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When I'm president, I'll announce a ten year plan to get government out of the business of printing physical money. That will be plenty of time for private industry to migrate to smartphone and debit/credit card payment systems alone. I'll make the move in part to save the government money and make things more convenient for everyone. But the main objective is to reduce dangerous drug use. Once you take paper money out of the system, it becomes very hard for dealers to do what they do without detection.

I'm only talking about the most dangerous recreational drugs. I'll let states decide what they want to do about marijuana. Removing paper money from the system should make it nearly impossible for kids to buy weed without being detected. And in a cashless world, marijuana won't be a gateway drug because there won't be a practical way to buy the hard stuff. (I stole this idea from a friend.)

Having solved the drug problem on the first day of my presidency, I'll have some free time to work on the economy and on healthcare. My plan is to treat those two problems as part of a whole. Allow me to weave this brilliant tapestry of conceptual awesomeness right in front of your eyes.

I'll start by proposing a new tax to any industry in the healthcare field, including businesses involved in fitness, drug rehab, and anything else that directly contributes to wellness. You hate that part of my plan, right? But wait. I'll also propose a tax exemption to this new tax for companies that hire anyone who hasn't had healthcare coverage for the past year, so long as the new job provides health coverage on day one.

The idea still sucks, right? Now you have an obnoxious new federal tax on wellness businesses, and the only way they can duck the tax is by hiring more people than their businesses require. But hold on, the clever part is coming.

Imagine tens of millions of people suddenly becoming new consumers of healthcare and wellness products. That's a lot of money getting pumped into the very industry I'm forcing to do unwanted hiring. Conveniently, the new employees will be needed to handle the new influx of business.

Obviously it's hard to add unskilled and wrong-skilled people to the healthcare industry overnight. The industry would need to provide training in many cases. But I'm defining wellness so broadly that jobs might include gym attendants, helpers to visit the elderly and make sure they take their meds, and other back office work that requires no medical experience.

Let's say this idea is still a big drag on the wellness industry. They simply can't make enough money from the sudden uptick of new business to compensate for the cost of training, paying, and providing health insurance for the new employees. That's where the next part of my plan comes in: I'd propose forcing the rich to buy stock in American companies in the wellness field at whatever amounts my team of crack economists figures would support the stock prices enough to compensate for the cost of adding new employees. Forcing the rich to buy overpriced stock in an industry that is experiencing unprecedented demand isn't nearly as bad as taxing them and then throwing their money down a government hole. The rich would have a decent chance of making a good return on their mandatory healthcare stock purchases in the long run. And it's harder for a multimillionaire to whine about forced stock ownership compared to direct taxation.

Obviously this sort of plan would need lots of attention to prevent abuse. You don't want companies hiring a new employee and firing an existing one the same day just to get the tax benefits.  I'd propose substantial whistleblower rewards to prevent cheating, and stiff penalties for the offending companies. Most of the bigger companies wouldn't take the risk of gaming the system and getting caught. And I'd exempt smaller companies from this plan.

Clearly there would be plenty of resistance to this complicated government plan because many citizens believe the government ruins whatever it touches. I am sympathetic to that view. But keep in mind that the government is already deeply into the businesses of healthcare and taxation and economic stimulation. I'm just suggesting the government could do it more effectively by goosing one particular industry in the right direction.

The magic of this plan is that the healthcare and wellness field is one of the few that could absorb vast numbers of relatively unskilled workers. That's true in part because it's a profitable industry, and partly because it requires so much human interaction. A robot can't draw blood samples, drive grandma to her doctor's appointment, teach a fitness class, or manage a rehab center. I assume most of the new employees to this field would be diverted to the fields of prevention as opposed to standard medical practice. And we know that prevention is better economics than treatment, so everyone wins.

I can also imagine companies getting creative in terms of what qualifies as health and wellness. A new employee might be asked to set up single-purpose Skype systems for elderly people living at home, so they can be reminded to take meds, and checked on regularly. Maybe another job involves organizing a neighborhood to take daily walks. It wouldn't be hard to create new jobs in that field.

When that many unemployed people get absorbed into the workforce it stimulates the economy and puts the budget back on a healthy trajectory. If you're keeping count, so far I've solved the drug problem, healthcare, unemployment, the sluggish economy, and the budget deficit. That takes care of my first month on the job as President of the United States.

Next I'd deal with those pesky Iranians by offering college scholarships in the United States for the children and grandchildren of the top leaders in the Iranian military and government. My theory is that kids are the only topic with enough emotional power to make a parent forget everything that seemed important yesterday. Sure, the Iranian leaders might want to destroy the Great Satan and the Little Satan too, but what they want even more is for their kids to have world-class educations. In the short run, the offer of college scholarships might make the Iranian leaders more flexible about nukes. In the long run, the cross-pollination would be healthy. And even if the Iranians say no to the idea, it's hard to fully commit to hating a country that makes that sort of offer.

By my sixth month in office, I would run out of problems to solve.

 
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Jun 30, 2012
As far as the plan on the whole, I think your underestimating the barter system. If prostitutes can give sexual favors for drugs, then the black market will revert to a sex and drug based economy.

Unfortunately, it's gonna be really difficult to convert the value of a !$%*!$% to grams of cannabis, to grams of cocaine, to grams of heroin, to grams of meth. And the manufacturer of each particular drug is going to affect the value exchange a little.

And in all this confusion, someone will eventually get screwed (or think they got screwed). This will lead to an argument, and possibly to drug/pimp wars. So eliminating physical money would actually increase gang casualty.

Even if this plan works (by making the black market too dangerous/easy to track), the drug problem won't go out with a wimper, but with a bang. And do you really trust the American public to see beyond the short term damage?
 
 
Jun 30, 2012
As far as the plan on the whole, I think your underestimating the barter system. If prostitutes can give sexual favors for drugs, then the black market will revert to a sex and drug based economy.

Unfortunately, it's gonna be really difficult to convert the value of a !$%*!$% to grams of cannabis, to grams of cocaine, to grams of heroin, to grams of meth. And the manufacturer of each particular drug is going to affect the value exchange a little.

And in all this confusion, someone will eventually get screwed (or think they got screwed). This will lead to an argument, and possibly to drug/pimp wars. So eliminating physical money would actually increase gang casualty.

Even if this plan works (by making the black market too dangerous/easy to track), the drug problem won't go out with a wimper, but with a bang. And do you really trust the American public to see beyond the short term damage?
 
 
Jun 29, 2012
>I can't tell you how many times I've bought gas or brought food to my dealer.

Your absolutely certain your friends are getting high off of unadulterated home grown product? Because this contradicts what my college Wellness class instructor told the class.
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
I can't tell you how many times I've bought gas or brought food to my dealer.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 28, 2012
>[Good luck trading sex and favors for heroin. At some point your dealer needs actual money.

--scott

WOw scott, this is some world class cognitive dissonance. You can't think of anything that a user could trade to a dealer that they could trade for cash? Seriously? Come on, man...

Also, everyone needs sex at some point too, and it can be quite expensive. Free sex can count as a cash exchange in the long run.
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
>I'm pretty sure the actual cannabis in a street joint isn't what gets you high. Drug peddlers soak their product in brown-acid and other chemicals before selling it.

As somebody who smokes weed every day, this is pure nonsense. Seriously, you should never contribute to any conversation ever again.

Also, even if you eliminate physical currency, the drug trade will not stop. I'll barter for my ganja if I have to. Or I'll become a grower and trade to my friends in return for favors.

This is probably the dumbest post and thread I've ever read on this blog.
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
Sorry, shouldn't have posted.
Anyway, pot contains 4 times the amount of tar as cigarettes, but most drug users only smoke about 2 joints a day, as opposed to the 20 cigarettes the average smoker consumes. The math is pretty simple from there.
 
 
Jun 28, 2012
I'm pretty sure the actual cannabis in a street joint isn't what gets you high. Drug peddlers soak their product in brown-acid and other chemicals before selling it.
 
 
Jun 26, 2012
I see only two problems with your plan. The Constitution and Reality.
 
 
Jun 25, 2012
@Scott,

Interesting theory, except that our companies sell the same stuff in other countries for pennies on the dollar. Medical companies in other countries don't seem to have the same burden. And ultimately, we pay a vast fortune for things (like purified oxygen, a bed, and a pulseox) that are decades-old technology. In fact, i can buy an oxygen concentrator for $250 new, and a pulseox for $50. Even a really decent set will cost ~$1000. To buy, brand new, not "to rent" for 4 days.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 25, 2012
Have you been aware of the problems in Ireland due to the fault in the IT systems in one of the main banks. This has caused massive disruption to people with salaries not being paid and standing orders not being processed. It is a major reason why so many people like and want !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%
 
 
Jun 25, 2012
Insurance is NOT THE PROBLEM with healthcare in this country. People seem to obsess over the insurance issue, but "how do we pay for it" is just a smokescreen for the "why is it so expensive" question.

My daughter got Pneumonia this spring and we took her in when her breathing seemed difficult. Four days under supervision in a hospital with oxygen (no surgery, a few minutes of "real doctor" time, and in a ward with shared nurses), and it cost $37,000. A year ago, my older daughter got a bamboo splinter lodged in her throat (from a bamboo skewer holding fruit at a school party). It cost over $1700 to sit in an emergency room for an hour waiting for someone to look in on us, while the splinter dislodged itself. I won't go into "the real" medical services that friends, coworkers, and family have had recently, but surgery of any sort costs at least $100,000, and serious treatments quickly top $1,000,000.

[When a hospital buys a medical device that costs only $10 to manufacturer, they also have to help cover the tens of millions of dollars it cost the manufacturer to test it, and the millions it cost them to test other ideas that didn't work. So the $100 device is marked up to $2,000. In other words, you pay a premium for being extra sure your medical treatments aren't going to kill you. Drugs, same thing. -- Scott]
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 25, 2012
You missed the part where you explain how "tens of millions of people suddenly become new consumers of healthcare and wellness products."

I have no doubt that you have a brilliant explanation for how you'll get this to happen, you just accidentally forgot to include the explanation in your master plan...

[I think you might be the person who missed that part. Try reading it again. -- Scott]
 
 
Jun 25, 2012
[Good luck trading sex and favors for heroin. At some point your dealer needs actual money. And I don't know how your dealer trades bitcoins for cash either. By your argument, we should make alcohol and cigarettes legal for kids because they will get them anyway. Do you see no benefit in making it harder? -- Scott

I don't know how either, but Silk Road already does it (here's another website you didn't know about) and I know a few people who use bitcoin that way. And even if current dealers don't use it now, when the hammer comes down, they'll need something and they'll make something - they won't just go away. Do you seriously think they will?

The point is that you *aren't* going to have a cashless economy: You are going to have a "digital cash" economy. And that's fundamentally no different - just better - than every time a government tried to change the currency in order to control the economy. Many governments already issued a currency change historically so that banks would force people to exchange bills to track money. Sure, at first, it'll be difficult to use e-cash to pay for drugs, but someone will find a way. Either with trading items of equivalent value, or using an underground alternate cash (bitcoin or others or gold or barter). People *will* find a way.

My argument never said you should make drugs easy to get, so don't attribute that to me. I said that you can't *stop* people from getting it. You couldn't stop people from getting alcohol, so you legalize it and regulate it, which is what we've done. We can do the same thing for drugs - make it legal, regulate it, take the criminal element out. How exactly is what happened to alcohol different than what's happening to drugs? Other than the fact the alcohol is so much worse for you.

Anyway, my main point was: if you make a traceable economy, and their exists things that are illegal, people are going to set up an alternate system. It's inevitable. Now if the things you need to pay for with the black market are very rare - say taking out a hit on someone, or crazy hard core drugs nobody uses, or illegal bomb parts - then the underground economy will be small enough to probably not matter. But regular light drugs, prostitution, and things like old fashioned light bulbs are so prevalent that a major economy will spring into place to support them. It's happened every time some government tried to implement something similar. Why would this be different?

[Prohibition didn't work because cash existed. There are no analogies from the past to inform us what would happen without cash in a digital world. -- Scott]
 
 
Jun 24, 2012
Just go ahead and endorse Romney like we have all been expecting.
 
 
Jun 24, 2012
Scott: here is a huffington post link

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/06/05/millions-risk-smoking-cannabis-cancer_n_1570281.html

They site the british lung association

[The study discussed in that link involves the levels of tar exposure, etc.. They make an assumption that higher levels of exposure must cause more cancer. But studies of lung cancer rates for marijuana users don't show the predicted result. If I'm wrong, please provide a link. -- Scott]

[P.S. Much of what you read in the Huffington Post is out of context. That's how they manufacture news from thin air. It's a proven business model. -- Scott]
 
 
Jun 24, 2012
Another reason to move to Canada Scott. Did you know that if you move to Alberta, your taxes will actually be lower than whatever you're paying in California?
 
 
Jun 24, 2012
Slate magazine did a whole series on the benefits and pitfalls of a cashless society. Personally I think Canada is much closer than the US, or any other country for that matter. Debit cards are already ubiquitous here, and I hardly ever use cash.

But it wouldn't solve the drug problem, it would simply force the black market to use an alternative currency. Euros or pesos maybe. The only way to end the war on drugs is to legalize and regulate the softer drugs, forcing the gangs out of the business.

Adding new taxes, just so you can cut them just add another deduction seems like a really convoluted way of doing things. Are you trying to pump up IRS employment? And it seems to me that forcing employers to give health insurance by taxes is no different than forcing individuals to obtain it themselves. It is a clear attempt to weasel around the 'individual mandate' facing the current fix.

Come to Canada Scott, you stand a much better chance at Prime Minister than you do President.

 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 24, 2012
Testicular cancer link to marijuana:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7869709.stm
https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2010/12/marijuana-linked-testicular-cancer

There have been several studies that showed no link between lung cancer and marijuana use.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2012
aol: "Beef prices would rightly skyrocket, as would gasoline prices, forcing innovation and incentivizing healthy lifestyles."

So the working poor have a harder time paying for gas to get to their jobs. Remember they're already paying little or no income tax, so your plan results in more tax on the poor. Whether the middle class and rich are taxed less or more depends on the details.
 
 
 
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