Monday, September 19, 2011

A New Economy

by Tom Wise

Our way of life is changing. Jobs are scarce, having been shipped to places of cheap (or slave) labor, or fallen victim to a domino effect of deterioration. Factories close, only to reopen in a different country. To find a U.S.-made appliance or electronic gadget is a miracle. We are still the number one manufacturer in all the world, but you would never know it in comparison with two decades ago or by asking the man on the street. Not that the spirit is missing. The work ethic is alive and well, only the opportunities have greatly diminished.

The solution is not one-dimensional but it is fairly simple: unleash resources. Several industries presently stifled can become juggernauts if allowed to prosper without undue regulation. Here, I present two.

(1) The first you have heard before. I propose that we legalize marijuana.

However, there would be caveats. One is that importers should pay a true tariff, this to keep the domestic crop competitive and attractive. Naturally, this measure encourages smuggling. Therefore, any illegal importation of the weed would receive harsh punishment. This would serve as a “tariff” on those who would in any way undercut American growers. The question may also arise concerning children using marijuana. Under my plan, no one under 18 may purchase marijuana. Those caught selling to the underage would be subject to severe penalty, more so if the child was under 16. Sharing with the underage would be considered child abuse. A related issue is public safety. This is solved by legalization. As long as marijuana (as alcohol) is legal, transportation companies (for example, airlines) can rightfully require urine tests. But as long as pot is illegal, a urine test presupposes that you are guilty of a crime, not only of irresponsibility. Now, if the complaint is public health, I think we can agree that a rehabilitation center (if you will) is more cost-effective than arresting recreational users, crowding our jails and juvenile halls, and wasting police resources on misdemeanors.

Marijuana is a cash cow. If only 20 million people in the United States (less than 10% of the population) crave the stuff, and are willing to pay out at the same average as the cigarette smoker or alcohol aficionado (roughly $10 per week or about $500 a year), we are talking about a $10 billion annual sales figure. Presupposing a flat tax of 10%, the federal government would derive revenues at about $1 billion (this sounds small in today’s trillions, but it’s really quite good). Entrepreneurs might invest also in storefronts, wholesale paraphernalia, and various related cottage industries (more tax revenue). The economy also benefits greatly because all that money stays within these borders rather than going to Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica, Thailand, and other known growing areas.

Arguments against legalization are weak. “Marijuana is the devil’s weed.” No, that was conceived in the 1920’s, and it began as a racial condemnation. “Marijuana leads to other drugs.” Beer leads to whiskey. “Marijuana is a scourge.” No, mafias and cartels are scourges, marijuana is a nuisance at most. Marijuana will be smoked whether anyone likes it or not (I do not smoke it), and the money will pour to other lands, likely to criminals who grow in power daily. Marijuana is a mild health risk, no greater than moderate legal alcohol.

(2) My second proposal is more mainstream. Drill, baby, drill!

Our energy needs are buried under our very feet, and yet necessary drilling and delivery is buried under unending regulation. Some of these impediments are environmentally motivated, some political. Regardless, it is my understanding that America has enough natural gas to last a century or more, and enough oil to last 50 years. The result of domestic exploration and drilling is cheaper fuel, which can only help the consumer, causing some to accrue enough capital to create more jobs. The plenty in natural gas can also help many transition from gasoline-driven autos (whatever their reason). Of course, all this new activity equals JOBS. As well, domestic oil keeps our dollars out of the hands of repressive governments in the Middle East, Africa and South America.

The technology is available. All we require is the will and fast action (like yesterday).

These ideas don’t require the next Bill Gates. The infrastructure is obvious and partly constructed. The demand is settled science. All we require is strong leadership and a willingness to try. This is only part of my plan to restore jobs to America, which in turn is just a slice of a greater economic plan.

It's time to think big. Maybe my ideas have flaws. Maybe my ideas are too idealistic. Let's discuss it.

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