Monday, September 1, 2014

Answering My Own Question

In my last post, I asked what you'd do to fix our broken economy; not just fix it for now, but fix it permanently.  Realizing it's not really fair to ask the question without proposing my own solution, here's what I'd do.  The crux of my policy is short term pain for everyone, with the goal of long term gain for everyone.

I'd raise taxes on the rich.  When I say "rich," I will concede that I don't have a specific number to define rich.  After all, $1,000,000 in New York is significantly different than $1,000,000 in Kentucky.  Maybe I'd tie the term "rich" to your geographical location.  I would definitely tie the term "rich" to inflation, to make sure that it stays relevant.

When I say "raise taxes on the rich," it wouldn't necessarily be an outright tax.  I would close loopholes in the tax law.  Capital gain, for example, would be taxed the same as income.  There would be no tax breaks for purchasing second homes.  In fact, I would consider capping or eliminating mortgage interest deductions.

I'd cut entitlement programs.  I probably wouldn't make much of a change to Medicaid eligibility, but I would reduce food stamp payouts, reduce welfare cash assistance, and make it more difficult to qualify for cash assistance.  I'd probably limit the amount of time you could receive cash assistance as well.  I'd limit the number of dependents who are eligible for welfare too.  If you want to have one or two kids, fine, we'll help you out.  But if you want to have ten kids, you're doing that on your own dime, not the public's.

I'd raise the retirement age and decrease Social Security benefits.  I would phase this in.  People close to retirement would be unaffected.  If you're ten or more years away from retirement, you'd better plan on getting Social Security later in life.  If you're fifteen or more years away from retirement, you will need to plan to save more for retirement, because the government isn't going to completely finance your retirement unless you plan to live a very simple life.

I'd close tax loopholes for big business.  This is one area where I agree with the free enterprise folks.  Let's cut subsidies for (insert industry here) and let them compete in the global marketplace on their own merits.

I'd enact tort reform to reduce superfluous lawsuits, but increase fines to make sure that business feels the sting when they do stupid things.  The idea here is balance.  The problem with the status quo is that Jane Freeloader can sue McDonalds for coffee that's too hot and get a 10 million payday.  With tort reform, let's say that she could get her medical bills and lost wages covered, with a little bit for her inconvenience.  At the same time, this could lead Chevy to quit worrying about making an unsafe car.  In that case, a family that was horrendously injured in a car accident could still sue Chevy to recoup their losses, but any punitive fines would go to the government.  This would ensure that Chevy would still need to worry about keeping their cars safe.  By the way, any punitive fines would be earmarked for public improvement... building roads, toxic dump cleanups, etc.

I'd implement sunset clauses on all legislation.  This would help make sure that all legislation passed by congress remains relevant... no more suing based on some anachronistic law from 1845.  It would also force them to work together, otherwise there would be absolutely no law whatsoever.  It would also help prevent them from passing stupid bullshit laws and resolutions.

While we're on the subject of congress, I'd make the government subject to the same laws as the rest of us. I'd end congressional retirement packages.

I'd implement term limits for all public officials.  I'd probably go with 12 years.  That would be 3 terms for the President, 2 terms for Senators and 6 terms for House Representatives.  I would allow a person to serve in more than one capacity.  For example, you could move from the House, to the Senate, to President and serve 36 years.  This would only apply to Federal legislators, in order to preserve states' rights.

I would enact campaign contribution limits.  Money corrupts government.

I would prevent former legislators from becoming lobbyists.

I would  take a Libertarian view on personal freedoms.  I would end the war on drugs, decriminalize prostitution, and lift sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco.  If people are going to be adults, then they should be treated as such.  I would simply enforce other laws, such as burglary, assault, slavery and so forth.  This way, if a person wants to destroy their own life, that's fine.  But taking their family and neighbors down is where I'd draw the line.

White collar crimes would have stiffer penalties.  Why should a ponzi schemer get to spend 18 months in a veritable resort while a convenience store robber gets 10 years?  Nope.

I'd enforce this basic policy for a minimum of five years.  After that, I would tweak the policy based on what works and what doesn't.

I'd consolidate government agencies to reduce fraud, waste, duplication and abuse.

I'd make sure that we have a budget surplus each year, to pay off our national debt.  My goal would be to pay off the debt in 30 years.  The only exception to this would be national emergency.

I would reduce or eliminate foreign aid.  Our friends would understand that we need to take care of ourselves first. If they're not our friend, then they don't deserve our money anyway.

How Would You Handle Our Social and Economic Problems?

I read a friend's Facebook post recently, where he pointed to a statistic saying that about 1/3 of the public is on some sort of welfare.  Welfare, for the sake of this article, includes cash assistance, food stamps and Medicaid for sure.  It may include other payments, but I'm not sure exactly what constitutes "welfare" in the articl.  My friend, understandably and justifiably, got a bit irate at this, and said that there's just too much disincentive to work.  I partially agree with this.  There are a lot of people who will just sit back and take free money, without contributing anything to society in return.  This, however, presented a larger question to me.  How do we fix this?

Once upon a time, Iowa had a law that basically said that you can only get welfare for a certain period of time during your lifetime.  I believe it was five years, but it may have been ten.  I'm also not sure if this law still exists.  I think this time limit counted only toward cash assistance.  I don't think the time limit applies to food assistance or medical assistance.  I think this goes a long way toward addressing the immediate problem, but doesn't deal with the root problem... making sure that all Americans are able to earn a decent wage.

There are several problems here that kind of all tie in together...

-Medical costs are too high.

-The cost of education is too high.

-There aren't enough decent paying jobs.

-There aren't enough full time jobs with benefits.

-There is too large of a pay gap between the highest paid and lowest paid individuals.

-Our expectations are too high.  We don't all need 5 bedroom houses.  We don't all need cell phones, and our 12 year old children certainly don't need them.  We don't need a TV in every room of the house.  We don't need multiple game consoles for our entertainment.

Some people say that we need to remove government regulation, which would increase innovation and spur economic growth.  That's partially true, but it's simplistic.  While it would increase innovation, removing government regulation, in my opinion, would also lead to the end of the 40 hour work week, more pollution and more chaos in the financial sector.

Other people believe that we need increased government regulation, such as increasing minimum wage and forcing business to offer benefits.  This is also true but simplistic.  Increasing minimum wage tends to cause layoffs in entry level positions and contributes to inflation, which, over the long haul, tends to wipe out the short-term gains of increases in minimum wage.

So, my question to you, is this:  If you could single-handedly implement a complete economic policy, what would you do?