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Ted Leonsis’ Crazy Ideas, Revisited

My friend Ted Leonsis has decided to contribute to the brain storming taking place inside the Obama Transition camp (unofficially). Ted, longtime lover of lists, has offered his “10 crazy ideas” which he says “would be short term unpopular but would work in the long term and we would leave a better world and a safer world to the next generation“.

Well, I’ve reviewed Ted’s Crazy Ideas and frankly, I find Ted’s perspective quite odd. A curious combination of patriarchal grandfather and guilt-ridden robber baron, with a few classical ideas sprinkled in for flavor. I’ve decided to add my own younger-than-Ted-Leonsis analysis to his 10 Crazy Ideas. What about you? Feel free to comment:

Ted Leonsis’ 10 Crazy Ideas, with commentary:

1. Make retirement age 70 not 65. Social security benefits are killing our nation. We can’t afford it. People are living longer and retiring earlier. We should make people work and be productive and pay taxes for a longer period of time – heresy I know – but truthful and needed. We need more productivity from all of our workers, 70 is the new 60 anyway. Who said 65 years of age was a retirement birthright anyway? This will save hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.

I remember when my grandfather acted this way. He was about 65 at that time, and was facing retirement when he personally felt he was at the top of his game. He had all the right connections, and was King of his circles. Retire? Are you kidding? Truth was, his peers were all granting him authority and being nice to him because he was the oldest of the old guard, and encouraging him to retire because, well, the world had changed. My grandfather even wrote his President (Jimmy Carter) with some of his own Crazy Ideas. Carter didn’t adopt his plans, but my grandfather received a “Presidential Proclamation” which he proudly displayed on his family room wall throughout his retirement years.
It’s tough to recognize when it’s time to let go. Ideas are always welcomed (and needed). But asking the rest of us to work longer to support a system prior generations broke is not one of the better ones. Save money? I doubt it. While a few stodgy old timers will show up at work every day, I can only imagine the increases in workers comp and disability we’d see as 70 year olds suffered the beat-them-down workplace we younger-uns “enjoy” today. 

2. No Medicare or health benefits to people over 85. My dad died at 94 years of age. The majority of the expenses racked up for his Medicaid benefit were from 92 to 94 years of age. People are living longer and using very expensive technology to squeeze a few more years of life for the elderly is a luxury we cannot afford…

Can’t say I disagree with the premise (it costs more to keep old people alive) but no benefits? Think of a world of sick and dying people with no care… the next time your little old lady neighbor scoots off to the ward consider that, under Ted’s Plan, she would instead stay right there next door to you, sick and dying..all night long. And that charming homless old guy in the alley would have lots of sick, less-likely-to-be-charming old friends living with him for sure. And this would boost US productivity how exactly? Seriously Ted, take a chill pill. Less extravagant life extending technologies on the public dole, yes. No benefits? Please.

3. Mandatory service. All graduating students from college MUST serve in a public service position for two to three years. The Government will pay them a stipend of which 25 percent of all payments go into a mandatory savings plan or the parents’ mandatory savings plan. All college debts must be paid off via the service career and after two to three years, the students can go into the world with real world experience with no debts and with cash savings in the bank. The students should all work in positions with the police; fire departments; hospitals; military; Peace Corps, etc. Help us to rebuild our infra-structure or educational systems. This move will help rebuild a sense of community and teach young adults the power of having no debt and of having savings in the bank. And it will also inject a higher sense of purpose into our young adults.

Respectable idea, but think about it. Two to three years in the public workforce will kill the enthusiasm of almost any worker,let alone ambitious young ones fullof new,outside-the-box ideas. That first job sets the stage for career performance expectations going forward. Can you imagine the second job’s boss dealing with the recent college grad just out of 3 years service work at…. the Post Office? or the department of motor vehicles? Please. Reality check, Ted. Public Service – great idea. Mandatory government sector employment immediately after college? A poison pill for our entire nation. I totally agree the student loan system is our next collective bailout, but wouldn’t it be wiser to act now to stop the abuses leading to the doomsday? Stop the fraud, Ted. Don’t change everything… just stop the fraud.

4. No tax cuts for the middle class or wealthy for four years. We should focus all of our energies and dollars to lift the poorest of the poor out of poverty. That should be our priority. The poorest of the poor need the help immediately and in all of our budgets, they receive less than 15 percent of all dollars. I would cut the overall budgets but amp up dollars to the ones that need it most. This could save us hundreds of billions of dollars and get more equality into the system; cut waste; and really help those who need it;

tax cuts always have appeal but honestly, the tax system needs an overhaul Ted,not more patches.

5. Tax cuts in the form of a government grant to a savings account. All other forms of tax cuts would go via check into a mandatory savings account that is established for each American household and placed in an FDIC-insured bank. If we stimulate consumer savings, banks will have money to loan to people and we won’t have to borrow money from other nations. I was amazed that the stimulus checks that were last sent were aimed at people going to a mall and using credit cards to charge up more stuff. We need to keep dollars in our own savings accounts. The government should make savings a mandatory program for each and every household. We will save hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments to foreign nations if we have more savings in US based banks;

Didn’t we just learn that any money socked away by legislation adds up to trillions of dollars and thus becomes a target for corruption and abuse? Trillions on account anywhere gets replaced by virtual money, printed by the treasury, traded by wealthy foreign “investors”, and wiped out by “perfect storms” of fraud (backed by bailouts crafted by corrupt politicians). Do we really need more of those? We don’t need more fake savings to be raided by the powers that be? We need less pressure on the citizenry to HAVE CASH, Ted. Less mandatory insurance, less mandatory monthly payments (such as no TV unless you pay for cable), lower monthly bills for heat, water, and city/local taxes. We need a lot more change than another tax cut plan.

6. Less technology for our military. Technology is hyper expensive to maintain and keep relevant and it allows us to save lives because we send machines to do the work of people. If more people’s lives were at stake in a skirmish or war, our leaders would think twice about sending young Americans to fight for us. We have become so automated and high tech that our bills are astronomical and our trigger fingers are too easily placed on the wrong buttons. Slow down the technology spending for awhile and add more people to the service. It will create jobs, cut costs and make us more concerned about a policing action overseas. This will save us more than $100 billion and the world will be safer;

Again Ted is ignoring the people problem. Technology makes people more effective and systems more efficient. Bad management prevents that from happening, and makes trying more expensive. Corruption is responsible for the high costs of implementing and maintaining. Corruption comes in part from the furstrations of trying to survive a burdensome and unfair system. I figured Ted would know this, being a technology exec and all.

7. Stop acting like we are a super world power when we are the biggest debtor in the world. …And isn’t it ironic that Communist countries now have better economies than ours? We need to face facts and stop being a debtor nation and become a savings-based economy;

Wow Ted sounds like a commie! Just kidding… I can’t disagree on the basic premise, but this is a WAY complicated issue. Screw up world politics and you’ll get your buildings blown up or become a slave nation to some other nation comprised of less caring bullies (ever see those YouTube videos of truly evil Young Russian soldiers abusing people at check points…for fun? War is hell, not a political exercise or strategy game. Let’s not make light of how evil war is… being in the middle on military commitment is a bad idea. Fight if you must, but then fight to win. Like I said, Ted and I might agree on much of this, but it’s too complicated for one often Crazy Ideas.

8. We need to birth more children. People are living longer and, at the same time, we are having fewer children. At some point soon we will flip and we will have less people being born than are dying off. This is a real problem. It means no growth of populace and productivity will decrease and we will be an old and decrepit nation. We need to celebrate children. We need to reward marriages with tax breaks. We need to reward people having more children. Guess who is the most productive nation on earth now? China. Why? They have all of the manpower and know how to manufacture goods. We need to birth more children to keep the country and economy growing and we need to create programs that shed light on the power of marriage and dual family households. Divorce and single family households are big drivers of poverty and issues for our country. We need to embrace true family values because it has an economic underpinning for our nation besides all of the goodness that comes from a true family environment;

Um…I know you love grand kids, Ted, but here’s a clue: China is productive not because they have so many babies, but because they are desperate for wealth. Greed, desire, and opportunity produce what you are calling “productivity”, especially when thegovernment says “go ahead and pollute because we need the money first.. we can clean it up later“. We don’t need more babies yet Ted. We need less baby boomer executives making decisions, maybe, but let’s hold off on encouraging a new population explosion until we get a few other things sorted, okay?

9. We need to refocus our schools and business schools onto “making stuff” on manufacturing. Our best and brightest should be going into the tech sectors or to Detroit or innovating to ship overseas our green tech. We need to stop graduating people who want to work on Wall Street and think our business is about dollars and esoteric financial instruments. The government should pay for students to go into math – engineering, technology and manufacturing -and no scholarships for Wall Street-oriented positions. We need to be the best manufacturers of cars and appliances and household goods and computers and network systems in the world. When a company buys from the US based partners, they should get a tax break. Keeping our dollars here and not sending them overseas will create an economic stimulus that is beyond our wildest dreams. Once Detroit is reinvented to make hybrid and electric cars and we don’t need to buy foreign oil, our air will be cleaner; our debt will be smaller; and we will save trillions of dollars. It is absolute madness that we borrow a trillion dollars from China and Japan so we can then send it over to OPEC nations to get their oil. Stop that madness;

Lots of good intention in there Ted, but I hope you’re not suggesting we return to manufacturing? Better, faster ,cheaper needs to be redefined around sustainability and cost effectiveness. Make Walmart pay true costs for local landfill utilization, and I bet those big boxes in the big box stores would go away quickly. Dancing Elmo takes up less than one cubic foot (even less if squished) but he’s in a 4 cubic foot box on the shelf at Walmart for various reasons which include the fact that the costs of disposing of the packaging is being absorbed by the taxpayers. Fifty-thousand square foot stores have 300,000 square foot impervious parking lots.

We over-engineered virtually everything during the past 20 years so. Even your $8 garden hose gets rolled up onto a $45 plastic “hose holder system” these days… one for the front and another for the back yard. What was wrong with coiling the hose it up nicely on the ground in between uses? Is it really “less work to crank it into that plastic HoseHome device? Seriously Ted, we need less, not more. Less. Simpler. More reasonable living.

10. Government communications. The Government should do a mini-bailout for certain media companies and all newspapers. Traditional media is soon to go out of business. The Government should help prop up these institutions and in payback, all political media should be free. This way politicians won’t be so focused on fundraising and they can have the inventory to tell us what the content of their programs are and the media titans can try to be honest brokers to report on what is really happening. We need a thriving media to keep the process honest and working. The system is broken now. We give dollars to politicians who promise us the world. The politicians then give the monies to media companies to help them broadcast their message in a sound bite “No new taxes” so they can get elected or re-elected. The politicians are then in league with the donors. Let us just short circuit this craziness and have a real platform for communications and keep an independent media business thriving. It would make a lot of sense. If we are helping the banks and soon the car companies, we might as well help the media companies too and in return politicians will get free air time and space and we will be more informed consumers.

Oh my God, Ted Leonsis, King of Old New Media, just suggested more government involvement in the media via bailout. And he combined it with a mention of keeping “independent media thriving”. That’s it folks, we need to start planning for succession, no? Retirement time? My own limited listening to NPR this past election season demonstrated quite clearly how easily government money corrupts independent media, and I know Ted is smarter than this. He must be. He’s at the top of his game! He has all the right connections!


  1. john wrote:

    Don’t know where Ted went to school, but 2 or 3 years working on a government salary won’t pay off my student loans. I’ve still paying them after 5 years and I make a hell of a lot more than government employees.

    Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  2. SEO GTA wrote:

    Good that he is not in the white house, really crazy ideas especially the ones about old people, I think he is still young that is why he doesn’t appreciate the value of life even for people above 90 years.

    Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  3. J. B. wrote:

    Jesus, and you wonder why the Caps have never won a playoff series with him making the decisions…

    Friday, December 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  4. john andrews wrote:

    Ted’s responded on his blog:

    Great to see folks rebutting my blog posts. This is what the web is all about, counter punching and self-expressing. Well done.

    Monday, December 8, 2008 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  5. Good thing he is not in charge! Holy cow! Great rebuttals.

    Redistribution of wealth has been tried again and again and failed again and again. Let people keep the money they have less people will be poor.

    As far as the military goes, thats a real great idea. Not having the best military in the world will result in one thing…our extinction…or at least the end of freedom or a society that is dominated by either communism or Radical Islam…which ever one wins first.

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Permalink