5 Serious Proposals to Make American Great Again
Pelosi’s relief bill should kindle in the hearts of Republicans the fire both to do good, and to get even.
Not wanting to let a good crisis go to waste, Nancy Pelosi proposed earlier this month a typically outrageous bill. Children may dream of sugar plum fairies (or of being the sugar plum fairy in the Christmas production of the Nutcracker) but aren’t adults supposed to grow up?
Pelosi’s dream bill—1,800 pages of legislative candy for distraught Democrats—is the nightmare you’ve been worrying about: truckloads of money for illegal immigrants (now “unauthorized immigrants”), the Post Office (i.e., Amazon); mandated voting by mail (which is essentially the end of democracy as we know it), and more. Much, much more. The good news is that Pelosi’s provisions have no chance whatsoever of being enacted—unless Trump loses in November and the Democrats take both houses of Congress.
But Pelosi’s bill should kindle in the hearts of Republicans the fire both to do good … and to get even. Herewith five serious, non-proprietary proposals to make America great again (some of which may be marginally inconsistent with others).
1) Forgive Student Loans: The first is a perennial favorite of “this column” (not an original formulation): forgiving student loans. We—Freud said we’re all plural—first proposed forgiving student loans more than six years ago, here. Since then we have proposed it four more times, here, here, here, and here.
The first time we proposed it in May 2014, the total amount of outstanding student debt seemed, and was, enormous: $1 trillion! There was no possibility Congress would enact a trillion dollar bill.
Times change. Already this year Congress has enacted, and the president has signed, three separate Wuhan virus-relief packages, the total costs of which exceed $2 trillion.
Maybe it’s like jumping off the high diving board: the second time is easy. The late Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL) would have understood.
Outstanding student loans, though 50 percent higher than six years ago, can now be described as “only” $1.5 trillion—only half of Nancy Pelosi’s $3 trillion dream package.
But forgiving the loans (or only the loans of those whose income is below a certain threshold) is only half the proposal: the other half is eliminating aid to the colleges that euchred the students to begin with. It’s the colleges that are the real villains: they are the fever swamps of the left. They should be defunded. And most young adults shouldn’t waste their time in colleges anyway, where they waste what could be moderately productive years partying heavily and learning nothing. They should get jobs, or training. Or do volunteer work to show their capabilities. Everyone, everyone, except left-wing teachers, would be better off. Total annual federal expenditures on higher ed are about $120 billion, which means this proposal would break even in less than ten years.
2) Cut Government Salaries: Reduce all federal salaries (except those of federal judges whose salaries are protected by the Constitution) to $70,000 (the average is currently $94,000). The average salary for a college graduate in the United States is about $50,000. The median salary is about $85,800. Why should federal employees, whose job security (fewer than 0.5 percent get fired in any year) exceeds that of Politburo members, receive full salaries during the pandemic that has thrown millions out of work?
3) No More Withholding: End Social Security withholding. People would have to write a check or arrange to have an amount taken out of their bank accounts to pay the tax. That would make the amount paid visible and painful, and the taxpayers more vigilant. Ah ha! you say: but if we’re going to stop withholding Social Security taxes, why not end withholding income taxes too? Hmm. Wish I’d thought of that.
4) Educational Choice: Give a tax credit, equal to the cost per student of government education, to all children receiving education provided by private, charter, or home schools for K-12. A primary and secondary school “education” in a government school may be the second worst thing that happens to a young person in this country—after a college education.
5) Tax Renovation: Adopt a flat tax. That would greatly simplify tax preparation for individuals and, particularly, small businesses—and put whole armies of Washington tax lobbyists out to pasture. The rate, of course is negotiable, but half the gain is in simplicity. Eliminating the charitable deduction is a Lucky Strike extra (anyone remember those?): middle-class people give small dollar amounts to real charities they believe in; multimillionaires give big buildings they can put their names on to hospitals and universities. They won’t stop doing that—but regarding universities, see proposal No. 1.
Who wins from these proposals? The good guys: debt-ridden students, victims of predatory lending practices who have been badly misled; young people who in the future won’t waste two to six years goofing off at nothing colleges; people out of work who’ll enjoy the federal workforce’s sharing their pain; working people who’ll profit from a saner tax code; and all those grateful parents who’ll benefit by not being required to send their children to the local (and mostly wretched) government school.
Who loses? College professors who are mostly Marxists, and their fellow administrators; government employees, who overwhelmingly vote Democrat; public school teachers and their union reps who vote Democrat if there’s no candidate further left; and an army of tax consultants and lobbyists for whom the current tax code is the dailiness of life.
These proposals, few of them new, would be worth enacting at any time. But now, in this time of crisis, which the Democrats will try not to waste, they could save and rejuvenate the country—and might even help win an election or two.
Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.
Email Daniel Oliver at [email protected]