LOS ANGELES. — Los Angeles -- And now for the hard part. This is some of what the president should do after next January 20:
1. Cobble together a universal, cost-controlled national health-insurance plan and cash in whatever chips he has to get it through Congress with and against some of the most formidable powers in the republic: insurance companies and physicians.
2. Put together a fair-trade policy based on one of the great precepts of any business: The customer is always right. The United States is the biggest buyer in the world, and the time has come to establish export-import ratios with trading countries, beginning with Japan -- linking the amount we buy of their stuff to how much of our stuff they buy. Once the ratio is set, they can decide what to buy and sell, making trade imbalances their problem instead of ours.
3. Put together an industrial policy, determining which industries and businesses are essential to national economic security, as we once determined steel, oil, automobiles and aircraft were essential to our military security -- with the government providing or organizing the providing of research and development funds and production subsidies, as we have subsidized military suppliers from idea to assembly line.
4. Create a realistic immigration policy and stick to it, including a commitment to the prosperity of Mexico and other Latin American countries, continuing efforts to make them our suppliers, our customers and our friends. The political and economic costs of having desperately poor people on our borders is too high to contemplate.
5. Work to get the homeless and the guns off our streets. Use and build subsidized metropolitan housing -- and also mental institutions, if that is what is required. Repeal the Second Amendment, too -- "the right to bear arms" and destroy U.S. cities -- if that is what it takes to take back the streets.
6. Replace the Second Amendment with one to eliminate private campaign financing. Only a nation of fools would not recognize the danger to democracy if one man with $60 million can almost take over the political system. That is not a lot of money to the super-rich anymore -- it costs that much to build some of the
houses you see on the Hills of Beverly these days -- and one day we could lose our country to some little Napoleon even crazier than Ross Perot.
7. Bring the public school system up to reasonable speed with more national funding, more teacher and administrator accountability, and standardized national promotion tests for students. Forget bilingualism and other multicultural nonsense; just teach kids to be Americans and get out of their way.
8. Bring the boys (and girls) home from Europe and support a United Nations standby military capability, based at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and the bases we abandon in West Germany and Japan -- a world 82nd Airborne to move quickly against despots and the desperation of refugees from small wars and great famines.
9. Attack the deficit with reduced military spending, need-related rationing of social services, and national sales taxes, beginning with one on gasoline.
10. Institute public-works job programs for the unemployed and compulsory national service, military or civilian, for young people -- without apology, just because it will be good for them to understand there is more to being an American than watching MTV.
Is all that possible? Perhaps not. But actually accomplishing a few of these things and starting on two or three others would provide the United States with something like a running start into the future -- into the next century, perhaps not making it into an American Century, as they used to say in the middle of this one, but making it a good and decent century for Americans.
Good luck, Mr. President. I don't envy you, but, as one of your predecessors said, you're the only president we've got.
Richard Reeves is a syndicated columnist.