conversation:
We agreed Tibet should be free, but initially we talked about trying to freeing it by having the US boycott the Olympics. (interestingly Nancy Pelosi addressed this in her blog.) After let out our emotions in a spastic framing of American feelings, we changed gears to the concrete and flipped the impossible to something that might be somewhat more possible. How do we free Tibet? If that is our goal how do we start down this path? Can we make it feasible to pull out of the Olympics in the future? Can we afford to piss off the Chinese enough to change? Well no, they control to much leverage over our economy in the treasury bonds they hold. Well so how do we get them back? Buy, obviously, but we can’t afford to do that right now, so we’ll have to raise taxes. Or rather the next president is likely going to be forced to raise taxes, but this is multi-fold effort. If we want to get control of our economy back we have to change the face of economy so we don’t have such rampant consumerism. So what’s the best way to do this? A Value Added Tax, aka VAT. I’ll let you wikipedia the term if you don’t know it already. This will put a break on consumerism and give us the ability to buy back our debt, but that’s going to put a lot of people out of jobs, so how do you deal with that? We can’t send them back to manufacturing as all of those jobs are elsewhere in the world. What about starting with rebuilding our infrastructure, with 6% of roads being paved per year, we could sure use some new infrastructure. Not to mention that investing in infrastructure provides for continued commerce. What about a government sponsored 2 year service to your country as a CCC\WPA like infrastructure rebuild, or a peace corp/teacher/volunteer like endeavor, or a civilian peace builder\military like service? You’ve put a fair amount of those people in the service industry who are put out by the VAT tax to work in a blue collar job. At which point we digressed somewhat into realizing that the government needs to incentiveize people to maintain our innovation level. Retaining the best kept minds in the world (even if we don’t manufacturer those ideas into products or services in the US) so that we can maintain our technological expertise and trading.
That’s about it. In a half-and-hour we went from a current issue to mapping out a possible future for our country in less then half of our generation. I’m not suggesting that everything here is going to happen, but if you want to work on a plan for bringing the US into a position that it’s able throw strikes again, this is a plan to be considered. Of course most of the political establishment currently isn’t going to like it, but if you stop thinking about what people will like and dislike, and rather realize what people need and must have, and put it those terms I think you might begin to see innovation, strategic thinking, and hard choices is our only way out of the current mess we are in.