FIVE EASY THESES: Commonsense Solutions to America’s Greatest Economic Challenges, by James M. Stone.


“Five Easy Theses sets out key issues of public policy easy to identify in concept but long unresolved in practice, We ask:

• Why the U.S. needs to raise the age for social security benefits
• How mandatory military and social service could cut down on student loan debt
• Why regulating too-big-to-fail banks will stop damage to jobs and small businesses
• Why “Right to Die” is important for improving healthcare costs and efficiencies

“Five Easy Theses sets out key issues of public policy easy to identify in concept but long unresolved in practice. Stone proposes sensible approaches to breaking the long-standing political deadlock. The specific measures to deal with budgetary balance, income inequality, public education, healthcare, and financial reform should provide a guide for constructive debate as we choose our next president.”
— Paul A. Volcker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve (1979-1987)
Current Chairman of the Volcker Alliance

At a time of political gridlock in Washington, Americans are eager to end infighting and find solutions.

FIVE EASY THESES: Commonsense Solutions to America’s Greatest Economic Challenges, is an urgent call to action to all of us and our leaders to find solutions to five of our most pressing economic and domestic public policy issues: Fiscal Balance, Inequality, Healthcare, Education, and Financial Sector Reform.

Highly praised by leading authorities in each of these five areas and from both sides of the political aisle including Paul Volcker, Edward O. Wilson, Atul Gawande, FIVE EASY THESES relies on straightforward common sense to liberate the public discourse from partisanship and focus it instead on what might really work to solve the economic problems most directly impacting our lives today.
James M. Stone, the founder, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Plymouth Rock Group of companies, former Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner, and former Chairman and Commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, argues that it is time for the electorate to challenge the deadlocked status quo and pressure our political leaders in both parties to stop running away from the issues that really matter.

This book is not just for policy wonks but for anyone worried about their rising healthcare costs, the future of their Social Security and Medicare, the effectiveness of education to prepare their children, and how their prosperity might be affected by income inequality and recklessness in the financial sector.
In FIVE EASY THESES, Stone presents a researched analysis of each sector, offering the context needed to understand what got us to where we are, and proposes the potential solutions that will lead us on the right path. These include:

Fiscal Balance
Stone identifies the worst loopholes and sources of waste in today’s tax policy. The federal government should stop making commitments it has no plans to fund. This problem is most severe with respect to our Social Security promises to the next generation of elders. Congress should cease to offer expensive tax breaks that serve no useful policy purpose. The most wastefully extravagant of these tax expenditures is the deduction available to corporations and individuals for payment of interest on their debts. The Social Security system can be secured by ceasing to automatically expand benefits as life expectancies rise. The corporate and personal interest deduction should be flat-out repealed.

Income Inequality
The greatest threat to traditional American values today is the drift toward an aristocracy of wealth. It is harmful that the fruits of our recent economic growth have virtually all been taken by top 0.1% of the population. To remedy this, and restore the economic strength of the middle class while maintaining a safety net for those in need, we must take steps that may sound as radical as the income tax sounded a hundred years ago but are just as necessary. We must begin to tax unrealized gains resulting from investment asset appreciation, and we must stop cold the leakage from inheritance taxes brought about through trust loopholes and excessive exemptions.

Our system of grade school education and our private-public balance of higher education are in need of major repair. The grade school curriculum is poorly serving those who will not be earning a four-year college degree. The costs of college are undermining the benefits of higher education to all but the wealthiest students. Our nation ranks no better than mediocre by international measures of educational attainment. A universal national service program would offer a powerful set of solutions to the educational shortcomings, while providing other social and economic benefits as an extra dividend. The book lays out an 8-point plan and a bold post-secondary program to make education more effective and affordable for both college-bound and work-bound young people.

The United States spends about 18 percent of its GNP on healthcare, while the rest of the developed world averages a little more than half that. Yet, our people experience worse health outcomes than those in other nations. The extra spending exceeds a trillion dollars a year, a vast amount you could put to many better uses. Only within the framework of a single-payer, single-negotiator, single-regulator system can we provide rationality, sensible incentives, and cost-effective administration. The gain to the public of a trillion dollars a year would be the largest available boost to the economy within reach today, and proper incentives would improve America’s health outcomes

Financial Sector Reform
With first-hand experience as a financial regulator, Stone shows how an out-of-control gargantuan banking, derivatives and hedge fund sector can be curbed to make finance serve, rather than dominate, America’s real commercial sector. The emergence of unmanageably large and complex banks whose failures would bring all of us down, the creation of hedge funds whose security and business practices remain beyond regulatory purview, and the rise of derivatives traded with nearly unlimited leverage, all contribute to the financial sector’s enrichment at the rest of the economy’s expense. The overall scale of the financial sector is out of proportion to its economic value. The current situation is at least as hazardous as before the crash. Banks should be downsized. Hedge funds should cease to exist outside of the successful and safe regulatory structure applied to mutual funds. And derivatives trading should be backed up by reserves that would reduce its volume to a tiny fraction of today’s unimaginable numbers.

While these theses are by no means “easy”, together they have the potential to break through political paralysis and transform the future prospects of America’s next generation. FIVE EASY THESES is the book that is needed now to inspire people on both sides of the political aisle to demand the solutions and leadership that it will take to set our country on the right path.

About the Author:
James (Jim) Stone is the founder, Chairman and CEO of the Plymouth Rock group of companies. He began his career by teaching economics, after earning a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard. He served as Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner from 1975 to 1979 and then as Chairman and Commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission for four years. On his return from Washington, he founded Plymouth Rock.

He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Boston Globe, and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Global Post, a web-based international news service. Jim is a member of the Board of Directors of two non-profit organizations, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Management Sciences for Health, for which he serves as Chairman of the Board. Jim has served as an advisor to governments in three developing countries, and he has authored a book and numerous articles on insurance and finance. Jim is married, the father of two children, and lives in Boston.

Commonsense Solutions to America’s Greatest Economic Challenges
By James M. Stone