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November 9, 2016

If I Were President…..

by Anne Paddock

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were President? Assuming that Congress, the Senate and the Judiciary had to go along with executive orders (most people would call that a dictatorship but for just a moment, let’s just call it wishful thinking), there are ten things I would address right away, most of which cut across all party lines:

First, term limits would be enacted for members of Congress and the Senate, just as a term limit and an overall time for service for the President was put in place with the 22nd Amendment of the Constitution (The amendment was passed in 1947 and then ratified in 1951). With a 20% approval rating, Congress doesn’t appear to have a lot of public support for a variety of reasons which generally boil down to a general dissatisfaction with what  they are doing (or not doing). It is highly unlikely Congress would ever pass a Constitutional amendment to limit their own terms so why not let the Senate and the President set a term limit and overall time of service for Congress and the President and Congress set a term limit and overall time for service for Senators?

Second, the conflict of interest at the USDA would be addressed. The USDA’s mission is to expand markets for agricultural products. At that same time, this federal agency is responsible for protecting the public health by developing and advocating dietary guidelines for Americans. The problem with having both mandates is that there is an inherent conflict of interest which means the guidelines sometimes favor the interests of the agriculture, food, and drug industries over the public’s interest in getting accurate and impartial dietary advice. The USDA should keep promoting agricultural products while the public health is put into the hands of an agency that has no connections to the agriculture, food, drug, or medical industries. And, what should the guidelines be based on? Peer-reviewed scientific studies preferably by scientists independent of the agriculture, food, drug, and medical industries.

Third, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) office for Nutritional Research would be established (which would support the proposed agency above). The NIH has 28 Institutes and Centers, most of which address a specific illness or disease including cancer, heart, lung, blood, kidney, diabetes, digestive, allergy, arthritis, and more. Some of these institutes address nutritional information but there is no office that cuts across every disease and illness, despite the fact that nutrition affects every disease and illness. There should be one office that overseas all nutritional research since both nutrition and our bodies function as a system.

Fourth, the Super Delegates in the Democratic Party would be a thing of the past. The 713 superdelegates are primarily party officials who have the ability to overturn what the members of the Democratic party vote on.  In a country that prides itself on one person, one vote, the very existence of super delegates whose votes could overturn a democratically elected candidate is reprehensible and one of the biggest embarrassments of our democracy.

Fifth, the curriculum of medical schools would be expanded to require mandatory nutrition education. At the core of our health is what we put into our bodies. Doctors are primarily tasked with treating acute and chronic illness. They are very good at treating acute illnesses which are usually severe and sudden in onset. Chronic illness is greatly influenced by lifestyle choices – diet, alcohol, tobacco, drugs – but most doctors treat the effects of chronic illness instead of the cause. Have high cholesterol? heart disease? high blood pressure? high sugar? Despite the general public thinking these diseases are hereditary or due to aging, most are lifestyle related. Doctors should be advising dietary changes but need the education to do so.

Sixth, the Social Security entitlement that benefits men who become fathers late in life would be amended. For those who reach the full retirement age of 66 this year, he or she is entitled to a 50% premium benefit for each child under 18 years of age or 18-19 years and a senior in high school, up to 150-180% of the full retirement benefit. Given that most women are unable to have children after the age of 47 (19 years before the full retirement age) but that most men can biologically father children well into their senior years, this benefit seems to favor men who become fathers late in life. For example, a 66-year-old man with three children ages 10, 12, and 14 entitled to full retirement benefits of $3,000 a month is eligible to receive $7,500 per month until those children are 18 years old or up to age 19 if still in high school.

Seventh, the people of this country would be tasked to clean up everything from our railroad tracks to our movie theaters.  It’s embarrassing to take a train and see all the garbage and trash piled up on the sides of the tracks leading in and out of  our cities and towns. Look no further than Penn Station in New York City. Traveling into or out of the station is a national embarrassment. And, movie theaters are just as disgusting. People leave their popcorn, soda, and trash all over the place so that another human being has to come in and clean up after them. People should be tasked with cleaning up their own messes. It doesn’t take that much effort to pick up after yourself.

Eighth, everyone in this country would be required to devote a year to public service. We have so much to be thankful for and we should all do as JFK once said “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for the country.” An ideal time for this would be right after high school or college when young people can be directed to areas in which they have an interest or talent.

Ninth, basic life skill skills classes including cooking and evaluating non-profits would be brought into the classroom. The young have very forgiving bodies but childhood obesity is soaring in this country which leads to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more chronic illness. Our young people need to learn more about nutrition and how to best nourish our bodies for optimal health. Young people also need to understand that our country has a vast, vast network of non-profits that are not as altruistic as they seem. Most of us want to give to help the less fortunate but too many non-profits pay their executives exorbitant salaries and have high administrative or fundraising costs which translates to fewer funds for the needy. We need to educate our young on how to analyze a non-profit to optimize our donations.

Tenth, stronger gun control laws would be enacted. The second amendment is clearly an integral part of our culture but too many guns are in the hands of unstable people – primarily young males who commit most of the gun-related deaths in this country. No one needs an assault weapon with a magazine to shoot multiple rounds to protect themselves from the tyranny of government. If anyone thinks these weapons will protect them from a government that has nuclear weapons, then they are deluding themselves.

Of course, there are a lot of other things I would do but those are the issues that need to addressed sooner rather than later.

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