Regardless of your political alignment, getting our country out of debt is a goal that everyone can agree on. It's the "how" that causes the bulk of the debate, with the left and the right have wildly different views on how to accomplish this daunting task. What few politically-savvy individuals seem to realize, however, is that no one side actually knows how to do it. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists... they're all right, and they're all wrong, and due to the tone of our political discourse, few people are willing to acknowledge that someone besides themselves may actually have a few good ideas in this field. So, throwing out wedge issues and other political nonsense, I've compiled a list of deficit-killing activities that our government could realistically carry out, taking the best ideas from all of our parties, large and small, to create a debt-solving agenda.
I'm sure most of you are going to scoff at some of these ideas; you might find yourself wildly disagreeing with some items, and thinking others make perfect sense. But if you put your political bickery aside for the duration of this article and think about each proposal logically and from as neutral a position as you can muster, you'll eventually realize that I'm not wrong about this. We'd never follow these steps, because ideologues of every political persuasion would never concede their positions strongly enough to make this happen, but if we really want to pay down the debt, and do it quickly, while protecting our future and insulating ourselves from more debt a few decades down the road, this is the only way to really make it happen. If you think I'm wrong, I'd love to read your proposal, so long as you can issue it maturely and respectively.
Raise Taxes: Hard to campaign on, isn't it? But let's be serious... lowering taxes played a massive role in creating our debt. We'll need to raise taxes between 5% and 10% in every bracket. We'll need to close corporate loopholes and drop a serious majority of the write-offs in our tax system. We'll also need to address the issue of people not fairly paying their taxes, though what many people don't realize is that most people actually do file their taxes, but face a zero or negative tax liability. Furthermore, there should be a law in place declaring that taxes are to be instantly raised by fixed percentages (at a minimum) whenever the national debt reaches $50 billion. That way, after this generation pays the debt down, a future generation can't play the same nonsense game of unfunded tax cuts.
Implement Universal Health Care: No, really, I'm being serious... stop laughing! Medicaid/ Medicare gobbles up a tremendous percentage of our spending. Meanwhile, insurance companies are putting American citizens in the poor house... right before the poor house gets foreclosed on by some bank. Cut insurance companies out of the loop entirely, close the doors on countless government programs and agencies that deal with health, and implement proper universal health care for every citizen in the country. With the increased tax revenue, the dramatically reduced operational costs of health care thanks to the insurance companies taking a hike (not of the paying variety, I should add), and the plethora of new, taxable private sector businesses that this program would spawn, the system would pay for itself, if we did it right of course. Furthermore, American citizens would be able to crawl out of debt much easier, as they'd pay substantially less in additional taxes than they do currently for health care. We put human beings on the moon, beat back the British Empire, and brought down the Third Reich. I absolutely refuse to believe that Americans are incapable of developing a universal health care system that is unique to us, and beneficial for us.
Cut Social Security Spending: Sounds impossible, I know, but social security must be realistically addressed if we hope to turn our national debt into a national surplus... you know, the sort that would let other countries borrow from us for a change? That kind. But how do we tackle such a monumental issue? The answer is easier than you think it is: don't pay out as much. Most lower-class and middle-class individuals rely on their social security checks... they can't survive without them. But what about the people who can live without them? Simply put, we allow people to opt out of receiving social security checks, in exchange for the tax hike we discussed earlier not affecting them. To put this another way, let's say you've built up a strong nest egg. You don't really need, or even notice, your social security checks. You will, however, notice a 5% to 10% increase in your taxes. So, we'll provide a pretty simple and cost-effective solution: you can keep your taxes right where they are today, but not get a social security check, or get your social security checks with the increased tax rate. Your taxes would be raised anyway, but with this program, you can keep paying the unreasonably low taxes you're paying now (not counting write-offs and whatnot, of course), and the government can cut down on the total operational expense of social security. Everyone wins.
End the Wars: Iraq and Afghanistan are costing us staggering amounts of money, while not improving national security for American citizens. They need to end, and they need to end now. Immediate timetables of full withdrawal within eight months ought to do the trick. Furthermore, a new law should be passed immediately that prohibits our government from going to war without due cause whenever there is a national debt on the table, shy of an act of self defense against an actual foreign government with a conventional army. Otherwise, we have intelligence agencies to do the dirty work. And if we feel the need to go to war, NATO forces must be willing to match our involvement, man for man and pound for pound; we can't send more than any individual NATO ally is willing to send (so if Great Britain is sending 5,000 soldiers, we can send 5,000). Obviously, there are some events where smaller-scale military intervention is necessary, but if we didn't have two behemoth wars on the table, we wouldn't even notice they were happening.
Cut Defense Spending: Everyone always says that this is easier said than done. I think they're about the same. First, we need to shut down at least 90% of our overseas military bases, phasing them out within five years, unless they're absolutely vital to National Security, and Congress votes to approve that individual base staying open. Bases that do stay open will have a lengthened withdrawal time line. We can function overseas out of NATO bases and the bases of our allies. We won the first and second World Wars without these bases, so I think we can survive without them, regardless of whatever hyperbole we'd hear as a result of their closures. Next, we need a law stating that Federal money can no longer be spent by the military on research and development. All programs currently in development will have ten full years to conclude, with quarterly congressional oversight and with Congress able to pull the plug on any R&D program that isn't yielding adequate, realistic results that suit this time frame. Private sector defense companies can research and develop out of their own pocket if they want to score major defense contracts. It's time for the free market to put its money where its mouth is and work toward developing defense projects for us... anything less is corporate defense industry welfare, right? Last but not least, we need to stop paying mercenaries to do what our own soldiers are more than capable of. 25% of our savings from releasing military contractors from service will be folded into training programs for our soldiers, while 50% will go to Veteran's services. The other 25% gets cut from the Defense budget entirely. There you go... defense spending cut responsibly. Next!
Make the Government Green: Let's make 80% or more of our government's vehicles run on cheaper alternative fuel, get 80% or more of our government's buildings running on alternative energy (especially on-site solar and wind), reduce paper waste by 60% or more by going more digital, and recycle as much as we can. The private sector has been going green for years now, with stellar results. Companies are reducing their operational costs significantly by going green, and they can feel better about using energy in the process. Our government should cash in on this private sector phenomenon as well. We can save billions (yes, with a "B") just by powering our government more efficiently and taking it as far off the grid as it can effectively go. You may not believe in climate change, but you can't keep a straight face and deny the cost-saving benefits of going green... thousands of companies would disagree with you there, including Hewlett Packard, Fed Ex, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, and Wells Fargo, to name a tiny few... all of which have shaved fortunes from their annual costs by going green. This isn't a part of some liberal agenda of mine... it's common business sense and simple efficiency.
Implement a Private Sector Infrastructure System: Our infrastructure is failing us. You don't need to have a degree in engineering to recognize the tremendous problems we're facing in that field. But rather than hiring an army of temporary public workers and losing money to bureaucratic nonsense, we'll take a nod from our conservative brethren and turn to the private sector for help. We'll offer contracts for repairing Federal highways, building high-speed rail, and constructing power plants that run purely on non-nuclear renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, etc.). The public sector will inspect their work and qualify that they're meeting safety standards, with tax benefits for exceeding said standards. If we want to prevent the unemployment rate from skyrocketing from all of these public sector employees being laid off, the public unions that organize these employees must move to the private sector along with their workers, to ensure that said workers get picked up by the private sector... not that this should be much of a concession really, since (A) countless new businesses will be spawned from this effort, and (B) those new businesses are going to want to hire people with experience.
Corporate "Jobs Tax": This sounds like another one of my evil liberal schemes, but I'll have you know that a conservative friend of mine, who considers himself a tea partier, came up with this idea, for the most part anyway. The United States has well over 300 million consumers. Businesses would be insane to avoid selling their products and services here. But at the same time, these corporations are shipping jobs overseas and dodging their taxes in the process. So, a rather simple and eloquent solution to this fiasco is to institute a very large operational tax to companies conducting business in the United States, but outsourcing labor to other countries. You're probably thinking they'll just pass their expenses onto consumers, right? Wrong! Because we'll couple this tax (or fine, if you'd rather call it that) with a new regulatory law stating that businesses that qualify for this new tax will have their prices fixed to within 3% of their nearest localized competitor. To put this another way, if company A doesn't outsource, but company B does, their prices will be fixed to within 3% of company A, until they bring jobs back to the United States. Their alternative is to lose access to our consumers and let other businesses eat up their market share. I don't think this is an unreasonable solution to outsourcing... I believe it will help us reduce the national debt, one way or the other. And it serves the additional purpose of indicating that the days of corporate welfare have come to an end.