Instead of threatening opposition paychecks, members of Congress should concentrate on taking less of ours. It is hard to conceive of the twisted thought process behind never passing a budget, then raising the debt ceiling in anticipation of a budget that is not going to be approved. Is it possible for Washington politicians to regain the public trust when they dedicate every moment to proving that their words and deeds can never be believed or trusted?
Democrats talk about helping Americans become part of the middle class. We used to talk the same way about striving for wealth and success before those words were turned into something to be ashamed of. It must be very difficult to resist finding new ways to separate Middle America from its income, given that the waste of federal tax dollars shows how little value tax revenue has and helps explain why Washington needs so much of it (see: Great Reasons to Hit Middle Income America With Tax Increases and The Worst Federal Government Waste is Washington). The only solution seems to be to ask for more, whether by raising taxes, closing loopholes, or imposing fees, fines, and penalties. If your middle class goal is financial security you lost 2% of your progress this month to an entitlement tax. Good for the government. Bad for you.
Shame is not an emotion politicians tend to be acquainted with. It certainly doesn’t prevent Democratic lawmakers from backing the president and holding out their hands for more while Washington loses tens of billions of what we already give. The Federal Government wastes the tax dollars it collects, fails to collect money it is owed, and insists on spending more than we are willing to pay. Instead of haggling over how much more to spend and dreaming up solutions like sequestration and withholding pay to force fiscal responsibility on Capitol Hill, lawmakers should try applying a few ethical guidelines to their actions in hopes of restoring some modicum of public trust. They could start with a blanket promise to Middle America based on the premise that how we treat those we have no regard for says a lot about who we are:
We will seek the public trust by not screwing Middle America.
Public officials tend to have hazy memories when it comes to promises, so here are a few ideas on how to implement their new vow, just to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t seem fair to discriminate between the middle class and the über wealthy when it comes to taxes and government, given how badly public money is abused, so we should allow all social classes who pay taxes and bear the cost of regulation and penalties the protection of this umbrella of public trust.
Don’t raise taxes until you stop losing our money.
Over $100 billion went to improper payments in 2010 and 2011.¹ Bad payment rates include a 22.7% error rate for the Earned Income Credit with a goal of 23%-28% in improper payments for 2013, 15.5% for the National School Lunch Program with no reported goal for 2013, and 11.4% in wasted payments for Medicare Part C.²
Anyone in the real world would have been fired long before those numbers hit the double digits. Get our money back before you ask for more.
Don’t raise taxes until you cut your own spending.
Don’t ask for more money to fund entitlements that are black holes of debt.
Remember that 2% tax increase? Guess where it’s going and how little difference it is going to make for the government compared to what that money did for you.
Deal with the tax gap before you ask for more taxes.
In January 2012 the IRS announced a tax gap of $450 billion based on numbers from 2006. $65 billion was eventually collected, leaving a net tax gap of $385 billion.³ Add that to the improper payments numbers, then ask yourself how much more is being wasted that the government either doesn’t know about, neglected to mention, or gave up on.
Don’t force federal policies that cause our state taxes to go up.
Think education, illegal immigration, and Obamacare for starters. Wait until that Medicaid public option kicks in and we find out that there were some problems in how the numbers were calculated. When that happens, you better hope you are in a state that understood “fiscally responsible” before the health care hammer came down. If you live in Illinois or California, best to leave now (see: Contenders for Worst State Show Where Obama Tax Plan is Headed).
Don’t wave kids and teachers in our faces to extract tax dollars you plan to spend on something else.
No need for lawmakers to make the effort to try and fool us. We understand the concept of poster children and figured out long ago that spending on education means keeping unions happy (see: Teachers are Banking on Your Tax Increases) and parting us from our incomes for every type of grant and giveaway imaginable.
Don’t forget to kiss us when you are through.
Rich, poor, or solidly part of Middle America, most of us know when we’ve been screwed. Don’t we at least deserve a kiss from Congress when they are finished?