Kevin J. High wants to be the king of the United States. He's not joking. In fact, he's so serious that he's invested several thousand dollars in pursuit of what many surely believe is a quixotic quest. And he's spent two years writing a book, King, detailing what exactly he intends to do once the crown is on top of his head.
For High, at the heart of it all is a feeling that something is wrong with the United States, that America is broke and our ever-squabbling, always fund-raising elected officials in Washington are unable to fix the problem. And that problem is our nation's fiscal irresponsibility.
"My fear is we're not going to do anything, and in four or five years we will be in another Great Depression," he says. "We're toast."
High believes the nation as it is today encourages its citizens to suckle the federal entitlement teat. "The programs of keeping people who barely graduated high school to keeping people where there is no motivation to succeed, by giving housing, by giving welfare, by giving food stamps, giving, giving, giving. There's no motivation to get out of that," he says. "On top of that, our deficit is so significantly out of whack that we can't do it much longer. There is going to be a point in time where our debt is so great that we're literally going to have to forgive debt that we've already lent to ourselves."
And as King of the U.S.A., High plans to fix what ails us. When asked why he's the man for this extraordinary job, the author says, "Because nobody has the balls to do it."
But first, the American people must decide they want High to become His Royal Highness. "You've got to be elected king," says High, a former stock broker and a one-time dot-commer who became enamoured with Charleston over the course of a three-year voyage sailing up and down the East Coast and the Caribbean.
Once he's in office — in fact, High says, before he's even had his first cup of coffee on the morning of his first day on the throne — he'll enact seven Royal Amendments, from granting the president the power of the line-item veto to eliminating the federal income tax to extending the length of terms for the president, senators, and House members.
Yes. You read that right. High wants to be king, but he doesn't want to eliminate the legislative and executive branches. He wants them to just go away for a bit, so he can be free to change government for what he think is for the better.
For High, the single most important change that he'll make on day one is to enact Royal Amendment No. 1, which grants the president line-item-veto power to slice-and-dice legislation, cutting out the pork fat and preserving the meat. "If you really think about it, everybody in America votes for the president of the United States. We all don't vote for a Congressman or a senator, and as a company, he is our CEO. And as a CEO, to have your hands tied on either accepting a bill or rejecting a bill in its entirety makes absolutely no sense," he says.
In a world without presidential line-item veto power, Congress tacks pork barrel projects onto otherwise worthy bills. The result: millions of dollars wasted. "There is no accountability whatsoever. The president says, 'There is so much of this bill that I really like, but maybe I didn't like that, but I had no choice, I had to sign that bill.' And Congress will say, "Well, in order to make this happen, this had to be in there, and it's not up to me anyway. It's up to the president, so you can't be mad at me."
A line-item vote would also eliminate one of the most insidious forces in modern American politics. "When you have line-item veto power, the lobbying money dries up. The lobbyists that are going to Congress, that are going to the Senate right now, and that are supporting a particular Congressman or senator running for office, that money will dry up because the president will kill it anyway. And if he doesn't, then Americans will ask him in a debate or whatever it is going to be, why did you allow, in this highway bill for Florida, a grant to the Indians in Idaho for bow-and-arrow research."
High also wants to eliminate all personal and corporate income taxes and replace it with a national consumption tax on all non-life essentials. He believes that by putting such a tax in place, the beneficiaries of the so-called underground economy — illegal immigrants, drug dealers, and the like — would be forced to pay their fair share. "If you think about the middle class and the low-income people, this is going to be a major home run for them because their paycheck is going to go up instantly," he says. "When they go to the grocery store and they buy flour and cheese and pepperoni and they go home and they make their own pizza, they're not going to pay any consumption tax on that. That's a life essential. Food is a life essential. "
However, High says, "If they buy a frozen premium pizza, they're going to pay a tax on it."
The life essential exemptions go beyond just food. They include clothing, prescription drugs, and diapers. "You don't need to go to a restaurant. You don't need that six pack of beer," he says.
The would-be King also has a very novel way of dealing with one of the biggest — if not the biggest — entitlement program, Social Security. "I unwind it in a way that not only is fair — it reduces our deficit dramatically — it also will most likely stimulate the economy that the Federal Reserve can only dream of," he says, adding that he will give workers 49 and under one big fact check. Meanwhile, those who are currently retired and receive Social Security checks will still receive their money, while those who are over 50 but aren't collecting Social Security will either be able to collect all the money they put in, get 50 percent of their benefits when they retire, or receive full benefits at 70. High offers up an example: "If you're 50 and over, but not collecting Social Security, and if your net worth is more than $2 million, you're going to get a check from the Social Security Administration for everything you've contributed since you're been contributing and all of your employer matching that your employers have matched all of these years, interest free, but it's a lump-sum check."
And when it comes to naughty business, High thinks that it's up to the states to decide if they want to legalize marijuana and prostitution. In King, High writes,"Every penny a criminal makes off marijuana is money that would not be subject to some kind of tariff that could support our economy were marijuana legal. In this light, it is clear that keeping marijuana illegal is the real crime."
When it comes to prostitution, High believes that current laws have led to sex trafficking, violent crimes, and the spread of STDs. "[T]he positive economic and social impact for legalizing prostitution and marijuana far outweighs keeping those activities illegal," he writes. "Regardless of where your morals lie, you must agree that the federal government should be focused on the safety of the people, not on prosecuting what should be a moral wrong."
Hear hear. Puff puff. Pass.
Now, let's say that America decides that it wants High to be the temporary king of the United States. What's to prevent his majesty from staying in power? High has an even more novel solution to address that problem. "I would put a hit on me for $10 million."
Here's hoping that never happens.