What Would a Great Country Look Like?

Part of my problem (and I have come to the conclusion, belatedly, that it is a problem) is that I think about how things could be, whether the “things” are a firm, company, city, or country. I’m not a particularly imaginative person, but when it comes to organizations and social structures, my mind is imaginative (beyond what’s good for me). And my level of contentment with the status quo is low.

It’s a problem, I’ve come to believe, because it leads nowhere except to frustration and disappointment. On a national scale, the country I envision cannot possibly come about given humans’ desires and traits. This focus on the could leads to disappointment on a micro scale, too — that is, with respect to individual firms, companies, and other organizations (such as colleges) — because of the ironclad grip of inertia and status quo. The could simply cannot garner critical support. In other words, I’m out of step and always will be. I get it. Finally.

That said, Vera, I thought I might share with you a glimpse of what a great country looks like in my mind. It’s an appropriate time, I suppose, because we have a president who says he’s making America “great again.” Yet it’s clear to me that his concept of greatness is vastly different from mine. But my intent is not to debate who’s right or wrong. Each person can decide for him or herself.

In any case, here’s what our country would look like if we decided to make it great as guided by my imagination — my hopes and dreams and the public policies I would like to see implemented:

  • Every hardworking man and women would be paid enough to meet basic living expenses; there would be no such thing as the working poor.
  • Every person would have basic healthcare (including mental, addiction, and dental coverages). Gone would be the days when a sick, injured, or disabled child or spouse drives families into bankruptcy.
  • Affordable housing would be a priority.
  • Every child would receive a quality education, and every student would be given the opportunity to attend a college or postsecondary technical training program at an affordable price.
  • Tax codes would be revamped:
    • Labor would be valued as much as capital.
    • The step-up in basis for capital assets upon death would be eliminated.
    • Food and clothing (basic necessities) would be exempt from taxation.
    • A wealth tax would be imposed to supplement income taxes.
    • Subsidies for debt would be eliminated.
    • Property tax exemptions for nonprofits would be phased out.
    • Loopholes and subsidies for wealthy individuals and influential corporations (the quid pro quo for all those campaign contributions) would be closed and eliminated.
  • Foreign policy would look different. Our government would:
    • live the principles it professes, for instance, by no longer helping to prop up autocrats and monarchies (such as the Saudis);
    • stop killing innocent women and children with its drone attacks and other indiscriminate bombings;
    • no longer ferment revolution only then to abandon innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire or displaced by the violence; and
    • lead an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons as well as all other weapons of mass destruction.
  • Drug addiction would be decriminalized and people would be helped instead of incarcerated or abandoned.
  • Suicide would be decriminalized, and government would keep its nose out of the doctor-patient relationship when end-of-life decisions are being made.
  • The bribery of public officials through large campaign contributions would be criminalized; wealthy individuals and companies would no longer be permitted to buy politicians.
  • Gerrymandering would be deemed a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Employers would not be allowed to contractually tie up employees and former employees against their will; noncompete agreements for employees would be unlawful (as they are in California).
  • The reduction of pollution (including greenhouse gases and all the chemical substances that are ending up in our bodies) would be a priority.
  • Welfare for able-bodied persons would be replaced with jobs programs; handouts would cover short-term emergencies only.
  • Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would be outlawed.
  • Public infrastructure would be well maintained.
  • Laws would protect people’s privacy.
  • Antitrust laws that prohibit the unlawful acquisition of monopoly power would be enforced, even against tech companies.
  • Pensions would be required to be fully funded.
  • Incentives and protections that have led to the financialization of our economy would be withdrawn.

Obviously, greatness in my world looks very different from the greatness contemplated by Mr. Trump and his supporters. That’s O.K. I know I’m out of step. Moreover, I realize the country I envision is unachievable. But I also realize things could be so much better than they are. And that the only thing standing in the way of a better world is us.

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