Note: I write about economics and finance.
The obnoxious billionaire has some good ideas.
- Campaign finance reform. This is the root cause of much of the problems in the United States. Citizens United is a cancer on democracy. Trump is right — most politicians are beholden to their contributors. One key example: House committee chairmen. These are important players in legislation. If you’re a smart person and want to share some advice, too bad. They only accept input from constituents in their districts. But staple a $10,000 check to your request and you get an audience. Being independently wealthy allows Trump to speak out against an inherently corrupt system.
- Carried interest taxation. Professional investors such as hedge funds and venture capitalists have a grossly unfair tax benefit: they get to pay capital gains taxes on what should be considered income. There’s no way to justify this tax break from an economic perspective. Why does this stay in place? Politicians don’t want to piss off rich people. Oh, and the National Venture Capital Association spends $2.5 million on campaign contributions and lobbying. See #1.
- National market for health care. Aside from Medicare, much of health insurance in the United States is negotiated on a state-by-state basis. This is due to historical developments, but it is unneeded today. Insurance giants like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare have the resources to out navigate 50 state regulators. A CFPB-like agency to handle a national market would result in better care at lower costs. (Trump originally supported single-payer, which is the best path. But he’s backed away from that.)
- Infrastructure spending. The infrastructure needed to hold the country together is crumbling. Bridges are under spec. Infrastructure is one of the fundamental roles of government. It’s too expensive and the benefits too distributed for the private market to create. A key infrastructure project we should start tomorrow is nationwide fiber to the home. AT&T and Verizon have given up on deploying FTTH because of the poor economics. Google is working on it, but slowly. FTTH would lay the groundwork (ha!) for America to be competitive in the 21st century. It’s shameful that countries like South Korea have much higher bandwidth than much of Silicon Valley. FTTH would also create a lot of medium- to high-paying jobs, just in construction.
- Legal immigration for U.S.-educated. It’s idiotic that we train brilliant college students at places like Stanford, Northwestern, MIT and then ship them back home. Even if they really want to stay, they’re forced to leave the country. There needs to be an easy, legal path to permanent residency. The current H1B process is highly flawed. My wife is brilliant, but the sword of H1B has been hanging over her head for years. (No longer, obviously.)
- Foreign aid. We should stop sending aid to rich countries like Saudi Arabia. So why do we do it? Because foreign aid is really a subsidy to companies like Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin. All of these companies spend tens of millions on lobbying and campaign contributions. See #1.
This post isn’t a troll.
Despite all these great ideas, there’s no chance in hell most of these things will happen. Trump won’t be a dictator. The cooperation of 535 contributor-held hostages is required to make these things happen. See #1.
But we should try to accomplish these things.