Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Changing Washington’s Spending Habits

An issue I have been pondering for a while now is that of how to change the spending habits of the federal government. Up until today, every idea that popped in my head failed to pass the test of being able to overcome the incentive for legislators to use expenditures to buy votes. A bridge here, a museum there, you know how it goes.

Today, it occurred to me. What would happen if we pitted the House of Representatives and Senate against each other on spending? Give the Senate sole control of authoring the budget, and give the House sole control of tax rates.

The principle here is that the House would represent the interest of the people to bear as little taxation as possible, while the Senate would represent the interest of the government to put money towards different problems.

This redistribution of authority would undoubtedly require a constitutional amendment. This amendment should be accompanied by one stipulating that all planned spending must be covered by the year’s projected tax revenue, lest the House and Senate set aside the conflict by depending on deficit spending. The amendment should also specify that deficit spending should be used only in cases where the need could not have been anticipated at time the budget was authored, like the need to respond to the 9-11 attacks, and the debt caused by the deficit spending should be dealt with in the next year’s budget.

If all goes as planned, Representatives will think long and hard before voting for a tax increase, since doing so would put their jobs in jeopardy.

I’m not sure what the actual effect would be, and as of this moment there isn’t a chance of getting passed into law, but it’s worth a thought.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Loyal reader Brad (The Unrepentant Individual) points out that for this to work, people must feel the sting of their taxes. To that end, I suggest a simple rule change--end withholdings. Make people pay their taxes like an electric or phone bill, with a check at the beginning of each month for the amount that would have been withheld. People have to do that with property taxes, so they are far more aware of when those rise. (Even sparked a voter revolt out here in CA a few decades back.)

TOPIC: Politics