Centrism is Dead, Long Live Centrism!

I am not the first to take note of its passing though it may not be quite finished, the next few years could still hold some centrist victories, a dead cat bounce, but it’s in the coffin, ready to be buried. Many have hailed this as a good thing, a victory that will foretells the rise of the left (or the right depending which side of the partisan divide you’re on). However, declarations of victory are premature. Centrism has died and been born again many times because of course it has, political philosophy that remains unchanged for even half a century while society, technology, and circumstance move on would be considered stagnant. Centrism has never preached stagnation but it is now stagnant and so even centrists will abandon it in time. But a new centrism is being born, a political philosophy that has the potential to be every bit as influential as previous centrist philosophies.

You might be smarting at the idea that there can be multiple philosophies all defined as “centrist”. Let’s be honest, centrist, left, right, they are all vaguely defined and change throughout history, the same with liberal, conservative, and progressive. Currently the political philosophy most associated with centrism is neoliberalism (or neoconservatism but for consistency I’ll stick with neoliberalism).

Neoliberalism is the political philosophy that began gaining ground in the mid to late 70s in response to the global economic downturn and rose to dominate politics under Reagan in the United States and Thatcher in Britain. When it first appeared it was seen as conservatism which makes sense considering its champions but its designers included those in the stereotypical left as well as the right. President Jimmy Carter kicked off neoliberalism and its deregulatory regime. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair helped to cement neoliberalism as the dominating force of post-Cold War politics. The Clinton/Blair administrations were representative of the Third Way, neoliberalism for the opposition, the Tolerant Traditionalists designed to cater to the desire for an alternative party without really changing anything. This isn’t unusual, during the New Deal era Republicans were New Deal lite being for grand public works and welfare but you know, different somehow. Democrats were Republican lite after Lincoln, being for tariffs but not too high of tariffs, that sort of thing. The point is to offer an alternative, but an alternative that is palatable and familiar.

Neoliberalism is characterized by laissez faire economic policies; deregulation and austerity are the standard. The idea of efficient markets is accepted as a fundamental fact thus any government intervention must result in waste. If monopolies form, if fraud occurs, if banks or businesses act irresponsibly either the market will fix it or it is actually an indication of an efficient market. This absurd conception of economics is what led directly to the global economic recession of 2008 and the weakest recovery in decades. It is also what leads neoliberal policymakers to espouse the “new normal” rhetoric that says greater economic growth can never again be achieved, that living standards cannot continue to rise.

At the same time neoliberals tend toward centralization of power and expansion of the state. In the time of neoliberalism we’ve seen expansion of the military, imposition of a police state, the militarization of the police, escalation of the drug war, harsh mandatory sentencing laws, and the concentration of powers with the executive and DC. Neoliberalism has strong antidemocratic tendencies preferring a technocracy with as much power in the hands of the bureaucrats as possible. This has been witnessed in the expanding powers and obligations of the Federal Reserve and continuing delegation of responsibility to government agencies. It has materialized in elections with strict voter identification laws, term limits, intense gerrymandering, and restriction of independents and third parties.

Laissez faire economic policies and a large, restrictive state might seem a tad contradictory but it’s not, laissez faire has always caused general unrest and it requires a strong state to quell that unrest. A vibrant, dynamic economy is always going to create winners and losers and the global neoliberal economy has created a whole lot of losers and not that many winners. Yet we have seen some of the least unrest in decades. During the 1981 recession there were hundreds of protests and strikes across the country. During the 2008 recession we saw little to none of that and 1981 was an economic blip compared to 2008. The Occupy Movement was the largest reaction to the recession and it was entirely wiped out in a week thanks to careful coordination between mayors, police forces, and the country’s intelligence agencies.

Of course such a wrongheaded political philosophy  as neoliberalism is dying. It emerged at the right time to combat the 1970s economic crisis of stagflation that was in part caused by overburdensome government control and regulation but times have changed, neoliberalism has run its course and went too far dismantling regulations and institutions resulting in the 2008 economic crisis and quite likely the next one in a year or two. It is perhaps a cruel irony of history that political paradigms, by doing exactly what worked so well before, create the circumstances of their own demise. It is likely that forty years from now whatever political paradigm replaces neoliberalism will face its own demise at the hands of an economic crisis it helped create. The question now is what that new political paradigm will be?

Again, political disagreement between the major parties is rarely on a fundamental level, rather there is a paradigm defining party and an opposition party that offers superficial differences; though, cultural divisions are often used to define the party further (i.e. gun rights, abortion, religion, etc.). Yes, on the fringes of politics we will see more ideological differences but they only become prominent during the collapse of a political paradigm. Since the Great Recession signaled the collapse of the neoliberal paradigm, we’ve seen the ascendance of competing political groups vying to fill the void of the rapidly receding neoliberal order.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans are dealing with a civil war and realignment within their parties. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders took them by storm in the 2016 election. As different in character and values as the pair are, they both relied to an extent on demagoguery, they competed over the same voters, they both campaigned against trade agreements and globalization, they represent an emerging political paradigm characterized by nationalist and populist sentiment. This may seem like a simplification, I’m sure many in both camps would be outraged by this comparison, and certainly I know they continue to differ substantially on social issues just as the neoliberal paradigm did, but look no further than Dennis Kucinich, a candidate in the 2018 Ohio gubernatorial primary, for evidence of the overlap of the two camps. Kucinich, widely supported by Ohio progressive groups, has voiced his agreement with Trump on multiple occasions. Most notable was his praise of Trump’s inaugural address.

Many view this as the age of populists, where the left and right fringes will rise to power and realign American politics to favor the extremes. While this nationalist populism is the frontrunner in the race to replace neoliberalism, I’m not convinced that it’s over. Sanders and Trump offered something desirable to most voters whether it was their economic populism, outsider status, or willingness to shake the system. Usually it was enough to overlook the candidate’s more prominent flaws, personally I was a vehement supporter of Bernie Sanders despite disagreeing with him on the majority of his platform. The political center is collapsing and giving the demagogues their moment, but most Americans are not willing followers of demagogues, we’re too independent minded for that. Centrists, independents, and the more moderate Democrats and Republicans aren’t about to adopt fringe or extremist politics, they aren’t joining the alt right or trying socialism, they’re going to find something new, a new path forward rather than the tried and failed.

I offer a new centrist philosophy, one that is at most parallel to neoliberalism. If Neoliberalism is Tolerant Traditionalists the new school of centrist thought I’m attempting to formalize could perhaps be described as Values Progressives; though that’s probably more about conceptual symmetry than a useful definition, Values Progressives could mean anything. Values such as our sense of civic identity, that we aren’t defined so much by tradition or culture but by our neighbors and the community we find ourselves living in. And that hard work and intelligence should always pay in America.

New centrism envisions a very different role for government in the economy and society. A more participatory and less regulatory approach to the economy. Rather than perpetual austerity new centrism calls for counter cyclical economic policies and rather than removing government from the economy government takes on an entrepreneurial role making investments in infrastructure, research and development, new businesses, and skills. We are pro-market, not pro-business, so we favor building a competitive, level playing field. This means no protections for dying industries but investment in new ones and the technologies that keep old industries competitive. We want a low corporate tax rate in line with the rest of the world but elimination of the loopholes and special categories that favor the largest businesses with the most lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants. And anti-trust and anti-monopoly law needs a long overdue overhaul to deal with an economy increasingly dominated by a few powerful interests.

While new centrism shies away from severe regulation of the productive sectors of the economy, there is a special place in our hearts for the financial sector, the root cause of the 2008 global economic crisis. Finance requires proper regulation and proper oversight to ensure our nation’s savings are properly invested. It should no longer be easier to get rich managing other people’s money than building something productive. Capital gains taxes must be greater for short term investments and adjust on a sliding time scale. A financial transactions tax must be imposed to reduce speculation and excessive trading, the largest banks must be broken up and derivatives, those famous financial weapons of mass destruction, must be heavily regulated. Clearly, we aren’t Ralph Nader style consumer protectionists and aggressive regulation is the exact wrong approach to fight climate change, we tend to favor market solutions and innovation after all. Nor are we laissez faire and willing to watch the economy crumble with an unwavering faith the market will fix it if we just do nothing, the government’s strategy for the Great Recession.

At the same time new centrism reverses neoliberalism’s centralization of power, preferring to devolve decision making to the lowest practical level and fully taking advantage of states and cities as laboratories of democracy. We can’t have a handful of technocrats or a handful of CEOs controlling our country and economy, our society is far too complex for that too succeed. It can’t be planned, it’s emergent, policy must be adaptive and experimental. Alongside government’s refocus on facilitating and experimentation is a retreat from moralizing and policing society. Generally, as many rights as possible are reserved with the people, the police state dismantled, no more militarized police, no more mass spying, no more war on drugs, an end to the prison-industrial complex, and an end to the military-industrial complex. Government must become transparent, accessible, a part of the information age technological revolution, and any hint of corruption must be eliminated.

New centrism is also more than ready to tackle the much-needed reforms of the welfare state. In the short-term this means raising the retirement age, means testing, and scaling benefits with income rather than having hard cutoffs so it always pays to work. In the long-term this means consolidating welfare programs, more direct transfers, and a UBI. But primarily, we see a swiftly growing economy as the most effective means by which the welfare state can be reduced.

I imagine this has been a challenging read for you, it is a rather rambling and disjointed manifesto, full of ambiguity and redundancies. Paradigming is a difficult, messy task and I’ll progressively clean this up and refine it over time. It would be an impressive feat for a dominant political paradigm to adapt seamlessly to changing times and become the next paradigm. But that’s not what we get, instead one would expect collapse and chaos and struggle first as the faithful resist change and a vibrant exchange of ideas ensues. That’s what we’re experiencing now and those with a strictly linear perspective of history may expect centrism’s decline to continue. Centrism will be resurgent if a new centrist paradigm manifests itself within the next few years but should centrism cling to the past it will suffer irrelevancy. Whether new centrism reflects at all my vision for it remains to be seen, this political identity crisis is unlikely to peak before the next presidential election. In the meantime I’ll be working to put the best of these policies into practice because that’s how ideas thrive in a competitive ecosystem, by proving themselves, not endless exhortations of their superiority or complaints about what’s wrong with politics today.

The Next Recession

It is unusual for a bull market to last much longer than ten years. Increasing instability would suggest that this one is nearing its end. This has some important implication for the coming decade.
 
Since the financial collapse and the Great Recession we’ve seen little action by the government or anyone to fix the problems that caused the collapse. In many ways these problems have gotten worse; the Too Big to Fail banks are larger than ever, the shadow banking sector has expanded, private equity firms have caused housing prices to rise while homeownership has fallen, major US corporations have taken on considerable debt to fund stock buybacks (arguably stock market manipulation) rather than invest in R&D. Meanwhile government debt has skyrocketed and the Fed has held interest rates low for a decade. This means the government has little fiscal or monetary tools to counteract the effects of a financial crisis and ensuring recession.
 
Many households are in such a precarious economic position with debt and mortgages that the next economic downturn will lead to mass foreclosures and inability to cover both debt and living expenses. Considering rather stagnant wages the last decade, rising household debt, and the loss of wealth in 2008, most Americans are in a worse position than they were in 2007 meaning another recession has the potential to be considerably worse. Debt is dragging down growth and it has the potential to strangle the economy when the next recession hits. 
 
I am not fear mongering here, I am trying to properly express the urgency of the situation so that appropriate action can be taken while we still have the opportunity. Remember folks, before the Great Depression we used to call the depression of 1873 the Great Depression. It is a mistake to think the course of history is perfectly linear, that the present is a good indicator of the future. History has a way of taking sudden, unexpected turns.
tl;dr: The economy is going to slow down, the government and households aren’t prepared for it.

Health Care

It is no secret that the United States spends more on health care than anywhere in the world and has little to show for it. I would like to make it clear to everyone first that no matter the structure of the health care system in the country, health care as is, is prone to waste, high costs, and lacking service. There is not one way to make health care work, a market system or a socialized system doesn’t necessarily matter all that much in the end so long as it works. Below I outline several proposals I think will improve health care for Ohioans whether the policies are implemented all together or just one or two. These proposals are a combination of deregulation, market solutions, new regulation, and government solutions.

Interstate Health Care Standards

It is often said by Republicans that health insurance companies should be permitted to operate across state lines. This is already the case, what is actually meant is that Republicans want insurance companies to be able to operate in any state without meeting the requirements of the state so that they could offer junk insurance at a low cost. I propose something different, something that actually will offer good health insurance across state lines at a lower cost.

I propose we coordinate with neighboring state governments to standardize our health care laws. This will allow health care providers to operate effectively across state lines without the additional cost of trying to comply with the bureaucracy of multiple states while maintaining quality. The more states we have coordinating, the cheaper and more effective it becomes.

Delicensing 

I believe a simple step that could be taken to lower medical costs is for Ohio to allow nurse practitioners to operate their own practices without physician oversight. Many people see nurse practitioners for their primary care needs yet Ohio is one of several states that does not allow them to operate independently. By eliminating this regulation and allowing nurse practitioners to have their own practice we will improve the ability of Ohioans, particularly rural Ohioans, to receive primary care at a lower cost.

I feel the same could be done to an extent for dental hygienists.  You are not likely to see your dentist for more than a minute or two, it is the dental hygienist that does the greater deal of work. Allowing a dental hygienist their own practice would also improve availability of service and lower costs. For any issues outside a hygienist’s purview, they could recommend a patient to a dentist.

Those most likely to be opposed to this shift would be doctors and dentists, those who stand to lose money. It is simply the case that where there is money to be made there is lobbying to be done of government. I encourage policymakers to remain resolute and take the action that serves the public welfare, not their pocketbooks.

Investment in Medical Research and Development 

Ohio has global leaders in the health care industry like the Cleveland Clinic. We should leverage these existing institutions and invest in new medical technologies and new medical companies to grow this existing industry. This has two primary benefits with one policy initiative. First that advances in technology and a diverse market lowers medical costs for Ohioans as well as everyone in the world. Second that it grows Ohio’s economy and creates jobs. The health benefits of economic security are considerable after all. This investment can best be achieved by my major policy initiative of the Ohio Investment Bank.

Preventative Care for All

This policy is rather more ambitious than the others listed here and I am less certain of its effectiveness and its political feasibility. Nevertheless, I shall explain it to the best of my ability and open it up to discussion so that it can be improved or a superior alternative put forward.

As it stands now under the ACA all Ohioans must have health insurance and Ohioans have met this requirement from private insurance, employer provided insurance, government provided insurance, or simply failed to meet this requirement. First allow me to say I do not care for requirements on employers to provide insurance, I believe the point of so much government action in health care is to help alleviate the burden on employers. I would suggest a plan that eliminates this burden.

What I propose instead is that Ohio offer to all its citizens preventative medicine paid for entirely by the Ohio government. It would then be mandated that Ohioans purchase critical care insurance on their own. Preventative medicine is that which is meant to prevent the occurrence of illness rather than its treatment. This includes regular physicals, disease screenings, counseling, immunizations, birth control, and some prescriptions like insulin. I cannot at this time specify all that would be included, I think this would be a major policy that needs a fair amount of debate and consulting of relevant actors in the health care industry and the public.

This would improve the health of Ohioans over the long term because it would lower instances of more serious, more expensive illness. This improved health would, over time, lower costs for the government, Ohioans, employers, and insurance companies. Employers would not have to cover these costs anymore. Insurance companies would only have to cover critical care which are unexpected medical expenses and the instances of these unexpected medical expenses would decrease so insurance premiums would drop.

Market Application of Health Care Costs

This is a very simple regulatory change. Basically I support legislation that would require all health care providers to make all their prices for goods and services publicly available online in a searchable format. The expectation is that companies would quickly spring up to offer services that search this data and find consumers the best prices. Obviously in an emergency Ohioans aren’t going to search for the cheapest hospital in the ambulance but for every predictable medical cost Ohioans can plan ahead. This will steadily lower prices across the state as market forces will make health care providers operate more efficiently. Health care prices are inflated because insurance companies negotiate down prices for consumers, this is the primary service insurance companies seem to offer. With this service taken care of more efficiently by the digital age and market forces, one would expect insurance premiums to lower further as insurance companies focus on the primary task of collectivizing the risk of unexpected health care costs. It is a simple regulation that can accomplish much. Why hasn’t it been implemented yet? I don’t know, certainly one would hope it is not a result of nefarious motives of the health care lobby and our current legislators or the political parties that provide them their marching orders.   

Growing the Economy

That’s right, growing the economy as a health care policy. Eliminating poverty and economic security are tremendous in improving one’s health. Our problems are complicated and interconnected, fixing the economy helps fix health care. Eliminate the stress of not knowing how to pay for things, of having to work three jobs to get by, of having to work unpaid overtime to keep a job, and you have better mental and physical health. Give people more money and the ability to make good health decisions, to go to the doctor when they’re sick, to eat healthy, to live comfortably, and their health improves both mentally and physically. It’s not difficult to understand. If we’re going to fix things in Ohio let’s do it right, let’s attack all our problems on all fronts all at once. To fix health care we must fix the economy, fix education, fix government, fix the environment, fix agriculture. It can be done, we just require the grit and resolve to do it.

Crime

Eliminate Lead in the Water Supply 

There has been a substantial decline in crime across the country since the elimination of lead in gasoline as well as other efforts to control lead exposure in the environment. It is even possible to suggest that the majority of crime reduction we’ve seen is due to the reduction in lead exposure of children and not by any significant redesign of policing tactics or increase in police resources. Lead exposure at a young age causes neurodevelopment issues and neural damage which result in problems like ADHD, intelligence decline, and increased aggression and violent tendencies.

Though we have made significant gains in removing lead from our environment there is still considerable exposure risks left including in older structures like homes and schools where lead paint remains. An even greater consideration is lead in our aging water supply systems. This was in the news most prominently with the Flint water crisis. At the peak of the Flint water crisis 5% of children tested had elevated lead levels. As can be seen in this map of data collected by Reuters, all of Richland county has reported above 5% in recent years and parts of Mansfield have been at 30%.

lead in water Richland County

This is a travesty that must be rectified. By investing the resources in ensuring clean drinking water for our children we can reduce crime rates and increase our collective intelligence. This is my top priority for reducing crime especially since reducing lead exposure leads to a reduction in violent crime, particularly murders, which are not easily combated with other policing tactics. This is the richest country on Earth, the least we can do is ensure we have clean water and stop exposing our children to lead.

Problem and Community Oriented Policy

It is my belief that to most effectively reduce crime police should both work with the community and focus on dealing with repeated crime issues in a holistic, proactive manner. How exactly this is done I don’t intend to dictate, I devolve that decision making power down to the city and community level. What this does require is that more resources be made available to the police to reduce crime. This will be done with an expansion of budget but more importantly a reallocation of resources. Specifically, less resources will be wasted on the militarization of the police and less resources will be used fighting the war on drugs. As resources are put to better use and violent and property crimes are solved at a higher rate (did you know that these crimes are solved less than 50% of the time?) crime will be reduced as certainty of punishment increases.

Judicial Discretion

I am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing. I believe one of the great things about the American justice system is its common law heritage. Our justice system is not entirely a top down directive from our legislatures but a bottom-up system influenced by lawyers, judges, juries, and cases of significance. Judges should be allowed to determine what punishment best fits the crime taking into full consideration the circumstances and the individual.

Decriminalization, Marijuana, and the Opioid Crisis

It is time something were done about the drug problem. It is clear that sending hundreds of thousands of people to prison for possession and use of drugs is accomplishing nothing but costing the taxpayers billions and ruining lives. Our prisons are full of nonviolent offenders. Police spend an inordinate amount of crime on drug busts which contributes to the low success rate in solving violent and property crimes. Our focus should instead be on treatment and ending addiction. All drug use should be decriminalized such that the possession of small amounts does not result in a prison sentence but instead treatment and community service.

Recreational and medical marijuana should be legalized fully. No more resources shall be spent enforcing its prohibition. Taxes will be levied on its sale. Medical marijuana will be used to treat a range of illnesses. Many of its uses are not in its THC and do not result in a high. It is purely for medical purposes and should be fully legalized. It will also be much better in treating pain than prescription opioids which have led to thousands of overdoses and the current opioid epidemic we’re facing in our homes and in our streets. Full resources should be made available in fighting the crisis, in reducing the supply of legal and illegal opioids (with a harsh crackdown on the pharmaceutical industry), and in proving care and treatment for those facing addiction and overdoses.

 

Economic Growth and Ending Poverty

The most effective and easiest path to reducing crime is in swift economic growth and eliminating poverty. Being raised in poverty and living in poverty is a significant source of criminal behavior. Evidence suggests that simply alleviating this poverty in children will greatly reduce crime rates and quickly bring children who had been living in poverty to the same criminal rates and educational achievement of their non impoverished peers.

A swiftly growing economy offers much more desirable alternatives to crime as a way to get by and reduces the recidivism. It is much better to bring people into the workforce, to make them productive members of society, than to send them to prison. Cynically, wages and unemployment are kept low by the prison industrial complex. Imprisoned people are not counted among the unemployed so when a prison is built in an area (and sentencing goes up to fill the cells that the government pays private prison companies to run) unemployment will fall. So too will wages as the prison system has been used as a reliable source of cheap or even slave labor since the abolition of slavery. This is bad for both the economy and society and must be reversed. Economic growth will lower crime and the prison population while lowering crime and the prison population will spur economic growth. It is a reinforcing cycle of progress. Our problems must be tackled simultaneously for us to reach our greatest success.

Economy

The Ohio Investment Bank

I propose the establishment of a state owned investment bank for the advancement of Ohio’s economy, ideally kept as separate from political machinations as possible while still providing democratic oversight.

The purpose of the investment bank is to offer a source of capital for the long-term investments necessary for the growth of Ohio’s economy. These are investments in infrastructure projects for the future like smart electric grids that work with renewable energy sources, sustainable housing development, greater access to internet, new transportation infrastructure, etc. These are also investments in new technologies and the Research and Development that the private sector has been reluctant to do in the face of a financial system that incentives stock buybacks over investment.

The bank will also offer capital for Ohio based start-ups, and the small and medium sized businesses so often ignored by large private banks and venture capital. These are not grants, this is not yet another government giveaway. The Ohio Investment Bank is expected to show a return on investment that will eventually cover its initial costs.

Branch Banking and Export Services

The bank will have branches at the municipal level or will partner with existing banks at the municipal level. These branch banks will foster relationships with the community and the businesses they are investing in. They will have a great deal of autonomy in determining what types of businesses to invest in to best suit the needs of the community but be within a certain set of guidelines to meet the investment bank’s goal of sustainable development and investment in the future. These branches will also offer technical support to businesses to give them a better chance at success. This structure will help ensure that decision making is being done by those best positioned to understand the local economy while maintaining the goals of the Ohio Investment Bank.

These branches will also offer export support to help connect businesses to clients in different countries and to build the supply chains necessary for the construction of a successful business. This is difficult for start-ups and small businesses and it is to the benefit of the Ohio economy to offer these services. If Ohio is to build a booming economy it must have strong connections to the global economy. The branches of the investment bank near universities may partner with their technology transfer office to facilitate the movement of new technologies from the research lab to the market.

The Ohio Investment Bank and the services it will provide will make Ohio an economic and technological leader and it will do it with limited cost to the taxpayer. The Ohio Investment Bank makes the government an active partner with businesses, entrepreneurs, and industry.

Ohio: An Agricultural Giant

I believe Ohio is well placed to be a leader in agriculture. We have extensive farmland, experienced farmers and cultivators, research universities with great agricultural departments, and the resources to make the next great leap forward in agriculture. The world’s population is only going to grow for the foreseeable future and supporting that population requires a great deal of agricultural resources beyond just food. While I don’t think we’ll be feeding the world any time soon, we can be leaders in the new technologies and techniques that will be instrumental in feeding the world. Below I’ll outline a few proposals I think both achievable and productive in accomplishing this goal.

Investing In New Technology and Techniques

Through the Ohio Investment Bank and partnering with Ohio’s many universities we will invest in new agricultural technologies and the businesses that will innovate and take them to market. These businesses will range from direct suppliers of these new technologies to the businesses and farmers will put them to use. We will also invest in developing new farming techniques which cannot be directly monetized but can be shared with farmers to increase outputs and lower costs.

Some of these technologies could be genetically modified organisms or the production of new strains by other means. These would be designed for higher yields, greater nutritional value, greater diversity of environment, diversity of crops, and sustainable farming practices. There will also be development of vertical farming techniques and related technologies such as environmental controls systems.

I believe Mansfield could benefit greatly from an investment in vertical farming to produce fresh, nutrient rich food locally and then selling to schools, restaurants, and grocers in Mansfield and the surrounding area. New farming techniques and new technologies such as GMO’s not controlled by monopolistic conglomerates like Monsanto will go a long way for Richland County’s farmers to produce more efficiently and keep more of their profits.

Industrial Hemp and Legal Marijuana

I don’t see any good reason not to allow for the growing of industrial hemp for industrial purposes like the production of paper. Industrial hemp is more efficient, cost effective, and environmentally friendly than lumber and has low THC so isn’t viable as a drug. Blocking the production of industrial hemp can only be the result of intense lobbying in the lumber industry. That’s just ridiculous. I am intent on ending crony capitalism and rent seeking in Ohio’s government, it’s just a disgrace.

I support the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana which will is outlined more in the Crime section of the platform. I do not support assigning monopoly power to a handful of growers and sellers. It is a money making crop with significant tax value. I am for growing the economy while simultaneously reducing crime and addiction.

End the Commoditization of Agriculture

This isn’t an investment proposal, more of a regulation, part of my ongoing fight against the financialization of America. Commoditization is basically the financial sector creating futures markets for products so as to bet and speculate on them. This has caused instability of food prices and has drained money away from farmers and consumers and gave it to the middlemen, traders manipulating the markets they create to profit regardless of anyone else involved. The commoditization of agricultural products and other important resources led to the massive global increase in food prices before and after the recession. Perhaps the only good thing to come from the recession is that low employment and low incomes counteracted rising food prices so that prices did not rise too much. I support action to end this commoditization. Ending commoditization will keep prices lower and stable, responding to actual production changes, and keep more money in the hands of farmers rather than speculators.

 

Health Care Technologies

This issue is addressed in the Health Care section of my platform but I’ll address it again here. Ohio already has leaders in the health care industry. We must leverage this and invest in new health care technologies and businesses. This investment will be done largely with the Ohio Investment Bank. This will not only create jobs and boost the economy but will also make health care cheaper for everyone.

Direct Assistance and The End of Poverty

10 years into “recovery” and Ohio’s poverty rate remains higher than it was pre-recession. This has been the most sluggish recovery in decades, perhaps in history. A true recovery must not only bring us back to where we were before the recession but make up for the lost growth. The former has yet to happen, the ladder isn’t likely any time soon. Richland County and Mansfield have seen real increases in poverty over the last two decades. Richland County’s poverty rate is greater than Ohio’s poverty rate and Ohio’s poverty rate is greater than the United State’s poverty rate. Our leaders have failed, we’ve failed at a local, state, and national level to fix this problem. It has been over 50 years since the War on Poverty was declared. I think it’s time it was won.

Ending poverty is something we can and must do and it is absolutely within our reach. My entire platform addresses the issue of poverty in some way or another and will contribute to its elimination once implement but here I will discuss the most direct ways we can eliminate poverty. I know how stupidly obvious what I’m about to say is and how meaningless it may seem but it is actually a very important point: poverty is fundamentally a lack of money.

Thus, the task at hand is getting money into the hands of those in poverty. This can be done by improving wages, creating new jobs, and lowering costs of vital goods and services so more money can be kept in the pockets of working people. Methods for accomplishing this are outlined elsewhere in this platform (everywhere really). Another way of getting money into the hands of those in poverty is to give it to them directly. I think this second way, particularly when coupled with the first, will absolutely eliminate poverty in Ohio and grow the economy quickly. I don’t claim to know the best way to do this but I’ll outline a few proposals I think will succeed.

Ohio Income Credit

I think giving all Ohioans $500-$1000 a year is attainable and will provide a significant boost to the economy as it grows demand, increases spending power, and gives many the small push necessary to lift oneself out of poverty. This isn’t enough to eliminate poverty, all things considered it isn’t much at all. But the important part is that it is universal, you receive it if you are rich or poor, working or unemployed. Existing welfare programs offer perverse incentives to not work. It is referred to as the welfare trap, when there is greater incentive to remain unemployed and stay on welfare rather than get a low paying job. This guaranteed credit means that people can seek work without losing the income boost, that people can seek higher paying jobs rather than take the first one that comes along, that people can take time off to seek an education or be a more active parent without worrying so much about money. The worry is of course still there, $500 isn’t enough to live on, but it makes a difference. One day, as Ohio’s economy grows as these policies are implemented, the income credit will grow while simultaneously becoming less important.

Ohio Family Assistance Plan

Another direct funding approach we can take which I believe will have a greater long run effect is putting an income floor in place for families. I propose an amount ranging between $4000-$6000 be paid to all Ohio families in poverty annually. In many ways this is inspired by Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan which unfortunately was killed in the senate. In the announcement of his plan President Nixon said,

“The present system often makes it possible to receive more money on welfare than on a low-paying job. This creates an incentive not to work, and it also is unfair to the working poor. It is morally wrong for a family that is working to try to make ends meet to receive less than a family across the street on welfare. This has been bitterly resented by the man who works, and rightly so–the rewards are just the opposite of what they should be. Its effect is to draw people off payrolls and onto welfare rolls–just the opposite of what government should be doing. To put it bluntly and simply–any system which makes it more profitable for a man not to work than to work, or which encourages a man to desert his family rather than to stay with his family, is wrong and indefensible.”

These are indeed my sentiments. This plan would scale the benefits as family income increases so that the family always benefits and is never punished. This will help lift the 300,000 Ohio families currently living in poverty above the poverty line. It is our moral obligation to help end poverty but if morality isn’t exactly your thing, there are substantial economic advantages. By eliminating family poverty we greatly reduce crime, we greatly improve education attainment, it increases future hours worked and future incomes of the children significantly (not to mention future taxable income for Ohio), and it doesn’t reduce the incentives for parents to work while leading to better parenting as less time is spent worrying about how the family will pay the bills.

Energy Independence and Sustainability

Energy is one of the primary inputs for a growing economy and industry (the others being labor, capital, land, and production materials). Cheap and reliable energy makes a place desirable for energy intensive industries and manufacturing. It also greatly improves the lives of people, particularly as our world becomes increasingly reliant on electronic devices. It keeps the lights on, keeps us cool or warm, it does everything, you know this, so why am I explaining it to you? I don’t know either. Onto the policy!

My goal is the Ohio will become energy independent, meaning that it produces all the energy it uses within our own borders, and that we will do this in a low cost, sustainable way. This means investment in new energy technologies like renewables such as wind and solar, nuclear energy particularly 4th generation nuclear reactors, natural gas, and whatever other forms of energy we can develop. This means investment in related energy technologies like batteries capable of holding large charges and charging quickly, a smart energy grid, and increasingly efficient technologies. Much of this investment will be led by the Ohio Investment Bank. Not only will Ohio benefit from the cheap energy but also the development of new industries and new jobs producing the related technologies.

Some of these technologies are more long-term investments like 4th generation nuclear reactors while others are short-term and destined to be retired like natural gas or how coal has already become economically and ecologically unfeasible. Wind and solar are not likely to dominate our energy supply anytime soon as they are not entirely reliable like nuclear and fossil fuels, more investment in the grid and batteries is necessary. It is best that we increase the capacity of renewables while investing in clean, sustainable, and reliable 4th generation nuclear. After years of Republican domination of Ohio’s government our competitiveness in energy production has been substantially held back. No longer. Neither will we allow Democrats to hold back proven and sustainable technologies. In the end we must do what is best for Ohio, not special interests or political parties. Frankly I’m disturbed how politicized an issue energy has become. It is a basic, fundamental necessity for a 20th century economy, it will be all the more important in the 21st century. Don’t let old politics hold Ohio back from the future any more. Just join with me and we can make an energy sector that works and an economy that works.

Job Training and The Skills Ecosystem

In a swiftly growing and changing economy, people are our greatest resource. As our economy grows it will create new jobs and industries which will require skilled and specialized workers. At the same time global economic forces are rendering many jobs obsolete. What this means is we need a to build a complex and open system of education and job training to ensure no one is left behind and everyone has an opportunity to participate in expanding wealth.

This requires us to build a skills ecosystem where businesses, community colleges, and workers coordinate to fulfill the needs of a growing economy. Community colleges need to work with businesses to design fast paced training programs for specific roles in new businesses. Community colleges must work with workers to provide an affordable education that accommodates their needs and schedule. Concentration of new industries will create dynamic clusters of ideas and skills, a great deal of on the job training and apprenticing will characterize these new industries as formal training will not yet exist.

Education

I can’t say I have much to offer with regards to educational reform, I know we need it but that’s about it. When I have brought up my thoughts on what could make for better education I have been roundly criticized. It is possible that my negative experience in the public education system has left me too critical. Nevertheless as I am an independent minded individual constantly seeking to improve I cannot help but to offer an idea or two. Below I outline just a few of my thoughts but do not consider them policy proposals.

Standardized Testing

I think there is far too much testing in public education. Too much time is spent focusing on tests rather than learning or receiving an education. The world is changing quickly and people must learn to adapt to change, not pass a test.

Online Schooling

It is inevitable that education moves online in some format or another. THis does not mean entirely online schools, it simply means more and better educational resources will be available in a digital format. This could be incorporated into a physical school with more independent learning than strict lecture (well known to be one of the worst forms of teaching) or there could be entirely online schools. Whatever the case, the producer and purveyor of digital educational resources is going to be a big industry. I think Ohio should try and be a leader here.

Universal Voucher System

I support a system of universal vouchers for k-12 education in Ohio. What this means is that Ohio offers an amount of funding for every student. This funding will go with a student to whatever institution they enroll in be it public, private, or something else. The desire of institutions is then to attract and educate as many students as possible at the lowest cost. As part of this system it would not be allowed for anyone to charge for a k-12 education beyond the voucher. Thus it is a more equal playing field between public and private institutions. A private institution then must truly be better to attract more students rather than to offer the prestige or extras that private institutions currently do to separate wealthy parents from their money. Again, just expressing my thoughts, not a policy proposal.

 

Government

 

Decentralization 

I believe in devolving decision making to the lower practical level of government because those closest to a problem are best equipped to handle it. This means allowing cities and localities to pass their own laws on most issues without being overruled by the state. This also means providing more funding to cities and localities to use as they see fit. This is a reversal of the last 8 years of Republican government that has steadily increased the concentration of power in Columbus.

Ohio Anti-Corruption Act

One of my first priorities once elected is passing the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act which is based to some extent on the proposed American Anti-Corruption Act. This will include policies to limit the amount of lobbying that is done in Columbus and end the revolving door between elected representatives and lobbyists. This will also limit campaign contributions from unions and corporations and bring an end to PACs and dark money. I demand an entirely transparent government for Ohio and an end to the rent seeking and crony capitalism. The first step in solving Ohio’s problems and rebuilding our economy is cleaning up the government and removing the corruption in Columbus. Ohioans deserve a government for Ohioans, not special interests and those with the biggest checkbook.

Unicameral Legislature

I don’t see much point in the state senate. It is not like the senate at the federal level where each state is apportioned a set number of senators. The state senate is almost no different than the state house, it even has basically the same proportion of Republicans and Democrats. It is an extra an unnecessary step and an unnecessary cost to taxpayers.

Eliminate the Position of Lieutenant Governor

It is a pointless position that costs Ohio taxpayers $140,000 annually. If we are concerned about what will happen should a governor resign or die we will simply follow a line of succession of the other statewide elected officials.

21st Century Government

It is my goal that the government of Ohio be brought into the 21st century and be as fully digitized as possible. Within the next decade Ohioans should be able to vote, pay fines and taxes, participate in government, and handle nearly all bureaucratic nonsense from the convenience of a laptop or phone. This digitalization will save the government money and save time and costs for Ohio citizens. It is in fact possible, we just need the vision and commitment.

Enfranchisement

I am for democracy and greater enfranchisement. I want people to vote and participate in government because I believe that results in ultimately the best outcomes. To this end it should be as easy to vote as possible in a secure way. This means abundant polling locations open for extended periods of time, online voting, and the right to vote not being infringed. We should also lower the voting age perhaps to 17, maybe even to 16. The goal here is to get people active in government early. This will improve turnout and improve active participation in government. The usual arguments I see against this are that young people lack the mental capacity to make good choices and that they will just vote the way their parents do. It is already the case that people vote the way their parents do for decades after leaving their parent’s home, this is largely a result of genetics and the way one was raised, and I don’t think many parents would argue that their teenage children are anything if not independent minded. To the other argument I just point out that we do not require people to be of proven intelligence to vote and intelligence doesn’t necessarily correlate with who one votes for.

Fight For the Future