The Next President Has Unfinished Business

10/17/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

You must pity the next president of these United States. He faces depression, and depression, and the economic slump which may very well be a depression. You can't tell because the "official" numbers are all rigged now to look much better than they really are. Does anybody believe inflation has been in low single digits over the past decade? Not if you buy food, beer, gasoline, paint, stamps, clothing, shoes or pay bridge tolls. We're on a trajectory where a college education may soon cost more than the value of the average single family home. A textbook costs more than a tank of gasoline.

Now there's the inevitable emotional depression of a nation failed. We buy our clothes from
China, our cars from Japan, our energy from Canada and Saudi Arabia, our iPods from China, our baseball players from Latin America, our coffee and tea from wherever we can find it, our heroin from Afghanistan. This list is too depressing to continue.

It's not too late. Obama and McPalin might want to look over this list of problems they'll face. They might want to reconsider candidacy, and simply take a lobbying job for big coffee.

1) We trusted our economy and welfare to the wrong people. Accountants and insurance companies determine who gets what medical care in America. Doctors are still overpaid, but now they are powerless as well. We expected big pharma to bring us good legal drugs. We got Vioxx. Car manufacturers to bring us efficient transport? Hah. We looked to Enron and Exxon for our cheap energy fix as our addiction went untreated. We laughed at Jimmy Carter who warned us off oil thirty-five years ago. Somehow the oil supply of the world was always going to be for mostly Americans with the rest of the planet...what? Burning cow chips? China has been so rude, just uppity enough to demand a fraction of as much energy per capita as we Yanks take for granted. We can forgive them as long as they keep loaning us billions of dollars to keep buying their stuff and Canada's oil. Our nation bought into the Reaganomic myth that the market system is a system, and that it's a market. It's a rigged game. Hello? Unbid contracts for Cheney's Halliburton. Whisper numbers on Wall Street. Oil regulators screwing oil company executives. It's not free enterprise, it's free-for-all entreprise. To the swift and crooked go the spoils. We learned this lesson in the 1880s, then again in 1929. But memory is short, greed is long. In World War Two our U.S. Vice President was in charge of thwarting profiteers. In Iraq and Afghan Wars the Vice President was in charge of protecting profiteers. Now that's depressing.

2) We're fence-building in the wrong place for the wrong reason. We do not need a wall along the Rio Grande to destroy the environment and kill wildlife. The people are smart enough to get around or under or over. Hello? Even Mexico has airplanes.

Where we should've built walls: Iraq. Right after we invaded, some of our first no-bid contracts should have been to the fence-building community. Bet Halliburton builds a mean fence. We could have siphoned much of our bubbling cauldron of fury over 9-11 and used it to ghetto-ize Iraq. It's taken the US and Europe decades to finally partition old Yugoslavia so the ethnic madness there can subside. Did we learn anything? No, we pretended that neocons can think, that old British imperialist boundaries would hold up under 21st Century political realities. Duh. We should have symbolic, physical walls and then used our billions to relocate the stragglers. All the Kurds: north of this wall. Here's your $10K relocation payment. Shiites? You get this area beyond the green gate. Sunni: you get this swath of river and desert over here. If the Iraqi Christians felt isolated, we could have recreated South Carolina for them right there on the banks of the Euphrates. Called it "God's Country." We could even have walled off the richest oil fields, given them to Exxon who;d gladly some of the profits to the newly created ethnic states. That would have been wise walling. Instead we've spent trillions to create an Iraq just waiting for a Kurd-Arab civil war as soon as the screen door hits the last Yankee soldier in the butt.

3) We've bartered our economic freedom away and tied our economic future to Japan and China. Stupid, costly wars and deep debts finally toppled the French monarchy and then Napoleon. I won't mention the last czar. Does anybody in American government know the word: "h-i-s-t-o-r-y?" The Soviet Union spent itself into oblivion on...weapons! How many solar panels, new nuclear plants, low-emissions diesels and plug-in electric cars could the U.S. have made, or at least bought from China and Japan and Germany if we'd NOT decided our mission was to show the elder Bush that the younger BUsh was tough enough to get Saddam.

4) The EPA refuses to let individual states regulate auto emissions, protecting the car companies but not human lungs nor the atmosphere..

5) Executive compensation is based on public corporations' quarterly earnings. Who's keeping the books? A CFO whose own bonus depends on those same numbers. With a nod from one of the three surviving big accounting firms, paid by their corporate clients. Any questions why banks and other financials lied to themselves and everybody else about the BS mortgages they were writing? My mother was a farm girl trained as a nurse, but even she knew about foxes and hen-houses. All executive bonuses (that's where the real money is these days) need to be delayed until at least three years after they are "earned." Just to see if the books have been badly cooked, or served raw.

6) New Orleans, Galveston, where next? We need a major relocation program for our citizens living in low coastal areas. Put these folks on reservations. It was good enough for Native Americans when they stood in the way of progress. It's cheaper to move coastal limpits now than rescue and care for them after they refuse a mandatory evacuation order. I will not say anything here about red state stubbornness. We've seen it in the White House. Mandatory relocation would have worked in Iraq, it will work in Mississippi. "Here's $10K, move behind that line." What part of "deadly hurricane" is too difficult to understand? I have a stunning prediction: there will be more hurricanes. Visit the beach, don't live on it. It's the sea level, stupid.

7) Most critically, we must guarantee caffeine independence. A coffee and tea crisis would bring Wall Street, Main Street and even Broadway to its knees. Forget big oil, it's big caffeine that powers this nation. We need a strategic caffeine reserve. That miraculous organic compound keeps workers at their keyboards, like the one I'm pounding on. It keeps builders building, plumbers plumbed, truckers trucking. We need our own coffee plantations, under glass in the Arizona desert if necessary, but within our own sheltered borders.

Good luck to the next Pres, whoever he, or she, may be.