Best-Ever Actions a US President Can Take

by Dom Nozzi

The following is my personal list of what I believe are the best-ever actions or positions a United States president can take to improve the United States as of 2012. In my view, these items represent the best way to improve quality of life, health, economics, sustainability, civic pride, crime control, and happiness.

1. Ending the drug war.

2. Putting a moratorium on highway widening, and starting a nationwide effort to remove travel lanes (road dieting) on the countless highways that are now too big. The US remains incapable of putting meaningful dollars into trains. Widening highways is highly counterproductive and is a colossal waste of public dollars.

3. Cutting the Pentagon budget significantly. As of 2011, the over 44 percent of the combined world expenditures for military purposes was by the US. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the total US military budget has grown from $432 billion in fiscal 2001 to $720 billion in fiscal 2011, a real increase of approximately 67 percent. The US military budget is eight times more than Russia, 15 times more than Japan, 47 times more than Israel, and nearly 73 times more than Iran. Of the highest spending nations in the world for military expenditures, the US military budget is now larger than the top 15 nations combined in such spending. Another way of stating this is that the US now spends EIGHT TIMES more money than the rest of the world COMBINED.

4. Ending the death penalty.

5. Having churches pay their fair share of property taxes. America seems incapable of ending this unconstitutional and inequitable subsidy for churches, despite a national debt in the trillions.

6. Ending the unconditional support for — and massive annual subsidies to — the Israeli government.

7. Ending massive government subsidies for corn in US agriculture.

8. Reforming our tax system, which, among countless other outrages, pushes jobs overseas and discourages infill community development. Personally, I strongly favor what is called the “Fair Tax.” A “Fair Tax” eliminates all taxes except one: the sales tax. As a result, such a tax would strongly discourage one of the leading problems in the world today: Over-consumption by Americans. Low-income people could avoid the tax in part by buying used goods. Another essential tax strategy is, as Lester Brown (Plan B 4.) calls it, to engage in “tax shifting,” where taxes are shifted from income to other, socially harmful items such as cigarettes, gasoline, carbon, and vehicles.

9. Reforming our legal system, which, among other things, perpetuates a gargantuan, paralyzing liability and litigation crisis.

10. Reforming our gun laws to address the flood of guns we have in society.

11. Pricing Interstate highways with congestion fees, and reforming our parking tax policies.

12. Raising the federal gas tax – a tax which has not been raised in several decades, despite massive American dependency on foreign oil and significant unpaid costs that motorists impose on society (pollution, crashes, sprawl, noise, etc).

13. Legalizing prostitution (and regulating it through public health agencies). Illegal prostitution promotes crime, and STDs. Regulating it instead of maintaining prohibition would dramatically reduce crime and STDs, and provide a meaningful increase in tax revenue.

14. Ending military detainee torture and abuse. In part, this needs to be done not only to terminate barbarism by the US, but to help restore international respect for the US, and to reduce the double-standard the US engages in, where other nations are criticized by the US for such detainee treatment.

15. Significantly reforming campaign financing. Too often, elected officials are beholden to special interests who have contributed to their campaign, which leads nearly all officials to act against the best interest of society.

16. Reform and sufficiently regulate the corrupt, ruinous US financial system.

17. Ending the Afghanistan war immediately (and fully disengaging from Iraq and Afghanistan by removing all military bases and personnel).

18. Promoting the “single tax” on the use of land. Providing federal incentives or requirements that local governments stop incentivizing land speculation and discouraging town center infill development by instituting a high tax on unimproved town center land value, and not taxing land value increases due to development or other forms of enhancements (such as renovation or expansion of buildings). Through this change in the property tax, land speculation is essentially eliminated because any increase in the value of the unimproved land goes to local government via higher taxes. Land speculation, which is now rampant in most all US cities (except cities such as Pittsburgh PA), has a deadening effect on town centers, as speculation encourages low-value, deadening uses of land, such as surface parking lots. Conventional property taxes also strongly discourage redevelopment or other enhancements to town center land, as such actions are punished with higher taxes. A single (or “land value”) tax eliminates that counterproductive influence.

19. Eliminate “gross domestic product” (GDP) as a measure of economic health and community prosperity since such a measure is an extremely poor, misleading way to measure the success of the economy. Instead, replace GDP with an emerging new concept known as “gross national happiness” (GNH), which is starting to be used in a handful of nations, as well as a few cities in North America. According to Heinberg (The End of Growth, 2011), during the past 35 years, per capita income has grown almost 60 percent in the US. The average new home has become 50 percent larger. The number of cars has increased by 120 million. The proportion of households owning computers has gone from zero to 80 percent. But the percentage of Americans who call themselves “happy” has remained virtually constant – having peaked in the 1950s.

20. Adopt a carbon tax. Charging businesses and individuals a price to emit carbon dioxide. Such a tax is a price signal that will effectively:

• Reduce carbon emissions.

• Reduce gasoline consumption.

• Create better air quality.

• Reduce strip mining.

• Decrease car travel.

• Creates incentives for the development of clean energy and energy conservation.

• Provide needed tax revenue.

A carbon tax is relatively simple. Compared to a cap-and-trade scheme, the price of carbon is predictable in a carbon tax system. Businesses and utilities will easily know the price of carbon and its trend. They can make decisions on investments in alternative energy and energy efficiency programs accordingly. Several governments have already adopted a carbon tax, including Finland, Sweden, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canadian provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, and the city of Boulder, Colorado.

________________________________________________

I urge you to email me (dom@walkablestreets.com) or leave a comment if you have a suggested addition or subtraction from this list. Or if you have any other thoughts about this list.

About

Each list in this blog contains my own personal opinions based on my personal experiences. I acknowledge that there may be a need to add or subtract from these lists (or to create a new subject list), and I welcome such suggestions. The lists are not ordered from higher to lower quality. Each list is a work in progress.

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here:

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My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607 Car is the Enemy book cover

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http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

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About Dom Nozzi

Urban designer, Complete Streets instructor, smart growth specialist, town planner, walkable & bikeable streets & trails specialist, writer, editor, speaker, world adventurer, skier, kayaker, SCUBA diver, bicyclist, hiker, dancer, book reader, urbanist. Make my own beer, wine, pasta, bread. Live by the motto that it is the things we do NOT do that we later regret. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest.
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