Pearls Among Swine

By Beacon Staff

Have you tuned out the mindless screaming about raising the debt ceiling? Pat yourself on the back for being rationally ignorant, as there’s little we riffraff peons can do to prevent America from joining Greece as a deadbeat nation. Vote? Sure, after 18 more months of porcine pandery?

Well, I was about to mute the babble on Evil Right Wing Conspiracy Radio when a caller cast a pearl among the swine: If Congress produces a balanced budget, every member of Congress should score a million bucks.

Would a lousy $535 million make a difference against the vested special interests that combined for our $1.3 TRILLION shortfall in 2011? Perhaps not, but if successful, it would be the greatest “investment” ever made inside the Beltway.

Aside from party hacks, everyone understands how vital it is for the United States to balance its books. Politics as usual can’t work any more, if it ever did.

In politics as usual, politicians promise voters: “If you vote for me, I’ll rob other people’s money and spend it on stuff you want.” Politicians also promise lobbyists: “Give me money to lie to voters and I’ll rob all of them to make your investment worthwhile.”

Therefore, the skills of our political elite, with no incentive except to ensure their voters and lobbyists get more than they give up, have manifested in deficit after deficit for 235 years – is it any wonder our grandkids are broke?

The time for games about taxing or cutting has expired. Bickering about guns versus butter is moot without money on the bottom line to buy either.

That guy on the radio, bless his heart, might just be on to the idea that finally focuses our esteemed leaders on their real mandate: Wrestling down the national debt.

Why not just pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution? It would have to be approved by at least 34 states, most of which are praying for federal bailouts to patch up their own budget wreckage.

A better approach might be for Congress (and the President) to pass a bill putting a million dollars on the table every budget cycle for all 535 Members of Congress.

In years with a balanced budget, the money would go into an escrow account accessible after retirement, taxed upon withdrawal, with any post-mortem remainder going to an assigned charity or the Treasury (to reduce the debt, of course).

With every carrot should, of course, come a big stick. In deficit years, the million bucks would be entered as a liability against the legislator’s pension. Furthermore, the liability would be actuarially adjusted to zero out at the expected date of death, something old boar-hog porkers might not like very much. Perhaps a few oinkers would decide to finally vote responsibly for once, take their million bucks and leave rather than die as broke as their country.

What about staffers who really run Congress? Put their skin in the game, too. Each legislator’s office staff would be allocated a million-dollar “betting pool” fund each fiscal year, with mandatory risk and reward attached to the pay structure of staff with funding responsibilities.

In a surplus year, staff pool bonuses would be paid right around Christmas break. In deficit years, the pool amount would be docked from the responsible staffer’s salary over the next year. Unglamorous-but-indispensable administrative and constituent-service staff would be left unmolested to do their work, of course.

In order to chisel away at the $14.3 trillion (plus whatever Congress agreed to) hanging over our future, a bonus based on the percentage of debt retired by any surplus should be added to the balance/surplus bonus.

Finally, to make things really exciting, legislators voting against any final budget law producing a surplus wouldn’t get a bonus…they’d be docked the million. That should change the endless logrolling, protest votes, and continuing resolutions into consensus pretty darn quick.

For a “worst case” of $1.07 billion a year, our $1 trillion-plus annual deficit would be handled as it should have been from the get-go.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.