"The US currently runs an estimated $1.5 trillion (£932bn) annual budget deficit, and has already exceeded the national debt limit of $14.3tn." - BBC News, 7 July 2011
"Only 27 days are left to raise the debt limit and prevent the government from defaulting on its borrowings for the first time in U.S. history, an event that could devastate world markets." - Reuters, 7 July 2011
Let me get this straight. Unless congress raises the limit on our national debt, we can't pay our bills. And when that happens, we fail to meet international financial obligations. Which means the world freaks out, and possibly stops lending us money. And since we operate mostly on borrowed money anyway, the implications for our day-to-day operations are grim. So the government might devalue our money, printing a ton of it, and making it worth less and less, just so we can pay back international debts. And it just gets worse from there.
Well, I don't know how to get us out of this situation right now. Obviously, we have to raise the ceiling. Doing so should probably include some provisions toward reducing our debt, or else we just keep raising it forever. So if you work for the government and are seeking inspiration on how we can bring in more revenue and/or spend less of it, here's the Spark Notes version:
The CEO of Dell makes $38 million. Yahoo, $230 million. Wells Fargo, $53 million. The average Pennsylvanian in 2008 made $50 thousand per year. That's $0.05 million. The upper 1% makes more money than the lower 90% in America. Yet, last I checked, the highest U.S. tax bracket is roughly $380 thousand and up. Let's make a new tax bracket - or a bunch of them. And if you're making tens of millions, you can fund the government. Because thanks to the government, your company is allowed to thrive.
Tax outsourced labor.
Americans need jobs, right? And the government needs money? Here's a fix: tax companies who outsource our jobs. Either they pay the tax, or they make the jobs American. Either way, we win.
We lose a bunch of money importing oil...considering we import 60%. Keep that money in the country by offering to not raise taxes as much on companies that go green (note, these aren't really tax breaks, they're lesser tax increases - but we'll call them tax breaks).
Scale back social security.
Social security was born out of the Great Depression, when F.D.R. feared that old people, physically unable to work, would end up dying on the streets. The system is supposed to keep people from ending up on the streets - not fund cruises for the well-to-do. If you're not poor, you don't need the safety net - let's reserve this cash only for those who have to have it. Cut back on the size of the checks for everyone else, and up the age a bit...it's not the 30s anymore, people live way past 67.
We register to vote by mail. Half of the toll booths are operated by human beings. Campaign advertising spends a ton on paper mailers. Let's get high tech already! Stop wasting our cash processing paper forms, and set up a server to handle it automatically at a fraction of the cost - no envelopes, filing cabinets, and delays. Reduce the number of "cash only" lanes on the highway - instead of hiring people to hand out money, let's migrate closer to 100% EZPass. And publicly funded campaigns? They'd cost a whole lot less (and kill fewer trees) if they weren't mailing papers out to the whole country. Get some email lists and scale back the paper production...and apply that logic to tax statements, while you're at it.
Now, understandably, people will find flaws in these suggestions. And yes, some of these apply to federal government, others to local. But let's face it: We're wasting money. A ton of it. We dish it out to CEOs, we throw it down the drain of the the sinking social security system, and we stuff it into near-obsolete mailboxes.
It doesn't cost the government a dime to make new laws changing the way we operate, but it'll sure save them quite a few.