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Monkey Chronicles

On Jan. 20 – inauguration day – President Bush will formally accept the U.S. presidency for a second term. He faces many continued challenges – the ongoing war in Iraq, exorbitant health care costs, the perpetual threat of worldwide terrorism, Social Security issues and tort reform, just to name a few! As the world turns, the majority of Americans place their confidence in its leaders.But what if you were the president of the United States for one day, and it was in your power (you didn’t have to go through Congress, etc.) to change one thing – anything. What one thing would you change in this country?A couple weeks ago, I posed this question to a few friends and business colleagues, and the answers were varied but passionate.Three people (out of the 11 who responded – 25 were polled) said that tax reform would be their No. 1 priority. Three men – all of whom I think are quite intelligent – wanted to create a flat tax. They suggested that each individual, from the person who makes $18,000 annually to the $300,000-a-year corporate executive, would pay the same percentage – perhaps 10 percent – of their earnings to the government. One said he would wipe out deductions and the Internal Revenue Service – one bureaucracy gone.The concept seems so simple, but when did simple and common sense become a part of the government?Now, there are some (and I am one of them) who feel that government today is too invasive – the idea of protection and balance has been replaced with “it’s my way or the highway.” But what about those people who refuse to take responsibility for their individual actions? The consequences of bad judgment and selfish behavior affect us all.For example, one person said, as the president, she would sterilize men and women who have two or more children and live on public assistance. This person is a teacher and tired of “too many kids who go without the basics, who are neglected, abused and abandoned.” Does this sound invasive, or is it about common sense? If you can’t take care of the children you bear, if you are hurting and neglecting them then why should you have any more?And there are those who would do the same for the animal population. Two people said mandatory spays and neuters would be their first order of the day as president. Pet owners who wanted to breed their dogs would have to apply for a special permit and there would be caps on the permits. You may think this is not the role of government but is it not totally selfish, not to mention plain stupid, that we euthanize, according the Humane Society of the United States, more than 3 million dogs and cats a year in this country because there are not enough good homes for them, yet, we continue to breed them? I know responsible breeders, and I don’t think they would have a problem with permits.Speaking of dogs, one respondent said that our society has “devolved into an incredibly mean-spirited, dog-eat-dog world where anything goes, as long as you can get away with it.” She was talking about the business world, and no one can deny the effects of the lies and the greed that has of late permeated the corporate world.Here is a good example: In a November editorial in the Colorado Springs Business Journal, Editor Mike Boyd talked about Donald Trump. In November, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time. According to the article, Trump would be able to “erase $500 million in debt.” Now my question: What small businessperson is going to be left out in the cold because of Trump’s bankruptcy filing? It’s like Boyd said, “In this world (the rich and famous), there aren’t consequences for poor decisions or bad actions.”But bad actions can wreak havoc with ordinary lives, and that’s why the person who referenced the “dog-eat-dog” world would introduce a law that would make it possible to file criminal charges against a proven business slug.Do we need laws that spell out decency, honesty, integrity and truthfulness? If we are not learning it at home or at school, then perhaps we do.What about schools? What if non-violent criminals were released from prison or didn’t go there in the first place? Instead, they were given community service hours and large fines, which would go toward the education system. One female, if she had one wish as the president, said the monies from the fines would fund schools – equipping all schools equally with quality textbooks and materials. She said the government also could save money – maybe direct the savings to education – by not housing the non-violent criminals. She also would demand that school curriculums include mandatory sex education, world cultures, personal finance and physical fitness and nutrition.I like the required physical fitness and nutrition course. Maybe if kids today learned good eating habits and the benefits of playing ball outside as opposed to sitting in front of the computer, child obesity wouldn’t be such a problem (the American Obesity Association reports that 30.3 percent of children age 6 to 11 are overweight – 15.3 percent are obese). What generation is finally going to recognize that our heath care system is burdened and costly because we are not responsible when it comes to our health and our lifestyle?Speaking of health care, another person responding to the question said she would put into play a national health care plan. Why are we always in the mode of fixing things? We have to look at preventive medicine – we have to encourage people to respect their bodies as they do their brand new SUVs. We have to discourage frivolous lawsuits, and maybe we have to get tough. Maybe those who choose to smoke, drink excessively and eat their Big Macs everyday are going to pay a higher price for health insurance. Someone once said to me, when I suggested a system based on personal responsibility, that it was discriminatory. “Where would we stop?” he asked.Hey, you pay less for auto insurance if you have a clean driving record. I think we have the brains to determine the boundaries of a program based on personal responsibility. I am not sitting in judgment of others – I just don’t want to pay for their chosen behaviors.Another said she would put all the money she could find into medical research, like stem cell. She would take money from NASA. Well, that’s good, but research can be frivolous as well, like the $2 million that was just granted to a local health maintenance organization to study obesity in kids and ways to resolve the problem. For $10,000, I’ll tell you how to solve the issue. Mom and Dad: quit buying junk food, put a lock and key on the frig and get the bicycle out of the garage.In line with responsible behavior, one person said he would use his one-day authority to apply a standard of conduct to current and future members of both houses of Congress, to include state legislators. “Cut the pork barrel spending,” and apply the tax relief from that decreased spending to credits for incomes less than $40,000.There are Americans out there with innovative and thought-provoking ideas. I wish one of them would run for president.mlmon@att.net

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