I thought I would let my Congressman know MY ideas for addressing the deficit, since I don't like many of the ideas currently under consideration. Below the fold are the points I made in my letter to him - please add your suggestions in the comments and I'll send them on to him. Feel free to do the same!
My suggestions (in a somewhat random order) for addressing the deficit without causing undue hardship for those already struggling:
1. Implement a financial transactions fee or tax of .1% on sales or purchases of stocks, bonds, hedge funds, mutual funds, options, commodities trading, etc. By this I do not mean checks written, money taken from a bank account by debit card, or otherwise accessing one's own money. European countries have already implemented such a transaction tax; in my opinion it would cut back on the "computerized gambling" that large companies employ in the stock market and the "skimming" done by firms like Goldman Sachs, while supplementing the Treasury at the same time.
2. Do not allow companies to take a tax deduction for any salaries, bonuses or other payment to executives over $1,000,000 per person. Currently companies can deduct such pay if it is based on specific performance goals. Of course, these goals are written so as to be easily achievable, as could be seen by the huge bonuses collected by bank executives while their companies were taking down the economy. Most of us don't expect to earn over $1,000,000 in a lifetime, much less in one year, and I honestly don't believe any one person's time is worth that much relative to the rest of us. We should not be subsidizing their bonuses through our tax dollars.
3. Change the law that prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices with the drug companies. All other organizations, such as the health insurance companies, pharmacies and even the Veterans' Administration, are able to negotiate substantial discounts on drugs, but Medicare is required by law to pay full retail. This means, for example, when a senior citizen has a prescription filled at WalMart, WalMart may only pay $12 for the drug but then charges Medicare $40. It is outrageous that the taxpayer is subsidizing the excess profits of these companies while politicians talk about cutting benefits in order to keep Medicare from going bankrupt.
4. While interest rates are so low, perhaps the government ought to buy buildings for its agencies and make "mortgage" payments rather than pay rent. Eventually the government would own the buildings rather than paying rent indefinitely.
5. Government agencies ought to use the Postal Service when at all possible rather than UPS, FedEx or other such delivery companies. It has been my experience that the Postal Service charges are less for letters, overnight mail and small packages than the others, but I recently received an overnight letter from the Department of Labor sent FedEx. We should support the Postal Service, especially since it is in the Constitution. A bit off-topic, but the law requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund its retirement for 75 years should also be repealed.
6. Cut back on defense contractors, such as XE and Haliburton, and use our own soldiers, marines and other military members more. During the Iraq war, and probably still today, our military was used to guard contractors making deliveries. Our soldiers were put in harm's way to protect them as they drove on dangerous roads, yet the contractors were often paid five to six times as much as the soldiers. Since the soldiers were driving the roads anyway, why not let them make the deliveries? The soldiers are well aware of the discrepancy in pay, contributing to loss of morale among the troops. We should also be using our own military to guard embassies and other State Department locations rather than contractors. And there's nothing wrong with having our soldiers on KP. They have a vested interest in the quality of their food and are less likely to cut corners. Many might welcome a stint of peeling potatoes after time in the field under fire. My father-in-law had great tales to tell of his time on KP during World War II.
7. While I'm on defense, there were many suggestions in "The People's Budget" for cuts to defense that would not negatively affect our readiness or capabilities. We could halve the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile and still have enough to destroy the world multiple times. There are weapons systems in development that can and should be eliminated, particularly ones that the Dept. of Defense does not want but some member of Congress does want. There is a tremendous amount of waste and pork in the Defense budget - cut that rather than Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security or other social programs.
8. Close 2/3 of our overseas military bases. We can no longer afford to be policemen to the world, nor should we be.
9. Put solar collectors on most government buildings, parking garages, etc. While this will entail an up-front cost, the benefits will far outweigh the cost, both financially and environmentally. Germany currently produces more power from solar energy than the US, despite being much farther north and a small fraction of the size. Along those same lines, set the temperature no higher than 68 in government buildings during the winter and no lower than 80 during the summer. Those are not unreasonable temperatures if one dresses appropriately for the weather (yes, that means short sleeves and no suit coat for men in the summer). In Australia it was so hot last week that air conditioners would not work at all, so let's be proactive before the US reaches that point.
10. Close Guantanamo. It is a blot on our country and should be abhorrent to all people of good conscience.
11. Do away with privatized prisons and have federal employees run them. I believe they would be more accountable and do a better job at lower cost since there is no profit or shareholder dividends involved.
12. Legalize and tax marijuana. The reasons are numerous, including way too many poor young folks in prison. This would save quite a bit of money from the "War on Drugs" and incarceration costs, while bringing in taxes and cutting down on the number of people whose lives are diminished by forever being branded "felon". At a minimum, marijuana should be reclassified to the level of PCP.
13. Do away with the oil subsidies. The big oil companies have consistently been the most profitable in the world over the last decade. They do not need (although they do want) taxpayer subsidies.
14. Tax carried interest at the same level as earned income.
Obligatory note: this is my first diary after years of lurking; I really am interested in feedback on my suggestions as well as additional ones. Thanks!