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A Modest Proposal

I don’t understand much about economics and even managed to sleep through most of a Milton Friedman introductory course as an undergraduate, though I probably do know more than Governor Palin, who has felt compelled to provide expert commentary.  But even I do understand in a childlike way that that the past seven years have been a catastrophe for the US economy and that the ship is now going under.  Two unfunded wars and another being planned, unprecedented government deficits, social security in trouble, prescription drug benefits that will bankrupt the medicare system, and now a trillion dollar bailout paid for in funny money.  Both political parties have been united in their desire to transfer the country’s wealth from the lower and middle classes to those individuals who understand how the “system works” and have consequently been able to manipulate our financial institutions to their benefit.  And, as has always been the case in every catastrophe from 9/11 to Iraq to Katrina to the impending financial meltdown, no one is held accountable.  No one is to blame.  As the congressmen and presidents who make and enforce the rules are by-and-large part of that monied and privileged class that will never feel the consequences of its bad decisions, should anyone expect less?

As I and many other Americans sit helplessly and watch our meager investments and savings melt away and our house values plummet, I have a modest proposal.  I would stick it to the plutocrats who have been benefitting from the Alan Greenspan world.  I believe I am correct in stating that there are about 500 billionaires in the United States and about five hundred more individuals who approach that level.  As they all benefited hugely from their ability to manipulate the economic system, it is time to pay the piper.  I would let them keep 10% of their ill gotten wealth and return the remainder to the US Treasury as a gift, some of which might be returned if the economy improves.  They would be acting for the good of the Republic, which has done so much to enrich them and their families.  Ten percent of a billion is not exactly pocket change, so they wouldn’t starve and we would all be in sync with the Marxist principle of taking “from each according to his ability.”

Or if outright confiscation is considered unseemly, it could be described as a loan.  There are good historical precedents for forced loans from the wealthy.  In the Venetian Republic in times of crisis the wealthiest families would be made to provide loans to the state.  After the crisis passed they sometimes would receive their money back, though more often they did not.  As the Venetian state had provided the protection and security that had made the patricians rich in the first place, it seemed a reasonable trade off and the families involved accepted the burden as a function of citizenship.  Are we Americans any less patriotic?

As John McCain has defined middle class as anyone earning less than $5 million per year, I would definitely include anyone above that level for a bit of fiscal purging even if they didn’t have a cool billion in the bank.  And also many of our multi-millionaire elected leaders, including both McCain and Obama.  As Congress and the White House are ultimately responsible for the pain the rest of us are enduring, any office holder with more than a round $1 million or so in assets would find himself suddenly poorer to show their loyalty to the state and dedication to sound fiscal policies.  What a fine example they would set!

But it’s time to be for real…  Our Solons on the Potomac will figure out some way to come up with the scratch so that Goldman Sachs can survive.  What does it matter if the rest of us and our children and grandchildren don’t make it?  Losers and chumps.