Thursday, June 23, 2011

The BDFL Fixes The USA

For those who haven't read these previously, BDFL stands for Benevolent Dictator For Life, a position where I assume absolute power over the USA to correct the problem. It's an "if I ruled the world" flight of fancy. All dollar figures are in current dollars and shall be inflation-linked.


- 2nd Amendment reworded to remove the words "and bear"; define "arms" to include only single-shot or semi-automatic firearms; restrict the right to ex-cons from owning firearms; establish national minimum age and mandatory firearms safety testing and ban control of a firearm while intoxicated.

- Create a right to an education through high school.

- Reaffirm right to abortion, subject to lawful restriction in the second and third trimesters.

- Create a Court of Constitutional Review, a three-judge panel nominated by the American Bar Association and confirmed by the Senate, who shall rule on the constitutionality of each law before it goes for the president's signature.

- New Constitutional Amendment clarifying that corporations are NOT Constitutional "persons" and are NOT entitled to Constitutional protections. Corporations are not persons for the purposes of the Constitution. They are fictional constructs used for legal simplicity and convienience, nothing more.

- A complete and blanket ban on any and all businesses spending a single penny on any form of political activism, whether through campaign donations, PACs or political advertising. Any violations of this law may be punished by a fine of up to one full year's profits (worked out as an average of the previous decade's profits) for a first offence. A second offence will see the maximum fine doubled and a third or subsequent offence shall trigger "election tampering" charges against the board members who made the decision.

- Blanket ban on all for-profit lobbying. Lobbyists exist to bugger up the democratic process, that is their whole reason for being. If possible, I would prefer to get rid of for-profit lobbyists and keep the concerned-citizen kind but, if necessary, I am prepared to accept the loss of the concerned-citizen lobbyists as the expense of getting rid of the for-profit ones.

- Automatic voter registration upon reaching the age of majority. This is relatively easy to do due to the Social Security rolls. Convicts do not have the right to vote but the right to vote shall be automatically reinstated upon release.

- Votes for cloture in the Senate set at sixty. It shall be lowered to fifty-five two weeks after the first cloture vote and to fifty-one (not counting the VP) a month after the first cloture vote. This is intended to curtail the rampant abuse of the filibuster.

- Bidding on federal contracts shall be open only to companies paying American taxes and all bids shall be available for public viewing unless judged to be a risk to national or federal security (a decision which WILL have to be justified to a court). No-bid contracts may only be used by the military and then only in circumstances where open bidding would constitute a security risk.


- No Child Left Behind Act scrapped.

- Remove most formal tests (tests done by teachers for their own assessment still allowed).

- Impose national curriculum, setting general outlines and concepts which children in each age group should be familiar with. Individual schools and teachers can still decide how to teach them but have proven they cannot be trusted to come up with a curriculum.

- Teaching of "intelligent design" banned until it can come up with some peer-reviewed studies to assess.

- Sex education becomes mandatory from age twelve. The sexual health of future generations overrules the squickishness of parents. Such education shall obviously be taught in an age appropriate manner and shall include acknowledgement of homo and bi-sexuality, preferably making clear that both exist, deserve human dignity and will not cease to exist if someone disapproves.

- Teacher's will now be considered civil servants for purposes of working out pay and benefits (including pension options).

- Each school allocated funds for classroom expenses, removing that from the out-of-pocket teacher expenses.

- School libraries now funded through the newly created Department of Humanitarian Services.


- Commission created to study existing methods of providing universal healthcare around the world. 1 year for studying those methods, followed by six to nine months to create a model for universal healthcare in the USA. In theory, coming late to the party should be an advantage since you can study the methods other nations have tried, using the best parts and avoiding the worst until you come up with a special and uniquely American system. The USHS (for lack of a better name) shall focus on preventative health and shall provide healthcare to all citizens, regardless of age, race, class, employment status or anything else, funded through taxation. This includes abortion through the first trimester or when considered medeically necessary to preserve the life or health (including mental health) of the mother.

- Doctor's office and hospitals shall provide condoms free of charge to the public. This is intended to prevent and reduce STI rates.

- As the USHS is rolled out, it shall absorb both Medicare and Medicaid, leading to a cessation of both those programs.

- Having a prescription filled shall attract a small fee, initially set at ten dollars. This is not intended to cover the cost of drugs, it's intended to stop you from bothering your doctor with minor shit that just needs a couple of asprin or a roll of antacids.

- Legislation preventing the US government from negotiating drug prices repealed, legislation obliging the government to negotiate on drug prices substituted.

- As the health care and abortion services of Planned Parenthood will no longer be required due to the USHS, funding for them shall be removed.


- 20% reduction in military budget, targetted toward obsolete and/or unneeded weapons systems.

- Veteran's medical care rolled into USHS.

- Mental health added to veteran's care.

- New requirement that troops be given at least two years at home for each year in a combat area (may be waived in times of national invasion or rebellion).

- Ban on sending troops to war without full kit for each and every trooper (again, may be waived in cases of rebellion or national invasion).

- Remaining troops out of Iraq as soon as logistically possible, out of Afghanistan within the next eighteen months and out of Libya as soon as logistically possible without a Congressional authorisation.

- Minimum age of military active duty raised to eighteen. Recuits may enter training at seventeen but may not be deployed until eighteen. This may be waived in the event of national invasion or rebellion.


- New top tax rate added of 50% on household incomes above $1 million annually.

- Capital gains taxed as income with the exception of one (1) house, designated as the primary residence. If the household only owns one house, that shall be designated as the primary automatically. If more than one is owned, the designation may not be moved more often than once in every five year span.

- Nationwide network of JobCentres created. New legislation that every job for which application is open to the general public (i.e. headhunting not included) shall be notified to the JobCentre which shall display such jobs in each Centre and on their website. Each Centre shall also have phones and computers available (free of charge) for the purpose of applying for jobs and will even mail in applications upon a jobseeker's request. Short courses shall also be provided in such job-seeking skills as CV/resume writing, interview technique, basic computer literacy and so on. Advice shall be available for those interested in opening their own business and small loans shall be available for such things as buying an interview suit, attending interviews and relocating for work.

- Welfare "reform" enacted under Clinton repealed. Welfare goes back to being a non-time-limited entitlement but administered through the JobCentre and contingent upon actively seeking work (we leave Congress to work out the details of what "actively seeking" means). Legislation introduced obliging all businesses to firstly, respond to job applications (nothing more disheartening for a job seeker than companies that just ignore applications) and secondly, respond to JobCentre enquires about interview attendance (too many horror stories of people who lose their welfare because companies couldn't be bothered replying).

- The BDFL's administration has no intention of rewarding the lazy or workshy but if you genuinely cannot work or if you genuinely cannot land a job despite your best efforts, we will look after you.

- Creation of the Rebuild America Corps (name up for debate since I don't much like it). This is a central plank of the BDFL's platform. The RAC shall offer employment to unemployed persons (starting with the long-term unemployed) and ex-convicts (if we want people to reform, they have to be given the opportunity) to rebuild the USA's crumbling infrastructure along with various community enhancing projects like clearing graffiti, building low-income housing or beautifying countryside. Wages shall start at minimum wage and, so much as is possible, respect worker's religious/philosophical commitments (For example, Muslims will be given time out for their required prayers). So much as is possible, workers existing skills shall be respected (i.e. administrative slots shall be mostly filled by unemployed clerical workers). However, workers can request assignment to alternative areas if they wish to broaden their skills (for example, a bricklayer can request assignment to a weatherising team to broaden his skills) and can earn on-the-job certification in that area (i.e. our bricklayer can earn his certification in weatherisation). The RAC shall work with local charities and government in assessing local needs and desires. Since the USA currently has both a crumbling infrastructure and a high percentage of unemployment, the creation of the RAC will address both problems. As time goes on, the RAC will become a beloved institution, it provides teenagers with their first real jobs, allows the unemployed to retain their dignity with the feeling that they are contributing to society and earning an honest wage doing so and allows ex-cons the opportunity to rebuild their lives with an honest trade. Social perception of the unemployed turns around when the average citizen can see teams of RAC workers in hi-vis vests rebuilding the local community.

- Once the economy is back under control (which we estimate at 5-8 years), our administration will introduce free tuition at college and/or trade schools for anyone who does not already hold a college degree or professional certification.

- Estate tax reinstated on estates above $2.5 million. All family-owned farms, the property designated as primary residence and any works of art or historic import which are exhibited to the public shall be exempted when working out each estate.

- Congressional committee instituted to examine the corporate tax code for loopholes and write legislation to close them.

- Moratorium on foreclosures, to be reviewed after six months. Legislation that if the company holding your mortgage cannot produce the legally required paperwork in court, your home is signed over to you and they have to swallow the loss.

- NAFTA/CAFTA renegotiated with a view to limiting both agreements to goods which cannot be produced in the USA.

- Any company which moves it's production facilities overseas for the purpose of maximising profits (note, this is quite different from a company getting out of a particular sector or closing a money-losing division) shall see their import duties doubled for the next ten years AND must pay it's redundant workers a minimum of two year's salary (worked out as an average if wages vary) as severence.

- No board member may be paid more than fifty (50) times the wage of the companies lowest paid employee, including bonuses and benefits. This encourages the raising of wages across the board, channels more of the profits to the stockholders who actually own the company and prevents the board voting themselves exhorbitant pay and benefits packages. This shall not apply to sole trader and partnership businesses on the grounds that they are risking their own time and money.

- Minimum wage raised to $10 an hour for small businesses, $12.50 an hour for corporations nationwide. Individual states may raise it further if they choose.


- Cannabis consumption legalised in private residences. In public areas (such as bars), it shall be at the discretion of the owner. Buying and/or growing cannabis for personal consumption shall be legalised for those of or above the age of 18. Selling cannabis shall require a sales license for selling intoxicants in the same way as alcohol. Like any other adult pleasure, cannabis is age-restricted (initially set at age 18) and driving while under the influence is banned (driving under the influence of anything which alters perceptions is a bad idea). In other words, if you want to smoke a fat doobie in your living room, it's no business of the law. If you grow your own for personal consumption or with a few friends, that's equivelent to brewing your own beer and, again, none of our business. All persons imprisoned for simple possession or consumption of cannabis shall be freed as soon as logistically possible.

- In the case of drug charges for simple possession or consumption, there shall be a presumption against imprisonment and toward rehabilitation. It is cheaper, more effective and more humane to rehabilitate addicts rather than imprison them where possible.

- We shall create a commission of chemists, scientists, sociologists and criminologists who shall be charged with assessing the effect of various drugs (including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine for comparison purposes) on both the individual and society and making recommendations on the legal status of each drug which shall, except in exceptional circumstances, be made law.

- Moritorium on the enactment of the death penalty while racial disparities in sentencing are studied and resolved to the BDFL's satisfaction. Outright ban on enacting the death penalty on anyone with an IQ of or below 75 or with a physical or mental age of below 18.

- Option of sentencing prisoners to LWOP (Life Without Possibility of Parole) shall be introduced in all cases where the death penalty would be available.

- Mandatory drug screening and, if necessary, rehabilitation shall be introduced in all prisons, starting with and concentrating on soon-to-be-released prisoners (more effective that way).

- Nobody under 18 shall be tried as an adult without the concurring opinions of two psychologists that the accused is mentally an adult.

- Enactment of the "Romeo & Juliet" law. Where both partners are within both four years of one another AND the junior partner is within 18 months of the age of consent, sexual intercourse shall NOT be considered rape and neither partner shall be considered a sex offender.

- Top-to-bottom ongoing review of criminal law to ensure constitutionality. This will take years but needs to be done.

- Nominations for the SCOTUS shall henceforth be made by the American Bar Association (who shall nominate those it considers moderate in their views and cast-iron adherents to the principles of law). Nominations shall be considered/confirmed by both branches of Congress, requiring a passing vote in both chambers. Recess appointments shall NOT be allowed for the SCOTUS. Confirmation shall be for a term of twelve years, upon which Justices must either retire or be re-nominated and re-confirmed. There shall be no limit on how many terms a Justice can serve and Justices may retire at their own discretion at any time.

- A new Ethics Committee shall be created to police the SCOTUS Justices. The current Justices have proven they cannot be trusted to act ethically without a watchdog.

- The Citizen's United decision overturned and quashed.

- Gambling legalised for over-18s nationwide. Premises and persons whose business is gambling (i.e. casinos, bookies, arcades, etc) must be inspected and licensed for the usual safety checks and for keeping out the underage and/or the intoxicated. Businesses and persons engaged in the gambling trade have the usual freedom to refuse service but are obliged to refuse service to anyone they consider underage or intoxicated. Repeated violations of that rule may result in the revokation of the license. Providers are also obliged to provide a receipt of placed bets and to pay out on production of a valid slip for a winning bet. It's at their discretion whether they pay out if you don't produce it so keep hold of your betting slip. There shall be a 5% tax on bets or winnings (gambler's choice) in sports gambling.


- DOMA overturned.

- DADT overturned straight away, military integrated tommorrow.

- Civil marriage extended to same-sex couples within the next six weeks. The law shall be written in such a way that in all respects but the very, very technical (such as exactly how "consumation" is defined), same-sex marriage shall be considered legally identical to hetero marriage. The six-week delay is purely for logistical reasons. Military granted a three-month delay to prepare (for example, by building additional married couples quarters).

- Israel gets six months to sort out some kind of reasonable compromise with the Palestinians (or make what the BDFL considers a good faith effort) or we cut off aid.

- We institute the BUSA (Benefactor of the United States of America) medal. This conveys no additional rights or priveliges but is intended to be the highest civilian award the USA can bestow and equivelent to a British Life Peerage, a way for the USA to single out and appreciate those civilians who have made a remarkable contribution to the country. All US residents shall be eligible for nomination but a maximum of twelve medals can be handed out each year (save for the first year, to allow the nomination of all the Founders) and there is no minimum number. Being awarded a BUSA should be the highlight of anyone's life, an honour equivelent to the Noble Prize and a way for the country to say a secular "well done, thy good and faithful servant". No publically elected official shall be eligible for nomination until thirty (30) years after their death (intended to prevent both the pro forma nomination of past presidents and using the BUSA to make political hay). These are intended to be the greatest civilians the USA has ever produced and should be recognised accordingly.

- Federal purchases of goods must be spent within the USA unless no American company produces the required goods. For example, if the USHS wishes to purchase ambulances, they must purchase from a US company unless there is no US company producing suitable ambulances.

- Creation of the Department of Humanitarian Services. This department shall be the agency responsible (or co-responsible in some cases) for bettering the citizen's condition. In other words, their job is to fight for the improvement of the citizen's life in all areas. Sometimes, they shall be acting alone (for example, library funding now falls under their remit) and other times, they will be liasing with other departments (for example, with the Department of Justice in formulating rehabilitation recommendations). Other departments have a complex agenda where different pressures must be evaluated and weighed, the DHS has only one: The improvement of citizen's lives.