Lose weight, quit smoking, stop drinking, get finances in order, spend more quality time with family, get blood pressure checked ... Some people have more goals than others on New Year's Day.
If Uncle Sam were even remotely interested in self-improvement, here's what would be on his list:
- Stop runaway deficit spending. Start paying down $15 trillion national debt before it's $20 trillion and counting.
- Find more fossil fuels--or an alternative energy source--to replace the increasingly expensive oil we keep importing from overseas.
- Address trillions in shortfalls at public and private pension plans as more people than ever start pulling money from the market to retire.
- End mortgage-foreclosure mess that popped the nation's financial bubble.
- Stop unemployment crisis. Quit idling American workers and sending jobs overseas.
- Do something--anything--about the student-loan crisis. Not everyone is cut out for school. Not every school is worth the tens of thousands in loans it takes to go there.
- Quit saying "too big to fail." It ain't.
- Prepare for the end of Europe as we've known it.
- Acknowledge we have not been recovering from economic malaise since 2008, but sorting through the wreckage of a global credit bubble.
- Admit the economy will never go back to normal, as we knew it. We fought two wars and lowered taxes to pay for them. We created an entire industry based on loaning money to deadbeats. It will take years to even come close to fixing.
- Scrape up more than $2 trillion to repair all the airports, bridges, dams, transportation systems, schools, utilities and other pieces of critical infrastructure that received a D grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009 and still haven't been fixed.
- Quit pretending there will never be inflation while printing unprecedented amounts of money. Quit pretending unemployment is improving when millions of people are simply giving up hope of finding a job. Quit pretending the nation's gross domestic product is expanding in a meaningful way when it's juiced by zero-interest loans to banks. Acknowledge, for once, that too many economic indicators are biased to the upside--which is the main reason we're not technically in a recession, and one of the main reasons we're still in this mess.
- Try to sustain Dow Jones Industrial Average to above its 1999 levels. Geez, remember when it was supposed to be 30000 by now?
- Prosecute financial crimes. If an enormous crime is committed, as so often alleged, why just a civil settlement, without admitting nor denying guilt?
- Clean up the accounting and auditing industries. How many times do we have to find out the books have been cooked to realize these so-called professionals are incapable of self-regulation?
- Figure out what derivatives are, and how they are likely to unwind in a global debt crisis.
- Tax everyone, not just the middle class. We face a national emergency. Everyone who makes money needs to pitch in like it's World War III. This includes people at the bottom who pay no taxes, and the people at the top, who pay too little. We are not growing our way out of this one.
- Stop corruption in Washington, legal and otherwise. Lobbyists and the big corporations they represent have been gaming the system too long.
- Learn to distinguish between crime and warfare. The "War on Terrorism" is an ongoing waste of money. And strip searching little old ladies at airports is a national embarrassment.
- Decide who is in and who is out. If you want cheap labor from other nations, be prepared to pay the price.
Too bad for a nation, New Year's resolutions are hard to keep.
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com.)