Prescript: Please see Chris’ comment at the end of this post for a highly valuable critique and worthwhile alternatives to these specific recommendations.
This will probably make most of my loyal and patient readers angry, but this debate just goes around in circles and we’re not getting anywhere. How do we get the federal budget back into something like balance (without relying on bubble prosperity)? These are my positions, hate me if you will. But until convinced otherwise, this is what I believe:
A) All reductions in federal spending and/or tax increases will initially be depressive to the economy;
B) We cannot possibly continue the way we are going;
C) It’s not just about cutting fat and building muscle, it’s about building the right muscle;
D) Efficiency and integrity are important, but the nature of government is such that fixing our fiscal problems through efficiency or reducing waste, fraud, and abuse is just not feasible;
E) It won’t get any easier by delaying and derailing.
So, here are my major positions:
1) Cut defense spending by 50% over 10 years. Preserve and enhance the most useful expeditionary, strategic, and special forces, and intelligence & surveillance.. Concentrate cuts in heavy conventional forces and overseas bases. Consolidate common functions across services: R&D, intelligence, acquisition and logistics, medical and dental, civil engineering, legal, food service. Anything that’s not green or blue should be purple. Close almost all overseas bases, negotiate hosting arrangements with strategic and theater partners (so they pay the freight, while we supply the capabilities). Put NATO and the UN on a per capita basis, time for the rest of the world to pay their own way;
2) Means test Social Security and Medicare. Americans who have 2X the median income from private sources do not need the full entitlement benefits these programs offer. Benefits to be phased out entirely as the citizen’s independent income reaches 3-5X the median income. The alternative offered by Big Government advocates is to reject means testing (ie; protect the programs as they currently exist at all cost) and raise the withholdings ceiling (grow government). I reject that, just as I reject the “I paid for it and I want it” claims of prosperous seniors;
3) Leave federal income tax rates as they are, eliminate almost all deductions except a modest personal residence interest deduction (private home ownership is a common good). Establish new tax rates for incomes above $1,000,000 per year (~45%) and income above $10,000,000 per year (~70%). It is utterly insane to tax a mid-career OB/GYN at the same rate as a hedge fund manager. One objective is to move 500,000 tax practitioners (lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, etc) to gainful employment in the tradable sector.
4) Send 70% of American high school grads to vocational training programs or apprenticeships. Based on objective criteria, select 30% of high school grads for college, with at least half going into STEM degree programs.
5) Amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget over each rolling three year cycle, with a provision to suspend the requirement: a) if the nation is in a state of declared war, or b) for one year, on a two-thirds vote of the House.
As I write this, I am absolutely confident that the above would be a great start toward putting America back on a path to sustainable prosperity. I also know that it would be political suicide for any candidate to propose this program, although some courageous soul may try. That’s why I enjoy being a blogger. Without a campaign to attend to, I can say what I believe. And this is what I believe.
G’day all, and may God continue to bless America!