Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When I Become Queen

I got involved in a conversation about politics, specifically about the national debt, yesterday.  It's kind of sad that I was able to come up with a bunch of ideas just standing in the lunchroom at the office, but the people in congress who get paid to solve problems can't figure this out.

#1 - Social Security is 6.2% of your gross income up to $106,800.  If it was 6.2% of everything, instead, how much of the problem would that solve?  Would I be able to count on Social Security being there when I retire if they removed the limit?

from Wikimedia Commons
#2 - It's my understanding that Bush paid for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan outside of the federal budget (I don't know how the hell that works, but that's what he did).  Here's what I want to know - whatever happened to war bonds?  In World War 2, if you supported the war and the troops you could go out and buy a bond to support them, which would mature in a set number of years.  Why aren't we selling Iraq and Afghanistan and now Libya bonds?  Let the people who think these actions are a good idea pay for them!

#3 - Congresspeople should not get sweet retirement deals.  They should get social security like everyone else.

#4 - When this country was founded, all the politicians had real jobs.  I think the only career politician should be the president - and everyone else should be a volunteer.  No, I'm not kidding.  Ok, fine, pay them a small stipend (minimum wage x the number of hours they work!) for their time.  But that's it.  And they're not allowed to vote themselves pay increases anymore.  Who came up with that idea? 

#5 - What if we all decided that in 2012 we would let the government keep our tax refunds, for the good of the country, and apply them toward the national debt?  What if we kept doing this until there wasn't one anymore?  Heck, what if we just did it in even numbered years?  Could we solve the problem that way?  How long would it take?

#6 - Various entities that get their funding from the government always spend as much of it as they possibly can - otherwise it will be removed from the budget next year.  How about coming up with non-financial incentives for entities that return unspent money at the end of the fiscal year?  For example, if the National Archives (just to pick on someone) manages to spend 97% of their budget, but they write the government a check for the other 3% at the end of the year, how about we give everyone who works for the National Archives an extra day off or something?  Government employees need some kind of incentive to NOT spend money.  Also, let's not take that money out of their budget right away, because things change from year to year.  Give them 5 years of being 3% under (and getting an extra day off or something) before that 3% is permanently cut, so they don't feel like they have to "spend out" their money each year.

#7 - Here's another idea from the past - the WPA.  We've got thousands and thousands of people collecting welfare and unemployment in this country, and meanwhile our roads, bridges, etc. are falling apart.  Let's put some of these folks to work 4 days a week fixing stuff!  The other day a week they can continue to look for a job in their original field.  "But Amy!" you say, "A lot of the people collecting welfare are taking care of children!"  OK, fine, start a WPA daycare in each town - employ a couple of (qualified) caregivers to look after the kids of the rest of the people who are at work.  Duh.  I know that our town has laid off teachers lately.  They're more than qualified to do daycare, right?  Wouldn't they rather be working?

#8 - This is kind of unrelated, but why don't we combine the retirement homes and the daycares into one facility?  So the older people could be around little kids, which would be good for them and keep them young and active, and the little kids could have one on one attention from loving older people, which would be good for them, too.  Also, it would be one less building.  There would have to be caregivers, too, for both the elderly and the kids (because the elderly would get tired, and the kids would need diapers changed and stuff) but from a purely social point of view, I think it would be good.  It's certainly more natural than dividing people up by age the way we do in this country.

#9 - This one is my dad's.  He says that every member of Congress should have to do their personal income taxes with a pencil and paper, and if they can't they need to simplify the laws.  I think that's BRILLIANT.

#10 - Twelve year term limits for every single elected official in the country.

There.  I fixed it.  Will you vote for me?


Wright said...

1. Save it? No. Sure it would be receiving the funds needed to potentially make it solvent, but that would require the government to sit on an ENORMOUS pile of cash and do nothing with it other than use it for the purpose it was intended. At what point in our national history has that ever been the case? ESPECIALLY with Social Security? The system ran a significant surplus for the first few decades and that surplus was never banked, it went right into other spending. Hince Al Gore's now infamous "lock box" line.

There are some broader economic issues of instituting such a huge tax increase on "the wealthy" as well. Since, namely, they are the job creators and you lop 6.2% off all of their income, that'll come out to significantly fewer jobs.

2. Re: War Bonds. We already are, they're just covered by the issuance of more Treasuries. Second, the direct marketing & issuance of "war bonds" is out of vogue and has been for 70 years because emergency funding like that has some economic repercussions. We've made big use of them in 3 Wars and after each one saw a nasty recession afterward (Civil, WW1, & WW2), and so we stopped using them. Also the Fed & Treasury have changed how they operate on monetary policy fairly significantly since WW2.

3. No arguments there, but that would require an Act of Congress to repeal and no one votes themselves less money.

Wright said...

4. Re: The Founders. Actually almost all of them were career politicians or, at least, career political dabblers. They all held positions in the prior colonial governments, most were involved in the Continental Congress and subsequent Confederacy, and then all of them were involved in their local, state, or federal government after that. It's how they all got the experience needed to form a new government that has endured for 230 years.

The problem isn't that they're careerists, it's that they're secure careerists. Meaning that they don't have to worry about really being accountable to their electorate since their districts are so gerrymandered that it's damned hard for an official to lose an election.

As far as the voting of money, again... Act of Congress and a lack of oversight.

5. Re: Keeping the tax refunds. It would be, at best, a drop in the bucket. Also ridiculously unfair to those of us who overpay so we don't get stuck with a bill in the spring versus those of us who underpay so they can keep more of their money.

6. 1 year, 5 years, 15 years it doesn't matter, they'll still have incentive to spend it all to avoid being cut.

Wright said...

7. Re: the WPA. First, it'd be a colossal waste of manpower, even bigger than it was in the 1930's. We're just a shit ton more efficient at building things now, thanks to mechanization, than we were then. So there just aren't enough projects that exist out there that need millions of unskilled laborers.

Second, the Unions would throw a collective shit fit at all that unskilled labor diluting their labor market and block it.

Third, the Environmentalists would throw a collective shit fit at it as well. Look at the few successes the WPA produced... it was the big dam projects!

Fourth, and this is where it really breaks down, they would be incredibly unskilled labor and they just can't produce the things we need now. Roads are more complex than they use to be, as are buildings, or even train networks. You just can't create those now by pissing brute force labor onto it like you could back in the day. Long gone are the long gangs of men armed with pick axe and shovels who built things like the Al-Can Highway. And that isn't even touching on the things we really need like power systems and grid maintenance!

8. Because old people hate little kids and pay to be there and parents are paranoid as shit about their kids hanging out around adult strangers.

9. Amusing.

10. 12 years in any single position? Or 12 years total? If it's 12 years total, I hope you like people even less experienced than Obama as president.

Wright said...

Re: Vote. No. =)

Amy said...

Ok kids, it's Amy vs Wright in the election. Who wins?

(So, what are your ideas, sir? Or are we just collectively hosed and the best we can hope for is that the Mayans were right?)

Anonymous said...

Amy, please tell your dad that he is brilliant! I am a fan of the Fair Tax myself. I actually spend the Government's money on a daily basis--as my job. It is hard as heck to purchase things for the guys in the field, but I can't even begin to tell you how many pens, calendars, printers, random items, etc are purchased in September at the end of the fiscal year. And, then about May, we are forbidden to print because we don't have money for paper. Thanks for sharing your thoughts...I enjoyed them.

morganna said...

Amy, I enjoyed your suggestions, but Wright has a point. (Especially about the refunds and those of us who overpay to avoid a bill)

My husband has the same suggestion as your dad, except he would allow calculators & lock them all in one room until they were done. :)

Something must be done. The problem is that even if we cut everything but defense & social security, we would still be going into debt. Therefore, we must cut those, too, and no politician wants to touch them.

Have you heard of the proposal of the Gang of Six? It's six senators who actually want to implement the suggestions of the task force Obama set up last year (and is now ignoring). The report & suggestions actually make sense & would make a difference.

RobMonroe said...

Totally with you on term limits - ridiculous how long these people can get away with pure name recognition in some places.

I do have an issue with your tax-refund idea - we are over-pay people, but I know too many people who are pay-at-the-end folks, so it would penalize me and benefit them.

Wright said...

Social Security – First, increase the FICA tax on those who will collect it and then build in an automatic retirement age increase to be Average Life Expectancy +4 as it was originally set up. The problem is that people live too damn long. The current retirees will, on average, collect 10-15 YEARS of social security benefits from a system design, meaning the vast majority of retirees will collect. But when it was setup, it was at average life expectancy +4, meaning considerably less than ½ of people ever collected and it was envisioned as a means of support for those who were truly incapable of working any longer.

Paying for the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan – Short of charging the Iraqis & Afghanis for the defense that we provide, there isn’t any way to fund this other than the current budget methods.
Congress critter retirements – total agreement with you, but that’s cause I loathe the concept of pensions. But I’ll spare you my rant about those.
Politician Pay Rates – Set the maximum compensation for government officials to an absolute maximum of 125% of the average income of their constituents. So if you’re the mayor and the average person in your town makes 50K, you get to make 75K. This still leaves the option of paying lesser amounts for part time positions.
Refunds – A flat tax of 20% + a VAT (national sales tax) of 5% or a flat income tax of 10% and a VAT of 15%.
WPA – The WPA was a pretty big failure and money sink (FDR tried it cause they were tossing out every idea they could) and it really didn’t employ that many people in the grand scheme of things. If you really must employ that many people, how about we form a 19th century style army and invade & occupy Canada? That’ll give’em something to do.

Term limits – I like term limits and I’d put it at 2-3 terms for any position. After that, they gotta move on and give someone else a chance.