Anyway, if you look at my original idea you might notice I missed the fact that this could heavily favor the rich, who would have more power given their ability to distribute their excessive money. That's a problem. It seems to me corporations and the wealthy already have to much power. The point of a democracy is that we all have our vote, and I would like our government to get to the point where our leaders care annually instead of only during the elongated election season. I would need to run the numbers to truly balance the rich/poor input issue, but I am considering the following list of options as preliminary ideas:
- Limit the amount of taxes a person can distribute: You can distribute up to 40% of your tax dollars up to a maximum of $20,000 for example
- Make the amount of the distribution percentage vary by tax bracket. For example, people who make above $100,000 may pay 38% in taxes, but can only distribute 20% to specific programs.
- Allow people to donate to specific programs within a program. For example, people could assign their tax dollars to HIV treatment instead of the larger drug research fund.
The more I think about this general idea, the more I like it. I think it could provide great benefit to more socially focused programs, the environment, alternative energy, education, and other ideas I think people would donate to that are, in my opinion, underfunded. It would also engage us in the political process. It could also lead to yearly reviews of programs by both the elected/appointed political leader and hopefully the media. By opening up the communication, we would assumingly create a better, more open government. I do try to vote for the best candidate to represent me, but what people say in their campaigns and what they do in congress are not always aligned. It may also lead to each governmental department releasing annual reports that people would care about. Given the amount of time we spend reviewing annual reports for corporations, shouldn't we spend at least an equal amount of time reviewing the same information for the government?
I also think you could convince our free market leaders that this is the most open way to work our government. This policy opens the government up to market influences, effectively saying the most important programs and the most effective leaders will receive the largest budgets to do their work. GW tried to do this with social security, I'm trying to do it with his budget. My way has limited risk because the government still has 60% for the necessities, wars, bridges, pork barrel projects, etc. This may also mean we get a state of the union that actually says something besides party propaganda and generic generalities. That's not an indictment of our current administration because Clinton really was not much better.
Let's take an example of how this could improve the process. A majority of people would say education is important. As an example, assume our education budget is $1 billion (I made that number up, I'm an idea man not a researcher). If enough people devoted 25% of their taxes to education, we may actually have enough money to fix our schools, pay our teachers, and develop credible ways to measure our students education. For one year, the Secretary of Education has $1.5 billion based on our taxes. He comes out and says, "I am going to give every student a voucher and every teacher will lose their pension so I can buy a jet as big as a million school buses to fly around and push my voucher program." The next year, his budget is $.4 billion. We, the collective we of American tax payers, essentially just voted.
While I am on the subject of politics, it appalls me I cannot get a very concrete list of what a lobbying group has given to a politician in an effort to secure a vote (or educate them on issues, depending on your point of view). Oh hell, it's vote buying and both parties do it that is why nothing will happen. Anyway, I work as a consultant and one of my projects tracks all payments made to brokers who sell insurance, including dinners, tickets, trips, etc. Reporting this back to the company that bought insurance through the broker is a legal requirement. I could be audited, and have created reports for clients that are being audited. This includes creating documents that state the insurance provider took the broker to Hawaii because he sold a lot of insurance for this company. The cost was $2,000 for the trip, the food, the "nightlife", and "surfing lessons" with the Maui Laui twins. I could be audited. Health insurance is probably a bit of a mess in our fair country, I do not deny that. However, the fact that the insurance company has stricter requirements than our government, than people who lead us, define our laws, and supposedly represent us ethically, morally, and righteously, is disgraceful. Look into, it's an ugly system. I believe in corporate oversight, but I believe more strongly in governmental oversight. My little compliance could be audited but the biggest lobbying firm on K street can't, or won't be. That should be a cause for action. Maybe I'll donate all my 40% to the auditing committee. Oh, I can't because we don't even have that committee (not in a powerful way, and democrats talk about it but I don't have high hopes).
I think my next hobby will be this, to really begin documenting these issues and pushing for change.