Big Government IS STILL Our Problem – & It’s Growing!

May 16, 2012

G’Day!

A year ago on February 11, 2011 my first posted article was “Big Government IS Our Problem!” I firmly believe Big Government is STILL our problem and it is not only growing, it is accelerating! What our country needs is LESS GOVERNMENT not more. If we could get government off our backs, unnecessary discretionary spending could be eliminated, individual and business opportunities could be pursued, jobs created, and income increased, allowing our economy to expand more rapidly. Government needs to be reduced not enlarged.

Last year I believed President Obama and the Democrats would eventually consider the best interests of our country first and would finally realize that their policies were dividing and potentially bankrupting the nation and stifling economic growth. I hopefully thought the President and Congress would recognize this and relatively quickly pursue the excellent recommendations in the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission’s Report, which was officially presented to President Obama in early 2011. How wrong I was! Obama immediately shelved the report; the Democrats declared it dead on arrival and again failed to pass the required Federal Budget. It has now been over 3 years that the Democrats have prevented passing a budget and Obama’s huge overspending budget proposals have been overwhelmingly defeated by both Republicans and Democrats. Only the Republicans, especially Paul Ryan, have tried to adopt any of the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that the “Obammunists” are only interested in pushing their socialist agenda for central control over our lives, our environment, and our private property. Their actions, or lack of, are driving our country into an increasingly dependent and unsustainable welfare state. More importantly, their policies are in serious danger of destroying the American creative opportunistic spirit and national prosperity in which the majority of US citizens believe and enjoy.

In my opinion it is not too late to correct this adverse trend toward mediocrity and save our nation. America can resolve its fiscal and debt crisis and restore our country to a united foundation for responsible government and future prosperity. However, this can only occur if we return to the principles that have made America the greatest and most exceptional country in the world. These principles are: Constitutionally protected individual liberties, free markets, sound fiscal and monetary policies, economic growth, and Constitutionally limited government. The “Obammunists” are rapidly leading us away from all these principles and toward a future of economic stagnation, shared poverty, limited personal freedom, and dependence on government for much of our survival. Under Obama, America is declining quickly into a centrally controlled overregulated socialist state with increasingly limited opportunities for aspiring individuals and companies to succeed.

So what should we do? The first and most vital action individuals can take is to become informed about the issues and vote out the “Obammunists” in the November election. This one single accomplishment will at least stop the rot and give us the opportunity to correct the damage done by Obama and the Democrats. Next we should demand our new President and Congress concentrate on resolving our fiscal/debt crisis, get our economy back on track, and create productive private sector jobs. As I outlined a year ago, at least six actions should be undertaken: 1) Stop/Minimize non-essential regulations, 2) Have a business-friendly government, 3) Reduce tax rates, especially on business, through tax reform, 4) Enact an energy policy that encourages rather than discourages development of domestic sources of traditional energy, 5) Fix the fiscal and debt crises by cutting government spending, revising entitlements, and increasing tax revenues through tax reform, 6) Pass the three pending Free Trade bills and expand them to include other trading partners. Of these six actions only #6, the Free Trade bills, has been passed. (see “Yes, We CAN Grow the Economy and Create Jobs!”)

More specifically, I suggest our new government in 2013 accomplish the following ten (10) priority items:

1)   Unless already accomplished in 2012 by the outgoing President and Congress, immediately extend all the 2012 tax rates for 2 years or until the Tax Reform in Item 6) below is enacted.

2)   Immediately declare a moratorium on any non-essential new laws and regulations.

3)   Immediately rescind Obamacare (unless The Supreme Court has already done this for us).

4)   Immediately rescind the Dodd-Frank Act and its approximately 400 new required regulations (most of which are still to be written). In this regard the most important pieces that need to be rescinded are “The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection”, “The Financial Stability Oversight Council”, and “The Durbin Amendment”.

5)   Initiate and approve a medium term Balanced Federal Budget that downsizes government, reforms taxes by simplifying the code, reducing tax rates, broadening the tax base, and eliminating politically motivated subsidies. This budget should reform entitlements to sustainable levels, assure the defense and security of America, and reduce and “Cap” the Federal Government Spending at 18-20% of GDP. (see “Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!”)

6)   Initiate and enact the necessary tax and entitlement reform necessary to accomplish suggestion 4) above. (see “Fiscal & Debt Crises – Tax Reform Essential!”)

7)   Demand that any and all new laws or regulations enacted have a “Sunset Clause” that automatically terminates the new law within no more than 10 years.

8)  Demand that Congress review and terminate annually for the next five years at least 10% of all currently existing laws and regulations that are non-essential, unnecessary, or out of date.

9)   Demand a review of all Executive Departments and Agencies of our Government with the goal of downsizing or eliminating over time those that are non-essential, unnecessary, or just bloated. I suggest the prime candidates for consideration are the Departments/Agencies/Bureaus of: Environmental Protection, Energy, and the National Labor Relations Board.

10)   Longer term, Congress should initiate and pass a Federal “Balanced Budget Amendment” to the Constitution. Forty-nine states currently have some version of a balanced budget requirement. Only Vermont does not. (see “Is a Balanced Budget Amendment Necessary?”)

Our country can be saved if the American People recall and return our government to the original spirit and intent of our founders. The United States is exceptional among all nations because of our Constitutional support of individual liberties, private property rights, a free market capitalist society, and limited government. Government should be the servant of the people. The American People should not be the servants of the government. It’s time to take back our country! Study the issues and vote in November!

The Old Guy PhD


Let’s Send Congress & The President on Unpaid Leave!

November 30, 2011

G’Day!

Let’s face the truth. Our government is doing nothing to solve our country’s economic problems and has actually made the situation worse in the last two and a half years. While not practical, perhaps the best way to create jobs and improve our economy would be to send Congress and President Obama on an unpaid leave of absence for 2012. Certainly neither is accomplishing anything of benefit and paying Congress to do nothing and President Obama to campaign for his reelection is a waste of their time and our money. Also, my real concern that they will continue to do even more harm through Executive Orders or will create new regulations that further restrict our businesses and prolong the political uncertainty that is at the heart of our economic stagnation. Since they are not doing anything meaningful, preventing all new government action in 2012 would give business the certainty of “status quo” and no further damage would be done prior to our national vote on economic policy. Withholding pay is a logical penalty for our current do-nothing government representatives and would have the benefit of reducing the deficit. Since their priority is reelection, this would give them the freedom to try to convince the electorate that they support policies that will protect our freedoms, promote jobs and economic growth, and deserve to be retained in office.

To be fair, let’s review a few of the major government results since the 2008 election. Our total deficit has increased by $4 trillion and the annual deficit more than doubled from $500 billion to $1.3 trillion/year. Government spending has increased from approximately 20% of GDP to 25% of GDP. National Debt has now increased by nearly 50% to an estimated $15 trillion, nearly 100% of GDP. New entitlement commitments through “Obamacare” was passed against the desires of the majority of American voters and will further increase deficits and debt in the future. The Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations Bill was passed, which significantly increases regulations over the financial services industry and has currently added to the turmoil, confusion, and stagnation in our banking system. The Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have virtually shut down domestic development and exploration of fossil fuel resources, have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars in support of noneconomic renewable energy companies (Solyndra et al), and have again delayed the proposed pipeline from Canada (Note: Canada is now threatening to sell the oil to China). The Department of Justice (DOJ) tried to bring the terrorist prisoners back into the US to be tried under US laws, supported the sales of guns to criminals and is delaying business mergers, which will improve the competitiveness of American companies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has joined with DOJ in attacking the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. The pro-union activist National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is attempting to stop Boeing from finalizing its new “Dreamliner” plant in the Right-to-Work State of South Carolina and is attempting to change voting rules to eliminate the requirement for secret ballot for unionization in a company. The do-nothing Democrat-controlled Senate has passed no government budget for approximately three years and has blocked attempts by the Republican-controlled House to pass fiscally responsible legislation. Not an appealing set of accomplishments.

President Obama is and has been in re-election campaign mode for months and has virtually abdicated leadership to resolve our unsustainable deficit and debt crises. In fact, Obama has significantly added to the magnitude of these problems by his uncontrolled increases in government spending, Obamacare, and the overall anti-business attitude of his administration. Obama ignored the excellent recommendations of his own Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission, which addressed all areas of the deficit and debt crises including increased revenues through tax reform, entitlement reform, and decreased government spending. Obama has also provided no apparent advice or leadership for the failed “Super Committee” and it now appears to have been designed to fail in order to create a political issue for the next election. As Governor Christie of New Jersey said this week regarding Obama’s lack of leadership, “What the hell are we paying you for?”

Enough is enough. Given the stalemate in Congress and an absentee President focusing on his own reelection, we should, if we could, send them all home on unpaid leave until the next election. Unfortunately, we need to have this election ASAP and not a year from now. The will of the American people needs to be determined regarding whether free market capitalism and individual freedoms or redistributive socialism and big government central planning is preferred. Personally, I vote for individual freedom, free markets, sound fiscal and monetary policy, economic growth, and limited government.

The Old Guy PhD


Debt Crisis – Whatever happened to Bowles-Simpson?

November 10, 2011

G’Day!

The bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission co-chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson completed and submitted to President Obama in February a rational and comprehensive approach to our country’s fiscal and debt crises. I posted articles praising the work of the co-chairs and the commission members on April 1, April 16, and July 22. (See “Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!”, “Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission – Again!”, and “Debt Reduction: Bowles & Simpson Have it Right – Redux!”) To date, President Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans in the House and Senate have fundamentally ignored their proposal. Why their recommendations have been ignored by our government, and especially by the President, who established the commission, is a “puzzlement”?

The final Co-Chair’s proposal, “The Moment of Truth”, included both long and short-term government actions to resolve our fiscal and debt crises, contains nearly $4 trillion in debt reduction over 10 years, and was approved by eleven (61%) of the eighteen bipartisan members of the commission. As stated in Guiding Principle #2 of the draft report, “The Problem is REAL – the Solution is Painful – There’s no Easy Way Out – Everything Must Be On the Table – and Washington Must Lead”. Their proposal is comprehensive. It includes cuts and caps on discretionary spending and revenue enhancements through major tax reform to broaden the tax base, simplify the code, reduce tax rates, and cap revenue at 21% of GDP. It reduces spending for entitlements including healthcare and social security and eventually caps total spending at 21% of GDP. The proposed plan stabilizes the debt by 2014, reduces debt to 60% of GDP by 2024 and 40% by 2037. What’s not to like??

As noted above, it is a mystery to me why this proposal, developed and approved with bipartisan support, was shelved by Obama and ignored by Congress since it was formally delivered to the President nine months ago. While these are difficult and trying times, we should expect and demand that our President and Congress put partisan bickering and reelection concerns aside and act for the benefit of the American People. Time spent on campaign fundraising does not reduce our debt or improve job creation and economic growth. We deserve rational behavior from our elected representatives and should demand the compromise and cooperation necessary to correct our economic problems and return our great nation to a path of growth and prosperity. Admittedly, the Co-Chair’s proposal is controversial. It is also realistic, responsible, comprehensive, and should be receiving the immediate and serious attention of our President, Congress, and currently the “Super-Committee” (who are looking for a mere $1.2 trillion over ten years).

Every sensible citizen knows America has an unsustainable debt crisis that, if not corrected quickly, will lead to financial and economic disaster for our country. Socialism does not work. Greece is not a role model for government in America. Our current government is too large, too oppressive and is out of control. Economic growth is based on opportunities not restrictions and lower tax rates not higher regulations. Escalating government spending must be halted and its intrusion in our lives and businesses reversed. Tax reform to broaden the tax base, simplify the code, lower rates (especially corporate), and increase revenues is essential. Our government MUST be business friendly and promote the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for economic growth and global competitiveness. We need to bring back the constitutional freedoms and personal liberties that led us to be the greatest nation on earth. The Bowles-Simpson proposal is a good start.

The Old Guy PhD


Debt Reduction: Bowles & Simpson Have it Right – Redux!

July 22, 2011

G’Day!

On April 1, I posted the article, “Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!”, suggesting that the Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission’s proposal was a good solution to our country’s deficit and debt crises. Subsequent articles have repeatedly referred to this proposal as a reasonable bipartisan way to address our federal fiscal problems, especially long-term debt, (see “Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission – AGAIN!”, “Is Obama Really Serious about Debt Reduction?”, “Fiscal and Debt Crises – Tax Reform Essential!”). Approximately eight months after publishing the Commission’s preliminary report and 5 months after formal submission to President Obama, the “Gang of Six” in the Senate finally appears to be considering it. Perhaps there is some intelligent life in Washington after all. I hope so.

To resolve our unsustainable deficit and debt crises, we need significant comprehensive changes to improve revenues through comprehensive tax reform, to reduce discretionary spending including defense, and reduction/reform in entitlement programs for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. All of these reforms: taxation, government spending, and entitlements, are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and ALL must be addressed if we are to succeed.

Bowles-Simpson, which is still an appropriate bipartisan starting point, addresses all of these issues and was approved by 61% of the commission members. I hope it now gets the attention it deserves. The “Gang of Six” and Bowles-Simpson have identified nearly $4 Trillion in deficit reductions over ten years with an immediate reduction of $500 Billion. Both plans rely on government spending cuts and tax reform to lower tax rates, broaden the tax base, and increase tax revenues. These are all good initial actions and I would also suggest the addition of the House “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, which specifically “Caps” government spending relative to GDP and includes a “Balanced Budget Amendment” provision to insure that our government performs its future fiscal requirements in a responsible way. Currently, polls indicate that over two-thirds of the American people want a “Balanced Budget Amendment” and do not want a further increase in our National Debt. Now is an appropriate time to deal with these issues to insure not only our own future but also more importantly, the future of our children.

If Congress and the President had seriously considered Bowles-Simpson earlier in the year, the debt crisis could already be resolved. We must bring responsibility to the country back into our government and significantly reduce its size.

The Old Guy PhD

Note: The original Bowles-Simpson article with “links” is repeated below for those who missed it.

Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!

In my previous posts, “Big Government IS Our Problem” and “Is Our Government Broken”, I laid out the current and projected fiscal and debt problems facing our nation and argued that significant contraction in government spending is immediately essential. Also essential is tax reform. Our taxes MUST be simplified, the tax base broadened, and tax rates reduced (especially business taxes), if we are to be able to compete in a global economy.

The Debt Reduction Commission’s “Co-Chair’s Proposal” released in December 2010 by the Co-Chairs, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson and submitted to the President in February 2011, is an excellent and understandable overview of the recommendations, which, with minor modification, were approved by 11 of the 18 bipartisan members (61% approval) in December 2010. Unfortunately, the final vote fell short of the 14 votes necessary for the “Supermajority” needed to directly submit the recommendations to Congress. While the Co-Chair’s Draft Proposal differs slightly from the final report submitted to the President, it is worth reviewing for its importance, focus, clarity, and brevity. They have done an excellent job and their proposal deserves the immediate attention of the President and Congress. While no one will be fully happy with all of the commission’s proposals, rational behavior combined with cooperation and compromise by our elected government is necessary if we are to remain a solvent and great nation. The time for government to act is NOW!

The bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission worked from April – December 2010 to develop and present overall comprehensive recommendations to solve our country’s short and long term fiscal and debt crises. They have done their work well. The report addresses all the necessary areas required to resolve the issues including setting out ten (10) objectives, “Guiding Principles and Values”, beginning with “#1-We have a patriotic duty to come together on a plan that will make America better off tomorrow than it is today”; and “#2-The Problem is REAL – the Solution is Painful – There’s no Easy Way Out – Everything Must Be On the Table – and Washington Must Lead”. The other 8 can be read by clicking the link in paragraph above. After establishing the Guiding Principles, the following comprehensive “Five Part Plan” is recommended:

1.Enact tough discretionary spending caps and provide $200 billion in illustrative domestic and defense savings in 2015.

  1. Pass tax reform that dramatically reduces rates, simplifies the code, broadens the base, and reduces the deficit.
  2. Address the “Doc Fix” not through deficit spending but through savings from payment reforms, cost-sharing, and malpractice reform, and long-term measures to control health care cost growth.
  3. Achieve mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement.
  4. Ensure Social Security solvency for the next 75 years while reducing poverty among seniors.

Implementation of the comprehensive Five Part Plan is projected to achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, in addition to other specific improvements in debt and budget reductions summarized below:

  • Achieves nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020: 50+ specific ways to cut outdated programs and strengthen competitiveness by making Washington cut and invest, not borrow and spend.
  • Reduces the deficit to 2.2% of GDP by 2015, exceeding President’s goal of primary balance (about 3% of GDP).
  • Reduces tax rates, abolishes the AMT, and cuts backdoor spending in the tax code.
  • Caps revenue at or below 21% of GDP and gets spending down to 22% and eventually to 21%.
  • Stabilizes debt by 2014 and reduces debt to 60% of GDP by 2024 and 40% by 2037.
  • Ensures lasting Social Security solvency, prevents projected 22% cuts in 2037, reduces elderly poverty, and distributes burden fairly.

 

The proposal outlines how to achieve the above results through specific recommended actions to improve revenues through “Comprehensive Tax Reform” alternatives, to reduce spending through “Discretionary Budget Options” including Defense cuts, reductions for entitlement programs through “Mandatory Budget Options” for healthcare and “Reforming Social Security”. All of these reforms: taxation, government spending, entitlements for healthcare and social security, are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and all must be addressed if we are to succeed.

The Co-Chair’s Proposal is controversial but responsible, realistic, and deserves the serious consideration of the President and Congress, who are currently engaged in irrelevant political bickering over trivial spending cuts instead of the substantive fiscal and debt problems we face. Congress and the President should get together, agree on or revise as appropriate the “Guiding Principles and Values” above, and start to work for the American people and our country. Political posturing for re-election is NOT a valid course of action.

Currently, neither the Congress nor the President is addressing our fiscal and debt crises with any sense of urgency. The President and the Democrats are not only totally ignoring the problem but are fighting to avoid even minimal reductions from the inflated budget spending of the last 2-3 years. Federal Budget inflation nearly tripled our federal deficit from $0.459 trillion in 2008 to $1.3 trillion in 2010 and is expected to increase again to $1.7 trillion this fiscal year. Obama’s recent budget proposal for 2012 continues spending at $3.7 trillion and the deficit at $1.6 trillion. Additionally, Obama’s new budget projects a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion for the next ten years – bringing our debt to approximately $22 trillion! This is not leadership; it is madness! Only the Republicans are even attempting to address the issue and, to date, their proposals are woefully inadequate. To be fair, the House Republicans through Representative Paul Ryan are promising to present a comprehensive budget in April that does address the looming long-term catastrophe we face. I hope they deliver.

Given the magnitude of our fiscal and debt problems, the current congressional squabbling is an inappropriate distraction from solving the overall crises facing our nation! Without an agreement on debt limits and/or spending cuts by April 8, our government may shut down. As noted in “Is Our Government Broken”, except for national security and some essential services, shutting down might actually be a good thing. Our government is too big, too irresponsible, and too self-centered. Can’t our Congress or Administration do math?

Where is President Obama’s leadership in all of this? Actually, at the time of this writing he’s currently travelling again and making speeches at a Democratic Party Fundraiser – big surprise. As usual, when leadership and responsibility for our country are required, Obama is absent. Last week with a national debt deadline imminent, Congress took a week off rather than stay in session to attempt to resolve the current national debt limit issue. Brilliant! Our elected representatives need to make financial solvency and economic growth a priority and get to work NOW!

We are on unsustainable fiscal and debt crises that, if not corrected quickly, will lead to potential financial and economic disaster for our country. Our government is oppressive and out of control, its growth must be stopped, and its intrusion in our lives and businesses reversed. We MUST maintain the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for economic growth and global competitiveness. We need to bring back the constitutional freedoms and personal liberties that led us to become the greatest nation on earth. Our government should immediately take up the Bowles-Simpson Co-Chairs’ Proposal.

The Old Guy PhD


Is Our Government Broken? – Redux!

June 3, 2011

G’Day!

Nothing has really changed since my earlier post “Is Our Government Broken” on March 16. If anything, the situation is now worse and potentially more detrimental to our country’s international reputation and the growth of our economy. Obama and the Democrats appear to be determined to ignore the problem and demagogue any efforts by the Republicans to actually confront and attempt to resolve our fiscal and debt crises. While there will probably be an extension of the debt ceiling this summer, it will more than likely be another temporary fix and will just “kick the can” further down the road. As I have repeatedly said, this is madness and intolerable behavior for Congress and the President.

The good news is we now have three rational proposals available, any one of which would start to solve our problems. The bad news is that neither the President nor Congress is seriously considering any of them. The proposals available are: 1) the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission report, “The Moment of Truth”; 2) the Paul Ryan 2012 Budget Proposal, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring the American Dream”; and 3) the recent Heritage Foundation Special Report, “Saving the American Dream: The Heritage Plan to Fix the Debt, Cut Spending, and Restore Prosperity”. The Bowles-Simpson report and The Heritage Foundation Special Report are fully comprehensive proposals dealing with all sectors of our economy, including desperately needed tax reform, entitlement reform, and cuts in discretionary government spending (including defense). The Bowles-Simpson report was approved by 61% of the members of the commission but for unexplainable reasons, has been ignored by the President and Congress. Paul Ryan’s proposal, which was passed by the House but rejected by Democrats in the Senate, is reasonably comprehensive but does not address Social Security and, in my opinion, does not adequately address Defense spending. In addition to the proposals above, the GAO report “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue” has already identified unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation existing across our Federal Government totaling BILLIONS of dollars in ANNUAL SAVINGS. This is also a good place to start.

I have referred to each of these reports in several previous posts on this website and, for the sake of brevity, provide appropriate links below:

The first two (2) paragraphs in my initial post on this subject are still relevant:

“Yes, our government is currently broken and it needs to GET TO WORK! The events taking place in our national government and some states do not represent the principles of elected representative government upon which America was founded. We elected our officials to serve the needs of the people, not the desires of their political party, big business, or unions.”

“President Obama, both Democrat and Republican Congressional Representatives and Senators (with minor exceptions) are not currently working for the long-term benefit of America. Nearly all are posturing and working for what they perceive as the good of their political party and personal reelection. Citizens have common sense and know that we have fiscal and debt crises that are too large and unsustainable. We must get our State and Federal Governments in order.”

Our federal government is out of control and has grown to be too large, too self-oriented, and is not performing their duty to be responsible to the American people. To date the Democrats have proposed absolutely no specific plan to elevate our fiscal and debt crises (other than increase tax rates) and have not passed a budget in over 700 days! President Obama is also not exercising leadership in this crisis and, as indicated recently, is “leading from behind”. Our President is already in full campaign mode in preparation for the 2012 election (which can’t come soon enough!) and is engaged in travelling, golfing, and political speeches. Obama’s proposed 2012 budget is an embarrassment given the magnitude of our country’s ongoing financial problems and projects spending next year of another $3.7 trillion and an addition to the deficit of $1.6 trillion. Over the next 10 years the new Obama budget proposal is expected to produce a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion, bringing our overall national debt to approximately $22 trillion. Again, this is madness and irresponsible and does not serve the interests of the American people!

Most of the Americans now realize “Big Government is Our Problem”! Let’s fix it and put our country back on a solid jobs and economic growth foundation! Adopt one or a combination of the above proposals and let’s get to work.

The Old Guy PhD


Fiscal & Debt Crises – Tax Reform Essential!

May 27, 2011

G’Day!

Like our government, our federal tax system is broken (see “Is Our Government Broken?”). Our tax code is complex, unfair, damaging to our economy, and its thousands of pages of code are completely beyond understanding by all but a few highly specialized lawyers and accountants! On national television recently it was disclosed that 51% of AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS PAID NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX last year, the so-called “rich” paid 76% of all income taxes, and 31% of households not only paid no income taxes but receive monetary benefits from the government. Less than half of households are paying for the services and benefits for the all the American people. Our federal tax system is broken and must be reformed as part of the solution to our fiscal and debt crisis. The basic goals of this reform should to stimulate our economy, simplify the tax code and its administration, broaden the taxable base so that all except those in real poverty pay federal tax, and is fair to the American people.

For over a century, federal income taxes were unconstitutional because our Founding Fathers believed that Federal Government should be limited. They believed (correctly as it turned out) that a direct tax on incomes would provide revenues that bureaucrats would find increasing ways to spend, triggering the desire for bigger and bigger government and more and more taxes! Our federal government successfully served the American people from the founding of our nation until 1913 without an income tax, fought several major wars, and we survived and prospered. It required the passage of a Constitutional Amendment (Article XVI) in 1913 to initiate the mess we currently have. In 1913 seven (7) tax brackets with rates from 1-7% were introduced. Five short years later under President Wilson, the top tax rate was 77%! President Coolidge reduced the top rate to 25% by 1925, avoided a post-war recession, and America enjoyed nearly a decade of prosperity. In the Great Depression under F.D. Roosevelt (FDR), while the economy stagnated, taxes were increased to a top rate of 81% by 1940 and reached 94% by the end of WW II.

History since 1913 has repeatedly shown that when income TAX RATES ARE REDUCED, the economy is stimulated, economic growth occurs, and FEDERAL REVENUES INCREASE! President Coolidge in the 1920s, President Kennedy in the early 1960s, President Reagan in the 1980s, and President Bush in the 2000s demonstrated this. The deficit problems following the more recent Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush tax cuts resulted from government spending that increased faster the increasing tax revenues. This provides further support to the original concern of our Founding Fathers that increased tax revenues lead to bigger government bureaucracy and control over economic and individual freedoms.

Our current and worsening fiscal and debt crises requires a comprehensive solution including significant reductions in government spending, major entitlement reform, and desperately needed tax reform to accomplish the goals above. Reform alternatives must consider sales (consumption) taxes, personal and business income taxes, social taxes (those designed to regulate behavior such as “sin” taxes and redistribution of income), “tax expenditures” (legal/loophole tax deductions for businesses and individuals), and government subsidies. The Congressional Democrats have no specific tax reform plan and Obama’s only consideration is raising taxes on the so-called “rich”, which is neither rational nor fair, will harm growth of our country, and cannot solve our deficit problem. Simply taxing business and the “rich” and giving revenues to the government to be redistributed is inefficient, wasteful, detrimental to job and economic growth, and encourages more companies and individuals to move offshore or find lawyers to “game” the system. Last year GE, with $14 Billion in worldwide profits, paid NO federal income tax, because of “tax expenditures” and government subsidies. This is crazy! Big businesses with big legal departments and lobbyists in Washington get tax relief and subsidies while the small businesses, which are the job creation engine of our country’s growth and future prosperity, are stuck with the high tax rates and no funding (unless you have friends in government or are part of stimulus plan).

Overly simplified, there are three basic reform alternatives to consider.

1) Retain but simplify our current “Progressive” tax system (the more you make, the higher the tax rate), eliminate or significantly reduce the deductions and government subsidies (thereby broadening the tax base), significantly reduce all the tax rates for both individuals and business, and eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Our current system with extensive and complicated deductions also represents a “double taxation” on income, first at business level and again at personal level when profits or gains are distributed. It is important to realize that the US business tax rate is currently the highest in the developed world at 35% (China is 25%, Russia is 20%, Germany is 15%, Ireland is 12.5%) and foreign profits repatriated back to the US are penalized by being taxed at the higher US rate. The current system encourages businesses to move offshore where taxes are lower and to retain profits abroad rather than returning them to America for investment or distribution. This is a job killer not a job creator and leads to wealth creation abroad not in the US. Frankly, I believe business “income (profit)” taxes should be abolished or at minimum reduced to levels consistent with those countries with whom we compete. Reform of the current “Progressive” tax system is the basis for alternatives in the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Reduction Commission Report, “The Moment of Truth”, and ignored to date by President Obama and the Democrats (see Bowles-Simpson Have it Right!). Republican Paul Ryan’s House of Representatives’ approved 2012 Budget Plan, “The Path to Prosperity”, is also based on this approach. (My reservations with the Ryan budget are that it does not address Social Security reform and does not adequately address Defense spending.)

2) Adopt a “Flat Tax” (one low tax rate paid by all) combined with the elimination or significant reduction of deductions and government subsidies above and the establishment of a single low tax rate for individuals and business. It is neither “Progressive” nor “Regressive” based on income and does not penalize one class of citizens over another. Steve Forbes, Arthur Laffer, and Stephen Moore, among others, have proposed a “Flat Tax”. A low “Flat Tax” could accomplish all the goals above and reduce costs and increase compliance with the tax code by significantly simplifying both tax filing and administration. The tax reform in The Heritage Foundation comprehensive proposal “Saving the American Dream” is essentially a “Flat Tax” system based on income sources spent on consumption with an initial single low rate of 18.5% and deductions limited to education, charitable donations, and mortgage interest protection plus protection for low-income earners.

3) Adopt the “Fair Tax” (a tax on sales or consumption, not income), which abolishes income taxes on business and individuals and eliminates the need for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The US is the only developed country in the world without a broad national sales tax, usually called VAT. Currently a “Fair Tax” proposal in Congress would replace all federal income taxes on individuals and businesses, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would be abolished (a huge saving in administration expenses), and income tax withholding from wages would be eliminated. The new “Fair Tax” would be collected at the point of purchase like the current state and local sales tax. A “prebate” (advance monthly tax rebate) would be given to households on purchases up to the poverty level. Initially the tax would be levied at 23%. A “Fair Tax” treats everyone equally, would substantially reduce administration and compliance costs, greatly simplify the tax process, and allow more freedom of choice for consumers in purchasing and saving decisions. Equally important is the fact that a federal sales tax broadens the taxpayer base to include federal tax revenues from all non-citizens (including illegal immigrants) as well as US citizens making purchases within the country. A “Fair Tax” also encourages savings rather than consumption. “Americans for Fair Taxation” and Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain support this proposal.

Any of these proposals or a rational combination of them will accomplish the goals for tax reform stated above and stimulate economic and job growth for our country. Fortunately as noted above, there are several specific proposals available to accomplish this and adoption of any of them would be an improvement over the current system. I personally prefer alternative 3), the “Fair Tax”, followed closely by alternative 2), the “Flat Tax”, but neither may be politically viable. The “Fair Tax” in combination with either alternatives 1) or 2) is also a preferred option.

Tax reform is a vital part of any successful comprehensive plan to resolve our fiscal and debt problems. Let’s encourage our government to stop political bickering, get back to work, adopt one of the above, and get job growth and our economy back on track!

The Old Guy PhD


Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!

April 1, 2011

G’Day!

In my previous posts, “Big Government IS Our Problem” and “Is Our Government Broken”, I laid out the current and projected fiscal and debt problems facing our nation and argued that significant contraction in government spending is immediately essential. Also essential is tax reform. Our taxes MUST be simplified, the tax base broadened, and tax rates reduced (especially business taxes), if we are to be able to compete in a global economy.

The Debt Reduction Commission’s “Co-Chair’s Proposal” released in December 2010 by the Co-Chairs, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson and submitted to the President in February 2011, is an excellent and understandable overview of the recommendations, which, with minor modification, were approved by 11 of the 18 bipartisan members (61% approval) in December 2010. Unfortunately, the final vote fell short of the 14 votes necessary for the “Supermajority” needed to directly submit the recommendations to Congress. While the Co-Chair’s Draft Proposal differs slightly from the final report submitted to the President, it is worth reviewing for its importance, focus, clarity, and brevity. They have done an excellent job and their proposal deserves the immediate attention of the President and Congress. While no one will be fully happy with all of the commission’s proposals, rational behavior combined with cooperation and compromise by our elected government is necessary if we are to remain a solvent and great nation. The time for government to act is NOW!

The bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission worked from April – December 2010 to develop and present overall comprehensive recommendations to solve our country’s short and long term fiscal and debt crises. They have done their work well. The report addresses all the necessary areas required to resolve the issues including setting out ten (10) objectives, “Guiding Principles and Values”, beginning with “#1-We have a patriotic duty to come together on a plan that will make America better off tomorrow than it is today”; and “#2-The Problem is REAL – the Solution is Painful – There’s no Easy Way Out – Everything Must Be On the Table – and Washington Must Lead”. The other 8 can be read by clicking the link in paragraph above. After establishing the Guiding Principles, the following comprehensive “Five Part Plan” is recommended:

  1. Enact tough discretionary spending caps and provide $200 billion in illustrative domestic and defense savings in 2015.
  2. Pass tax reform that dramatically reduces rates, simplifies the code, broadens the base, and reduces the deficit.
  3. Address the “Doc Fix” not through deficit spending but through savings from payment reforms, cost-sharing, and malpractice reform, and long-term measures to control health care cost growth.
  4. Achieve mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement.
  5. Ensure Social Security solvency for the next 75 years while reducing poverty among seniors.

Implementation of the comprehensive Five Part Plan is projected to achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, in addition to other specific improvements in debt and budget reductions summarized below:

  • Achieves nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020: 50+ specific ways to cut outdated programs and strengthen competitiveness by making Washington cut and invest, not borrow and spend.
  • Reduces the deficit to 2.2% of GDP by 2015, exceeding President’s goal of primary balance (about 3% of GDP).
  • Reduces tax rates, abolishes the AMT, and cuts backdoor spending in the tax code.
  • Caps revenue at or below 21% of GDP and gets spending down to 22% and eventually to 21%.
  • Stabilizes debt by 2014 and reduces debt to 60% of GDP by 2024 and 40% by 2037.
  • Ensures lasting Social Security solvency, prevents projected 22% cuts in 2037, reduces elderly poverty, and distributes burden fairly.

The proposal outlines how to achieve the above results through specific recommended actions to improve revenues through “Comprehensive Tax Reform” alternatives, to reduce spending through “Discretionary Budget Options” including Defense cuts, reductions for entitlement programs through “Mandatory Budget Options” for healthcare and “Reforming Social Security”. All of these reforms: taxation, government spending, entitlements for healthcare and social security, are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and all must be addressed if we are to succeed.

The Co-Chair’s Proposal is controversial but responsible, realistic, and deserves the serious consideration of the President and Congress, who are currently engaged in irrelevant political bickering over trivial spending cuts instead of the substantive fiscal and debt problems we face. Congress and the President should get together, agree on or revise as appropriate the “Guiding Principles and Values” above, and start to work for the American people and our country. Political posturing for re-election is NOT a valid course of action.

Currently, neither the Congress nor the President is addressing our fiscal and debt crises with any sense of urgency. The President and the Democrats are not only totally ignoring the problem but are fighting to avoid even minimal reductions from the inflated budget spending of the last 2-3 years. Federal Budget inflation nearly tripled our federal deficit from $0.459 trillion in 2008 to $1.3 trillion in 2010 and is expected to increase again to $1.7 trillion this fiscal year. Obama’s recent budget proposal for 2012 continues spending at $3.7 trillion and the deficit at $1.6 trillion. Additionally, Obama’s new budget projects a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion for the next ten years – bringing our debt to approximately $22 trillion! This is not leadership; it is madness! Only the Republicans are even attempting to address the issue and, to date, their proposals are woefully inadequate. To be fair, the House Republicans through Representative Paul Ryan are promising to present a comprehensive budget in April that does address the looming long-term catastrophe we face. I hope they deliver.

Given the magnitude of our fiscal and debt problems, the current congressional squabbling is an inappropriate distraction from solving the overall crises facing our nation! Without an agreement on debt limits and/or spending cuts by April 8, our government may shut down. As noted in “Is Our Government Broken”, except for national security and some essential services, shutting down might actually be a good thing. Our government is too big, too irresponsible, and too self-centered. Can’t our Congress or Administration do math?

Where is President Obama’s leadership in all of this? Actually, at the time of this writing he’s currently travelling again and making speeches at a Democratic Party Fundraiser – big surprise. As usual, when leadership and responsibility for our country are required, Obama is absent. Last week with a national debt deadline imminent, Congress took a week off rather than stay in session to attempt to resolve the current national debt limit issue. Brilliant! Our elected representatives need to make financial solvency and economic growth a priority and get to work NOW!

We are on unsustainable fiscal and debt crises that, if not corrected quickly, will lead to potential financial and economic disaster for our country. Our government is oppressive and out of control, its growth must be stopped, and its intrusion in our lives and businesses reversed. We MUST maintain the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for economic growth and global competitiveness. We need to bring back the constitutional freedoms and personal liberties that led us to become the greatest nation on earth. Our government should immediately take up the Bowles-Simpson Co-Chairs’ Proposal.

The Old Guy PhD