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Honey, I balanced the Federal Budget! (and you can too)

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I taxed banks according to a riskiness assessment of their investments (this has to be worked out).

I reduced the mortgage-interest deduction by converting it to credit. This benefits moderate income people more by taxing higher income people who own larger mortgages, sometimes on multiple homes. While I have nothing against people who have done well owning bigger, or even more, homes, they should have to pay their own way and not depend on the support of other taxpayers. I did not impose a millionaire's tax, because it is arbitrary, production-inhibiting, and subject to bracket creep due to inflation, like the AMT. I did restore the estate tax to Clinton-era levels, because the heirs of great fortunes did nothing to deserve them, even if their parents did, and it is reasonable to tax large estates at a higher level. This $104 billion (by 2030) savings reward people while they are alive but still allow a reasonable inheritance by their loved offspring.

I cut government contractors because:

A. There is so much outsourcing that government has lost its core competency, and

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B. Relying on contractors breeds both complacency and dependency

I eliminated farm subsidies because these go mostly to agribusiness that encourages monoculture crops with unhealthier HFCS and CAFOs, and discourages small, organic, healthier farming, and "locavores." If the Times had offered me the option, I would have reduced the bloated Transportation bill, by cutting highway subsidies that build roads to nowhere (while encouraging toll roads), while redirecting some of that towards livable cities and high-speed mass transit, though in both cases, I would promote Land Value Taxes at the local and state levels as a way to pay for these projects by offering matching funds. I support raising the gas tax to encourage more fuel efficiency and to pay for the roads themselves.

Overall, I saved about half through spending cuts and half through taxes, and I was WAY into surplus territory. Now, in reality, I would spend more on R&D, universal health insurance, and infrastructure, but I would also re-issue Greenbacks (aka U.S. Notes) to pay for these, thereby eliminating interest payments on debt (this money would NOT be paid back at all - just allowed to circulate in the economy as new money, creating new wealth - ACTUAL wealth in energy grids, healthier Americans (who are more productive) etc.).

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A significantly reduced military would discourage the "use it or lose it" philosophy behind so much of our military adventurism. If I had the choice, I would probably build up the National Guard and Coast Guard and protect our borders and enable our First Responders to respond better to emergencies (e.g. Katrina). A mixture of private and public facilities should be partly funded by the government to serve as temporary housing in the event of catastrophes, to dispel the notion that there are government-sponsored FEMA concentration camps waiting for Americans who act up. These facilities should be staffed by ready-to-go First Responders and First Shelterers.

Of course, beyond these in-the-box choices, I would look outside the box and taxshift away from taxes on production (sales, capital, wages) and towards taxes on resources, which would encourage greener industries, using fewer resources, and toward collecting the "rent" from private developers and applying it to community needs. The Land (ALL of nature's resources) belongs properly to all of us, and use/abuse of it should be taxed accordingly. I would double the EPA budget by creating a new office to measure economic losses from pollution and determine appropriate taxes and penalties (REAL penalties) on a scientific basis. No more BP Deepwater Horizons or Massey coal mine collapses, or coal pond breakouts as we had in Tennessee. Better inspection, and truer cost evaluations, while allowing actual profits from production to go untaxed. I would tax bads, not goods. Properly applied, Land Value Taxes could eliminate ALL other taxes that mainly discourage production. I would keep sin taxes for social and fairness reasons (why should the general public pay for people to smoke/drink/daredevil themselves to death?)

My top 7 ideas are here: We have to Rescue our own Darn Economy, because Obama and the Party of No won't but this is only a beginning.

Why can't our politicians make these kinds of choices without getting caught up in endless debates about cutting earmarks (a mere $14 billion by 203, hardly worth arguing over on a fiscal basis alone)? Well, you need look no further than the military/banking/medical-industrial complex for answers to that. Or to politicians who are locked into a pay-to-play model for their election campaigns.

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Perhaps the citizens should be in charge of the budget.

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:

Scott is a former President of Common Ground-NYC (http://commongroundnyc.org/), a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of articles for (more...)

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