Saturday, June 13, 2009

My latest letter to President Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:
Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner has been ineffectual. Upon assuming office, his sole responsibility was to craft a clear strategy to address the financial crisis left by W. He has yet to deliver this, and instead has implemented only ad hoc tactics or programs with no apparent relationship to any overall strategy. What are the strategic objectives? Where are we now? How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? Secretary Geithner has not answered any of these very basic questions. (He’s been off giving interviews and pointlessly responding to GOP talking-points!)

I have a modest proposal.
Appoint a “blue-ribbon” panel of seven (7) ordinary American citizens to craft an economic strategy for the nation.
Basic requirements:
I. Minimal citizenship standards, as measured by voting in past 4 national elections (2002 Congressional midterms, 2004 Presidential, 2006 Congressional midterms, 2008 Presidential).
The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that panel members care enough about the issues and their country to have participated in our participatory democracy.

II. Education/experience
a. Highschool graduate + 15 years work experience

b. College graduate + 10 years work experience

c. Graduate/professional degree + 10 years work experience

The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that panel members have some minimal experience living in the real world, and some minimal educational attainment.
Work experience should be measured by consecutive years filing personal tax returns. [Note: currently unemployed applicants ARE eligible, provided only that they have in the past worked for a living!]

III. Disqualifications
a. Convicted felons to be excluded.

b. Anyone who has worked in the financial sector at any level to be excluded (from bank tellers up to Wall Street CEOs).
The purpose of this exclusion is to ensure that the panel provides a counterbalance to the heavily finance-oriented perspective of your current economic advisory team.

c. Anyone who has worked (in a paid position) for a lobbying firm, a political candidate, or a current or former member of Congress to be excluded – to avoid clear conflicts of interest.

d. No more than two (2) panelists to have either undergraduate or graduate degrees in economics, finance, or business.
Again – the point is to limit the influence of presumed “experts” – and to draw instead from the life-experience and common-sense of non-experts.

IV. Demonstration of basic economic/quantitative competence
Panelists ought to be able to pass with a 10/10 score a 10-question quiz which includes basics such as, “What is GDP?”, “What is 7% of $143?”.
[I’d be happy to craft a first draft of the quiz for you!... and, in fact, anyone who can answer the two sample questions above is probably qualified!]
That’s it.
I am confident that such a panel could craft a comprehensive, effective economic strategy within six (6) weeks… a task Secretary Geithner has been unable to accomplish in six months!

Think of it this way: you’ll be creating seven new jobs!


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