Joseph Lee's Perspectives
My view of the world
January 13, 2009 - The Growing Deficits and exporting American English to solve it

Much is being made of the massive economic stimulus package that the Obama camp has proposed.  The trillion dollar packages (when you add the new bill with the TARP bill passed last year, it’ll add to over a trillion dollars) will add to the already bloated federal deficit.  What was a $3 trillion national debt when Bush took office is close to $6 trillion and growing, some expecting it to hit $8 trillion with the new spending and tax cuts.

The US trade deficits continue unabated, running up figures of $60 billion a month in 2008.   With the global recession deepening, there will only be so much political appetite for free trade, and one of the main goals of the Obama administration will be to help create jobs in the US that will make the US import less and export more.


There is a simple way to solve both of these problems.  The answer is right at our fingertips, or more correctly, at the tip of our tongues.  We can export the English language!

Wait a minute, you say.   How can we export a language?  Besides, everyone in the world already uses it.

Well, that’s exactly the point.  English has become the dominant language for business, and the appropriate use of the language has become a prerequisite for economic success.   And it’s not just any kind of English; it’s “American English” that they all want.  Demand for the language is high everywhere.  In Japan, they would hire any American off the street to put into an English language school.  In India, call centers are inundated with complaints that customers in the US don't understand what they are saying, so the operators are taking crash courses in “American-English.”   In Hollywood, we watched Australian and British actors give winning speeches with accents while appearing in movies speaking without a trace of their native accent.  They all thank their speech coaches.

OK, so let’s say that I buy into this crazy notion of yours.  How does this have anything to do with the US deficits?

What a great question! (they teach us to say this in every public speaking class).   First, the United States Government must file a copyright application that its language is intellectual property that must be protected.  The  manner in which words are assembled and pronounced should definitely be protected.  Heck, if someone can get their Yoga poses copyrighted, the American English language is definitely more valuable than that.

You’re nuts.  Everyone already uses it!

Just because everyone does it doesn’t make it legal.  Look what happened to Napster and those music downloaders.   We will charge each nation that uses our language a license fee.  It will be based on a per-user basis--$100 per person per year.   In Japan, with over  100 million users (most of the population), the charge will be $10 billion per year.  India with 1.4 billion users, the fee will be $140 billion.  China, although with a larger population probably has a lower user base, so perhaps only $100 billion.  Can you see our trade (and federal) deficit shrinking by the minute?

How are you going to make them pay?

Simple.  If the nation doesn’t pay, they don’t get to trade with us.  No pay, no play.   We will assign former Illinois Governor Blagovich to be in charge of the new “Pay to Play” Department.  And if they really don’t listen, we’ll send over Jack Bauer from CTU to get the job done.

But how will this help US unemployment and won’t the nations be pissed off at us?

This is the neat part about this plan.  We will train one million Americans to be goodwill English teaching ambassadors and send them around the world.   This fits neatly with President Obama’s plan of enhancing our educational system, and will even keep Secretary of State Hillary Clinton happy as we send these teachers into all corners of the world so that everyone can speak out kind of English.  This way, we won’t have to learn their languages (a significant concession to Republican members of the Congress).   The teaching ambassadors will each be paid US $50,000, with the US government collecting a 10% placement commission (expenses and salaries to be paid by host country).  At $5,000 per teacher, that will be another $ 5 billion in annual fees into the US Treasury (unfortunately, we won’t collect taxes on the income since they’ll be taxed by the host country; we have to respect bilateral tax arrangements).

Japan has already announced plans that by 2013, all its English teaching should be done in English (you wonder how they were teaching it until now).  With over 20,00 elementary schools, 10,000 middle schools and 5,000 high schools (35,000 total) and the need for perhaps 5 or more teachers per school, Japan alone can take over 100,000 new teachers.

Wow, you’ve really thought this through.  Why don’t you propose this to President-elect Obama?  He likes change and to think out of the box!

Are you crazy?  I just watched the first two episodes of 24 and am on a 24-high.  Don’t believe anything I say until the 24 Season is over.


Joseph Lee is an independent consultant and executive coach.  He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management where he teaches a second-year MBA course in Management Consulting.   In addition, Mr. Lee is also an author, writing International Business Thrillers, including his debut novel The Sky Burns Red (赤く燃える空) which was published in Japan.

2009-01-13 10:28:01 GMT
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