Oct 28, 2011

The Buffet Amendment

There's a chain email going around on how to fix Congress.  It's not from actually from Warren Buffet, of course, but it's at least worth engaging.

"I could end the deficit in 5 minutes," he told CNBC. "You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all  sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election."

A few things: 1st, budget appropriations have to be made in advance, but tax receipts aren't known with absolute certainty until afterwards.  Even barring a catastrophic drop in revenues from an economic crisis or a jump in expenses from a disaster or a war, 3% is still a pretty reasonable margin of error on the estimates themselves--ie, it's perfectly plausible for the estimate to be off by that much naturally.  Do we really want to fire every single Congressman just because economic forecasts were off?  Or because of a hurricane, war, or recession?

2nd: 'Congress' is a body, made up of a lot of people, some of whom are more responsible than others for what it does.  Suppose we were to fire all of Congress over a budget failure: that would take the 'responsible' ones who begged, cajoled, thundered, pleaded and voted for balance and give them the same treatment as their wastrel colleagues who wrecked it.

3rd: Many outlays are 'set in stone' and can't be substantially altered barring major systemic overhaul to large programs (defense, social security, medicare).  Ditto revenue streams.  Following this arbitrary goal would require major overhauls every year.

4th: Deficit spending is necessary in times of crisis.  Bringing the budget immediately into line with Buffet's arbitrary goal would require gutting all the programs I mentioned while raising taxes--the immediate drop in demand would probably send the still-fragile world economy into a double dip.  It would also leave us unable to pay for emergencies and wars.

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971...before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.  In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

I haven't google all of that, but it's largely irrelevant even if true.  'The People' aren't really demanding this, as far as I can tell.

*Congressional Reform Act of 2011*

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for  any other purpose.

Actually, Congress DOES pay into Social Security.  And what does 'It' refer to? 

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

I'd say offhand that most of them do.  Why we need to stick it into the Constitution that they can is beyond me.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

The only decent idea on here, but I've a better: Congressional pay is 10 times the minimum wage--or some other number, so long as it is linked.  Two birds with one stone.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
Government-run healthcare: an Orwellian nightmare out to kill grandma AND a swank free ride.  Deny government coverage to those who campaigned against it?  Absolutely.  To all of them?  Meh.  Congress is by-and-large independently wealthy: this will only hurt the folks who aren't, who are the ones most likely to know what average people go through anyway.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people. 

I suppose that this refers to Congressional immunity--and, yes, that system gets abused.  The problem with revoking it is that members could get arrested on their way to important votes: the fact that this happened was the original reason for having immunity in the first place.  The potential for abuse is infinitely greater WITHOUT it than WITH.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12.  The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their terms, then go home and back to work. 

Vague nonsense.  If you want term limits then say you want term limits.  If you want to renegotiate Congressional compensation ... well, you just did that, didn't you?

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

Susan passed this along and the next day got a promotion at work.  Billy didn't and got run over by the hypothetical bus that very evening.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on.

You'll pardon my saying so, but the problem with the legislature isn't that they're paid for serving their country--and that at far lower levels than most CEO's.  Vindictively slashing their compensation packages--whose collective annual value would compare unfavorably to the cost of a lazy afternoon spent occupying Iraq--will accomplish nothing.  If you want to shake things up, then change the Senate rules, or the undemocratic nature of Senate elections (Alaska's ~700,000 people get the same number of senators as Texas's ~24,700,000), or eliminate gerrymandering.  Most Representatives come from 'safe' districts, which is one of the reasons that incumbents usually win, and that most incumbents who lose are freshmen from contested districts.

No comments:

Post a Comment