OPINION- In my last article, I reminisced over an episode of “The Cosby Show” in which everyone at the hospital where Cliff worked learned the harsh reality that sometimes painful cuts or changes have to be made. I then discussed our country’s current financial situation and the various methods of dealing with the situation. I showed that all of these methods of dealing with the problems will cause pain. Since I wrote that article we have been told that we “averted the fiscal cliff” – when in reality, our representatives in Washington have only found a way to procrastinate on making the needed changes.
We are faced with a harsh reality and our leaders in Washington don’t want to formulate and execute a plan of action because they know there will be people that are angry and bitter no matter what plan they choose. Unfortunately, the longer we wait to develop a plan and act, the more pain it will likely cause.
I feel that I can no longer stand idly by and wait on my representatives to act. I decided to put together a plan that I will submit to Mike Lee, Orrin Hatch, and Chris Stewart as my representatives in Congress. I will also submit it as a petition on the “We the People” website with the hope that it will garner 100,000 signatures, thereby requiring the promised response and review by President Obama and his administration.
I recognize that I don’t have enough knowledge, experience or wisdom to come up with the ideal solution by myself so I started by talking to people that I know about potential solutions. I also did a lot of reading from media outlets of all persuasions. I then studied the details of how the various parts of the current financial system work and read what many past and current economists and politicians think is the best plan of action.
That got me started. I will now present a summary of my “rough draft” in this article. After it’s published, I fully expect to see many opinions in the comments sections as well as many emails in my inbox as people read it and express their thoughts. I hope to gain additional insight from your input. I will then use that additional insight to turn this “rough draft” into the plan I will submit to our leaders in Washington. When I reach that point I will respond to everyone that emailed me and I will update my article. I’m hoping that I can get a lot of support behind my plan so that our leaders in Washington will finally feel comfort in moving forward with a plan.
This is not what I would deem a perfect plan. I couldn’t use what I would consider a perfect plan as I know and understand that, in order to pass, my plan will have to be acceptable to people of all kinds and sorts of political leanings.
The Washington Post posted this chart that shows what percentage of the budget goes to which causes. It is obvious that Medicare/Medicaid/CHIP, Social Security, and defense spending are by far the biggest three items as they encompassed more than 60 percent of the budget in 2011. Consequently, they need to be addressed individually.
Medicare/Medicaid/CHIP – The passing of the “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare” has created a complete gridlock in Washington concerning almost anything to do with the healthcare industry. Since the law is being implemented slowly and won’t be fully implemented until 2014, this fighting and gridlock won’t end until at least 2014 and probably not until at least 2015. Therefore, I won’t be recommending any significant changes there because, once again, my main goal is to get a plan into action now.
Social Security – This program needs help and the outlook gets worse every year. The easiest way to reduce the cost of Social Security would be to increase the retirement age and decrease the money that retirees get. The problem with this is that some of these people really need that money because they don’t have much else to rely upon and they are not in physical or mental condition to work. My proposal is twofold. First, we leave the early and full retirement ages where they are for everyone that has already hit 60, but increase the early retirement age to 65 and the full retirement age to 70 for anyone that is currently under age 60 and can’t prove that their health won’t allow them to continue working. Second, we restructure the payroll taxes for everyone that chooses not to take early retirement. The Social Security portion of the payroll tax is currently 6.5 percent. I would reduce the amount they have to pay by one percent for every year that they delay early retirement. If they arrive at full retirement age and still choose not to retire, their Social Security tax liability drops to zero percent. The hope behind this is that people will enjoy the equivalent of an annual pay raise and continue working longer than they otherwise would have.
Defense Spending – Everyone knows that there are a lot of bad things going on in this world and we need to be ready to defend ourselves against anything from a small band of pirates to World War III. The question is, how much do we need to spend to achieve this? The Los Angeles Times recently posted an article that included a graph showing that the United States spends more money on defense than the next 13 countries (China, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Australia, and Canada) combined. I would start with foreign aid, I would cut that to zero. I would then do a 40 percent cut across the board. However, not all the cuts would stick. I would call that the starting point. Each part could then be evaluated and if Congress and Obama deem it necessary, it could get back up to the amount it received in 2012. My hope is that all of the places where that money is absolutely needed will be quickly and easily voted back into play and the rest will be an efficient cut.
The Rest – One of our biggest issues is what’s called “baseline budgeting.” This is where the various government programs receive automatic increases every year. This causes a double problem, it inspires increased spending in places that don’t have any need for a spending increase and it sets things up for our politicians to be able to cut part of these automatic increases and claim that they cut spending – even though spending actually went up. My plan first kills all of the automatic increases to all discretionary spending programs. Annual increases can occur, but only if they are needed enough that they can get passed every year.
Increase Revenue – My plan will increase revenue in three different ways:
First, open, dramatically speed up, and simplify legal immigration for a five-year period. This includes ditching the associated fees which makes it impossible for those who are not wealthy to become citizens. And strip out the complexity which requires people to hire a lawyer in order to get through the process. It will also include establishing a new method for checking out people’s history and background so that they can be admitted within a reasonable time (hopefully a week, but a month at the max). The benefits of this will include broadening the tax base and economic stimulus as more houses will need to be built along with more household goods to fill them and cars to get these people transportation. In order to ensure that this helps the problem instead of making it worse, none of these people will qualify for any form of welfare or entitlements unless our government decides that things have improved enough that we can reasonable afford to include them in these programs. After five years, if we like the results, we continue it. If we don’t like them, we allow the program to end and we learn from the experience.
Second, a tax increase of 0.5 percent across the board with an immunity to all tax breaks and exceptions. Everyone will pay this amount above what they would have otherwise.
Finally, whatever is left, we raise the debt ceiling enough to cover it.
I realize that almost nobody is going to love these changes, but we need to do something and none of the plans that have been proposed have come even close to getting passed.
Leo Wright is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his own and not representative of St. George News.
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