Thought Experiment: What is a Democrat’s Balanced Budget Amendment?
Mark Udall and other centrist (read as “not quite as insane”) Democrats announced today that they are working on a balanced budget amendment. That makes me wonder what a Reid-Pelosi balanced budget would look like.
As you can imagine, a GOP balanced budget amendment ties spending to revenue; i.e., the government’s budget cannot exceed the revenue it collects. Democrats, however, view the problem from the opposite direction: the government has to collect as much in revenue revenue as it spends.
To do this, you would, of course, need to first pass a budget, then you would need to either have dynamic tax rates or a fixed amount of tax per person. In other words, if you had a revenue-based tax, you would have to solve for (1) people don’t know their revenue until year end, especially those who have investment income or own their own business; (2) the fact that the government spends money like a drunken Kennedy.
The simpler solution, then would be to have the tax burden spread evenly, per capita (this ridiculous idea is how our federal government was supposed to work before the income tax amendment). At a “budget” of roughly $4T and a population of roughly 300M (including the unemployed, the retired, and infants, toddlers, kids and tweens), would mean a tax burden of about $13,333 each. So, a family of four would have to pay $53,333 per year. Billy better get that paper route.
This, of course, runs afoul of Democratic principles, which, as far as we can tell, can be reduced to “rich people are evil.” We can safely dismiss this as not “progressive” enough. In deed, it wouldn’t even tax those evil corporations that do all those evil things, like employ people.
So, a Democratic version of a balanced budget, would therefore have to keep the progressive structure of our income tax code, but would need to vary the actual rates, depending on its spending. For the ordinary citizen, this means you wouldn’t know your tax bill, or even your rate until the end of the year when you knew how much the government actually spent. At the end of the year, the government would announce it’s spending and would tell you what you owed:
Hello, Mr. Taxpayer! So good to see you. So, we spent a little more than we thought this year. We really wanted to do a study on penis size in the gay community, and there were a few other critical items, not to mention the bank bailouts, auto bailouts and Obama’s family trips. And it’s not fair to means test for things like social security and medicare, so your tax bill comes to….let’s see here…working family of four–ooh over a $100K in family income–Mr. Fancy Pants! Let’s see, carry the eleventeen–$107,568.12. Will that be cash or check?
Sounds crazy, but that’s what the government does today. Of course, it’s not on an annual basis, that would result in something all politicians hate–accountability. No, today, the government dispatches its tax collectors into the future, where they shakedown your grandkids, their children and their children and their children.