Dear Rep. Fleischmann,
Neither presidents nor congresses in any combination of party have cut federal spending, and it needs to be done. Here’s a suggestion.
Create a new voluntary tax form, paper and online, on which taxpayers can vote to cut programs and keep for themselves some (1%?) of the money actually saved, the 1% (or whatever) to be equally distributed among all taxpayers (all filling out tax forms). Presidents have failed, Congresses have failed — so try us, the boss y’all work for. Form 1040 does ask about the welfare program for presidential candidates, and last I read 89% were voting against it, even without keeping any of the savings — perhaps the most successful limit on any federal spending. So expand on this success.
For example, suppose National Public Radio gets $200 million. Say 20 million taxpayers fill out the new form, half of whom vote for NPR and half against. Next year NPR gets $100 million, saving $100 million. Say 100 million taxpayers have sent in returns, and 1% of savings are to be distributed. Then $1 million is to be spread among the 10 million who vote for the savings: 10 cents each. Not much, but spending grows because the general welfare of the taxpayers as a whole has so little defense against the particular welfare of those who get the spending: NPR, presidential candidates, or whoever. The new form — call it form 1040PV for Popular Vote? — would try to restore the balance, and the pennies of savings would add up for those who choose them.
Say the Dept of Education bureaucracy gets $1 billion. Loans and grants continue, with a small bureaucracy to administer them, but the people who write regulations and enforce them are put on form 1040PV. Say 80% of PV votes are against them. $800 million in salary becomes $600 million in unemployment benefits. That saves $200 million, not $800 million.
Changes in program structure can also be put on the form. For example, should we change jobless benefits from two thirds of salary as long as they last to two thirds for three months and then 1% less each month after that? Should farm subsidies, say, be cut 5% per year until gone? (1% and 5% from original, not from new current figure.)
Might limit total cuts to 5% of current spending, $225 billion out of $4.5 trillion or so, to keep changes from happening too fast.
We pay you guys to work out the details, but this might work, and nothing else has.
Yours truly, Andrew Lohr