The Universal Notebook: King for a day

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The idea for this column was suggested to me by one of my most persistent critics, who challenged me to play king for a day and list 10 things I would do to make the U.S. a better place. That’s often what my columns are about anyway, so here goes.

I suppose my edicts might include:

1 — Overturning Citizens United so corporations and unions could not contribute to political campaigns.

2 — Doing away with the Electoral College so we can elect presidents, democratically.

3 — Instituting Medicare for all.

4 — Extending free public education through college.

5 — Creating a path to citizenship for all immigrants.

6 — Reforming the tax code so unearned income is taxed higher than earned income and the top bracket pays 50 percent.

7 — Mandating sustainable energy sources and making it a goal to reduce America’s carbon footprint to zero.

8 — Passing the Equal Rights Amendment by fiat.

9 — Outlawing for-profit prisons.

10 — And establishing a minimum wage that is a living wage and establishing a maximum wage for corporate CEOs.

When I jotted these items down I realized many of them come straight from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign platform. I believe just about everything he believes, except that he could have been president. If you want details on how to make America great again, go to

Looking over my list, I also remembered that my critic had ordered a cost analysis of every initiative. Personally, I am not concerned about higher taxes if we get a bang for our buck. Universal health care, free college and the planet surviving the 21st century seem worth whatever it costs.

But as I read through my list a third time, I realized I was being entirely too literal and realistic. Who cares what it costs, because it’s not going to happen. In that case, why not be a little more imaginative?

As the fanciful king for a day, I suppose the first thing I would do is erase Donald Trump from presidential history and pardon all those who voted for him. Trump is the greatest threat this country faces and his presidency is self-inflicted. Don, be gone. Poof!

For all those more concerned about taxes than anything else, King Eddie can solve your problem with a wave of the imperial scepter. From now on, only members of the party in power will pay taxes. Conservatives don’t want to pay for services they don’t personally receive. No reason why Democrats should pay for Republican programs. Be careful what you wish for, tax-cappers.

And to ensure tax equity, we will now assess taxes based not only on income and property, but also on weight. The more you weigh, the more you pay. Talk about a motivation to lose weight and get in shape. Of course, there will obviously be those who take it too far. It will probably start with a rash of gastric by-pass surgery, but I predict tax-by-the-ton will also result in voluntary amputations by fiscal conservatives looking to save a buck. Taxes will really cost them an arm and leg.

Presidential politics will also never be the same after I use my royal power to redistribute power in this country. To begin with, I hereby order gender equity not only in the presidency, but also in Congress and on the Supreme Court. When a male president finishes his term, it is time to elect a woman. Got the idea? Appoint a man to the bench, the next appointee must be a woman.

I further decree racial and ethnic diversity in the presidency. I want my legacy to be not only the first woman president, but also the first Hispanic president, first Asian-American president and second African-American president. Thus, 2020 will be the Year of the Woman, 2028 (if she is re-elected) will be the Year of the Hispanic, and so on.

Sometime in the 2040s, we will have the Year of the LGBTQ. I hope I’m still around when that happens. An all-gay presidential election would be a wonderful way to celebrate my 100th birthday.

And oh, my tight-fisted friends, do not worry your petty little heads about what all this royal reform will cost. It won’t cost a thing.

As my final act as king, I hereby prohibit any candidate from spending one cent on his or her campaign, and order the media to provide free airtime to candidates on an equitable basis in exchange for using the public airways and using up bandwidth. No third-party ads. No soft money. No reason networks should make money off the presidential campaigns they cover.

Pay no attention to that man behind the keyboard. The Great Beem has spoken!

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • David R. Hill

    Why do I immediately think of Stephen Colbert’s “Big Furry Hat” routine?

  • Chew H Bird

    I might counter your list with one item… A free one way ticket to the socialist country of your choosing…

    • EdBeem

      The USA is a social democracy. Social Security, Medicare, public universities, public libraries, national parks…The beast things about America are the things we all share.

      • Chew H Bird

        Unless I am incredibly caffeine deprived, my understanding is we are a democratic republic and a “social democracy” is a term for a capitalist nation becoming a socialist nation?

        • danmaine

          Representative Republic… Socialism is Communism by vote… and has NEVER worked in the History of man.

          • Queenie42

            What really has never worked in the history of man is snowflakes trying to walk on water.

      • Little crow

        You are right that the best (I assume you meant best and not “beast”) things about America are things we all share through INDIVIDUAL VOLUNTARY ACTION, not coerced government socialist programs. We see it in the thousands of organizations that people join of their own free will and pay for with their own money (not somebody else’s money): garden clubs, soup kitchens, hot rod clubs, literacy volunteers, amateur astronomers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts ….the list is endless.

        • EdBeem

          You may not value Social Security, Medicare, national parks and public universities, but I sure do.

          • Little crow

            I certainly value national parks (but I don’t see the need of the federal government owning 90% of the state of Nevada) and I also value some public universities.

            Medicare, however, is a government disruption of the market that causes prices to soar out of control because the patient is not allowed to purchase insurance in a free market. When the bills are paid by a third party, fraud,waste and abuse fill the vacuum.

            If Social Security were administered by a private entity in exactly the same way, its officials would be sent to prison for fraud. The money that is taken from your paycheck without your permission is not put into a fund for your retirement, but dumped into the general fund and spent on whatever Congress wants. A study done a few years ago concluded that if most people’s Social Security payments went into an actual retirement fund and accrued interest, the average person would be able to retire as a millionaire.

          • truther

            Privatizing things, and letting the free market decide, doesn’t work in every context. It costs 40-something cents to mail a letter from Millinocket to Minneapolis. If we shifted to an entirely free market postage system that cost would probably go up by a factor of 100. Then we’d privatize the interstate highways and they’d close I-95 after Augusta and the cost would skyrocket again.

            Same with insurance. The free market would be great for affluent, healthy people who don’t use the health care system — people like me. Free market health insurance would be prohibitively awful for anyone who is sick, poor, isolated, dependent — precisely the type of people health insurance is meant to protect.

            The community benefits when we take care of everyone. We collectively pay for highways, defense, the rule of law, our financial system, the mail, environmental protection, and a host of other public goods. Health care is one of them, as it should be.

          • EdBeem


          • Little crow

            There are some things that need to be shared collectively: roads, bridges, national defense. Most other things are best done in a competitive marketplace, which brings prices down and improves quality for everyone, especially poor people, who now have access to goods and services that 100 years ago were only available to kings and queens.

            What evidence to you possess that says mailing a letter would cost 100 times more in a private system? Have you noticed that the U.S. Postal Service is now delivering packages on SUNDAY?!! Do you know why? Because Fedex and UPS are beating the heck out of them in the package delivery business, and delivering on Sunday is the only advantage they can exercise to survive in the package delivery business (competition). I’ll bet UPS or Fedex would find a way to deliver a letter for half the price.

            Health insurance used to be affordable, but government meddling has caused prices to skyrocket. Those medical services that are not paid by insurance, such as cosmetic surgery, are still affordable. Private business has to give their customers what they want or they are out of business. There is a bill in Congress now that would allow insurance companies to offer any policies they want as long as they offer at least one that complies with Obamacare requirements. Do you have a problem with that?

            I am self-employed, and we have to purchase insurance on the private market. We were told Obamacare would cut our costs. We had a high deductible ($7,500 per person) policy that cost $640 a month. Every time we went to the doctor it cost the full price – that’s $200 just for the visit, never mind any lab work or extras. Yeah, it was lousy, but we weren’t allowed to go out of state to buy a cheaper policy because that’s against Maine law (kind of like being trapped in East Berlin). Then our company cancelled everybody and left the state of Maine, so we had to go on Obamacare. Now it costs $1,180 a month for a $5,000 deductible. Tell me how almost doubling the price of insurance helps the poor. Tell me how the Independent Payment Advisory Board (those are the bureaucrats on Obamacare who decide what treatment you can have and whether they will let you have it – the “death panel”) helps the elderly and the sick.

            Our private free market system created the modern western world and has benefitted the poor more than anyone. The rich will always get by.

  • Queenie42

    Why does the word socialism tighten the sphincter of so many so-called conservatives? What are they afraid of? Why do they hate the idea of equality? Why do they want to destroy our environment for profit? Why do they want to destroy public education? Why do they like the idea of a state religion?
    So many questions, so little time. I will be dead by the time fair play and honesty are words used once again in the halls and chambers of our government. Which leads me to my final question – why do so many people, blessed with living in this beautiful country like the idea of a president who acts like a mafia don?
    I am a liberal. I will not be bullied nor apologize for wanting a good life, free from the threats of half-baked know-nothings who tell us to shut up and sit down.

    • EdBeem


    • Chew H Bird

      I agree with overturning Citizens United. Overturning it is a matter of legal opinion.

      The Electoral College works fine and has disagreed with the popular vote only four times since inception. In the latest election, the popular vote totals that made it look like Hillary clearly was favored over Trump, basically consisted of two states, California and New York, where her margins were 3.9 million votes and 1.5 million votes respectively. Do we want to allow these two states to determine the future of Presidential elections or do we want candidates intelligent enough to win the Electoral College?

      Medicare for all is a nice concept. The real question is single payer vs. private. Instead what we have currently is the worst of both in a convoluted package driving up costs and reducing benefits. Thank you Politicians…

      Free college education? Nothing is “free” as someone has to pay for it.

      The path to legal citizenship for all immigrants is (and has been) in place for years. Illegal entry should not be permitted and people should not be rewarded for criminal actions.

      Mandating sustainable energy sources is a nice goal. The reality is the cost will come down and mandating eventually will not be necessary.

      Equal Rights by fiat is a good thing. It is a legal maneuver.

      Outlawing for-profit prisons is outlawing a tax status. We want fair and just prisons who focus on rehabilitation whether they be public, private, for profit or non-profit.

      Establishing minimum wages that harm our ability to compete in a global market are a bad idea. Mandating a cap on what a private company wants to pay a CEO or executive is ridiculous. Once we go down that road it will never end and suddenly ,any levels of employment will be capped.

    • danmaine

      Obama did indeed act like a Mafia Don, that’s why we didn’t like him 😉 Socialism is the philosophy of failure that stagnates and suffocates the spirit of man. Our Country rose to greatness due to Capitalism and is now struggling due to heavy handed Government. Why do you Liberals all fail to recognize that we are a Representative Republic? You and Edgar should indeed feel free to travel to the Socialist country of your choice. If it will help I’ll gladly make a donation to the cause.

      • Queenie42

        Time to fess up, Danny boy. You didn’t “like” President Obama because of the color of his skin. So don’t try to hide your racism under your outdated libertarian attempts at humor. No one except the alt right is amused.
        One more point: We live in a Democracy.
        Why else would the U.S. government say we are trying to spread Democracy when we invaded Iraq? They didn’t say we are trying to spread representative republics, did they?

        • Little crow

          I assume you know danmaine personally, and that’s why you accuse him of being a bigot, because nothing he has written gives any such evidence. If you don’t know him, you’d be proving the adage that a racist is someone who’s winning an argument with a liberal.

  • knighthawk

    I tend to lean right and therefore don’t agree with much of this personally, though I will admit I can see how several of these would work out just fine. I mean, there’s a couple I outright agree with, such as number 9, and perhaps flavors of 3, 5, and 7.

    What I really can’t get behind, and it very much bugged me around the election season, is number 4 — Extending free public education through college.

    College is not a right. College is not for everyone. Heck, I’m not even sure if high school is for everyone. There is a lot of pressure though for kids now to go to college because that’s the “only way they’ll ever get anywhere”.

    A lot of that pressure ends up with kids going to outrageously expensive private colleges that cripple them with debt, and they can’t make anything of it because they weren’t fit in the first place, and now they don’t have a job to pay that debt. Maybe they go back to school for another few years!

    There is no reason to have college turn into the new high school, where you would need to go post grad now just to get a job. If we think young people are starting careers late now, public college is going to make today’s young professionals look like infants.

    What needs to happen is people need to do a better job planning for their futures and doing a cost/benefit analysis of the college and career path they choose. I’ll give my higher taxes in your kingdom to make sure people can get health coverage, but I sure as heck will not be paying for a bunch of kids to drink away 4 years on the governments bill.

    And before I hear how there are hard working kids that can’t afford the chance to go to college, there are many affordable state schools with a lot of financial aid packages/scholarships out there. If they can’t qualify for that, then they don’t qualify for that next step of education yet. Perhaps they work until they can afford the school, or they score higher on their tests to get money off their education bill. You don’t even need the financial aid in many cases. As long as you can land a career by leveraging your (for now) meaningful degree, (and plan your finances well), the debt will be paid off in a reasonable time. If we saturate the market with degrees, there will still be people going into debt to increase their “qualifications” for the career.

    Free college is a grab for young voters. I don’t see any benefit to it. It will just hurt people who have already gone through the process. We need to prioritize back to the high schools and make sure our students can compete internationally, because we’re falling behind there. 4 more years of subsidized education will not fix that.

    • Just Sayin’

      One of the reasons why college is becoming more important is because jobs relying on untrained labor are becoming less and less common.

      You don’t need a college degree to pick vegetables on a farm, to assemble parts in a factory, or to dig coal down in the mine.. But you DO benefit from a degree to operate and repair machines or robots meant to harvest crops, assemble and weld parts, dig coal, cook burgers, or a great many other jobs that either have or are disappearing to automation.

      Why have 20 guys with shovels digging a ditch when you can have 1 heavy equipment operator who knows what he’s doing?

      As automation moves forward, these increasingly ‘unskilled’ jobs will be harder and harder to find, and education will be very important for keeping a livable job until we figure out how to handle the social and financial restructuring that automation is causing. Now, does it seem particularly wise, or fair, to demand that the people who can’t find work because of this change to pay for the education they need to reintegrate into the workforce? That doesn’t seem like a formula that will work out well.

      • knighthawk

        A lot of the trained jobs you list sound like things that shouldn’t require a 4 year degree. It sounds like a specialized technician that would just need a certification. Sounds like most of the training would come with hands on work immediately after being hired.

        That shouldn’t be financially crippling to attain, and I am quite sure it isn’t already. I think of many high school graduates who went to SMCC (or other specialized school for a trade) with a purpose and came out without debt and got right to work.

        Perhaps some or more federal subsidy for proven college applicants would make sense to me, but letting everyone go out four years on the government budget makes no sense to me.

        • Just Sayin’

          You make a decent point there, but let’s flip the perspective, shall we?

          If you want to go into work that only requires a certification or a shorter term degree before you can get started, how likely are you to decide to not do that in favor of going to a 4 year college just because it won’t cost you anything? Would you take on extra years of workload, or defer getting paid work for an education that you don’t need for your profession?

          Especially if it’s going to -continue- to be free if you need it later in life?

          Just because it’s available doesn’t mean everyone’s going to devote 4 years of their life to it.

          • EdBeem

            Correct. And extending public education through college does mean everyone is going to go to a public university either.

      • Chew H Bird

        If you look at the IT industry, what is required are certifications and experience. A 4 year degree, although helpful and enriching, is not required for many positions. I have spent 30 years in the technology industry and have helped develop multiple certifications. Common sense, an ability and desire to learn, and certification level skills are what is generally required to succeed in a majority of cases.

  • Little Crow

    For now I will just address the often misunderstood electoral college: a grand compromise that allows the high population states and low population states to live in harmony. If it is abolished and the president is elected by direct popular vote, ALL important issues will be decided by the urban residents of New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. There will be a subsequent secessionist movement in the rural states, which, if suppressed, will lead to another violent civil war. The fact that the urban dwellers may outnumber the rural dwellers would be balanced by the fact that most of the rural people are armed and dangerous.

    Direct popular vote sounds good, like a lot of King Beem’s hypothetical edicts, but you have to consider the unintended conmsequences.

  • Charles Martel

    Comrade Beem, I couldn’t get past the 10 edicts you listed so I didn’t read your article (again) this week.