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How about giving out free STEM degrees ? Vol 74

October 14, 2015

If  you don’t step on the brake when you see a police car because you weren’t speeding, you must be a Boomer !

Its election season all over, and as a Boomer, I am watching closely to see which direction our economy, social policy, and environment will take. In the US, and Canada, there have been recent debates between the candidates, the Democrats being the latest last night. I watched them all, with growing apprehension. I am an optimist at heart, but you can sure get pessimistic in a hurry watching our political class in action ( in-action ? ). Where is the overriding vision, the political guts to say what is needed, the big boy pants to describe the realistic but hard path forward ?

As readers of my blog know, I am a proponent of trying to understand the why. Why are our politicians living in the past ? Why is Donald allowed to be successfully bombastic, without saying anything realistic ? Why have we not just stopped watching ? Why has no-one uttered some common sense thinking, like a proper immigration plan. Why ?

I think the reasons are many. First, we Boomers are becoming ungovernable. We want everything, without paying for it, or better said, let someone else pay. In effect, we don’t want a government, we just want other people to be responsible, as long as you don’t hold us accountable. We live in a victim society, where we think we each have unique circumstances that make us guiltless. Syrian refugees are the hot button of today, ” save them all, everyone take a family in”, oops, I meant some other family, some other neighbourhood …

Second, our 24/7/365 world is training us to only value the short term . Long term planning is a fleeting thought at best. We are left gasping at the rate of change, like gay marriage and family disintegration, instead of looking at the long view. Its why few Boomers have saved anything near what they need for retirement. Pay some debts, or go the Spain for a holiday. Hmmmm.

Lastly, and maybe the most important, we seem to have let our liberal democracy misplace the appropriate capitalist formula. We have gone from the agricultural, to the industrial, to the information, now to the knowledge age, and this transition is proving to be just as painful and confusing as the others.  There is a helplessness, a feeling that no-one really has control or solutions to fix our problems. Capitalism will still work, but it needs to be tweaked, as it has in the past. No one is even discussing how we fix inequality, family breakups, our environment, or our  racial pressures. I suspect the reason is because we are just trying to hang on, without falling off this beast of progress, without knowing where its taking us. It’s hard to see over the next hill, when you are fixated on the ground beneath your feet !

So, to start the conversation, here is my Vision.

We are ungovernable, so let’s downsize government. With modern modes of transportation, the internet, and big data, lets triple the rules for representation. Local, county, state/provincial, federal, let’s cut our number of elected officials by 3.  Really, can you name the people you fund to govern you ? A mayor and a few regional Counselors, no county officials, a governor and 1/3 representatives, a congress cut in half, and a President. Yes, there are some legal issues, like we will still need the US Senate to have 50 Senators, but why have 100 ? Really, do we need hundreds of  Representatives or Members ? Nope.  Do we even need a County seat ? How about State Senators – can you even name yours ? I thought not. Why should government be immune to what you are going thru in your industry ?

We need to tax the polluters and garbage makers, and use the money to fund eco technologies. Someone can do the math, but the pain level must be high enough to force change. Say adding a $1 per litre on gas, and $5 for every bag of garbage you put on the curb, would be a clean start. Am I overreacting ? Consider this one example, my favourite. If the oceans continue their rise from the glacial melting, the US Navy will start losing ports. Can you imagine a Navy becoming obsolete because they can’t dock anywhere ? If the Pentagon is now planning for climate change, shouldn’t we ?

How about a free university education for any STEM degree? STEM meaning science, technology, engineering, or math degree. Free tuition for each year you are enrolled. The same everyday criteria holds for entry, passing, and graduating. Tuition, and maybe books, but not living expenses. Why only STEM ? Well, everyone laments the lack of technology workers we need in our new economy, so why not incent some of our kids to head in that direction. Its capitalistic, solves a real need, and would attract the best students worldwide. Most kids would not have the aptitude or marks to get in, but let’s try this as a pilot program, and monitor the results.

Legalize pot, regulate and tax it, and bring a hidden industry everyone uses, into the sunlight. Treat the hard stuff, like meth and cocaine, as a health issue, not a criminal problem. It’s a capitalistic solution, allows for regulation and control, and would increase tax revenues. Pardon non violent pot inmates, use hospitals as hard drug dispensaries like we do for diseases, say “bye bye cartels”, and lets rejoice in winning the war on drugs.

Being 60, we need some generational goals, so that by the time I turn 80, we can say that we set a path that left the next generation well placed for their own journey. Briefly, one would be Kennedy-like, and set a goal of having a habitat on Mars. Simply, the technological advancements would alone cover any costs, not to mention the idea that a multi planet solution enhances our species survival. The other goal is for us Boomers to pay our debts, the money we spent on ourselves we did not earn. Before I go I want to look my kids and grandkids in the eye and say I paid my debts.

What would you like to see our politicians discuss ?

Next on Boomers – WTF ! ,  beware the gloomers, is our optimism justified ?

  1. Martin Berrigan permalink

    To all Boomers WTF readers and writers. I wonder if what we are really seing in politics is a significant changing of the guard. Sure the Boomers still vote – but do we matter anymore? you talk like all the solutions are going to come from and be approved by the boomers. What I say is your kids are already running the world and they are deciding what is important. The new Canadian government is a case in point – not too many boomers in there. So you need to start asking your children what is important and they are going to tell you what is important for the politician – unless they don’t care about politics and government in which case we really are doomed. But generally they all grew up with a lot of material things around and perhaps a serious dose of the “ME” generation. Now they are running the place what do they think is important?

    I would be interested in your thought around what are the next power generation (30-50 year olds) thinking about; concerned about and; what does that mean for the Boomers.

    Always enjoy reading!!

    Martin Berrigan

  2. Martin Berrigan permalink

    BTW I love the idea of the free STEM education – that could really have an impact on student choices and then on Canadian economy. However, I doubt the education system could handle the influx without serious infrastructure upgrade.

    Marting Berrigan

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