Containing and reversing the US debt is a matter of changing the fundamental way of thinking in the United Sates at a federal level. First, from citizen to President, we all have to acknowledge that there are only a few variables in the equation we can manipulate.
1. How much money we make
2. How much money we spend, and
3. How much money we save
With those variables in mind, our government needs to stop thinking so politically and start thinking more practically. There are simple changes that government can make that would go a long way to supercharging the economy and earning the US (government and citizen) more cash. Things like:
- Legalizing gay marriage nationwide – homosexuals have a greater percentage of disposable income, let them spend it on wedding planning, honeymoons, home buying and divorce attorneys (like the rest of us).
- Allowing homosexual couples to adopt – not only would this increase the number of dollars in the economy, but it would also reduce the cash government spends on the care of children stuck in the system.
- Stop chasing bad debt – scrap the debate on student loans! It’s a reality that the government has guaranteed billions in educational loans that go into default because graduates can’t get good jobs. Create a program to forgive debt in exchange for volunteer hours (as the Peace Corp used to be). Get some value for the money spent, offer experience and opportunity for graduates, and stop wasting time and money debating the student loan issue.
- Legalize marijuana – I don’t smoke, and wouldn’t even if it was legal, but come on people, am I the only one who sees the folly in allowing the criminals to become millionaires when legalized pot could generate hundreds of billions in tax dollars and become a new, money making national export? It’s going to happen anyway, let’s focus on designing a system of regulation, taxation and commercialization instead of wasting time debating a dead issue. In addition, think of all of the cash saved on police enforcement and incarceration over possession charges.
- Tie social welfare to education/training/entrepreneurship – Clinton tried this when he was generating that budget surplus in his second term (Bush reversed it in his first month). Bad things happen and sometimes you need a hand, that’s when government steps in – but not forever. After a while (3 – 6 months) if you haven’t started a business, enrolled in an education or training program, or gotten a job, then you’re not really trying and we (the rest of America) should save our change. If you are doing something to get back on your feet, then you should continue to get support (at a reduced rate, or more appropriate support programs). Social welfare programs are for the benefit of the whole society not just those who are down on their luck.
- Stop messing around and get behind Obamacare – Aren’t we tired of Canada giggling at us from across our northern border as our economy limps back to life over the obstinate, outdated political views of some? I mean, come on, America is the ONLY modern country without universal healthcare! We have to see something wrong in this! Instead of spending millions of dollars to host Congressional votes to repeal Obamacare, proposing supplemental legislation that will create real health insurance solutions that benefit the U.S. citizen, the small business and the insurance industry might be a better solution. It has to be better than pandering to one or two of the three.
- Reform the tax code – Until 1981, the top earners paid a income tax rate of 70% (click here if you don’t believe me: http://taxfoundation.org/article/us-federal-individual-income-tax-rates-history-1913-2013-nominal-and-inflation-adjusted-brackets). Instead of building in more tricks and loopholes to abuse the system, let’s implement a stepped system where everyone pays what they can. We could limit the brackets to 4 or 5 instead of 14 or 15. Rates of taxation per bracket could be simplified so that everyone could understand them:
1. Below the poverty line = 10% of income
2. Poverty line to $75K = 15% of income
3. $75K – $250K = 20% of income
4. $250K – $1.5M = 25% of income
5. $1.5M and up = 30% of income
Apply these standards to everyone, including corporations (because corporations are people too, my friend). Keep a $1,000 per child tax credit up to three children. And, allow for a reduction of a maximum of 25% of total tax burden for a 1 to 1 barter of logged community service (hours to dollars at the minimum wage rate). In addition, we could allow a 1 to 2 (tax dollars credited to dollars donated) barter of charitable donations to recognized non-political non-profit organizations within the 25% reduction cap. Implement tax reforms like these and I’ll bet we’ll see positive change in the country’s revenue.
8. Tie Congressional salaries to economic performance – It’s hard to imagine a government shutdown that cost the American taxpayer $24 Billion ever happening if it would have meant that Congress wouldn’t get paid until their salaries reimbursed a reasonable percentage of the loss (at .5%, for example, they’d only owe us $120,000,000).
9. Change the way we spend our money – Most citizens don’t understand the role our financial support plays in keeping peace and stability in many developing countries. The simple fact is that those countries that receive aid from the US would devolve into post-apocalyptic hellscapes if we decided to withhold the entirety of our financial support. However, it is not at all appropriate for the U.S. to be the primary support for these countries nor is it reasonable for the world (most of whom don’t appreciate what we do anyway) to expect us to shoulder the responsibility alone. The US should be using its political power to lobby the United Nations to create a fund that all member nations would be obligated to contribute to based on a percentage of their GDP. Countries who depend on outside financial aid could apply for this aid annually. Not only would this relieve the US of much of the financial burden, but also if the money didn’t come through, that isn’t our fault either.
Of course that would mean we couldn’t just buy allies, but let’s be honest, that hasn’t really worked in the past anyway. In addition, if we could help set conditions on successful application we could reduce the need to spend so much money policing the foreign countries. For example:
- Human rights violations — No money
- Harboring international terrorists — No money
- Threatening nuclear war — No money
You get the idea. We could cut our costs in half if we implement correctly. Not to mention the cash we could save on troop presence and embassies.
Of course the obvious question is what happens when several of these countries fail to get the cash they lean on and they devolve into the hellscapes I alluded to earlier? Well, that would be a problem for the U.N. The United States would be happy to play a part as a member of a coalition of forces, but we just can’t afford to be the only game in town.
There are many more aspects of the national debt being debated that most high school debate squads would have resolved years ago, but again finding the solutions is not the problem, changing the way we think is.