Can the Deficit Bomb be Defused?
Posted on Apr 28 2012 at 07:28:09 AM in Politics
The shrill, apocalyptic discourse about the debt crisis usually will include terms which make the problem appear insolvable. We hear the same harried discourse about college loan debt, credit card debt, and indebtedness in general. Everything is weighed as being the next possible bubble to burst causing the next calamity. All this frenetic rhetoric adds little to the discussion making finding a path to sanity and a solution even more difficult. The solution is the same for our entire society as it is for the government and each sector where a problem has been identified and validated as real and is not just more fear mongering. The truth of the matter is many of us have faced this problem in our own lives at one time and found our way clear simply by doing what was necessary and acting responsibly. Responsibility is the problem as expecting our elected officials to act responsibly, maturely, and with restraint is like asking a fish to give up water. Our political class has addicted themselves to spending whatever it takes to buy their own reelection. Since many of those in the political class have been doing so little in the way of productive work beyond seeking reelection, they have become incapable of performing anything which passes as productive labor and have become the same nature of drag on our economy as any other addict. So, what are the solutions and how can we put our society and country back onto a healthy path?
The first and possibly most vital step would be to break the cycle of politicians constantly being in reelection mode. What might tend to work would be to put in place a combination of term limits and a way of minimizing the frequency the politician needs to face elections. We could place a limit of three terms on both Senators and Representatives with a slight adjustment to the terms of our members elected to the House of Representatives. Instead of having them face election every two years make the elections slightly less necessary. When a Representative is elected for their first term they serve the customary two year term. If they are reelected to a second term it lasts four years and if they are reelected to the third and final term they serve six years. This way we allow the Representatives who the people most approve of their performance get to serve longer but are still limited to a maximum of twelve years but only need to face election a total of a maximum three times. Senators we simply limit to three terms and the six year terms they currently serve should be just fine. This would at least end the near constant election mode currently imposed on Representatives. But what do we do next?
There is a need to make sure that our Representatives and Senators have some form of productive work, or at least not counter-productive work. Currently the system allows them to just seek reelection and pass legislation which, once passed, move on and never look back. One simple method to achieve this would be to make it such that all legislation contains a sunset clause which would force them to readdress each piece of legislation every ten years after it was passed into law. This would at least take away some of the time currently spent inventing new legislation, often needless legislation. We also need to do away with the ability of our elected officials to add pork and miscellaneous amendments to popular or funding bills which they are sure are going to pass simply to either sneak something through the legislative process that would likely not stand the full inspection if it stood alone or sends monies back to their home district or state to some supporter of particular note who they feel an obligation to reward. This can be accomplished simply by implementing a single subject rule for all legislation which would restrict any amendment to a piece of legislation to those which directly apply to that legislation and not some extraneous subject or unrelated expenditure.
One item that would end much of the problems we face would be for the Supreme Court to redefine the Commerce Clause and severely limit the scope and inclusiveness of the current interpretation. What is beautiful is just such an opportunity is presently being addressed by the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court Justices reach their decision later this year, presumable sometime this summer, on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care) they have that golden, once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine this ruinous interpretation which has allowed the Federal Government to grow beyond any measure of restraint. Redefining the Commerce Clause to a strict and narrow definition might enable not only restricting any future growth but actually lead to the imposition of Constitutional limits forcing the limiting and narrowing of the Federal Government. In the best of all cases, such a redefinition would actually allow a challenge against those departments which strict constructionists have long held are not Constitutional or are at the least are contrary to the intent of our founding Fathers. We can dream, can’t we?
The next item we need to address is the method we currently use to implement regulations. We need to no longer allow faceless bureaucrats to initiate regulations and put an end to the Congress passing bills which assign the implementation of the law to those in the Administrative branch of the government. We must have our elected officials actually take the time to flesh out the entire span and depth of the implementation of the legislations they pass. We need to have those who are held responsible through the ballot box to write the regulations rather than allow people beyond the reach or influence of the people. The problem with the current system is that the “Secretary” of a department is tasked with implementing the regulations, guidelines, penalties, fees and the rest of the items necessary to flesh out some vague legislation passed by Congress. This allows for endless growth in the numbers and scope of regulation that are implemented from any single piece of legislation. This is made all the worse due to the fact that by expanding the scope, reach and numbers of regulations under any law allows the department to hire more positions for enforcement and implementation thus giving an incentive to the people currently tasked with applying laws to make the regulations as impossible and expansive thus ensuring job security and additional positions thus growth of the department making more room for advancement. We must end giving regulatory responsibility to those who gain directly by additional and impossible over-regulation.
The final item is profligate spending. We have many redundant positions and departments within the various alphabet soup of agencies and departments who perform what is politely referred to as redundant activities. They actually get in each other’s way making both groups less efficient. I would not be surprised if an investigation of the mechanisms of our government would reveal agencies where one side implements or places some function in place and then another agency is tasked to come along behind them and remove or undo whatever was committed by the previous groups actions. Such a cycle could become very efficient at enlarging both groups as they would both be able to put in requests for additional personnel as their challenge would obviously never by minimized. We also need to allow for the people on an actual government jobsite some discretion to allow for leniency in the application of regulations so something which is obviously sufficient to satisfy the intention of some rule but is technically not covered by the exacting parameters. I have an example from my college days when I worked on a HUD house remodeling it to fit HUD regulations. The back porch did not meet code so we had to tear it down and replace the porch. The code demanded certain supports be present and this porch had no supports at all so it had to be rebuilt. A team of six college youth, myself included, worked for close to ten days with pick axes and sledge hammers breaking down this unstable porch which did not meet the HUD regulations. It took quite some time to manually chop down a porch which measure twelve feet square and eight feet tall made out of a solid block of reinforced concrete. It occurred to me that this might have not needed the wooden supports every no more than sixteen inches but the HUD inspector insisted it be rebuilt to code. This is the kind of worthless waste that probably exists in way too many places where the government enforces its arbitrary rules and regulations. Once we pull back on the spending, make our elected officials implement the particulars and regulations thus at least limiting their numbers which has to benefit businesses which would give the economy a boost, and bring the Federal Government under some control limiting its growth rate, then we can begin to whittle away on the deficit and once that is eradicated, we can then begin to pay more than just the interest on the national debt. Imagine an America without any national debt. Now there is a dream worth pursuing.
Beyond the Cusp