The 15% Solution
How to Stop Congress Before They Bury Us
By Michael Giere
For the last few decades Americans have been very busy building and maintaining the largest, most productive economy on earth. While the taxpayers have been distracted by their labors, a rot has set into the largely unsupervised “political class.” The taxpayers worked hard, built things and saved. Their politicians binge spent and regulated.
Now, most of us are waking up to the bitter truth – the nation is bankrupt. We have no money except what we can borrow or print. As a bonus, we have systemic and blatant corruption in Congress – a body totally out of control and unaccountable to the Constitution and dismissive of the voters that elected them.
Of course, if it is “broke,” we want to fix it. But what do we do first in such a target rich environment where virtually everything to do with the economy is out of whack? Is there a silver bullet – or some “big fix” that conservatives can champion?
My suggestion is “The 15% Solution.” We must constitutionally strip – or cap – the power and ability of Congress to spend more than 15% of the nation’s “income” per year (defined as the prior year’s total “goods and services” produced by everyone in the nation, or GDP). Not a penny more. This would be a massive cut from our current year’s budget of 24% spending level of national income, and our recent history averaging more than 18%.
Limiting the power of Congress to spend would require a Constitutional amendment which, of course, Congress would never pass. [Three courageous conservatives in the House, Pense (IN), Hensarling (TX), and Campbell (CA) introduced the Spending Limit Amendment in the House this year, seeking to limit spending to 15% of GDP.] Without Congressional action, citizen patriots would have to move such an amendment through a convention to get it ratified. A Herculean task to be sure (with its own share of risks). But the alternative is now startlingly clear – we have a tiny window of opportunity in which to rescue the nation from slouching into Second World economic status, where we move from technical bankruptcy to outright monetary chaos. If the citizens don’t do it, – who will?
Capping the Federal budget to the national income, or the GDP, addresses the core issue the nation faces and the logic is easy to explain to the taxpayers. The country is at this juncture because it has spent and obligated too much money, and the politicians refuse to do what every family or company must do when they get “upside down” – stop spending money. The citizens can no longer wait for the politicians to save the nation. Of course, it would be easy for Congress to simply cut spending itself, and balance the budget. But, in truth, there is simply no historical evidence that Congress will ever eliminate programs and reform entitlement spending unless they are forced to do so. Politicians will simply never do the right thing. They’re no longer trustworthy, and are not likely to be any time soon. Perhaps they can’t help themselves, or they don’t have the guts in Congress to do what must be done. But, in the end it doesn’t matter why, it only matters that the corrupt government will not do what is necessary – so the citizens must do it for themselves.
The “15% Solution” would finally demand the public examination and debate of the continued rationale for massive government bureaucracies, such as Agriculture, Education, Commerce, and literally hundreds of other agencies, departments and bureaus who serve only very narrow interest groups. Many of these federally funded entities should exist at the state or private level, or not at all. There are thousands of examples where taxpayer money is used – and in many cases simply wasted or stolen – to support, subsidize, or maintain programs that American’s would never support themselves.
These types of large spending reductions look less radical when compared to our current fiscal health. Within the next year, total Federal spending and the national debt we pay interest on, will total 100% of our annual national “income.” In other words, every dollar produced in the nation by everyone (nearly $15 trillion), will be committed in the form of the Federal budget, or owed in current, mostly short term debt. Every penny. More staggering, tax revenue received this year by the Federal government only covers the spending on entitlement programs and interest payments on existing debt; the rest of the budget must be borrowed.
Perhaps no “one” thing can rescue the economy. However, if we cannot balance our expenditures and restore fiscal honesty to our government, reducing its scope and reach, then all the other “fixes” becomes meaningless. Conservatives need to open a public dialogue and educate the public in straightforward, unambiguous terms that resonate with normal citizens. Dismantling archaic bureaucracies that diminish, not promote, economic growth, attacking fraud and waste within our government that is of such size as to be unknowable, and de-funding political graft, should be the focus of every conservative’s argument.
Even entitlement spending such as Social Security would become subject to more rational discussion if Americans knew that spending would finally be brought under control. Most voters could accept indexing, age adjustments, separate investment accounts, and means testing for Social Security as an example, if they saw a government finally being constrained in other areas. Common sense ideas such as converting Medicare, Medicaid and the Prescription Drug programs into subsidized private programs based on income level, would be far more attractive. Even the primary constitutional function of our government, defense, becomes more manageable if we cap spending and require other nations to bear more responsibility for their defense, such as with Western Europe.
Finally, the reason for the “15% Solution” is moral. No government should consume the labor of its citizens without check. Taxes and spending are in the end a measure of personal liberty and personal responsibility, and free citizens must reassert their claim over both.