by Argus C. Zall

Foreword: I explain why it would be necessary for me to be a dictator in order to get any significant reforms or solution to the country’s problems: our political system has degenerated into a chaotic collection of special interest groups each of which is competing to reserve for itself a deck chair on the promenade deck of the Titanic, vetoing any reform that would damage its own position. In eleven chapters, I outline my dictated solutions to the nation’s major [problems.




(Copyright July 31 2006)

Why should I write this book? For that matter, why should you read it? Because the country is going to damnation and there’s plenty of room for it; hell ain’t half full yet. And the last five presidential campaigns have studiously avoided all of the issues; not just a few, mind you, ALL of them. I have absolutely refused to vote for either the Republican or the Democratic candidates for President and Vice-President in any of them, but have voted for MYSELF, because I thought I was better qualified to run the country than any of the candidates. At least I had a few ideas about how to deal with some of the major problems facing the country, which, on the record, appeared to be more than any of them did. If any of them had an idea in their heads, the handlers in their respective corners wouldn’t let them mention it for fear it would make some voter somewhere mad.

Unfortunately, in our televised politics, it now appears that elections are not won, they are lost. And even sadder, they are lost because of honesty. If anyone really says what the hard choices are going to be, he is going to lose far more votes from people who KNOW THEY are going to be hurt than he will gain from people who THINK it may be best for the country.

The country has become one vast conglomeration of special interest groups, ranging from the smallest, ME, to the largest (at least the largest noisemaker) the National Rifle Association. Everybody is concerned with what will advance his or her own interest, or his particular clan’s interest, regardless of whether it’s good for the country or not. We are each and every one of us going to claim the ideal spot for a chair on the Promenade Deck of the Titanic, so we will have the best view of the unfolding tragedy and will be the last to get our feet wet.

In 1953 (or was it ’54? I don’t remember) “Engine Charlie” Wilson (president of General Motors) made a terrible gaffe. While being quizzed by a Senate Committee in his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense in the Eisenhower Administration, he said that he thought what was good for General Motors was good for the Country. You wouldn’t believe the uproar in the press (the television newsmen hadn’t acquired the status of gurus yet). You’d think he had peed on the Flag. He finally got out if it by alleging in effect that he “misspoke himself” (to borrow another deathless phrase from a later political scene), that he had really intended to say “What’s good for the Country is good for General Motors”.

Today, I wonder what all the fuss was about. Every single special interest, one-issue pressure group not only says but apparently passionately believes that what’s good for their own little corner of the world is good for the country. We have become a country that is so fragmented into special-issue litmus-test clans and tribes that the only way to form a majority to decide anything is to pander to and collect under one umbrella enough log-rolling minorities, which of course has the quid pro quo that everybody gets their own little baksheesh. Everybody gets his payoff. Western cattle-ranchers railing against Medicaid suck up to the public trough for subsidized water. Every religion demands that its own particular version of God’s will be codified into the law of the land. The damn New England Yankees want all the benefits of cheap oil, but they want the mess in Prince William Sound or the Gulf of Mexico, not the Gulf of Maine. Labor Unions want MORE, but they want cheap goods too, so American jobs get shipped overseas.

Public employees protest that they are overworked and underpaid, but every year there appear to be more of them, as if they are multiplying by the table of nines.. The costs of public services that we took for granted a quarter century ago exponentiate by the rule of 78, so we can’t afford them anymore, even though by any measure, the country is infinitely richer now than it was then.

What makes me think I have any business prescribing a way out of the mess we are in? Well for one thing, I’m not running for anything. I don’t have any handlers in the corner trying to execute “spin-control” programs to weasel-word me out of anything I say that is going to cost some pain. For another thing, I’m now retired, with a reasonably comfortable pension, so I can’t be fired if I gore somebody’s ox. If people don’t like what I prescribe, well that’s tough. I don’t care. Take it or leave it, but at least I will have said what I think, and I will have aimed squarely at what I think is good for the COUNTRY, and not for any damned selfish little inbred clan.

But really, what qualifications do I have to prescribe? What makes me think I know something nobody else does that gives me the right to say “do this” or “don’t do that”? The answer is, no qualifications really, except that of many years of living and learning and acquiring a bit of knowledge here, a bit of common sense there. And, in all truth, most of what I will have to say seems to me to be little more than common sense, that nobody in public life has the guts to say.

However, most of my prescriptions, however obvious, are politically impossible to execute, because every last one of them steps squarely on the tits of some sacred cow. Consequently any politician who had to run for election or re-election would rather wear purple pajamas to a diplomatic reception than propose, vote for, or implement any one of them. Besides, I can’t figure out who runs the country anyway. The President certainly doesn’t, as Ronald Reagan found out to his sorrow when he rode into Washington in 1981 with a mandate to cut Government EXPENDITURES and taxes. The Congress is incapable of running anything, not even itself. Half the time, it can’t even pass a budget in a timely fashion, but lets the Government limp along under continuing resolutions until it votes in multi-trillion-dollar packages in one omnibus bill the contents of which that not one single Senator or Representative has a clue about. The nearest thing to an organization that runs the country is the federal court system. It appears to be the only branch of government that can make a decision and make it stick. No wonder we are in deep trouble!

So when I decided on a title for this polemic, the words that I chose were very specific. How I would run the country, if I were a dictator, and didn’t have to negotiate with those well-known foreign powers, Congress and the courts. Having so cavalierly dismissed the Constitution in regard to the organization and operation of the Government, I will still say that none of my prescriptions will violate the letter or the spirit of the Bill of Rights, in which the fundamental rights of the citizenry are guaranteed. Many of the ideas herein are not original; they have been proposed and shouted down before. In every case in which I am using a borrowed idea, I have fleshed it out with considerable detail to satisfy myself that it is indeed practical. Moreover, this is the first place in which all of them are assembled into one coherent program.

Now that I have disposed of my motives (crotchety cussedness) and qualifications (none) for writing this manifesto, I better make a little list of the problems I am going to illuminate with the piercing gaze of my wisdom, if for no other reason than to keep my fulminations organized in some semblance of a priority order. From the list, I think you’ll see that I stand foursquare on the Pogo Platform: “We has met the enemy and it is US” (with a tip of the hat to the late Walt Kelly).

In order, highest priority first: Deficits (Federal Budget and Trade); National Defense and Security including Immigration; Crime and Punishment; Drugs; Health Care; Public Education (or lack thereof); Money; The Environment; American Business.. You will note that the majority of these are either internal problems or are exacerbated by our internal mistakes, and will require internal solutions. The fact that our worst problems are of our own making is a splendid opportunity, because we can cure them entirely by ourselves.

This is a book about how we can do it.

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