How to improve your life and save the world.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
How Congress can cut spending
Line item expense reduction
Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton both asked for line item veto power in State of the Union addresses but the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional because it circumvents a power vested in Congress. I suggest the concept should be used by Congress to decrease federal spending. Here’s how it might work:
Wire the House Chamber with “voting” buttons that will record each congress person’s vote. When a button is pushed by the congress person their vote is recorded and available to anyone to see so that a voter or a newspaper can easily find out how any individual has voted. The total is displayed in the Chamber at the time of the vote.
Both Houses of Congress meet together as for the State of the Union. They are informed beforehand on what will be voted on that day giving lobbyists and voters time to fill their ears with biased information or, less cynically, to inform themselves more fully on the issue. There will be no discussion or debate during the meeting. A question will be projected on a screen for all including the television cameras to see and then the vote will be taken. The results of the vote, totals, will be projected for all to see. Television pundits can comment to their audience.
An Example: Congress and the media are told the farm bill will be up for spending cut review in a week. On the fateful day Representative and Senators take their seats and log into the network that they are present. The issue flashes on the screen:
Over the past decade taxpayers have paid $59.5 billion
A. no change
B. eliminate for wealthiest farmers
C. reduce premium subsidy
D. eliminate federal subsidy of crop insurance
If the vote for A or D is 60% or more that vote carries. If B receives 41% or more another vote screen is displayed:
Define “wealthiest farmers.
A. grossing over $5 million annually
B. grossing over $2.5 million annually
C. grossing over $1 million annually
D. grossing over $500,000 annually
If C receives 41% or more:
Reduce premium from current 62% to:
A. 50 %
The congressional delegation from Rhode Island might vote to eliminate the subsidy while the delegation from Nebraska will most likely vote for no change. This system is far from perfect since lobbyists might well tell the Rhode Island folks that they will make a significant contribution to their campaigns if they vote no change. Perhaps we should allow them to vote for a secret vote. If the substantive vote was one their constituents, we the people, didn’t like, someone running against them would have them on record as voting for a secret vote.
This is a rough proposal with room for refinement but the basic idea is the best shot we have at making serious budget cuts. Both Republicans and Democrats have refused to get specific about budget cuts because any specific cuts will stir up a hive of reaction and no elected person wants to stick their hand in the hive.
I do think that corporate welfare could be cut without loosing votes--gross contributions from the corporations that now unduly influence our congresspeople but not votes. I would sure like to know if my congressional delegation voted to keep subsidizing Exxon just to name one of the very profitable companies our tax dollars subsidize.