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  • Instapundit’s “Save The Country” Challenge

    Posted by TM Lutas on August 9th, 2010 (All posts by )

    Instapundit’s got a great challenge for his readers:

    Staggering deficits. Exploding national debt. Grossly underfunded public pensions. Aging populace. Social Security on track for insolvency. Investors running for precious metals. Higher education bubble. Stagnant economy. Massive new government healthcare program. Words like “unsustainable” in CBO reports.

    I have racked my brain and debated with anyone who was willing. I can’t come up with a way out of this that doesn’t involve printing vast amounts of cash, double-digit inflation and interest rates, and the end of the dollar as a global currency because we “soft default” trillions of the national debt. What productive capacity we have left would be gutted by the tax increases needed to honestly pay what we are going to owe. And the people we owe (China, seniors, public pensioners, etc) aren’t going to just write off the debt like a bank short-selling a beach house.

    So my challenge to your readers is this: “How do we get out of this WITHOUT printing money?”

    Too much national debt can be cured by more national income (GDP). If we had an economy that was four times our present size, the current level of spending would be sustainable. While it’s unrealistic to fix it all through economic growth, we certainly can make it better so that the necessary spending cuts don’t bite so hard or have to come so fast.

    We need to identify and reduce our outflow and maximize economic growth. If we do this better than any other 1st world nation, we remain the world’s premier flight to quality country and we will have the money needed to get our fiscal house in order. Our interest rates will stay low because all the rich members of the rest of the 1st world will want to continue to park a good chunk of their money with us.

    The top priority is to understand that we’re in this mess because collectively we’re misinformed. The wrong amount of money’s being created, spent, and it’s being spent on the wrong things. The next big priority to realize is that nobody knows the answers and that nobody, individually, will ever know the answers. We have a great system for relatively efficiently getting the answers. They emerge from the interplay of the free market. This system is currently working sub-par because we’ve used the law in complex ways that nobody understands to “tweak” things and the system’s gotten away from anybody’s control.

    The people of the USA need to (yes, starting with me) take inventory of all the institutions that they’re supposed to be overseeing and start taking the job seriously.
    1. Undo the tweaks (and yes, this one line could be expanded out to book length)
    2. Create a fair deal for everybody instead of special deals for the politically connected
    3. Promote entrepreneurship by getting out of the way
    4. Pursue public sector productivity. It will never match private sector productivity but we certainly can do better.

     

    46 Responses to “Instapundit’s “Save The Country” Challenge”

    1. HappyAcres Says:

      The point was: it’s already too late.

      Glenn is fishing for the Big One: REPUDIATION.

    2. kevin barry Says:

      I propose breaking up the central government and physically moving most of it out of the District of Columbia. Placing the Department of Transportation in Saginaw, Michigan, the Department of Agriculture in Des Moines, the Department of Justice in Salt Lake City… will increase the economies of the selected states and municipalities immediately. The salary of the bureaucrat will be worth more in the new locations, and they will be freed from the overwhelming liberal atmosphere which chokes them, and warps their idea of reality. The movement of these departments can be justified as “dispersal” of our governmental assets. They will then be protected from a WMD attack in one central location.
      Re-locating the bureaucrats into heartland American cities will give these folks the opportunity to live among their fellow citizens, see what the population sees, and grow in understanding. One might suspect that the local community would have an influence on the Department of Agriculture in a place like, Des Moines, for example.
      The concentration of power in the District of Columbia is like a cancer on the body. It must be cut out and the wound treated.
      With the vast majority of government employees out of the District, the American people will have the chance to absorb them, teach them and affect every aspect of the government right from the ground up.
      Consider 16 federal government departments transferred out of the D.C. area and relocated in the sixteen largest states. Instant economic growth in 16 states. Consider the location of each department… if placed in secondary cities and away from massive population centers, they will enhance the local economies even more.
      Breaking up this overbearing central government will not come through elected representatives taking their sweet time, one program and one department at a time. The pressure to preserve the D.C. elitist climate will be too much. It must come from the instant dispersal of our assets. It has to come from the top, and be supported by the people.

    3. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Here is what I wrote to Blogfather:

      First, all government salaries (outside of the armed forces) are rolled back to 2001 levels (judges are constitutionally exempt).

      Second, eliminate the Departments of Education, HUD and Agriculture.

      Third, here are a few sinkholes that can be filled in:

      http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/Executive.shtml

      Independent Agencies and Government Corporations

      * AMTRAK (National Railroad Passenger Corporation)
      * Corporation for National and Community Service
      * Export-Import Bank of the United States
      * National Endowment for the Arts
      * National Endowment for the Humanities
      * Overseas Private Investment Corporation
      * Tennessee Valley Authority

      Quasi-Official Agencies

      * Legal Services Corporation
      * State Justice Institute
      * United States Institute of Peace

      Note: I could not find NPR, PBS or CPB on those lists. They may be hiding, but I will find them and kill them.

      Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid:

      1. Medicaid:

      The program needs to be terminated. The Federal Government should not try to run or mandate welfare benefits.

      2. Medicare:

      The program is a defined benefits program and it is going out of control. It should be turned into a defined contribution program and means tested.

      3. Social Security

      Increase the age of retirement for persons under the age of 50. Under current law, persons who were born in 1943 through 1954 have a retirement age of 66. Persons born in 1955 (now 55) have a retirement age of 66 + 2 months. This increases by 2 months per birth year until 1960 (now 50) for which 67 is the retirement age. The two month per birth year pattern should continue until the retirement age reaches 70.

      All social security benefits should be subject to income taxation. Roth IRAs should be discontinued, although basis in them for initial contributions should be preserved.

      More:

      Grossly underfunded public pensions.

      A state problem, but the Federal Government can provide a bankruptcy type procedure for the programs to be crammed down.

      Higher education bubble.

      Tax excessive endowment accumulations. Make admission processes transparent. Encourage the application of modern technology to education at all levels. (Why are courses based on live lectures?).

      Massive new government healthcare program.

      Repeal it.

    4. Tina Says:

      The trouble is no one in Washington will follow through. We are Americans – we all know the solutions, we are willing to do what it takes, and we still have plenty of time to pitch in and prevent it being left to our children. If we could get the people we actually elected to sit down in front of the live cameras and start from scratch with no aides or advisors or anyone who hasn’t been ELECTED and actually given consent by the governed, no research, no phone calls, no internet or wireless, no external information at all until it’s finished – just like a jury makes its deliberations except in this case everything is on the table, no secret handshakes, no private deals, no winks or signals – they are all smart enough they might actually do something worthwhile.

      These megabyte bills are put together by everyone BUT the people we elected to write them. The bills are proposed by Influence firms representing foreign governments, international corporations and obnoxiously loud special interest groups of all stripes. The bills are debated in private and in bits and pieces, a little with this stakeholder, a little with that lobbyist, by everyone but the people we elected to debate them, in every way but the place and time we expect them to debate the complete bill. The bills are voted on in private by everyone but the people we elected to vote in public.

      They got elected for a reason, it’s time they earned their keep.

    5. Bruno Behrend Says:

      You are a day late. I solved all of the nation’s problems yesterday.

      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/14564.html

      Of course, I still have some tertiary ideas to add to the link above.

      1. End public unionism. Where legislation exists, start running on repealing public unionism. Where no legislation exists, repeal it by executive order.

      Public Unions have proven themselves rapacious and corrupt. They lack both the credibility and the moral legitimacy to be allowed to continue.

      Dittos on the Bankruptcy code to amended for states.

      2. Precipitate a legal challenge against every state’s “Pension Guarantee Clause”. You will win in some states, and lose in others, but more and more citizens will see what havoc these corrupt institutions have wrought.

    6. Phil in Englewood Says:

      Kevin Barry says, “I propose breaking up the central government and physically moving most of it out of the District of Columbia.”

      This would have the added benefit of clearing the way for the return of the District to Maryland, which would give every resident of DC a vote equal to any other citizen and end the whining about the second-class status of DC residents. Federal building not related to government (Smithsonian, various monuments) could remain Federal.

      How to get out of this without massive printing of money? The only way is massive reduction of government spending, and ideally massive reduction of government power to meddle in the life of the nation. Elimination of unions of government workers would help. This will not be easy – our rulers (they are not *leaders* in any decent sense of the word) will resist with a viciousness as yet unimagined. Government addiction to power and money is off the charts, and makes crack addicts look like the model of self-restraint.

    7. Jay Lewis Says:

      “Breaking up the central government and physically moving most of it out of the District of Columbia.” I second that.

      Move departments closer to function (Treasury to Manhattan, Agriculture to Chicago, etc.) Break up the Pentagon, while you’re at it: Air Force to Omaha, Army to Fort Hood, Navy to Norfolk or San Diego, etc.

      When you scatter the bureaucrats across the country, you scatter the lobbyists with them. A bonus feature: They’ll hate moving to the provinces. Absolutely hate it.

      Three other suggestions:

      1. Stack rank the entire civil service according to their last performance reviews, and sack the weakest-performing 9.6 percent (or whatever the unemployment rate is.)

      2. Next year, pass the 2008 budget. In 2012, pass the 2007 budget, decrementing every year. Keep that up until income and outlay match. This could be a bipartisan effort: The Democrats keep bragging that they left a budget surplus when Mr. Clinton left office. Fine. Cut the budget to 2000 levels, and use any surplus to retire the national debt.

      3. Let the Congress lead the way on the environment by shutting down air conditioning in the Capitol. If it gets too hot to do business after, say, April, then let Congress adjourn and go home, spend some time with constituents. They’ll pass fewer laws and won’t be surprised by angry voters. (And cattle flatulence being an important component of greenhouse gas, shorter congressional sessions mean fewer speeches and hearings, which will help with global warming.)

    8. Jack Okie Says:

      The fundamental problem is the lack of any check on hoovering up all the money to Washington D.C. That much money is too great a temptation for either party. The fulcrum for change is the 17th Amendment:

      Convene an Article V Constitutional Convention and repeal the 17th Amendment, adding to the repealing amendment that the states, and only the states, define the procedures for electing and recalling senators. Restoring the power of the state legislatures over the Senate will

      1. Stop the concentration of power (money) in DC; any senator who votes against his/her state’s interests will quickly find themselves recalled and on the next flight home.

      2. Result in a much different kind of Supreme Court nominee: One who is prepared to fix prior mistakes (stare decisis be damned), who respects the 10th Amendment, and who will reverse the abuse of the commerce clause.

      This will allow responsible states like mine (Oklahoma) to better serve their citizens, and reckless, irresponsible states (you know who you are) to continue down the road to perdition.

    9. Jack is Back! Says:

      1. Political will – without it, not much will get done to reverse the current. That comes harder and harder without “revolution”.

      2. Reform the current tax code – institute a fair tax – eliminate the income tax and impose a national VAT or sales tax.

      3. Spending at all levels of government are the true culprits. Everyone gets a 25% hair-cut and learns to live with it – that includes public employees salaries, benefits and pensions.

      4. Eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy such as the Dept. of Education (I always thought education was a local issue not a Federal one) – HUD, DoE and HHS. Privatize most of their functions.

      5. Sell or privatize AMTRAK, Post Office, PBS/NPR, etc.

      6. Establish a pro-growth, pro-business, pro-capitalism menu of incentives for investment, job creation and income growth.

      7. Eliminate the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc.

      But all of this requires political will and I just don’t see that with any of the parties including the Tea Party.

    10. WJ Alden Says:

      End illegal immigration and return to a sane legal immigration policy. Deport those here illegally, then secure the border. We are rapidly importing an uneducated peasant class who are raising uneducated children (only about half manage to graduate high school). This creates a huge demand for more welfare services (oh, did I mention that their teen/out-of-wedlock birthrates are extremely high?), and places a huge burden on social services. Many of our legal immigrants are little better. For the end result, see California, 27% of whose population is immigrant. We don’t need more unskilled workers, and we will need ever fewer with time.

      And of course I know that everything I just wrote is “racist.” I don’t really care.

    11. Bernard Says:

      I agree with the idea of moving US Govt out of DC but moving it to places like Des Moines won’t help much. Des Moines is a state capital and a liberal bastion in Iowa. The DCers will feel right at home (even though they will still consider them hicks).

      Move all DCers to all communities in the US under 5000 or so folks. Small enough that your neighbors can and will know you and freeloading is harder to do. Salaries improve the communities immediately and gov’t is very hard for a terrorist to take out.

      While the depts are large, they all are already divided into offices and units that ar nice bit sized chunks. Move the Dept of Agriculture, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, Corn Division to say, Hebron, NE.

    12. WJ Alden Says:

      “Move departments closer to function (Treasury to Manhattan, Agriculture to Chicago, etc.)”

      Yes, because what we really need is for our government bureaucracies to be even more beholden to and aligned with special interest groups.

      I’d argue the opposite: move agriculture to Anchorage, move Treasury to Rock Springs, move the Pentagon to San Francisco, and so on.

    13. SteveL Says:

      First there is no silver bullet. Took us a long time to dig the hole, will take a long time to fill it back in.

      Second, people are key, not institutions. People create small business that hire other people and grow the economy.

      I would propose that all government tuition assistance for colleges be only for the hard sciences, business, engineering and medicine. We need to groom and train people to create real wealth.

      Private individuals can fund scholarships for ABC-Studies, History of Art, Philosophy, Creative Writing, etc… if they see value. But government should fund study in areas that help build the economy.

    14. Jay Manifold Says:

      While I would point out to WJ that empowering the Feds to involuntarily move people on a scale not seen since dekulakization cannot end well (and that California is sui generis – Texas, with a far longer and equally porous border, has no such problem), I commend the insight that moving agencies next door to their partners in parasitism cannot end well either. I would instead mandate telecommuting and require individual Federal workers to make a business case for having a physical office. Otherwise, scram. Given the cost of living in the DC area, the vast majority of them would be scattered all over flyover country within five years.

    15. Karen Sullivan Says:

      kevin barry Says:
      August 9th, 2010 at 2:34 pm I propose breaking up the central government and physically moving most of it out of the District of Columbia.

      ===========

      This is a fabulous idea. Then DC needs to be absorbed by the surrounding states.

      Oh, really, this is a wonderful fantasy! It would take a miracle to make it happen, however.

    16. WJ Alden Says:

      Keep in mind that redistributing government jobs across the US will also redistribute demand for government, in the same way that the the B-1 Bomber won support by producing parts of it in every congressional district.

      1. Cut defense spending by at least $100 billion. Get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of Korea, too. Mothball at least 3 aircraft carriers, and transfer more Army functions to the Guard/Reserves.

      2. End subsidies to non-government entities. PBS, CPB and NPR aren’t government entities. They are private non-profits that receive huge government subsidies.

      3. Cut foreign aid by at least half. It makes zero sense to send vast sums of money to foreign countries when we’re on the brink of insolvency.

      4. As I said above, end illegal immigration, and reduce legal immigration back to a sane amount. Favor immigration by the educated, and eliminate family reunification beyond spouse and minor children. If people can’t bear to part from their extended families they should stay the hell where they are, and it makes no sense that immigrants effectively have more say over who gets to come here than native-born citizens do. Eliminate the “diversity lottery.”

      5. Eliminate immigration from Muslim nations entirely or almost entirely. They generate (in the form of national security expenses) more costs than wealth. Yes, it’s racist, I know. I don’t really care. By not reducing Muslim immigration we have, by default, opted for a large and growing police state. I’d rather be a little racist.

      6. Put a five-year cap on all welfare services, including food stamps and Medicaid. We need a safety net, but we sure don’t need a hammock.

      7. Eliminate the Department of Education. Make it an agency with the primary purpose of distributing research and performance data, with no regulatory functions whatsoever. Distribute any federal education moneys purely on the basis of state income, helping the poorest states. Eliminate HUD.

      8. Outlaw any and all federal government racial discrimination. Return the country to genuine race neutrality.

      9. Institute mandatory 2% cost-cutting in all government departments, across the board. Businesses do this all the time when hard times hit.

      10. Kill Fannie and Freddie.

      11. Outlaw public sector unionization, and eliminate government pensions. Replace them with a 401(k), just like everyone in the private sector has. This will cost more in the short-term but save money down the road, as the population ages.

    17. Christopher Chantrill Says:

      Before you chaps pop off I think you should pop over to http://usgovernmentspendng.com/numbers and do the numbers. Government spending is really pretty simple. $1 trillion for pensions, $1 trillion for health care, $1 trillion for education, $0.7 trillion for welfare. Everything else is chump change.

    18. TeeJaw Says:

      I think Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America is close to brilliant. But all of this may be irrelevant.

      While most of these suggestions for specific action are good, the truth is none of them nor any other remedial action will or can be implemented anytime soon. If there is a Republican sweep in November the Republicans will not be able to do anything (assuming they even have the desire and the guts to try) because the White House will still be controlled by Democrats. The best that can be accomplished by Republicans in the next two years is to stand athwart Obama and stop him from further damaging our country and destroying our freedom. He will be stopping them as well. The stalemate will be welcome relief but the soonest any hope for course correction is in 2012.

      Whatever is added to the sentence that begins, “The people of the USA need to . . .” matters little until the one man who will stand in the way of it no longer has that power. That’s at least 2 years away, and maybe 6 years away. Nobody knows where we will be by then and what the correct action will be by then. The cumulative damage done by the man “from” hope and the man “of” hope, with a little help from the boneheaded president between them, may put us beyond hope.

      That’s too pessimistic, of course. The USA has suffered worse and overcome. It will again.

    19. aaron Says:

      The obvious answer is that we need to cut spending in the long term. We need to focus on cutting spending that doesn’t provide a long term return. Deficits, at the monement, don’t matter since interest is so low. That will not always be the case. We need a benchmark rate of return, I think expected nominal GDP growth is the right metric.

      As for now, we need higher rate of return than we are paying. The fed is borrowing at 0 and the treasury is lending at .15-4%. Expected GDP is about 2-3% (that might be real, not nominal, not that there’s much difference at the moment). Anyway, the goverment could get a much higher return by refinancing our existting bubble debt. We could get bubble debt down from 6% to 4%, yielding a 2% annual return rather than the 0% or negetive we are getting.

      Here’s what we should be doing to get growth up:

      The way to go is an Interest Moratorium and principal tax deduction for people who are current and make their full scheduled payments on mortgages that originated during the bubble (ie., the scheduled interest is applied to principal for some period). The moratorium does not need to be a enforced, it can be encouraged with incentives.

      It’s nearly costless.

      Government, losses some tax revenue in the short run due to lower bank profits.

      Banks, cash flows improve as people have greater incentive to make their payments. Balance sheets improve and less taxes are paid (lower profits during moratorium). Foreclosures and short-sales are reduced. House values are less likely to fall.

      Banks, lose some profit if people are able to refinance at lower rates sooner. Banks also lose at the end of the mortgage, as it is payed off earlier; these losses are very small and very far in the future. Banks can also lose at sale the amount above principal, up to the amount of scheduled interest during the moratorium, that the home sells for.

      Homeowners, balance sheets improve. Uncertainty diminishes.

      Homeowners, insolvent homeowners are given false hope and make payments they shouldn’t.

      Fed, value returns to some toxic assets, since many of the instruments were created under the assumption of prepayment of principal and non-payment of interest (the operating model was that people moved frequently and bought houses to invest in and sell).

      What is really amazing is that banks haven’t taken it upon themselve to do this. I guess banks think that the difference between bubble rates and current rates is greater than the cost of the foreclosures and short-sales they’ll see. They really should be doing this on their own. All it might take is for the goverment to offer to make interest payments applied to principal tax deductible.

      Or, Banks might offer interest rates based on income and size of payment, and not the value of the home.

      Having payed too much for a house, and paying too high an interest rate on top of that, is a real burden and a psychological one too. It’s eating up a lot of cash that could be out doing something and creating uncertainty.

    20. Jay Manifold Says:

      Also, repealing XVII sounds great until you see something like this. Any Senator elected by the Illinois legislature would be doing everything possible to get a Federal bailout for the state government. No thanks.

      There are, indeed, no magic bullets.

    21. dick craiglow Says:

      Put term limits on all elected officials. Two terms seems to work for the President, so let’s do two. This will stop the “good old boys” club and hopefully find people who want the country to do well, not just themselves.

    22. aaron Says:

      And most of Obamacare needs to be scrapped, it increases demand for healthcare but does nothing to increase supply. To reduce health care costs, we need to train more doctors, create streamlined programs for certain specialties, create certifications for more basic services, get more good doctors training new ones.

    23. WJ Alden Says:

      While I would point out to WJ that empowering the Feds to involuntarily move people on a scale not seen since dekulakization cannot end well (and that California is sui generis – Texas, with a far longer and equally porous border, has no such problem.

      I appreciate the compliment, but vis-a-vis illegal immigration I would point out that we hardly need to physically remove all or even most illegals. What we need to do is eliminate their ability to remain here, and the incentives that keep them here. Require proof of citizenship/legal residence for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. Fine owners who rent them houses and apartments. Bar them from opening bank accounts and taking out loans. Ban their children from attending public schools and colleges. Massive fines on employers who hire them. Fully deputize local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws, and financially reward them for each illegal they catch (with necessary safeguards to protect civil rights, of course). End the endless litigation of illegals fighting deportation. Once they’re ordered removed let them file any appeals from their home country.

      The list of things we could do short of physically deporting them is quite extensive. This country has managed to do some pretty harsh things when necessary. During World War II we sent 400,000 young American barely-adults to their deaths. If safely repatriating a few million illegals to their countries of legal residence is somehow now too inhumane to consider, then we’re just circling the drain.

    24. DarkHelmet Says:

      Federal tax revenues have hovered around 18% of GDP for decades. No tax system is likely to raise materially more without crippling growth. Therefore, expenditures must be limited to roughly 18% of GDP. Every single line item in the federal budget should be cut until we get to no more than 18% of GDP. 15% of GDP would be a worthy target. We all have line items we’d like to see zeroed out. If consensus can be reached on those to generate the spending reductions, fine. Otherwise, everything is cut pro-rata including ‘entitlements.’ In practice this will mean funding freezes or reductions for Social Security, Medicare and defense, as these are the largest line items in the budget. Social security cuts could be accomodated by means testing, extending retirement age, reducing cost of living and wage growth adjustments or simply across the board reductions. Ditto Medicare. Defense spending would have to be concentrated on certain areas based on a realistic threat assessment. No more military pork: unecessary bases would have to go. Procurement would be based only on war-fighting priorities, not whose congressional district is home to a particular factory.

      That’s the spending side. Now the revenue side: I’d like to eliminate the personal and corporate income tax systems and go to a simple national sales or VAT tax. To avoid the horror of both income AND sales/VAT, we would need to repeal the 16th amendment. Since all these tax changes would be quite difficult, a simpler approach would be to reinstate the tax code of 1986 (post reform) with its relatively flat structure and broad base.

      Having stabilized the government’s finances and created the conditions for robust economic growth, the remaining concerns can be addressed piece-meal: get serious about enforcing immigration laws and secure the border; eliminate ALL government subsidies, grants and loans to higher education. Repeal minimum wage law. Open onshore and offshore federal land to energy and mineral production. Drastically streamline the process for permitting nuclear generating stations and open Yucca Mountain as a waste repository. Discontinue all regulations pertaining to fuel economy (no more CAFE), light bulb specifications (no more mandated CFL) water usage (no more 1.6 gal/flush toilets) “renewables” (no more ethanol subsidies, solar subsidies or wind subsidies) and all other busybody nonsense cooked up by the bureacracy in the last fifty years. Oh, and get a few new supreme court justices on the bench who will overturn Kelo and other noxious infringements on our liberty.

      That’s probably enough for the first week’s business.

    25. PersonFromPorlock Says:

      Sell Taiwan to China: borrow as much as we can from from China with the sub-rosa understanding that when they invade Taiwan, we’ll limit our response to abrogating our Chinese debt.

      Cynical? You bet. But let’s see what happens.

    26. Shannon Love Says:

      We must first understand the problem before we can propose a solution: We are in economic crisis now because we let the federal government distort the allocation of trillions of dollars of resources over the last 30 years. We let the government bully and bribe lenders into paying for houses that were to big, to fancy and built in the wrong places. All that money and all the savings, investment jobs and resources represented by those houses now has to be regenerated from scratch. We have to replace the savings from some other activity. We have to create entirely new jobs.

      To do all this, we must trigger a productivity boom in the private sector. That is how we retired the even larger debt from WWII. We should take every step possible to encourage people to start entirely new businesses. That is the only solution.

      Step 1: Immediately Eliminate the capital gains tax. The capital gains tax is just a tax on increasing productivity. It seeks to punish those who take risk to produce new jobs, new wealth and ultimately increase the tax base. Every dollar collected in capital gains tax is a dollar not being spent to improve the economy. The positive effects of the elimination of the anti-productivity tax accumulate like compound interest so ending it immediately will have an enormous impact long term.

      Transfer the burden of the tax to the income tax across the board short-term and to a consumption based tax long-term. Those of us who are not investing and taking risk to better everyone’s lives will just have to pay for those who do take the risk.

      Step 2: Establish firm numericalcost-benefit standards for environmental and safety regulation by law Every regulation should have a concrete, pre-determined, numerically expressed definition of the cost-benefit trade off established by the votes of elected representatives. Criteria for determining if a regulation meets the tradeoff must be established before the regulation goes in effect and the evaluation time period is fixed before. If the regulation fails to meet the tradeoff based on the criteria in the specified time frame it is repelled.

      Step 3:End Tax and Regulatory Uncertainty: Allow job creators to plan long term. Set tax rates and regulations in stone for specified multi-year periods.

      We have to face the fact that we are going to have a lost “decade”. There is no magic cure. We just have to bite the bullet and switch our economic activity from the failed sectors to new successful ones. If we don’t do that, it doesn’t matter what else we do. We’re doomed.

    27. Ignorance is Bliss Says:

      1) Cut all civil service salaries and benefits by 50%
      2) Wait 3 months
      3) Fire all civil servents who have not already left for the private sector, as these people were clearly the deadweight.
      4) Hire back the original employees who had left for the private sector, at competative wages.

    28. Optimus Primed Says:

      1. Eliminate/Outlaw all the right for public employees to unionize. Get rid of the false negotiations that completely ignore the right of the taxpayer (the funding) to be party.

      2. Immediately (as of yesterday) include all HC benefits, pensions, and salary of public employees into one “compensation” number. Mandate that the entire number is not to exceed 90-95% of some pre-established private market index for relative jobs/experience. This creates an immediate 25-40% haircut. Immediately stop the ability for pensioners to double dip into the private sector while accepting govt sponsored pension money.

      3. Eliminate the progressive federal income tax structure for individuals and corporations and replace with a VAT. Barring this, get rid of all WITHHOLDING and have everyone write a check for 10-15% (no deductions) of their pre-tax earnings exactly 2 weeks prior to all elections. At least this will force everyone the pain of writing a check to the IRS while at the same time conditioning tax payers to really think about what value they are getting from their tax dollars prior to an election. If this is untenable, do not allow those that do not pay a certain threshold of federal taxes to vote in a federal election. We must stop the ability of those with little skin in the game to vote themselves raises from the productive.

      4. Repeal Obamacare yesterday.

      5. End the GSE’s (Freddie/Fannie) yesterday.

      6. Get rid of the DOE and institute a free market voucher system to education and let the market figure out how to educate our children (tough medicine for this current generation, of which my son is 10 months, but have to start somewhere) efficiently with the ability to actually bring in some talent.

      7. Drill in ANWAR.

      All of this, as previously reported, is politically untenable. So, barring any changes, just have your state declare bankruptcy and secede from the Union.

    29. Anonymous Says:

      If we had an economy that was four times our present size, the current level of spending would be sustainable.

      Yow. How about reducing spending by
      half, so that a doubling of GDP, such
      as occurred as a result of the micro-
      computer revolution, would balance the
      budget ?

      Now all that is required is another
      innovation with the same power to
      stimulate economic growth, doubling
      GDP over the next 20 years.

      Nuclear electric power generation,
      hopefully including Polywell fusion.

      Commercial space exploitation, surely
      including orbital solar power stations.

      Medical technology based on genetic
      research, to eradicate all disease.

      Nanotechnology to manufacture truly
      miraculous materials and machines.

    30. memomachine Says:

      Hmmmmm.

      What we should do vs what probably will happen? *shrug*

      We’ll dither along in a ridiculous cycle of self-styled “elites” who are really little more than retarded fruitcakes while the country goes right into the toilet.

      Then we’ll have a good old fashioned insurrection followed by a civil war between the Left and the Right, which will probably be fought more as a war of kidnap, murder and associated terrorism to rival Belfast on a bad day. This will likely continue until the whole thing collapses and the country either splits into component regional authorities or simply falls apart completely until each state is its own sovereign nation.

      Then we’ll repudiate what debt we have which will help the rest of the planet collapse economically.

      Then at some future time peace will break out amongst the Independent American States who will confederate into a new nation that will expend the funds necessary to invent time travel. Then we’ll send someone back in time to kill Karl Marx and give Barack Obama a swift hard kick to the hindquarters.

      And it’ll be so worth it.

    31. Lorenzo Says:

      Tina’s post inspired my thoughts here, especially her comments about juries.

      juries hear all the evidence they’re supposed to hear in public, then they deliberate in private. otoh, it seems that congress does it the other way around.

      oh sure, the constitution requires congress to keep a journal of its proceedings and that they publish it from time to time. and we are treated to the debates that occur in the senate and house chambers and in some of the committee meetings. and they do publish lots of other stuff that ostensibly contributes to their findings. but these places aren’t the only places the members do business, and the testimony they hear in public isn’t the only testimony they hear.

      i think the constitutional term “proceedings” should be more expansively defined to include…just about everything congressmen do from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night. and the journal should be published as close to realtime as possible.

      members of congress have really taken to heart the clause in the constitution “excepting such parts as may in their judgment requre secrecy”. but i suspect only a small portion of their proceedings are related to our national security or are somehow necessarily private.

      the default position should be that everything a congressmen does, every word he utters, every constituent service he performs or petition he hears should be part of the public record. the exceptions should be few and reasonable.

    32. ken Says:

      Plus what’s mentioned above, sell off all federal land in any state where the federal government owns more than 10% of the land mass. This will provide cash to the federal government and open up land to the private sector and property taxes to the states. This would be a boon to many states west of the Mississippi.

    33. memomachine Says:

      Hmmmm.

      “I appreciate the compliment, but vis-a-vis illegal immigration I would point out that we hardly need to physically remove all or even most illegals. What we need to do is eliminate their ability to remain here”

      A 95% tax on all remittances to Mexico would solve about 80% of the problem.

    34. Alex Says:

      Create the 10-year public service rule: this would mean that a person can only be employed in government for 10 years at a time. He/she would then have to work outside government for at least 10 years before working again for government. This would overturn the permanent bureaucracy, help shrink government by ending positions when a person’s 10 years are up and mean that bureaucrats are forced to have wider experience in the private sector.

    35. asaracen Says:

      Any progress needs to start with articles of impeachment for the current white house resident and his appointees/czars. The man is
      simply an impediment to good government and would deep six any
      improvement that did not fit his socialist agenda. No more TARP
      deals for special interests and political favors. A constitutional
      convention calling for term limits and revocation of the 17th.
      amendment. Halt all immigration of persons unable to support them
      selves and pay taxes and such people sworn by religion/politics
      to do us harm. Return power to the states and the people that have
      been usurped by government over time. No more lobbying by special interests that promote corruption in the House and Senate. I could
      go on for a few more days with corrections I believe could make a
      difference,without bloodshed and mayhem, but down deep, I,believe
      we need another god damned revolution knowing that nothing will change without it.Maybe my grand kids will have the guts to make a diffference,the Boomers seem to be all played out or are the problem.

    36. kranky kritter Says:

      Produce more. Consume less.

      The rest is details.

    37. aaron Says:

      Signal to the world that oil alternatives will become viable and that producers cannot rely on rising prices to produce profit. Lift restrictions on oil production in the US. Tell the world they cannot expect prices to offset lack of production and production efficiency. No more leaky, messy Venezuela style operations or in ground hoarding. Pump now while oil is still worth something.

    38. wormme Says:

      We sell off the comic book collection, antiques, and the silverware inherited from Grandma.

      That is, make the Fed do what you or I must when piling up unmanagable debt. Liquify non-essential assets.

      Does the Constitution mandate federal ownership of the Hope Diamond? Auction it is, then. Along with most other Smithsonean treasures, a few hundred thousand square miles of land, etc.

      We shouldn’t be defending our private assets (and lives) from government seizure. The Feds should be whining about all their non-Constitutionally-mandated toys being taken away.

    39. NancyGee Says:

      How much would we save by pulling out of the UN and NATO? And then throwing the UN out of New York.

    40. stpeter Says:

      Return all powers not explicitly granted in the U.S. Constitution to the states or to the people, because 90% or more of what the feds do today is illegitimate. Heck, forget about the Constitution and go back to the Articles of Confederation, which didn’t grant any power of taxation to the federal government! Also it’s clear that the American economy is in dire need of massive deregulation, but returning powers to the states or to the people would remedy that in a hurry.

    41. TMLutas Says:

      Anonymous – I believe that we should periodically go down to zero debt as a present to the following generation. This goal would require a massive reduction in government size. I’ve no trouble in cutting spending.

      The problem with spending cuts is that the current method of proposing them has become badly politicized. Nobody in government wants to lay out their priorities, especially their bottom half priorities because logically that’s where you want to cut.

      If you want a solution that could actually start working now, deregulation, law simplification, and focusing on growth and entrepreneurship are your best bets to start with. As revenue starts to come up, setting priorities and cutting spending is a vital second step that is much less likely to actually happen. So you start with the pro growth stuff because doing it the other way around makes for a riskier program and a greater risk of total failure.

    42. Ed Minchau Says:

      I agree with StPeter. Apply the constitution and legal precedent to trim huge chunks of fat.

      Government is not responsible for individual health care. Indeed, individual health is between the individual and his/her doctor (see Roe v. Wade). Therefore, eliminate Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid.

      Likewise, establishing retirement savings for individuals is up to the individual themselves and not anywhere in the Constitution. Indeed, if I were to set up a similar system to Social Security, I would be jailed for fraud and setting up a Ponzi scheme. Therefore, get rid of it.

      The departments of Education and Agriculture? Hmm nope nothing in the Constitution about the government being allowed to do that either. Cut.

      Keep going through everything the Feds supply money for: NPR, CPB, NASA, NEA, EPA, FCC, everything. If it isn’t allowed in the Constitution (and 90% isn’t) then eliminate it.

      One thing I rarely see mentioned is the single largest government expenditure. The federal department that spends the most money is the IRS. Simplify the tax code! Eliminate personal income tax and the 1000 other federal taxes and excises and duties and surtaxes and sin taxes and etc. and institute a national sales tax – reduce business federal tax forms to one single sided sheet stating total sales and total sales tax collected. This would eliminate probably 95% of the IRS and save the US hundreds of billions a year.

    43. peter jackson Says:

      Where we are is at the end of 20th century production taxing/open-ended entitlement politics. It’s simply not a sustainable model. We need to think in a next-level way. The current entitlement system cannot be made to work. We must replace it with a system that makes the current system obsolete.

      We’ve learned something since the Constitution was written: we’ve learned that a democratic legislature can not be entrusted with the power to tax AND spend. Since it’s not practical to constitutionalize what and how much government can spend, the time has come to replace the rulers with rules by instituting via amendment to the United States Constitution the mechanism by which we are taxed, with Congress only allowed to designate the rate of the tax. That tax should be a flat percentage on all retail goods and services at a uniform rate: literally One Tax. By not making any good or service exempt the rate can be kept low as possible for everyone, and by making it uniform it is literally as fair as possible and Congress will find itself out of the picking winners and losers business.

      If this sounds like the Fair Tax, it’s because it more or less is. For a plethora of reasons practical and political, our tax system and entitlement system must be reformed simultaneously as a package. I believe that a basic indemnity health care package for the uninsured as well as a National Trust component can be added to the basic structure of the Fair Tax I call it the Zero-Tax Society.

      http://www.liberalcapitalist.com/docs/212

    44. PenGun Says:

      The government is a pawn. Not a king. Your attempts to reform government are energy directed in the wrong direction.

      Your corporate overlords are your problem. The right seems to have no way to deal with this fact and the left is powerless mostly as they are on the same leash.

      Your politicians on both sides get their money to get elected from this group which controls your country. This group also controls the Fed and the Treasury.

      Go fix this please. It is your problem.

    45. Luke Lea Says:

      You can’t.

    46. Anonymous Says:

      The problem is that there is no solution for an Empire in Decline