Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Don’t mess with the deck chairs, fix the boat!

Jerry Stratton, January 2, 2011

Everybody’s got advice for the incoming House, some of it good. William A. Jacobson advises attack the policy, not the man. One of the biggest mistakes that the 1994 revolution did was to attack Clinton rather than his policies.

Glenn Reynolds recommends taking libertarian ideas that will also undercut the left. This is a good idea; populist movements don’t often call for less government power. Don’t waste this opportunity.

Ralph Alter’s recommendations for Republican Governors not to overestimate media power is also good advice for incoming representatives.

And, very importantly, outgoing Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty points out that government unions are laundering tax money into the Democrat’s election coffers.

That’s important. It highlights the kind of systemic change necessary to reign in unrestricted government. Too often revolutions end up just rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. We need to plug the holes and then rebuild the ship. In my opinion, the number one issues facing America today are vote fraud, tax complexity, government money laundering, overspending, and the increasing bureaucracy that gets its paycheck from government programs.

  1. Vote fraud. The way we do voting in this country is nuts. Think back to what you actually had to do to vote. Here in San Diego, all I have to do is give my name. And if I get it partially wrong, they help me out. We have rules, but whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, we break those rules: someone found more votes after the deadline? Oh, we’ll take them. Have specific rules. When the rules cause someone to possibly be disenfranchised, apply strict penalties to whoever was at fault. But don’t encourage fraudulent votes. It needs to be simple, obvious, and effective. And breaking the law should come with serious punishment. The problem with fixing voter fraud is that the party in power always seems to think they’ll stay in power forever and that voter fraud thus helps them. Republicans need to take one for the team and introduce real reform.
  2. Tax complexity. My preference continues to be tax the states, but whatever the solution is, taxes must be dead simple to calculate and obvious where they’re going. This alone will make lives so much easier and save an incredible amount of money to both individuals and to businesses.
  3. Government money laundering. Government programs lobbying the government and lobbying taxpayers to increase the size of government programs is one of the biggest problems we have in California, and I see it coming on strongly on the federal level as well. Until it is in the hand of an individual, tax money should not be used for anything political.
  4. Balanced budget. We cannot continually spend more than we earn as a country. That’s mind-blowingly stupid. We need a balanced budget amendment with teeth: something like, if congress tries to spend more money than they have, then every single expenditure is cut by whatever percentage is required to bring it back into balance. Projects get cut, payrolls get cut, salaries get cut, benefits get cut. And however it’s enforced, the budget must based on what we already have, not on some estimate of what we might have in the future. Last year’s taxes should pay for the coming year’s expenditures. Otherwise there’s too much temptation to borrow and to enact hidden taxes.
  5. Ballooning bureaucracy. The number of people who work for the government saps our political will and economic clout. Forget the number of people who rely on the government; the number of people who actually work for the government are likely to break strongly in favor of more government programs, and only weakly at best in favor of cutting government programs.

When it comes to taxes, I’m almost inclined to say that, now that we have the technology, individual taxpayers should be able to vote on the percentage of all taxes that go to four or five wide categories of spending: social services, military, interstate infrastructure, consumer regulations, for example. Categories would be allowed to save year-over-year but would not be allowed to borrow. Probably too easily gamed, but something does need to be done to stop the shell game.

There are also symptoms that should be addressed. These come under the heading “plug the hole”.

  • Immigration. Make legal immigration more desirable than illegal immigration, and don’t pretend that illegal isn’t illegal. If it isn’t something we want to enforce, then don’t make it illegal. But we can’t encourage law-breaking over law-abiding among the people we’re attracting as citizens and still expect an effective electorate.
  • Health care. The government is meddling too much into health care. Every major law, and probably most minor ones, increase costs and decrease choices. The system is so complicated we don’t have any idea how much money is spent just handling the paperwork and regulations necessary to meet government demands. Give individuals the same tax benefits that businesses have. Phase business benefits out so that the individual benefit is the one that matters. This will create a vibrant, patient-driven market for true health insurance and responsive health care.
  • Welfare reform. Our welfare system is a mess. It’s a maze of competing and byzantine programs that make it impossible to know how much we’re spending on actual assistance and how much we’re paying on redundant paperwork and administration. Long-time readers of this site know I’m a fan of food stamps; that program should be the model for all forms of assistance: a voucher program that puts control over their finances in the hands of the people needing assistance. Charles Murray’s In Our Hands also provides a good idea for government assistance that minimizes government dependence. Government and force-low-rent housing, on the other hand, are pretty much the exemplar of good intentions resulting in a road to hell.
  • Money supply. The notion that we should back the dollar with gold rises and falls, and it’s seeing rising support today. I understand where the supporters are coming from, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. It ties the dollar to forces beyond our control. But the ability to print more money is too easily used. I think we need to start treating the dollar as what it basically is: stock in the economic strength of the United States. We already let the shareholders, so to speak, vote on the board; diluting that stock—by printing more money—has to require a vote of the shareholders also.
  • Prohibition. Glenn Reynolds’s idea that there are conservative issues that both undercut the voting bloc of the Democratic power and undercut their money bloc is a good one, and prohibition is one of those issues, at least in California, as it virtually funds the powerful prison guard union. Prohibition causes much of the violence that results in calls for greater gun control. Prohibition causes much of the inner-city economic and social distress that results in the need for so many welfare programs. Prohibition causes the growth in the prison industry, whose unions are so strongly allied to left-wing big government programs. Prohibition funds terrorism; it drives a wedge between foreign farmers and the legitimate governments we’re trying to assist, and drives them to support terrorists. It creates effective, well-funded underground networks that can be used for other extra-territorial illegal activities such as terrorism. Ending prohibition won’t stop all violence or end all inner-city unemployment or put the left out of business or end terrorism. But it will undercut them enough that the sweeping up will be a lot easier.

And the number one thing the House must do is keep each bill simple. Republicans don’t control the Senate and they don’t control the White House. Even some of the Republicans in the Senate are more establishment than they are conservative. In most cases, the House’s bills aren’t going to pass. But make the bastards deny it! Don’t let them say that they don’t like some part of the bill that’s unrelated to the main purpose. This is especially important when applying conservative principles to liberal-bloc issues such as prohibition or the DMCA. In those cases especially, make the Democrats vote against states rights; make them vote against creative freedom. Be bold and think outside the beltway; take a stand, and make them take a stand.

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