President Barack Obama’s deficit reduction commission — the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — will soon be giving its recommendations for how to reduce our deficits and long-term debt. A few of their ideas have already been released.
Basically, the commission is going to offer different ways for us to cut spending and raise taxes in order to cover our costs and pay off our debt.
Now, the commission isn’t offering any new ideas. Their suggestions are all things Congress and President Obama could be discussing now (or could have been discussing over the past two years) without input from any commission.
The reason a commission is bringing them up is because these proposals are unpopular and difficult to implement. Politicians — that is, the President and Congress — don’t want to be blamed for bringing them up.
So, why not consider something different? Instead of just looking at tax increases and spending cuts, let’s consider some new regulations on how taxpayer assistance is given out.
I propose four reforms, to apply to anyone who is on government assistance (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, ObamaCare, unemployment insurance, food stamps, public housing, etc.) or who gets more in government aid than they pay in taxes:
REFORM #1 Equal work for equal pay: You must work or do some form of community service in return for government assistance;
REFORM #2 Say “no” to drugs or say “no” to aid: Drug use disqualifies you from getting government assistance;
REFORM #3 Luxuries are not needed: People who are receiving taxpayer assistance — that is, those in greatest need — should not be allowed to buy luxuries;
REFORM #4 Fraud will cost you: If you intentionally defraud any government assistance program, you are permanently banned from all government assistance programs.
These are a regulatory ideas, they’re not dependent on any tax hikes or spending cuts. And they could equally apply to corporations or industries that receive government subsidies, too. I see no reason, in principle, to treat them differently.
I’ll expand on each of these reforms, one at a time, in future articles. But the basic idea behind them is this: We need to make sure that, for those receiving public assistance, they are taking only what they need, and contributing as much as they can in return.
The financial difficulties we face currently are significant, but there’s no magic to what needs to be done. We’re essentially trying to balance a checkbook. We’re not facing some deep, existential, philosophical crisis that decides who we are as a nation. (Unless you think that figuring out how to balance your checkbook is deep and existential.)
Again, one basic way to do balance the books is to cut our coverage or raise our premiums. But another way is to define more carefully and fairly what coverage we’re willing to provide, as well as who will contribute to it and how.
We’re all in this together, so we all need to have some skin in the game. We should help those in need, but beneficiaries of such programs need to make sure they’re not needlessly forcing others to spend money bailing them out.
If you’re taking more than you need, or not contributing what you can, then we all go bankrupt.