Sunday, November 04, 2012

If I Were King

As the election looms near, I start working out what battles I will fighting, whether one candidate wins or the other. And I get to sit here and whine about it, because I vote.

But what if I were voted in? What would I do? It is a game that is kind of like “what if I won the lottery?” Because I am not a multi-millionaire/billionaire, and so will never be able to run for president, I can play all I want. There something sad in the idea that you have to be wealthy to be given a chance to run the country, but that's a discussion for another time. After I win the lottery.

So here is what I would do.

I would have a huge census project completed, pronto. Not of citizens- of the government itself. What does each office do? What does each worker do? What is the job description, and how does that compare to what the person actually does? How much money does each program have, and how much of that money ends up back in the hands of citizens? An in what form (how much is actual cash, how much is service, how much is infrastructure?) Which law dictates each program, office, position? A nice database would make the information quickly available and analyze-able.

With this information, the goal would be to simplify programs so that access to services would be streamlined. We probably would not lose many actual workers in this streamlining, but the rules for accessing government and programs would be clarified and simplified. Instead of having to beg for support from five different agencies in three different departments to try to find services and support for your child or your aging parent or your farm, you would know the one office, which could determine your need and meet it. The time savings all around would be huge- and time is money.

Next, we have to decide what services the government should be offering. That is a more difficult thing, because different people hold different views of the role of government. Having studied many ancient and modern cultures, and see which ones were successful, I would suggest that government’s roles are these:
Common defense of citizens. This includes defense against invasion from others countries, but also defense from disaster, crime, etc.
Infrastructure. Roads, schools, communications, etc. Make sure you can get information, people, and resources where you need it, when you need it.
Standards and commonalities. This includes things like money- a dollar in Maine is a dollar in California; measurements, definitions, and quality.
Social care. We all have ups and downs. Every successful society in the world had means for ensuring its citizens were healthy, fed, and housed. That way, they could work towards other things, like commerce, self-improvement, and progress. Also, since I am of the view that we are all in this together and none of us get out alive, a government should ensure care of its vulnerable citizens through education, health care, food assistance, and housing assistance.

Programs would then be considered in light of these roles. Programs and benefits f programs would be for citizens. Programs and services for non-citizens can be paid for privately- a government is set up to protect and serve its citizens.

The entire tax system would be overhauled. The federal taxes would include current “payroll tax” (supporting Medicare and Social Security) and the income tax, and custom duties/tariffs. I wouldn’t have an estate tax, because that money had already been taxed- it isn’t really income for the family.
The payroll tax would not be capped. I believe that is currently at 13.3%, capped at the first $106K. Let’s put it at 10%, but no cap.
The rest of the personal income tax would also be flat-rate. Everyone would pay the same rate, period, on income, period. I would have to have more data on the needs of federal programs to know what that rate would be. Let’s say, for fun, it would… 12%. That would means everyone would be at an absolute rate of about 22%. Yes, some folks would see a tax increase with that, but most of those folks would be the ones used to getting out of paying any tax at all, because of fancy tax accountant deductions.
Corporation income tax would allow for losses for be deducted. This would otherwise also be a flat rate. Let’s say, 15%. Again, for companies used to taking advantage of lots of deductions, their taxes might go up. Also, it would be for income. You operate in this country, you pay. I don’t care that your factory is in Tahiti, because you are being taxed on your income. All income must be accounted for, including foreign income (as a private citizen, if I make money in France, I still have to pay US taxes on it).

In this new world, immigration would be different, too. There would be very clear guidelines about how to gain citizenship. They would be very simple- learn the history of the country, obey the laws of the country, learn the language of the country, etc. In other words, take the time and effort to become a citizen. Then you get a chance to actually become one. When I was growing up, I was taught this process took 7 years- about the time to get through, say, a graduate program. That sounds about right. Persons who apply to be on this track to citizenship will be provided certain benefits of citizenship in emergency situations (ie, emergency services, etc). Children of those registered as tracking to citizenship would be permitted services of citizens (ie, they could attend public school) if the family chooses to also pay citizen taxes during their immigration period. At the end of the seven years, with the simple and clear goals met, these people would be considered citizens, and go through the brief ceremony of swearing their new allegiance, etc. Anyone born in this country remains a citizen of this country. In case of marriage, the newlywed may choose American citizenship, provided they immediately pay citizen taxes, take the allegiance pledge, and can otherwise function as a citizen.

Yeah, I know, down and dirty, and too many details left blank, right? But hey, I’m also not likely to become the President of the United States any time soon. I’ve got plenty of time to think out a lot of unaddressed issues and possible scenarios. But if I ran the zoo, it would definitely not take a week for helicopters to bring aid to hurricane-stricken areas of our country, when we had a week’s notice of an impending hurricane. Babies in need of medical care to survive would get it, period. So would you, as you get older, and need services and care. Bridges would not be crumbling, anywhere in our borders. And all citizens would have access to free and appropriate public education- and “appropriate” would never, ever be synonymous with “minimal.”

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