If I Were President

Rapper, songwriter and hip hop producer Wyclef Jean has a song out called "If I Were President ..."

With a Bob Marley feel to the music, the chorus goes like this: "If I were president/I'd get elected on Friday/Assassinated on Saturday/Buried on Sunday/Go back to work on Monday/If I were president ..."

Why does Wyclef, a Haitian New Yorker, imagine being assassinated if he were president? Because of his progressive populist social vision, i.e. ridding the world of hunger, poverty and war.

Well, here's the column remix. And it goes a little somethin' like this. Hit it!

If I were president, I'd take a page from Teddy Roosevelt's playbook and halt the Bush push to eliminate the estate tax. I would re-tool the estate tax rate so that small business owners would not lose the family farm. I would tailor the rate to specifically target the top 2 percent of America's wealthy.

Because the hereditary transfer of concentrated wealth is incompatible with the ideal of equality of opportunity and democracy and because society plays a significant role in the creation of individual wealth, I would declare, as did President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, that "the man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.

"The primary objective of an (estate tax)," Roosevelt said, "should be to put a constantly increasing burden on the inheritance of those swollen fortunes, which it is certainly of no benefit to this country to perpetuate."

If I were president, I'd get elected on Friday and assassinated on Saturday ...

If I were president, I'd assemble a blue ribbon commission to overhaul our penal system. I would remind the American people that most felons will eventually be released from prison so, despite popular subjective misperceptions about what criminals "deserve," the fact is we have to do everything in our power to rehabilitate and reconcile offenders with law-abiding communities.

If we don't, that means penal business as usual, which is taking people with problems, putting them into an institution that makes them worse by stripping them of their tarnished but inherent God-given human dignity, and then turning them loose again on an unsuspecting public without any jobs skills, disenfranchised and morally stigmatized.

That's a recipe for creating more victims of crime. If I were president it would be incumbent on me to educate the public on how a rehabilitative penal approach reduces the likelihood of future criminal acts, thus decreasing the number of future crime victims.

If I were president, I'd get elected on Friday and assassinated on Saturday ...

If I were president I'd convene a mutual security conference at the United Nations, inviting the world's greatest military strategists and the most brilliant nonviolent theoreticians and practitioners with an aim to exploit the full powers and potential of Gandhi-ism in resolving global conflicts.

"Things undreamt of are daily being seen, the impossible is ever becoming possible (like the Red Sox beating the Yankees). We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence.

But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence."

I'd explain to the country that because the structure of reality itself is interdependent and because of our collective ability to destroy the entire human race with weapons of mass destruction, bringing the endless cycle of retaliatory violence to its logical and inevitable nuclear conclusion, war is no longer a viable option. The evil in men's hearts cannot be defeated with bullets and bombs.

I'd use the bully pulpit to explain the moral and practical difference between being willing to die for freedom and being willing to kill for it. I'd go on national television and talk about Jesus referring to peacemakers as children of God and how the meek will indeed inherit the earth.

If I were president, I'd get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday. Buried on Sunday and back to work on Monday.

Back to work? Yup. To be about the business of establishing a universal health care system and an education curriculum that teaches students how to think and not just regurgitate the "right" answers.

Now, you sing.

If you were president, what would you do?

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