Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A modest proposal to end the debt ceiling deadlock

Is there an “ideologically” acceptable compromise on the stalemated debt ceiling talks?

Try this (and “catch” the thrown exceptions – “OOP talk” in software engineering):

(1)  "One":  Allow some tax increases on the wealthiest individuals for personal income, but exempt income spent on education (including that of dependents) and particularly on running businesses that employ others; that meets the GOP “jobs” objection on the tax increase on  the wealthy.

(2)    "Two": Increase inheritance taxes (or roll back recent changes) on monies not used for education or to employ others (as in (1)).

(3)    "Three": Means test, even for current Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, those benefits not accounted for by one’s own FICA and Medicare tax contributions (including spouse’s). 

Now, these suggestions sound like the moral rhetoric of the early 1970s, where there was so much talk of making sure people get “what they deserve”.  The problem is that all of these would be very complicated to implement and tricky to calculate, with all kinds of new loopholes.

For example, the GOP emphasis on creating jobs can backfire in one sense. It’s sometimes too easy to create “bad jobs” with no benefits and a lot of obnoxious hucksterism ("always be closing!") that could put the workers and consumers at more risk.  Sometimes there’s just too much emphasis on the unemployment rate the way we can define it.

And cutting “undeserved” Medicare benefits would burden adult children of the elderly. Eldercare is exploding as a crisis (with the increase in Alzheimer’s with longevity) and that seems lost on the GOP. Oh, families are supposed to take care of everything in their world, right? 

It’s obvious there is still room for tremendous cuts in abusive contracting (especially in defense) and in more consolidation of government functions (the recent decision by the Census Bureau to consolidate regional offices, automate even more and save money is an example to be followed by other agencies). 

As Obama said Monday, “let’s do it.” He sounds like a concert pianist.

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