This article is part of The Nation’s 150th Anniversary Special Issue. Download a free PDF of the issue, with articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn and many more, here.
If my grandfather were alive today, he’d be about 150 years old. I know what you’re thinking: with my youthful looks, neither the math nor the biology of that sentence makes any sense. But it’s the truth, it’s not worth dissecting, so let’s move on.
The Nation, too, is 150 years old. As I am only two generations removed from the Civil War era, and thus able to provide some not-too-distant context, the editors have asked me to write a critique of the magazine on this occasion. I have thought about it and decided that I have no critique to offer. My simple advice: Nation, keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t change. Everything’s fine. Thank you for 150 years of telling the truth.
Instead of providing the requested critique, I would, if you don’t mind, like to offer something else. I’d like to announce, in the pages of this historic issue of this magnificent magazine, the formation of a committee that will study the possibility of an exploratory committee to assess the potential of a Michael Moore candidacy for the presidency of the United States in 2016. In other words, I’m not officially declaring my intention to run. I’m just saying, should I decide to throw my ball cap into the ring, this is what I would propose to do if elected:
1. ONE CHARGE CORD! I will sign an edict declaring that there will be only one charge cord for all brands of all electronic devices—phones, computers, tablets, music devices, cameras and everything else. Just like all electrical appliances and items have used the same two-prong cord that plugs into the same two-hole outlet for the past 100 years, so too shall there be only one charge cord that will plug into the same hole of every digital device from this day on. I think this plank alone can get me elected, but let me offer a few more promises.
2. I will sign legislation that will lower the voting age to 16. A teenager who can die for her/his country at 18 should have a say in just who it is that will be sending them off to war.
3. If there is a call for war, and if we are to invade another nation, I will declare as commander in chief that the first to be sent into combat must be the conscripted adult offspring of all members of Congress, the president and the president’s cabinet (and then, in order, the children of the CEOs of the Fortune 500, all military contractors and the top media executives). This should reduce the number of wars considerably.
4. I will make available free HBO for everyone.
5. I will forgive all student debt. We’ll go back to a system of work-study, grants, scholarships and minimal, interest-free loans. College in America, as in many other countries, should essentially be free.
6. I’ll reduce the Pentagon’s budget by 75 percent. That will pay for the above free college and most of my ideas that will follow. We will still have one of the biggest militaries in the world and the ability to blow it up many times over—just not as many times as before.
7. All Americans will get the same free health plans that members of Congress have access to.
8. That universal health plan will include free mental and free dental. If most Americans could get their teeth and head fixed when needed, the cost (and need) of seeing a medical doctor will decrease.
9. The wealthy will pay the same percentage in Social Security tax on their entire income as every middle-class person does. Right now, those who earn any income over $118,500 pay zero Social Security tax on whatever they make over that sum. Meanwhile, every working person who earns under $118,500 these days pays the full Social Security tax on their entire income. If the rich were forced to pay Social Security tax on all that they earn, there would be enough money in the Social Security trust fund to last us many more decades—perhaps close to the next century.
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10. We will return to the income-tax rates that existed when that great Republican Gerald Ford was president. That’s all. No need to take it back to the Eisenhower days, when the wealthy paid more than 90 percent in income tax. Just take me to the last Republican before Reagan, when the elites paid around 70 percent. That, too, will help to fund everything here on my list.
11. Bullet trains. ’Nuff said.
12. A ban on high-fructose corn syrup. This cheap “poison” (lawyers made me insert the quote marks) is hard to find in the rest of the civilized world for a variety of reasons, which might be why nearly all of these countries have lower diabetes rates than the United States.
13. Anyone caught using their mobile device inside a movie theater will be subjected to enhanced “rectal rehydration” (thank you, CIA, for that suggestion!).
14. When in doubt, do what the Canadians do: a near-ban on handguns and semi-automatic weapons. An eight-week election season. A return to the paper ballot. No pharmaceutical ads on TV. Strict banking and financial regulations. A refusal to eliminate civil liberties after the terrorists attack. Trade with Cuba. And reduce the number of downs in football to three.
15. All schools will return to teaching civics class. (Most schools these days don’t.) If young people are going to vote at 16, they should know how it all works and what they can do to rock the vote—or the boat.
16. A moment of Zen: All students shall learn cursive writing. Don’t take away the one thing that we can all do that is unique to each of us. It’s our creative fingerprint. We are not machines. To write longhand allows our soul to find its way out and be seen as ours and only ours. The world is a cold and harsh enough place as it is. Why take this little personal human piece away from us? Who doesn’t like getting a handwritten note?
17. We will not back theocracies. You know who you are. Stop it, and stop your harmful, inhuman ways. And we can start with ourselves. After thirty-five years of having to follow laws instigated by the Christian right in this country, I’ve had it. To do my part, as president, I will gay-marry anyone who wants to get married.
18. All Americans shall have a mandatory four-week paid vacation. (Note to employers: I will send you the studies that show such laws increase productivity. People do better work when happy and rested.)
19. Prisons will not be owned or run by private corporations; they will be run by the public for its own safety. They will no longer be used as places of punishment but rather as training and rehab centers. They will not exist to incarcerate the races or ethnic groups who have no power. Nonviolent people will not be locked up. If they have stolen, they will make restitution. Yes, that means you, corporate criminals.
20. As Americans, we will seek to be kind—to each other, to the world, and to ourselves. As the president, I will be the first to set that example. I will place education and enlightenment at the top of every agenda, and the elimination of ignorance as my worthy goal. Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. That has been the American equation for too long. The road to its end begins with my election.
Now let’s go watch some Canadian football on HBO.