Leading with my chin, I commented on Matthew Yglesias's blog that some popular soak the rich policies made up " the soundest policy agenda in the world." Turning his snark to it lowest level (don't be to hard on fools no one has heard of) Matthew Yglesias worries about squeezing Medicare too much and adds that his policy agenda includes a carbon tax and a reduced military budget.
So what would I add to get to a really sound policy agenda ignoring politics entirely ?
1. Carbon tax check
2. Cut the defence budget (in half or maybe by a factor of 4) check
3. Increase centralised (education department) funding for K-12, introduce national curriculum guidelies, and implement high stakes but not stupid testing. The USA has amazing inequality in learning far surpassing other developed countries. This causes inequality and reduces class mobility and something ought to be done about it (but won't).
4. let prisoners go. The USA has a huge immense incarcerating rate causing immense suffering (and costing a lot). Some of this is due to absurd policies like three strikes and you're out. Much of it is due to overestimates of the additional deterrent effect of severe punishment (or more likely desire for revenge sincerely perceived as belief in deterrence). More is due to a crazy war on drugs. It is possible to have less crime and less punishment. Don't ask me how, ask Mark Kleiman.
5. reform welfare reform. Welfare reform is considered to be a great success, because everyone decided the question was closed by 2000. Some said it was hard to tell what was welfare reform and what was the late 80s boom. It isn't hard anymore. More than all of it was the boom. The severe poverty rate is much higher than it was at the trough of the 74-75 recession. People are suffering, because a majority just refuses to accept the facts.
6. Increase the foreign aid budget 10 fold (that would bring it up to 1.2% of GDP). We can spare the money. We don't have to make the mistakes foreign aiders made in the past. Does it make sense to choose between treating AIDS (which reduces transmission) and treating TB ?
7. No aid to rich farmers -- that means no price supports, so the program should be aid to farmers with dependent children (back when I was young and naive I expected farmers would be less self righteous if they were given cash but they are not at all embarrassed).
8. Single payer public health insurance. Still sound policy even if it is way off any practical agenda. Seriously what about trying for Medicare buy in ?
9. Merge NASA and the NSF (that is close NASA and give its budget to the NSF). If a space progect is sound science, space grant applicants should be able to make the case on purely scientific grounds.
10. Stop wasting money on missile defences which work as well as North Korean missiles.
11. Outsource the war in Afghanistan to Afghans. We are spending many times their GDP. Surely we can find warlords willing to do it for less.
12. Eliminate all tariffs on imports. Anyone who hates inequality should hate them.
13. Eliminate all restrictions on immigration.
14. Be practical.