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Opening Arguments

Stopping the spree

Those of us hoping to see a "wave election" in November that will start to rein in Washington's wretched excesses have to count on Republicans having specific plans and the will to work for them. Watching some of the GOP leaders stumble and fumble on TV in recent days, unable to detail a single thing they would cut despite repeated inquiries, was not comforting.

But there are plenty of ideas out there, and voters should be encouraging demanding that GOP candidates discusss them and embrace the ones they find most palatable. A good place to start would be Paul Ryan's fiscal roadmap (pdf file), a modest little plan to "provide for the reform of health care, the Social Security system, the tax code for individuals and business, and the budget process." Nothing this comprehensive is likely to pass, leading many conservatives to call for a more incremental approach. But:

When I asked Ryan about this problem, he raised the possibility that our looming fiscal armageddon will concentrate the minds of lawmakers, and make sweeping solutions more imaginable. “I think [comprehensive reform] is going to become possible,” he told me, “because the status quo is just so unsustainable. We will have a debt crisis in this country that will require emergency actions if we don't fix this fast.” But then he also added that “if I can get an inch in the right direction, versus the mile, then I'd take the inch.”

And here are 10 ideas from Ramesh Ponnuru that can be debated individually. I'd move his No. 2 -- repeal of Obamacare -- to No. 1 and throw in the financial reform package, too. If we're going to start pulling government back, having all these 2,000-page bills with unknown consequences makes it that much harder. And his No. 1 is tax code reform that involves "considerable simplification" but in a way that doesn't sacrifice revenue; not sure about that -- what's wrong with sacrificing  a little revenue? But his list is a good starting point.

Ross Douthat suggests there are "real political benefits to be reaped from a sustained engagement with policy ideas."

Yet with some exceptions (Ryan in the House, of course, and to some extent figures like Tom Coburn and Bob Corker in the Senate) most Republican seem content to follow their leadership on policy, rather than trying to push their leaders in one direction or another by floating agendas of their own.

I'd also start eliminating entire federal departments, starting with Education. And if we're really serious about all this, we should also give at least some consideration to proposals such as this one from Cato, which would reduce federal spending by 10 percent by killing a whole bunch of susidies, including ones for homeowners and agriculture.


tim zank
Fri, 07/23/2010 - 10:59am

If you implemented a flat tax and did away with all the freakin subsidies from ethanol to home interest, and kept a small enforcement wing of the IRS just for collections, the ship would get righted pretty damn fast.

Of course that's way to easy, simple and common sense'ish to ever take hold.

Ranger Bob
Fri, 07/23/2010 - 6:35pm

Those subsidies for homeowners , would that include bankruptcy protection for people who spend over there head? Would a flat tax help people from spending over there head?

tim zank
Fri, 07/23/2010 - 7:31pm

Ranger Bob...the bankruptcy code doesn't need to change at all, it's been in place for centuries and serves a legitimate purpose.

With a flat tax of like 10-15% across the board, we wouldn't need the 75,000 page internal revenue code or all of it's employees and we wouldn't need all the convoluted deductions, like the mortgage interest deduction and we'd actually raise more revenue.

People wouldn't have spent beyond their means on housing and we would not have had a housing collapse if not for the direct interference of freddie & fannie. They absolutely without a doubt created the housing bubble, it was their market manipulation alone. Banks didn't use their own lending criteria for FA backed mortgages, they used the governments, fannie and freddie made their govt backed loans a 1/2 point lower than a conventional bank mortgage loan, and dropped the criteria to virtually nothing.

The feds did this, NOT the banks or the free market.

My point is, if you change the corrupt tax system to a simple one, govt wouldn't have to "subsidize" everything and would consequently spend a sh$tload less of our money...

Andrew J.
Sat, 07/24/2010 - 7:49am

We wouldn't be changing our tax system corrupt to a simple one, but from a progressive to a regressive one.
Bill Gates will be paying the same percentage as the woman who rang up your slacks at J.C. Penney.
Many of those "convoluted deductions" are there for a common social good: encouraging home ownership, rewarding families and having children; saving the environment by using alternative energy sources.
That regressive vs. progressive tax system argument was fought and won a long time ago; no need to be reverting back to the dark ages.

Mon, 07/26/2010 - 3:49pm

It's easy to campaign, for now at least, on a promise to repeal Obamacare. Republicans did the same thing agains Medicare and Social Security. But imagine trying to take those things away now.
Once people get accustomed to not having their insurance coverage yanked due to illness or refused due to previous conditions, they'll embrace Obamacare, too.
Whatever it's merits, you can't take away an entitlement that the voters have gotten accustomed to. They simply won't support you. Notice how much luck Dubya had in his attempt to privatize Social Security. I notice righties have stopped talking about that.
I notice they've also stopped making fun of the global warming "hoax." And they've stopped chanting "drill, baby, drill." Any thoughts as why that is?

Lewis Allen
Mon, 07/26/2010 - 5:16pm

I don't usually find myself on the same side as Tim Zank, but I've got to agree that the tax code is a mess. There's just no reason it should be so complicated, and I don't approve of its use as a tool to try to modify behavior. That said, I would still make it progressive, but moderately so, like it was under Reagan. But all of the stupid tax breaks and other crap would have to go.

tim zank
Mon, 07/26/2010 - 5:18pm

I would politely submit Andrew, there is nothing regressive about everyone paying the same flat percentage of what they earn to taxes. It is absolutely fair.

Government exists to serve and protect it's citizens, not to favor one group over another. Social engineering by government (helping everyone and their dipshi* brother wipe their sorry arses) is why we have a farked up mess we can't afford.

Trying to be parents instead of servants of the people has brought us to the mult-trillion dollar cliff we are driving off.

Got money/food/job problems? Call your family & friends, not your congressman.

Andrew J.
Mon, 07/26/2010 - 9:31pm

Guess you would have not supported Social Security in the 30s either. "Let family and friends take care of you."
I remember the revolutionary idea of the times, that faith-based institutions, with a bit of government help, could take over alot of what Washington was doing as far as the safety net it was providing.
Will never forget the C-Spam procession of non-profits, church groups, well-intentioned saying, "Umm, there's no way in God's name we can deal with this problem of the have-nots. It's for government to somehow solve. We work on a small portion of the problem, but if you think we can become a substitute for government supplying people with benefits, food, housing, day care, health care, senior citizen help, you are sorely mistaken."

tim zank
Tue, 07/27/2010 - 8:14am

Andrew "Guess you would have not supported Social Security in the 30s either."


More importantly take care of yourself and when unable

Andrew J.
Tue, 07/27/2010 - 8:54am

And if you have no family left?

tim zank
Tue, 07/27/2010 - 9:20am

Guess your S.O.L.