Monday, January 31, 2011

Letter to the WSJ

I want to thank Alan Blinder for making my day with his humorous article “The Carbon Tax Miracle Cure” (Monday, January 31, 2011).  It is not often that you see such Swiftian use of irony and satire in a policy discussion.  He gets the jokes rolling with the assertion that a government imposed $200 per ton tax on carbon would ‘leave decisions in private hands’ and that this $200 billion tax “would not cost taxpayers a dime”.  Funny stuff.  

Next he claims that the spectre of massive tax increases will inspire the instant creation of new jobs, but that these same taxes won't affect current jobs until....later!

He then closes with “everyone also knows that” global warming is real and a clear and present danger and this tax will make a world of difference.  Hilarious! 

Alan, keep up the good work.

Wait.  You were kidding, right?

Congress: Rulers, not Representatives

If you really needed evidence that Congress considers itself above the hoi poloi, you need go no further than this thought:  Congress routinely exempts itself from the laws it passes for the rest of us.

OSHA requires strict compliance with a myriad of rules and regulations, and sends forth swarms of inspectors to crawl all over business searching for violations of the rules.  And since the rules are so vast and complex as to be unknowable, they are always able to find violations.  A warning sign is missing here, a railing is too low there, the lettering on a poster is the wrong size.  All of this hideously expensive and distracts business owners from the real task of running their enterprise. It cripples entire industries, and costs billions of dollars.  Congress, however,  is specifically exempt from OSHA regulation and is not required to provide a 'safe' workplace.

The Americans with Disabilities act imposed a mandate for disabled access on business and state and local governments across the nation.  Billions of dollars were spend in an effort to comply with the vague and ever changing rules for access for the disabled.  Horror stories of karate schools being forced to install wheel chair ramps, and flight schools being sued for not accommodating blind people abound.   Yet congress must comply with none of this.

When congress sets up a Social Security as a 'retirement plan' for the masses, they deign to participate, setting up a pension fund for themselves.  Obamacare is good enough for us, but Congress gets a platinum health care plan with unlimited access to health care.  The list of examples is long.

All of this regulation imposes huge burdens on the people, and our erstwhile leaders have no idea what is happening because they have exempted themselves from the pernicious effects of the laws that they write. They are literally above the law.  Or at least above the regulation.

This must stop.  What is good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak.  If these rules and regulations are good enough for the citizenry, then they are good enough for our leaders. 

Congress should know the pain of compliance.  They should suffer through inspections and fines.  They should be subject to the rules and regulations they create for the rest of us.

OSHA is a good idea for business?  Great.  Let's get inspectors to start measuring the railings in the capital rotunda.  Let's plaster the halls of the capitol building with warning signs and other crap.   We shall see how the congressmen like it.

And just wait until the EPA starts regulating CO2.  Congress is a leading offender when it comes to emitting hot air.

Proposed Amendment to the United States  Constitution: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States."

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Reading of the Bills

One of the major problems with this country is that Congress keeps passing new laws.  Massive ones and small ones alike.  We have hundreds of thousands of laws.

This web of rules and regulations is strangling the country.

And they often pass these laws without actually having read them. 

Seriously.   Of the 2,800 page Obamacare bill, Nancy Pelosi said that we will 'need to pass the bill in order to find out what is in it".  This statement alone if grounds for impeachment.  Nevermind the fact that she 'deemed' the bill to have passed in a gross violation of the rule of law.  They are not only passing laws without reading them, they are doing it as a part of the strategy.

Nobody can possibly read this before it is passed, never mind understand it later.

I propose a simple new amendment to the Constitution. 

  • All bills must be read aloud on the floor of the house and senate prior to any voting.  The bill must be in final form. Any edits, amendments, riders, or other changes will require the reading to start over from the beginning. 
  • The reading must be at a normal pace. 
  • No member of Congress may vote on a bill unless they been present for and have listened to at least 95% of the reading of the bill.
This will have several effects. 

It will slow the whole process down.  We have enough laws, we will benefit from fewer laws being passed.
It will force transparency.  We will know what is in the bills before we vote on them.
It will reduce amendments and other back office shenanigans. 

By requiring the reading of bills, we will go a long way to slowing down the out-of-control lawmaking process.

Direct Payment of Taxes

The problem with taxes is that we don't pay them.

Well, we pay them, but not directly.   When we buy a house, the taxes are buried in the transaction as another 'closing cost'.  When the real estate taxes are due they get escrowed in with the mortgage payment and we forget that part of the monthly mortgage goes to the government. 

When we buy all sorts of things: gasoline, computers, food, we pay taxes in the form of sales and use taxes.   But when we reconcile our check book at the end of the month we only see the total price, blinding us to the fact that we paid 5% or more to the government. 

Federal tax withholding has an even more pernicious effect.  When the guy making $20 an hour gets his check at the end of the week, he only sees the $623 that he nets.  And he forgets that he just paid $177 in taxes.  And when you ask him on April 15 how much he paid in taxes he won't be able to tell you.  But he will know to the penny how much of a refund that he received.

This invisible taxation is ruining the country.  People don't understand how much they are paying.

And because they don't understand that they are far more willing to vote for politicians and programs that increase government spending.  They struggle to make ends meet each month without realizing that the biggest check they write each month is to the to government.

So here is the proposal:  No more withholding or other indirect payments. 

Everyone must pay the government directly.  Each worker gets paid the full amount of their salary.  They must then remit directly to the government the amounts owed for taxes. 

For sales and other transactional taxes, the taxes may be collected at the point of sale, but must be conducted as a separate transaction.  So in the future, your credit card bill will say:

Safeway    $100
State Sales Taxes $5

I think you will see much more resistance to increased government spending and new programs when people are more fully aware of the actual amounts that they are paying in taxes. 

A Constitutional amendment prohibiting agency payment or indirect payment of taxes will make the entire process of taxation more transparent and obvious.  And therefore, less likely to happen!

Simple Steps to Save the United States

A few simple ideas to save us:

1.  Constitutional Amendment: Direct Payment of Taxes.  All taxes must be paid directly to the taxing authority.  There is no withholding, escrow or other means of indirect payment of taxes. Sales and other transactional taxes must be as a separate transaction.

2.  Constitutional Amendment: Rules for Congress.  All proposed legislation must be read out loud before congress prior to any vote.  The reading must be done at a normal pace and volume.  Members of congress not present for 95% or more of the reading are not allowed to vote on the bill.  Any amendments, reconciliations or other changes will require a restart of the reading and a re-vote.

3.  Constitutional Amendment:  Congressional Exemptions: Congress may not exempt itself from the laws that it passes.  Congress must be subject to all the rules and regulations that it passes.  Congress may not create separate facilities that duplicate services available through other government programs or the private sector.

4.  Constitutional Amendment:  Naming Conventions.  All federally funded building, bridges, roads and other items will be named after war heroes and past statesmen.  Each facility shall be named after winners of the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Navy Cross, etc.  Facilities may also be named after politicians but only after they have been dead for 50 years. 

5. Constitutional Amendment: Executive Appointments.  All executive appointments must be subject to a vote in the Senate within  30 days of the appointment. If the Senate fails to hold such a vote within the 30 days, the Senate Majority leader will be deemed guilty of malfeasance and automatically impeached from office.   The new leader of the Senate will have 15 days to hold a confirmation vote.   All recess appointments must be voted on within 90 days of the appointment but will require a super majority to be confirmed.