How to Dig Us Out

I’ve got some ideas – some are aimed at the Federal government and some are more appropriate for local or state use.  I’m no budget expert, but here goes…

The first one is the big one:  examine Defense spending, or, as it should really be labeled, Offense spending, since we seem dead set on invading everyone else.  There is a MASSIVE drain of money in military spending and much of it is wasteful.

According to The New Republic,

This year [2010], the United States will spend at least $700 billion on defense and security. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than America has spent on defense in any year since World War II—more than during the Korean war, the Vietnam war, or the Reagan military buildup…..At that pace, defense and security costs will hit a ruinous $1 trillion annually by 2030.

There’s no reason not to reduce our arsenal, dramatically reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, reduce the military to pre-Iraq War size, reduce Navy and Air Force fleets, and cut programs which are determined to be wasteful or unnecessary.   No one wants to get rid of the military, but for goodness sakes,  hack it, streamline it, make it more effective and more efficient.  We want a lean, mean military, not a fat bloated one.

Corporate taxes; businesses should pay a reasonable amount of taxes.  From an article in the New York Times,

Arguably, the United States now has a corporate tax code that’s the worst of all worlds. The official rate is higher than in almost any other country, which forces companies to devote enormous time and effort to finding loopholes. Yet the government raises less money in corporate taxes than it once did, because of all the loopholes that have been added in recent decades.

I don’t blame corporations from using loopholes to get out of paying taxes – it’s perfectly legal and it’s standard practice, but I do want to see the loopholes removed and corporate America pay it’s financial way.  If you are raking in billions and billions of dollars, you need to cough some of that up.  The oil/energy and financial sector come immediately to mind.

According to ThinkProgress,

The oil giant that was the world’s most profitable corporation in 2008 has spent $5.7 million in campaign contributions over the last ten years and $138 million in lobbying expenditures. Its federal corporate income tax liabilities for 2009? Absolutely nothing. Not only did it pay nothing, but it also received a tax rebate the same year of $156 million

Bank of America employees contributed $11 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $24 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4.4 billion in profits in 2010 while receiving a tax refund of $1.9 billion.

In a time where food and infant formula funding for low income babies and pregnant mothers is being cut, we simply don’t have room to give away billions in tax rebates.

End the “War on Drugs.”  It hasn’t worked and it’s incredibly expensive.  Legalize it, regulate it, and tax the bejeezus out of it.  Benefits from this would reap billions annually in tax revenue, hugely reduced law enforcement costs, and the reduced need for prisons and the costs associated with running them.

Agricultural subsidies.  Whack them!  Contrary to popular belief, they do not benefit the small family farmer at all.  In fact, they are nothing short of bloated, wasteful, and downright corrupt.  Here’s a good primer on why change is LONG overdue and here is a rundown on what’s been going on lately.

Provide preventative medical care.  The most promising approach to cost containment is the prevention of disease.  This is not in any way revolutionary – it makes perfect sense.  And while it may make perfect financial sense, it’s a hard sell when you have no money to front the preventative care with.

Tax things that are bad for you.  We already tax tobacco products and alcohol, but what’s really killing us is soda, fast food, and junk food.  My take on this is as follows:  I love diet soda. Love love love love.  But I know it’s bad for me – really bad.  I suspect most people are like that with their Oreos, Doritos, Dr. Pepper, Hershey’s bars or supersized combo meals.  And I don’t consider my love of diet soda a personality flaw, but I admit it’s not the best choice, either.  After all, sodas and junk foods contain no nutritional value and in the long run, do more harm than good to a person’s overall health.  And I am on a budget, too.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if my soda cost more – say an extra quarter a can – I would drink it less often.   I’d probably switch to homemade iced tea, for example.

So a tax would accomplish two things.  First, revenue for the government – some people would continue their normal habits, some would reduce their junk food buying, and some would stop, but even a reduced level of buying would result in income.  Second, some people would stop buying or severely cut down on how often they would purchase taxed items and over time, a health benefit could be seen.   Either way would benefit our financial situation over time, since it would be one measure of preventative care, as mentioned above, but it would also provide immediate revenue as well.

Tax churches.  Yep, I said it.  Most states provide property tax exceptions for property owned by religious organizations.  This goes for their land as well as their personal property such as vehicles, computers, and other movable assets.  Do I want to  tax the tar out of tiny little churches?  Not really – they aren’t worth much, anyway.  I’m more interested in churches like this.  So, I’d be willing to put a tax threshold on property value and only tax, for example, property (real and personal combined) assessed at, say, over $100,000.  Homeowners have to pay their property taxes; there is absolutely no reason churches should not.

Nix the Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy.  How is this not a no-brainer?

Newly revised estimates from Citizens for Tax Justice show that the Bush tax cuts cost almost $2.5 trillion over the decade after they were first enacted (2001-2010). Preliminary estimates from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office show that the House Democrats’ health care reform legislation is projected to cost $1 trillion over the decade after it would be enacted (2010-2019).

And yet, many of the lawmakers who argue that the health care reform legislation is “too costly” are the same lawmakers who supported the Bush tax cuts. Their own voting record demonstrates that health care reform is not a matter of costs, but a matter of priorities.

It’s difficult to see how the Bush tax cuts could provide us with two and a half times the benefits of health care reform. In 2010, when all the Bush tax cuts are finally phased in, a staggering 52.5 percent of the benefits will go to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers.

It is a matter of priorities.  Rich guys, who seem to be plentiful in Congress seem to think that rich guys need tax breaks more than the rest of us need healthcare.  Private jets and personal assistants versus mammograms and immunizations.  How is this even a choice?

Streamline Medicare/Medicaid and reduce waste and fraud as much as possible  Another obvious choice.  Streamlining the entire process would probably make outright fraud less likely, but there will always be unscrupulous physicians.  To that, I say prosecute the tar out of them and hold them out as an example to others.

Cut unnecessary trivial spending – creatively.  And this covers everything from reducing paper costs (and storage costs!) by simply not printing everything to banning government themed trinkets.  Will it fix our financial woes – of course not.  Will it make them slightly less bad?  Sure.  There is absolutely no reason everyone from the federal agencies to small city governments can’t get creative in their quest to creatively reduce spending.

Tell me, what did I leave out?


  1. lbwoodgate said,

    April 15, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    From your mouth to lawmakers ears. These were all spot on RL.

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