If he ran the world


SANDUSKY - The other day, during a break in an Erie County commissioners meeting, Nancy McKeen remarked there are many changes she'd make if she ever became dictator.

She hasn't yet announced her utopia, but here's mine:

-- The federal income tax will be abolished and all federal revenues will be derived from a national sales tax on everything except groceries and goods that promote energy conservation, such as electric cars and solar-powered radios.

-- All Americans will be entitled to apply for an annual tax rebate large enough to ensure reasonable progressivity -- no family of four earning $30,000 a year will pay taxes, a family of four earning $40,000 will pay only a small net tax, etc.

-- Major League Baseball will be reformed with a revenue-sharing program, similar to the NFL, that ensures that all teams have approximately equal resources for buying players. Teams with publicly-financed stadiums will be banned from charging more than $5 apiece for bleacher seats.

-- All students will be able to hear a quality jazz concert and classical music concert every year. Federal funding will make that possible. All other federal arts programs will be abolished.

-- The Department of Education and all federal education programs will be abolished, and control over public education will return to the states and local school boards.

-- All laws dictating which drugs Americans can consume will be abolished. Imprisonment will be reserved for crimes involving violence, theft of property, fraud and reckless disregard for the safety of others.

This will free jail space to allow mandatory sentences for all drunken (and stoned) drivers: a weekend in jail for a first offense, three months in jail for a second, a year for a third, and so on.

-- Due space will be provided in public libraries and college literature courses for our greatest living literary geniuses -- Neal Stephenson, Susanna Clarke, Robert Anton Wilson, Iain Banks, Elinor Lipman and Tom Perotta.

-- All airport searches of passengers will end immediately, with the money spent on hassling passengers redirected to useful security measures.

-- The federal minimum wage will be raised $1 and then indexed to inflation.

-- No team in the National Basketball Association will be allowed to participate in the playoffs unless it has at least managed a winning record. The team with the worst regular season record will be demoted to the Continental Basketball Association, and the best minor league basketball team will be invited to join the NBA.

-- All Americans will have access to government-guaranteed health insurance. Private medicine will still be permitted to those who can pay.

-- All women will be required to wear bright red (but tasteful) clothes at least once a week. All men will be required to listen patiently to advice on dress and grooming at least five minutes a week from a female citizen.

-- Americans will be allowed to withdraw from Social Security and place an equivalent amount of tax withholding into a private account, although they can't get the money until retirement.

-- The United States will withdraw troops from, and end taxpayer support for, all Middle Eastern countries, including Israel. We can retaliate against direct attacks on American soil and Americans.

-- All restaurants will be required to offer at least five vegetarian entrees.

-- All automobile companies offering vehicles for sale in the U.S. will be required to sharply improve gas mileage over a 10-year period. Auto industry figures and environmentalists will set the goals and timetable.

-- All newspapers will be required to pay salaries and benefits to their reporters matching what's paid to the average local public school teacher.