Monday, August 8, 2011

Broke - Part 3: The Plan

So, after all the bad news of where we are and what is wrong with our country, what's the plan? Beck begins with a discussion of the basic, God-given rights as outlined in our Constitution. All of our many problems can be traced back to those who would impose a "Living Constitution," which is nothing more than an end run around the rule of law. Our Constitution was written down and given an onerous method of change for the very reason that it was NOT a Living Constitution. Had the founders wanted something living, they could have implemented a monarchy, but they wisely chose the rule of law and concreteness of a piece of paper to govern Americans.

Presidents, politicians, and judges have stretched the Constitution and the "rights" guaranteed by it beyond recognition. FDR famously promoted a "freedom from want" and a "freedom from fear." Are these rights guaranteed by our Constitution or are they a smooth-talking way to enlarge government? "Ayn Rand once pointed out another great way to distinguish whether a right is in accordance with the Constitution: simply ask the question 'at whose expense?' after the right is proposed." The rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are rights specifically because we are born with them. They came at no one's expense. The government didn't give them to us, and it cannot (or at least has no right to) take them away. They are God's to give and to take. If the government interprets rights to include health care or housing (at taxpayer expense, of course), then the government effectively owns everything you have. It can take your property at any time to make sure that someone, somewhere is receiving their right to free... whatever.

A first major impediment to a plan to fix what ails us is the leftist view of equality. America's founders and most Americans believed in equality under the law and of birth. No rigid caste system or separate justice systems in America. But progressives, claiming the virtue of envy, fought hard for equality of outcome. Of course there is a method to their madness. Equality of outcome is impossible. We are all born into different circumstances with different gifts, talents, personalities, and opportunities. Therefore, equality of outcome requires major enforcement power. There it is again. Power. The left, at its core, wants power. It can preach social justice and compassion, but its greatest desire is for the power to run other's lives.

All plans for our recovery must first start with faith in a good God. Without a God to give us rights, we have only rights given by men. And rights given by men can be taken by men. We must restore faith in God in America if we want to restore faith in America. "Real faith renews our spirit of hard work and independence. Faith restores the idea of a society based on merit and reward.... With spiritual reawakening, we can take responsibility for ourselves again, embrace the virtues of hard work, and reignite purpose and direction in our country."

Another key part of the plan is decentralization. The federal and state governments too often overlap. The Founding Father were brilliant when they devised a federal system that gave the federal government very limited powers that could best be exercised on a national level (i.e. coining money, negotiating treaties, maintaining an army). Everything else was left to the states or the people directly. Business is figuring this out. Management of large companies is decentralized so as to run the company most efficiently. Government is far behind on this trend. The benefits of decentralization are many. The most important of which is that more people get what they actually want. One-size-fits-all solutions are minimized when state and local officials work to implement policies. An additional benefit is the ability to "vote with your feet." As evidenced by the laboratory of Texas, many people are able to throw off the shackles of their local area and move to a more favorable location. National policies trap all Americans. Those who push for a more national system are in reality pushing for more power to control your life.

Now for the specifics of the plan:
1. Pass a Balanced-Budget Amendment.
2. Pass a Term-Limits Amendment.
3. Pass a Line-Item Veto Amendment.
I love this plan because it requires actual changes to the Constitution which requires the convincing of Americans of the benefit of the particular amendment. It forces a conversation and is not government by judicial fiat. These spark a serious conversation that Americans desperately need to have in order to realign ourselves with our Constitution and our American values.

The backup plan:
Amendments are very difficult to get passed. So in the meanwhile, a backup plan is needed.
1. The SAFE Act - caps federal spending to the Consumer Price Index and population
2. The GWBV (George W. Bush Veto) - the President would be able to "freeze" a particular provision of a bill, thereby sending it back to the congress to "unfreeze" it by a majority vote.
3. Return Impound Authority - while waiting for the Line-Item Veto to pass, the President would be able to not spend money allocated by Congress.
4. Pay-go: Pay or Play - Get rid of the current Pay-go or make it apply to everything.
5. Lobbying Reform - no member of Congress can become a lobbyist for 4 years after their term (I'd make it a lifetime ban.).
6. SEIU (Stop Empowering Influential Unions) - get rid of government employee unions
7. Part-time Politicians

While tackling the system, we must tackle the budget... with a chainsaw. Here is the scariest chart in a book full of scary charts. (All numbers are in billions.)

Basically, after we pay for the "mandatory" spending of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the debt, there's almost NOTHING left. Nothing left for the things the federal government is actually Constitutionally required to do.

So, where to cut? Beck lists:
1. Abolish the Department of Energy
2. Abolish the Department of Education
3. Ship departments to the states:
    1. Housing
    2. Highway
    3. Agriculture
4. Privatize ("Good rule of thumb; If you can Google something and find a private company to do that task, then that's probably where the responsibility for it should be.")
    1. Military Arsenal Production
    2. Ports
    3. Transportation
5. Major reforms to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
6. Major cuts to a bloated military dedicated to costly nation building

Another good rule of thumb when deciding what the government should do vs. what private citizens can do for themselves is to ask, "Can a private citizen do this for himself?" For example, a private citizen could not finance and maintain his own military. A private citizen cannot coin his own currency. A private citizen cannot negotiate treaties with foreign nations. But, a private citizen can pay for his own health care. A private citizen can save for his own retirement. A private citizen can educate his own children. Not only can a private citizen do all these things, he can do it more efficiently than the government and end up with health care, retirement, and his children's education that he has power over and therefore can design a system exactly tailored to his requirements.

Finally, we need tax reform. Our tax code is ridiculously complicated and inefficient. Besides, no matter how much we tinker with with the tax rates, historically we have very rarely been able to collect more than 20% of GDP. For all our complications and loopholes, the actual dollars collected, as a percentage of GDP remains at about 18%. So to the politicians who want to raise revenue by raising tax rates, I say, "It can't be done." There is a ceiling to how much you can collect in revenues whether the highest tax rate is 91% (1953) or 28% (1988) the result is IDENTICAL! Revenue generation is static. Period. It's the spending that must conform to the set-in-stone limit of revenue at 18%. Therefore, there is no need for a complicated and inefficient tax system, if the amount of money actually brought in remains the same.
Enter the Flat Tax. I LOVE this. It's not only "fair" (the word that liberals adore and strive to achieve by treating everyone unfairly), but it's simple, and Biblical. It gives everyone, rich and poor, ownership in the society. It works everywhere it's been tried. But most importantly, it takes away all the power from politicians to micro manage our lives and our economy through the tax code. It will unleash individuals from government shackles and unleash our economy.
Final note. This book is a very entertaining, easy read filled with TONS of great information. I love his basic premise: "This book is about understanding that our system of government is broken because we ourselves are broken in spirit, broken in trust, and broken in our faith. It's about understanding that debts and deficits aren't the disease; no, they're just symptoms of the disease." Too much info to include here, but I hope I've mentioned the most important stuff. Unfortunately, there is something jaw-dropping on every page. I love this book!

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