How to Fix the Federal Budget: Dimes for Deficits

If Americans insist on their inalienable right to be goofy, then maybe goofy is the way to go.

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While putting in my road work the other day, I had a brilliant idea on how to close the federal budget deficit. I was ruminating over all the attention being paid to superfluous bores like Bristol Palin, Prince William, and Kanye West, or to manufactured controversies like the TSA pat-down crisis, and wondering how such a determinedly silly citizenry as ours could ever do anything as adult as balancing its budget.

Then it came to me. Why fight the tide? Channel that energy. If Americans insist on their inalienable right to be goofy, then maybe goofy is the way to go.

And so was born: Dimes for Deficits.

The principle is simple. Every time we buy anything, the merchant will collect a dime for a new national piggy bank, devoted only to closing the deficit and paying off our debt. The program is finite, and it will end with a huge national party (think V-J Day) when we are in the black.

[Read more about the deficit and national debt.]

So as not to depress the economy, the total cost of a purchase makes no difference. Buy a candy bar, pay a dime. A new house or car, pay a dime. A latte, pay a dime. A round of beers, pay a dime. A derivative, pay a dime. A bid on E-Bay, pay a dime. Another round of beers, pay a dime. Purchase a new cell phone, pay a dime. Get your Viagra prescription re-filled, pay a dime. One more beer for the road, well, you get it.

I'm more than half serious. Al Simpson, are you out there? Income taxes are buzz killers. A sales tax based on a percentage, that they tell us will be temporary but we know will last forever, is a gloomy, joy-dampening prospect. A determined effort at reforming the tax code or making cuts in defense, Social Security, or Medicare spending seem beyond the capability of our current crop of elected officials, and we who send them to Washington.

But a stupid, cheesy national spectacle? C'mon! That is what we do best! Somewhere in America—Times Square, the National Mall, a Kansas wheat field—the government could erect a giant electronic billboard, like those used in community fundraising drives, to keep track of the number of dimes collected. We would get some gorgeous ladies in skimpy or tight-fitting clothing—maybe the NFL cheerleading teams could take turns—to prance around the thing and celebrate and register the incoming dimes. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the economy.]

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs could supply cash prizes for the 10,000th dime collected, and multiples thereof. Teams of daffy celebrities could be dispatched, from Hollywood and Broadway, to find special hidden caches of diamond dimes. The Girl Scouts could collect dimes when selling cookies. Children could ask for dimes with their candy on Halloween. A super model could pose naked (really, it's only a matter of time, is it not?), except for some strategically-positioned dimes. Some brilliant teenager can develop an Angry Dimes app. Sarah could pan for dimes in the Yukon. And the lucky guy or gal who forks over the final dime—THE LAST DIME THAT PAYS OFF THE DEBT!—could win a billion dollars, or Air Force One, or Utah. By then we will be able to afford it.

Dimes are perfect. They are small. They are almost disposable. Pay phones, soft drink machines and parking meters have moved on to larger denominations.

We don't have to buy dimes from China. And if you are one of the miserly who just can't stand paying taxes, you can simply regiment your purchases. Shop in bulk at Costco, or drive your car until your gas tank is almost empty: it's a dime whether you're buying a whole tank full or just topping off. How smug and righteous you will feel!

Deficit reduction is a drag. Dimes for Deficits (Chumps with Change?) is the way to go. We had fun getting into this mess, maybe only fun can get us out.

  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the economy.
  • Read more about the deficit and national debt.
  • Follow the money in Congress.