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Laurence J. Kotlikoff Headshot

Tom Friedman Should Run for President

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Tom Friedman, the New York Times' brilliant columnist, has been urging big shots to run for president on the Americans Elect Platform. He recently used his column to urge former Comptroller General, David Walker, to run. And in the last few days, he's urged NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to run.

Let me urge Tom Friedman to run for president. He's an extremely sensible man with plenty of common sense and the right instincts on economic and foreign policy. He'd give the president and governor a run for their money.

So why is Tom pushing for others to run when he can push his own candidacy?

No doubt he thinks common sense and good policy ideas are insufficient qualifications to run the country. Friedman has, I believe, the bias that most members of the press share -- that running a large organization is a sine qua non for running a large organization, like the federal government.

It's not.

If prior experience running a large organization was needed to run a large organization, Ronald Reagan would never have been elected Governor of California and subsequently have been elected president. President Reagan was an actor before becoming Governor; he had zero executive experience before running what is one of the largest economies in the world. The same's true of former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also served as Governor of California.

President Obama also had no experience running a large organization prior to becoming a Senator and being elected president. Neither did President Kennedy or Harry Truman or Woodrow Wilson or ...

Moreover, having run large organizations or having been elected to high office is no guarantee of competency when it comes to running the federal government. President Clinton and President Bush (W) both managed to manage the government, but in many ways they failed to do their jobs properly. Neither president fixed our healthcare system, our tax system, or our Social Security system. As a result, our long-term fiscal problems are perhaps the worst of any developed country.

President Bush's decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11, rather than focus strictly on apprehending the perpetrators, were two tragic mistakes that have cost our country dearly in terms of thousands upon thousands of destroyed or damaged lives of young Americans and tens of thousands of civilian casualties, not to mention upwards of $1 trillion. In addition, both Presidents Clinton and Bush laid the ground work for the financial collapse, which has caused so much distress to tens of millions of young, middle aged, and older Americans.

Had Tom Friedman been president in the 1990s, I'm confident he would have put in place a reasonable system of basic healthcare for all featuring private provision, rationalized the tax system, achieved real progress on limiting the growth of entitlements, and strengthened, not undermined, our financial system. And had he been president in 2001, I'm confident he would have gone after Al Qaeda and not engaged in attempts at nation building that anyone with common sense and historical knowledge would have known would not succeed.

Tom, if you are reading this, let me address you personally. You are better qualified to run the country in the next four years than either the president or the governor. Your election would spell an end to gridlock between the two parties who would see that the majority of the country isn't interested in their childish bickering and is ready to throw them out of office if they continue with business as usual.

So Tom, get up the guts to declare your candidacy at www.americanselect.org. You know as many foreign leaders and have as deep an understanding of what's needed on the international and domestic fronts as David Walker and Michael Bloomberg.

This is not tongue in cheek. I'm completely serious. Tom, no one was born with "President of the United States" stamped on her/his forehead. Yes, I know, you aren't a billionaire. But thanks to Americans Elect you don't need to be a billionaire. You just need to do what you are urging others to do -- make a personal sacrifice and stand up for the country.

I'm also talking to you as someone who has put himself where his mouth is. I've heard your plea for an independent, third-party candidate, who can fix our country's grave problems. At www.kotikoff2012.org and www.americanselect.org, you'll see I've put myself forward as a candidate for President on the Americans Elect platform.

Like you, I've not run any large organization, although I've successfully run small ones. And like you, I have common sense and lots of expertise and specialized training that neither the president nor the governor possess as well as plenty of shortcomings relative to both men.

But I can say this for sure, the policies I've laid out at www.kotlikoff2012.org, which are policies that I believe you would endorse and could run on, would a) fix the country and b) are wholly different from anything either the president or the governor have proposed or will pursue.

Tom, this election needs to be about policy, not people. But it will take people with courage to make that a reality. The question is whether you've got the courage to do what the country needs you to do -- run for president and begin a thoughtful, respectful, public discussion, not a fifth-grade, sound-bite debate, with me and other Americans Elect candidates about what policies will really fix the country.

best, Larry