A Modest Proposal

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There was a time when we Americans believed in the strength, resiliency and the fortitude of each of us. We took responsibility for ourselves and didn’t look to others to solve our problems. We were proud and independent.

Then things started to go awry.

The Sixteenth Amendment (ratified in 1913) authorized a federal income tax and that was the beginning of a non-stop grab at the wallets of honest Americans. Then the Great Depression came along and offered the perfect opportunity for bleeding heart liberals to suck dry the wealth of we self-reliant Americans. The feds used pictures of people in breadlines to increase taxes on hard working Americans and give it to poor people. Then there was an Old Age tax, as though anyone needed the government to tell them to put something away for a rainy day.  And the government gave money to widows and orphans and anybody with a sob story. And then it started paying for people’s medical care. And public television. And support for opera. Opera!

Things have gone way too far and government has stuck its nose into everybody’s business, so it’s time to turn things around, to go back to what made this country great.

It’s time to eliminate all government programs except for national defense. Correspondingly, we’ll eliminate all the taxes we collect for all those giveaway programs and instead allow strong, resilient, independent Americans to stand proud again. All those lazy people who have had their hands in the pockets of the rest of us can deal with the consequences of their decisions.

Getting the government out of where it doesn’t belong will be easy. For example, meat producers that make foods that kill people with salmonella will lose their customers, so the market will take care of policing that. Who needs the USDA? Same thing with medicines – the market will police that, too, so who needs the FDA?

There are lots of benefits to doing this, like the way we’ll end the population problems of our inner cities because those people won’t have food or medical care. And fewer people means lower oil consumption so we will end our dependence on foreign oil. Illegal immigration will end, because those lawbreakers would starve if they came here. And those other countries to which we are currently sending foreign aid can just take care of themselves and stop expecting us to be responsible for them.

Really, now, this just isn’t that difficult a problem to solve. A simple and modest proposal like this should slip right through our Congress.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
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3 Responses to A Modest Proposal
  1. Jack Altschuler Reply

    Dan, you will be relieved to know that I am calm!

    Thanks for your insightful insight, to which I have only a couple of responses.

    First, I included with my essay a picture of the cover of Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay, “A Modest Proposal,” hoping to telegraph that what followed was satire. I have received emails from a few people which suggest to me that I failed to provide the necessary clarity. So, let me be clear: It was satire.

    I have not heard anyone suggest that we eliminate the FDA, at least nobody within range of a microphone. On the other hand, Jonathan Swift never heard anyone suggest eating children in Ireland in 1729. His comments we intended to show how absurd the then-current extremists were. Mine are intended to accomplish the same task, now as response to the idiocy of the just concluded CPAC temper tantrum.

    One other item begs a comment. You are correct that suggesting that Americans have their “entitlements” (the name of which is an example of propaganda with verve) reduced is a suicidal utterance by any politician. There is a connection of that to our current state pension catastrophes in Illinois and other states.

    What we have is the result of decades of making agreements with state workers and then failing to fund the state’s (read: the people’s) end of things. Politicians did not want to tell the truth, that we have to pay full boat for the plowing of our highways, our water and sewage services, our state National Guard functions and the rest. They didn’t want to announce that we had obligations and that we the people had to honor them. That would have required levying higher taxes on we the people. Suggesting that would terminate many a political career, so they chickened out. Instead, they sprinkled foo-foo dust over the issue and dumped the unholy mess into the lap of future generations. That is political cowardice every bit as much as refusing to fix our entitlements.

    So, it is a most compelling matching of political spinelessness with public belief in a free lunch. Woe be to our children and grandchildren.

    • Dan Wallace Reply

      I am relieved, Jack, and also pleased to know that in you’re heart, you’re really a “moderate” Republican. By that I mean an old-school moderate Republican. I don’t know what to make of a world in which Chris Christie is called a moderate Republican.

      Of course I knew you were satirizing, although I think leaning on the FDA took some punch away.

      It would be really, really nice if we could have an actual, open, honest debate about what the government should and shouldn’t do, and how we’re going to pay for the “do’s.” I don’t expect it. The reason our politicians don’t talk about entitlements is that their constituents will throw them out if they do. Who’s fault is that? Not the politicians’.

      As to the Illinois pension issue/debacle/crisis, yes, of course, promises made should be promises kept. Assuming they CAN be kept. Of course, it would be nice if, before making promises, our politicians figured out how to pay for them. That’s a failure I would lay at their door.

  2. Dan Wallace Reply

    Calm down, Jack! And puhleez stop ranting about the FDA. Are there any serious proposals to get rid of it? A couple of things are real here. You know how I am – I have a fondness for these pesky things called facts.

    First, Federal spending has increased at a compound rate of 5.3% over the past 30 years (from $800 billion in 1983 to $3.8 trillion last year. That’s about double the rate of inflation. And as Warren Buffet and every life insurance agent knows, compounding is magic.

    Second, here’s where the money goes (again, as you know, Willie Sutton is my economic guru): 61% goes to Entitlements (welfare, Social Security, Medicaid), 22% goes to Defense, and 6% goes to Debt service. There’s 90% of the money (OK, 89%. Shoot me.) Budgeted rates of increase for the next 10 years are: Interest – 14.2%, Medicaid – 8.5, Medicare 6.6%, Social Security – 5.8%, and non-Defense Discretionary (i.e., “all other”) – 1.6%.

    Third, assuming you think that borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend is perhaps not a great idea, and perhaps not sustainable, and perhaps what makes us vulnerable to foreign powers who could, one day, decide to stop lending us the money we use for all of this, there is a limited range of options. 1) Defense – spend wisely. Interesting proposals recently from Hagel. 2) Actual, real, entitlement reform – no one wants to talk about this because the American people (that would be “us”) will vote out of office anyone who talks about it. 3) Stop borrowing (which really means “cut it way, way back”) – See #’s 1 and 2 above. Implement a tax code that gives people powerful incentives to create wealth rather than hide it. Here’s an idea. Flat 15% income tax. No deductions. Oh, that would dis-employ an army of tax lawyers and tax accountants, people whose entire business consists of hiding wealth (and I have a great accountant, so I’m not complaining) at a time when we don’t want to make unemployment any worse. Yes, I would be happy for the government to fund the Recovering Tax Specialist Retraining and Re-Employment Act.

    Lastly, your dear Democratic friends seem to have their heads in the sand about this, but we have in fact created a culture of entitlement. It may have started with government assistance after the Depression, but really gained steam in the 20 years after WWII, when we had the only functioning economy in the world. I’ve looked at economic data showing that consumption grew faster than production during that time, which meant that if you made it/did it, you were going to sell it. Life was pretty easy. And we were rolling in cash. Which gets us to the Great Society – a bunch of very well intended but largely disastrous programs that have done a brilliant job of trapping some of the neediest in our society as a permanent underclass. See “Cabrini Green.” This sense of entitlement is reflected in many things – think about our litigious society, the perception we have that life should be risk free, and that if something bad happens to you, someone else should pay you (a lot) for it.

    How deeply embedded is this entitlement mentality? 3/4 of people who identify themselves has Tea Party voters oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare. These are the same people (in the same poll) who overwhelmingly think President Obama is a Socialist and love Glen Beck. They are happy to gore everyone else’s ox, but not their own. But if THEY feel this way, you can imagine why our politicians can’t even begin to talk about entitlement reform.

    Facts cut both ways. It’s not about the FDA. It’s about Big $. And yes, it’s also about restoring, if possible, more of a sense of independent accountability.

    I didn’t put them in for reasons of space, but of course I have citations for all of the data in my comment.