A Modest Proposal for Governments from Federal to Local Level

WHERE  HAS  COMMON  SENSE  GONE ? No. 11 Thomas Paine – November  2010 We will soon go to the voting booth to test the national character. Sometimes our choices will be clear. Some candidates will profess to be aligned with the same thoughts and beliefs we have as individuals. At other times the choice will not be clear as in the case of candidates who have switched their positions or sometimes even switched political parties to align themselves with their vision of how the political winds are currently blowing.

At risk of sounding blunt, even to the point of being cynical, I will quote an expression my grandfather used when summing up certain candidates and their positions on important issues….” It may be a Democrat Turkey, or it may be a Republican Turkey, but it is still a turkey.” The older I get the more fully I understand the full implication of what he meant.

This upcoming election certainly has its share of turkeys on all sides of the political spectrum. What to do? How can I be sure I am voting for someone who will stick to their conviction of improving the political process and thus the future of the Republic? Can I believe anything I hear in the white heat of the upcoming election? Sadly the answer is probably not very much.


Let’s think about what we hear for just a moment without being specific on issues. If we follow the path of recent history examining not what was said but how it was said by key candidates we can reach some disturbing conclusions.  I will limit my brief comments to a few of the recent Presidents since their policies drive so much of the entire political agenda at national level and often exert considerable influence at state level.

Jimmy Carter: History has not been particularly kind to his administration and he has done little since to change that perception. He was not an accomplished public speaker and he sometimes made spontaneous remarks that caused one to question his leadership ability.

Ronald Regan: History has been kinder to him whether he was your candidate or not. He was an excellent speaker in the public arena and his power of persuasion was a gift only few possess. He had Common Sense.

George H.W. Bush: Very experienced in government functions, but an average speaker at best. Most would also say an average president because of the perception his discourse created. One of the reasons he was a one-term president.

Bill Clinton: An accomplished public speaker, he is one of the very best. His speaking gift carried him far beyond the point his ability and character alone would have allowed him to advance. He still can motivate an audience in a way few can match. This ability plus his position as a past President make him a potent political force now and likely into the future.

George W. Bush: Not a bad speaker in a folksy way. His speech writers did a lot to help his public appearances, but he would not be classed as exceptional at public speaking.

However, one need only remember the speaking ability of the opponents he faced during the election and is becomes clear why he won even if by a very slim margin.

Barack Obama: Another public speaker in the Bill Clinton class of speakers. It matters not that he uses a teleprompter. What matters is the way words flow when he utters them. They can be fact or fallacy, truths or untruths, it does not matter. He is able to convince a fair weather electorate that he is sincere and capable of delivering on his promises.  Sadly his competition for the nation’s highest office was a national hero who had such poor public speaking ability there was little doubt about the outcome of the election. There were those voters firmly connected to their ideologies and the way the candidates presented themselves in public made little difference, but John McCain was totally unable to convince unaligned voters that he had the capacity to be president. We will all do well to remember just because a candidate meets every situation with an open mouth does not ensure substance to the content of his oratory.

Fortunately the fair weather electorate is today facing some serious competition from another element of the electorate now fully alert to the price paid for listening to smooth sounding words that are without any real substance.

We the voter will do well to pay close attention to the candidate we support during the next primary election. Do not be swayed by glib words alone but also do not be lulled into thinking a candidate who is a poor public speaker can win the election and then be a leader.  Candidates must project an honest, coherent and unambiguous policy in a manner that has resonance with the voter. If they cannot do this then they should not be given the chance to be a candidate in the final election.

How can a candidate be completely honest and open  and still be elected you are probably thinking? This is where the modest proposal comes in. The candidates should not be allowed to waffle on the issues. They should express clearly their position and how they will go about implementing constructive change. If they cannot express these sentiments with sufficient clarity and detail during the primary process, we should rightfully question their ability or willingness to do so at a later date, if elected. Turkeys can gobble long and loud but they only make sense to another turkey.

The next Presidential election debates will in all probability dissolve into a nebulous cloud of assertions and allegations with respect to entitlements and the national budget in general. Turkeys on both sides of the issues will profess platitudes regarding what is best for the country in either the short term or the long term and do their best to discredit the opinions of others, all while being as unspecific as possible in order to be prepared to catch any sudden shift in the political wind. The best speakers will in all probability win the debate. The real facts could easily become suppressed by the rhetoric.


It is time for the electorate to recognize what is possible and what is wistful thinking.

This clear knowledge will be all the voter needs when deciding his or her choice at the primary level.

Let’s take a look at the roots of the main financial and fiscal problems facing the country today, since if they are not successfully addressed and dealt with, little else will matter. Social issues will have to wait until the country is financially stable.

Government is too big and it spends and borrows too much.

The tax code in its entirety is incomprehensible to any single person.

Elected representatives believe they are elected to promulgate new laws, which in turn will lead to new regulatory bodies which will then establish more regulations and requirements being placed on all of us. It is time for this destructive process to stop. Representatives should be judged by how they help the national economy, not how they passed a law with their name on it, a law probably aimed at only a select few ,while affecting the rest of us often adversely.

Entitlements are running away from the ability of the country to pay for them.

Subsidies have gotten completely out of hand even to the extent of significantly destabilizing free markets.

Jobs are in short supply.

In the next election cycle all of these issues will come to the fore and politicians will likely so convolute the issues that once again nothing can be done in the short term. It does not have to be this way. One merely need separate and categorize the issues by determining if they are amenable to short term solutions or if only long term solutions can be applied. You might be surprised at the answers I propose. We should give the candidates high marks for honesty if they follow this or an equally effective pathway.

Short term solutions must be kept simple and direct. Complexity must be avoided at all costs lest a simple short term solution be dissolved into a morass of rhetoric and mathematical manipulations ending in deadlock, confusion and no effective action. Our country cannot wait any longer for our representatives to provide some positive results for all of us.

Short term solutions are applicable to:

Size of Government:

Government employees and or supplemental contract employees must be enumerated by ratio in accord with the verifiable population of citizens within the area of governmental jurisdiction. This will provide a metric to verify maximum acceptable employee numbers at every level of government while allowing the government workforce to grow or shrink in accord with the population growth or shrinkage in a given jurisdiction. It will also cause the various governmental bodies to concentrate on what is actually important. If they fail to do this the voters will have a sound measure by which to judge them in the next election.

Government Subsidies:

Subsidies create dependencies that are self perpetuating. Governments have used subsidies far too often just to please voter blocks without any true need being addressed if free markets are to be allowed to work. Government must eliminate every subsidy and the free market must decide what is needed and what is merely nice to have. Only after subsidies are eliminated will resources be applied where they are most beneficial to the economy.

Payments to the unemployed should be calibrated to amounts paid in by the individual and duration of payments should be calibrated to the individuals work history. Individuals seeking government transfer payments should be able to successfully pass a drug screen or have benefits denied until they are able to pass. Periodic checks for drug use must be a part of the system if the present gross abuses of the system are to be curtailed.

Tax Code:

The solution is not hard if the present tax code is rescinded in its entirety and a more equitable and simplified tax code is used to replace the present one. A flat tax is best, a narrowly graduated tax could be acceptable if it was kept low and the graduations were small and minimum in number.  It should thereafter be modified only in extreme emergency and even then returned to its original state once the emergency has passed.

Every dollar of income from any source, including entitlements, should be included in an individual’s income tax calculation. In the case of individuals standard deductions and exemptions,  levels should be set and adjusted only to inflation, be it up or down.

In the case of corporations and partnerships falling outside the individual taxation system, there should also be a set of standard deductions and standard exemptions with their percentages and amounts calibrated to the revenue stream of the corporation or partnership. Depreciation of plant and equipment should be fixed at the corporate percentage tax rate at the time the asset was placed into service. Corporate tax should be assessed as a flat tax. Any other earnings from the foreign affiliates of domestic corporations should pay tax on foreign source earnings at twenty-five percent of the parent domestic corporation tax rate whether the earnings  are repatriated or not..


Government cannot actually create private sector jobs, but government can facilitate job formation. If the taxation plan proposed above is implemented it will be in the interest of business to expand domestically as rapidly as possible within the limitation of profits and losses. This is the best and surest way to create jobs that have lasting presence.

Longer term solutions are applicable to entitlements:

We have already witnessed the absurd spectacle of government steam-rolling through an ill conceived health care plan. Entitlements will not be modified successfully and with the desired results unless a detailed and open dialogue is maintained with the public. The objectives must be identified and justified. Extensive dialogue should be maintained with the electorate as opposed to special deals for preferred voting groups.

In fact the government has already started the maturation process with respect to social security benefits. The benefits are mostly taxable in certain instances and they become fully vested after a specific age, an age that has been raised slowly enough not to unduly punish any present worker or retiree. These trends should be continued until 100 percent of the social security income is taxable in accord with the parameters referenced under individual taxation, above. This in itself will apply a means testing factor to the payments. The age of vesting should continue to be raised slowly and in small increments until it  adequately reflects a presently appropriate age for retirement. In the case of individuals FICA deductions should be applied to all individual income from any source. Public sector employees should be treated no different than private sector employees. The rates should be set at a low rate and not manipulated. Employers should not have to make any FICA co-payment. Once again the tax system being proposed will automatically adjust for means while encouraging private sector employers to hire more workers.

Medicare has now been so corrupted by “Obama care” and special interest deals it is difficult to understand what must be done other than possibly start over as with the tax code. Firstly every dollar of individual income from any source should attract a Medicare tax that is small and fixed in percentage. Medicare payouts to recipients should be set at reasonable levels and adjusted with inflation only. Medicare should pay 75% of the expenses incurred up to a reasonable limit. The remainder must be paid in some other non-governmental manner. Medicare should not be required to supply the most expensive technology available. This encourages technology applications having expense far beyond any likely benefit derived. Medical providers should not be subject to tort actions if they have skillfully applied technology up to a predetermined level that corresponds with basic Medicare coverage, and also have made the potential recipient aware of other options available at the expense of the individual or other non-government entity.

It is not going to be easy to unwind the Medicare mess that has been created but it is necessary to find a simplified way to distribute payments without causing excessive service costs or legal complications.  I believe the suggestions made should become part of the solution.

Once an appropriate tax structure is in place, and government has been right sized and entitlements have been started down a sustainable path, then the last and worst source of federal government corruption must be controlled, i.e. transfer payments to the several states and or local governments. A metric must be developed so that individual states do not get back more than an appropriate percentage of what was paid in by its citizens and corporations; the remainder having already been utilized to finance other federal government obligations. If the federal government will stop doing what it is not supposed to do, and wasteful and ineffective government departments totally eliminated

the federal budget will shrink to manageable proportions.  At the same time, with the opportunity for a given state to profit at the expense of other states eliminated, representatives will be much less likely to promote inefficient uses of state level money. If they are unable to apply common sense to the distribution and expenditure process I feel certain the voters will make appropriate adjustments at the next election cycle. This solution will also help states encourage job formation and economically productive workers.

Please keep all of the foregoing in mind as you listen to some of the outlandish claims and proposals being made by candidates in the next election cycle. Determine early which ones have common sense and are able to articulate their solutions clearly and understandably in sufficient detail in a public forum. Be sure their positions make sense for the entire country and not just a select segment of the general population.

T.P. 2010

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