Tax Cuts and Slashed Budgets--A Dumb Idea for Our Dumb Era

A stupid answer for our stupid, whiny citizenry.

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By John A. Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

In recent days my various electronic mailboxes and homepages have been filled with messages from all sorts of whiny fellow citizens.

We need to save the local ride-on bus route. We can't let budget cuts end a local summer concert series. We must preserve the Yiddish program at the University of Maryland. We have to take action to keep funding elementary school violin classes.

One of my favorites came from a grouchy Republican friend of mine, well-off but getting on in years, who is always bombarding me with those right-wing Internet fables--you knosw, the ones that keep snopes.com in business. In this case he was ranting about the fact that there is no cost-of-living increase in Social Security payments this year.

I actually considered writing back, and explaining that the reason there is no COLA this year is that we overpaid him and his fellow seniors last year, that inflation is down, and that the Democrats are so terrified of elderly voters that the president and Congress have caved in and promised them more money anyway. But what is the sense of micturating into the gale?

Americans, it seems, are a seething mass of grievances, but each with a favorite ox that must be preserved. And so, as a patriotic gesture, I offer a stupid solution to match our stupid citizenry. Since we appear to have drifted beyond the point where elected officials can make reasoned judgments about what to cut and what to fund, we should implement a one-time across-the-board cut in taxes and spending.

We need to juice the economy and create more jobs, and nudge our budget back toward the black. An across-the-board cut is a dumb way to do it, but short of bringing back Ross Perot, it may be the only way.

Step One: We let the Democrats keep their promises, pass healthcare reform, and allow the Bush tax cuts for those who earn over $250,000 a year to expire. It is going to happen anyway, and that is what we elected the Democrats to do.

Step Two: We give everyone, rich and poor, a temporary tax cut--maybe 3 or 4 percent for two years--to stimulate the economy.

Step Three: To make sure that the tax cut doesn't add to our current debt, we impose an across-the-board cut in spending, equal to the revenue lost in the tax cut, on all government budgets.

All government budgets. Defense. Medicare. Homeland Security. CIA. NSA. National Parks. Schools.

I am guessing that the effects of Steps Two and Three will be regressive, and unpopular with liberals, which is why we take Step One first.

This thing can be tinkered with. I can hear the academic experts and government analysts snickering about the un-sophistication of across-the-board anything. But is this really sillier than the current alternatives--to keep on the way we are going (divided and broke), or to appoint a High Commission to impose triggered reductions, like we do in the military base closing process?

Let's face it. The great generations of Americans have come and gone. We need simplistic solutions that the vast dumbness among us will sign off on. We need to all agree, like fans of a professional sports team, that we need a few rebuilding years, and then we can get back to the bashing and lying and lobbying and stealing, etc.

I would not be surprised if, after the professional managers are forced to chop the waste they know is in their budget (which they often yearn to delete anyway, but can't because of the whiny citizenry), we actually will have a more efficient government. And if the tax cuts do their job as an economic stimulus, we can use the added revenue of the next boom to pay off the money we are borrowing, in breathtaking quantities now.

Problem solved. On to global warming. 

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