The Ten Percent Solution
"Where would you cut?" That question seems to stump Republicans, even some Tea Party advocates who rail against the spending of Obamanism and government in general. Whatever happens on election day, it is clear that taxes and spending will continue to rise, while the economy and the dollar will continue to sink.
The lay of the land now indicates that the Congress will probably spend the next two years arguing about Obamacare, endlessly disputing the 2,000-page legislation line by line. The effort will grind to a halt, and helpless Republicans will cringe as an increasingly presidential Obama rises above the fray. In 2012, frantic Republicans will appeal to the public, "You see? You need more of us!" But exasperated voters might disagree.
Republicans might be elephants, but they have short memories. They forget that the Republican majority was blamed for the disasters of the Bush years. Result? The GOP was blown away in 2006 and 2008. The Tea Party's popularity rests on public hatred of Washington — of both Democrats and Republicans. If both parties keep on perpetuating endless growth of government, voters will blame both parties. So if Republicans want to win in 2012, they will have to propose a genuine alternative to the bipartisan trough-dwelling mentality that has brought us to the brink.
I have one here.
The GOP must make a clean break with the past. That requires a blanket refusal to wallow in the mud over thousands of pages of Obamacare's line-items, a task that will sink them back into the mire. A clean break means coming clean: if socialist Britain can "step back from the brink," there's no reason why the GOP needs to keep heading towards it, merely slowing down judiciously so as not to exceed the speed limit.
The New Republicans should simply announce that they will pass a budget, and authorize corresponding appropriations, only if that budget's total spending is ten percent less than that of the previous year.
That's right, cut the budget by ten percent a year. In fact, if Congress cuts the budget by ten percent every year for twenty years, by the year 2030 we will be back to Jimmy Carter's 1980 budget that Ronald Reagan ran against as "Big Government" that was "the problem, not the solution."
But "where would you cut?" Simple: everywhere, across the board — including sacred cows like defense. After all, isn't the defense budget from the height of the Cold War big enough for today, now that the Soviet Union has collapsed?
Some sacred cows could be eliminated altogether, of course. The Department of Education (DoE) could disappear without a murmur. After all, it has done its best to destroy academic standards nationwide, as it has aimed to politicize government, private, and even religious schools with thousands of pages of regulations that every school district has to hire someone to read and interpret.
So clearly, we should close down DoE. But "what about the children"? Easy. The discretionary budget of the Department of Education is approximately fifty billion dollars. Good. Simply allow the hundred million plus households that pay taxes to send $500 apiece to their favorite educational institution, and enter it with a receipt as a credit (not a deduction) on their tax return. That simple mechanism will produce fifty billion dollars that go directly to schools. No generously-compensated elite "peer review panels" for grants, no million-dollar lobbyists securing earmarks for rich institutions, and no bureaucratic overhead.
In fact, no bureaucrats! Parents, who know their children and their schools best, will replace them all — at no cost. And parents will decide where the money goes — at least their $500 share of it. This consideration alone will allow local schools and states to dissolve the huge bureaucracies they have built up to interface with the federal bureaucrats that regulate, fund, and generally harass them. "The children" will have more money than ever for their schools as administrative costs tumble, and real teaching, without federal interference, begins to thrive once more. Not only that, but all the money saved on DoE's buildings, salaries, pensions, and equipment — a not insignificant sum — can be used to pay down that national debt.
Who can object to more money for education? And of course the people know better than the bureaucrats what schools to support, so this will be a truly democratic reform. All we have to do is to eliminate the federal government middleman between our schools and us. Schools will be encouraged to become customer friendly, since each taxpayer will be free to choose which school will receive his $500 to every year. No more teachers unions blaming the parents for poor teacher performance. Finally, teachers will work for the parents, not for the government or the teachers union.
The reader might object that the GOP establishment will not be excited by the prospect of weakening their own power by downsizing government. To counter that evident inertia, a radical change of priorities is required. Republicans must forget seniority and face reality: without the Tea Party, the GOP would be wallowing miserably in the Slough of Despond, popularly known as the permanent minority. There are two reasons why Republicans must cast aside their Good Old Boy mentality, boot the entrenched GOP leadership that brought the party low, and follow the Tea Party that is responsible for their resurgence:
- Because the Tea Party is right: we are Taxed Enough Already.
- Because the GOP will wither away under business as usual.
The Department of Education is just one of hundreds, even thousands, of possible targets for extinction. Of course, readers might nominate their own favorites. Surprisingly, the federal government has already helped us in that task by generously identifying tens of thousands of possible targets for us.
Have you ever heard on the news that, because of a snowstorm in Washington, all "non-essential federal personnel" have been told to stay home?
Did you hear that? "Non-essential personnel"? Mull that over for a moment. Millions of bureaucrats know that they are "non-essential," so they don't have to go to work in a snowstorm.
Well? If they are not essential, why don't we just fire them?
You get the picture. "Where would you cut?" The answer is simple: everywhere!
Back to the Ten Percent Solution. Of course, we can expect government employee unions and other interest groups that prosper on the back of the taxpayer to oppose this sensible course of recovery, the first step in restoration of the republic. Good! Their opposition will actually be very helpful in persuading the rest of the country of the merits of the plan. In fact, the louder opponents to serious budget cuts scream (viz. the recent riots in France and Greece), the more the taxpayer will be educated on how the sleazy system really works and whom it really benefits — and he will act accordingly.
The Ten Percent Solution's positive benefits far outweigh the negative ones. For one, the country's economy would experience an unprecedented boom, certainly large enough to afford employment in the private sector to the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees who might have useful and productive skills. Who better to identify and abolish useless federal regulations than the former bureaucrats who wrote them? Hence, a corollary: eliminate ten percent of federal regulations per year, too.
Readers might complain that my numbers are back-of-the-envelope estimates. That is correct. Perhaps we should go for twenty-five years of cuts. After all, as government shrinks, the country will grow, astronomically.
And haven't I ignored inflation? And what about taxes?
No, I haven't ignored inflation. Here's the solution: End the Fed.
As far as taxes go, no one said it better than the late Senator Jesse Helms: "The Good Book says the Lord gets ten percent, and the government shouldn't get a penny more."
November 1, 2010
Christopher Manion [send him mail] is a columnist for The Wanderer, America's oldest independent Catholic newspaper, founded in 1868. He is president of Manion Music, LLC, which produces copyrighted, royalty-free music collections for telecommunications media and commercial and hospitality sites that use background music or music-on-hold. He writes from the Shenandoah Valley, where he is a volunteer Spanish translator for local law enforcement.
Copyright © Christopher Manion 2010. All Rights reserved.