Stay Out of Politics

This week I was going to announce I was running for Congress. I was taking it very seriously and for the past three months this was the week I was planning on announcing.

I had hired people to run the campaign. I had gotten great advice. I had studied the current incumbent in my district. I had spoken to party officials in BOTH parties who were receptive. I had spoken to local reporters who were going to cover it.

I was even going through the process of being endorsed by a major national politician. I learned a lot. What I learned convinced me I couldn’t run and still be true to my values.

James Altucher

(this, without the “X”, was going to be my banner)

The best way to have a difference in the world is to just do what I do now. The best way to clean a dark room is to open the window and let the light in. That’s what I like to do.

But within three seconds of thinking about running for Congress I learned an enormous amount about the bullshit in the system. Below I tell the story of almost instantly being thrown into the machine where I would have to give up my principles.

Some of what I learned is below. Some I just have to keep to myself for now.

Tactical Things I Learned:

A) For a mid-term Congressional primary, you will win if you only campaign in nursing homes. Every primary campaign is won by senior citizens as the swing votes. So if you just campaign in nursing homes and make sure that vans are available to get them to vote, then you win. People think that you have to win over young people but in primaries it’s the reverse.

B) People remember the names of who they donate to. “The trick is,” said one experienced marketerr, “is to raise just a dollar from everyone.” The second best thing, he said, “is to give a dollar to everyone”.

C) I was going to try something creative. It’s easy to get a list of likely voters in your district. I was simply going to buy the vanity searches of all of those people on Google. Since most people search their name, if I blanket their screen (and their Facebook pages) with my name, then they would remember it at voting time. “What we do,” said my favorite marketer (author of the one million in sales book, “How to Run a Successful Hot Dog Cart”, Perry Belcher), “is to make the ads really ugly so nobody clicks. So you get the effect you want but it costs you no money”. I bet nobody has thought of this before for a campaign.

D) I felt I could win. The incumbent was weak and has already signed up to raise money from PACs that cater to weak incumbents. I also studied his voting record and found weak holes. The bottom line is that a large percentage of the people who have voted for him have lost their jobs and now have worse healthcare. Nor does he actually live in the district. I’ve lived here for most of 11 years.

E) Even though I’m pretty apolitical, I felt very strongly about my particular issues. “But,” said another marketing expert, “if you actually say any of this stuff nobody will take your campaign seriously. So you have to rewrite it completely.”

I have a 10,000 word platform. I sent it to him. “yeah,” he said, “nobody is going to take you seriously and you won’t be able to win.” I agree with him.

My feeling is, if I can’t run on what I believe in then what’s the point? I had a lot of issues (10,000 words was just the start. I could’ve written a 50,000 word platform) but here are some of my ideas.

Some of my Issues:

– Congressmen should NOT be allowed to vote in Washington DC. The only reason they vote there is because there were no phone lines or Internet in 1792. But now Congressmen could stay in their district, help people out, and still engage in debates and learn the issues and vote from home. The benefits:

1. stay closer to constituents and what they want.

2. Most important: it would destroy the hundred billion dollar lobbying/bribery industry. Congressmen basically vote what industry lobbyists want them to vote. Lobbyists have an easy job. All of the Congressmen are located in one small city. It’s easy to wine and dine them ten times a day. If the Congressmen were spread out over the entire country by mandate, then there would be no way to lobby them. End of lobbying industry. More true democracy for voters. In fact, it might even mean the end of Congress, since voters could vote directly and we can have a true democracy instead of a pretend one.

– No more “military actions”. In the past four years we’ve had military actions in at least six different countries and conducted over 20,000 airstrikes, killing many innocent civilians . I’m not sure what good they do. The last LEGALLY declared war was in 1941. Most wars in history have had an economic cause. If we got creative on the economics, we wouldn’t need to send over young 18 year old boys and girls to die pointless deaths that protect nobody.

18 year olds have their senior prom and then they die. Not to mention our lack of nation-building upon completion of a military action. I support the charity “Women for Women International” which helps women whose lives and families have been torn apart by military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, all over Africa, etc. I also support successful technologies that help diagnose returning veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome as to what medication will most effectively cure their issues. These 18 year old kids are having their lives destroyed.

When I ask my 40 year old friends who disagree with me on this issue if they would volunteer for the military in order to relieve an 18 year old, nobody says “I’ll do it”.

– Economics stops wars. I can give 100 examples. But in Rwanda we sent over billions in military aid. None of it worked to prevent genocide in the 90s. Do you know what worked? The price of coffee is perfectly correlated to the genocidal violence in Rwanda. When Starbucks bought coffee from Rwanda: no more genocide (this is overly simplified but actually true). The entire Middle East situation is going to change simply because we have more oil in North Dakota and the Mississippi Lime than the entire Middle East. Let’s let that play out in environmentally safe ways now that the technology is finally here and getting better.

– Senior citizens are being systematically starved and killed by the government. Social security rises with core inflation, which excludes food and energy increases. Well, food and energy costs have been increasing faster than inflation for many years. So senior citizens get less money each year to cater to their basic needs. And they are living longer.

My calculations are they have about ten years before a senior citizen with no other means of support will starve to death. Solution: we have to live up to our promise to people over 65. But anyone younger than 55 should give up their expectations of Social Security (since it won’t help them live anyway). People should keep working. There’s really no other choice. The retirement age where people get Social Security was set at 65 in a year when the average person died at age 61. Now it’s 78. So the world has changed.

– Every government asset (State and Federal) should be sold. Why do states own horrible universities, for instance, that rob our children of their youth and put them into horrible debt, and then the Federal government backs that debt. Sell the universities.

Sell the highways. Sell the bridges (they are all about to fall apart since the average lifespan of a bridge is about 50 years old and most bridges were built in the 1930s and 40s.) Sell the poorly run post office. Etc.

I’m not suggesting this because the government is horrible at running things. But, yeah, given our debt, I guess they are. So let’s run a surplus by simply selling everything, hiring less government employees (who will move over into private industry that buys the assets), and making enough money to pay down debt before inflation starts paying down our debt. There’s not really any other solution since government is incapable of reducing budgets (we only run surpluses when business is booming). And if companies that buy these assets want to make a profit they won’t let them collapse like the bridge above.

A great example of an organization that should be sold off is NASA. A $100 billion budget couldn’t get a a commercial vehicle into space but a $10 million X Prize was able to. There’s more details here but there is a lot to be learned from the success of incentives funded by private industry.

Read the rest of the article

The Best of James Altucher