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Our Culture Inchoate: Fiscal Policy #17

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

Congresswoman Honoria Torres speaks on the second of three existential House issues... The National Fiscal Policy.



TORRES: I speak today, Monday the 11th of February, 2019, to an empty chamber. Congress loves its long weekends, and this past is no exception. Some colleagues are genuinely engaged in the discussions and potential compromise surrounding the funding of our government. I suspect that if I was going to bash the current administration I would have been given a time more suited to generating applause.

But Mondays are not necessarily considered a work day, and my disappointment in that respect is well known.

I am speaking about one of the three truly existential issues facing America, as I have nearly ever day I have been in office. National Defense, National Fisc, and National Health.

Today I wish to address the National Fisc. It is not good, needs immediate and compelling leadership, and the debt will make the United States a third world country if it is not arrested and reduced with a rigid plan.

Our National Debt is currently $22 Trillion dollars, a bizarre number, abstract for the most part, and it has doubled in just the last ten years. The Obama administration polices kept us out of a depression, but the bleeding still persists. The Trump administration ignores the debt, but like any other money owed, it must be paid, with interest. We, the keepers of the nation’s purse strings, constitutionally mandated to manage, plan, and organize our finances, well, we sit on our hands. Do nothing. Nothing.

It will not go away on its own. Presidents and Senators can kick this can down the road… and will continue to do so… but that is irresponsible, incompetent, and morally wrong for the House and its members to be complicit in this abdication of duty. The current executive has even stated that this is not his problem, and that, like social security, he won’t be around when the whole thing goes to the dogs.

This debt is caused by the convergence of spending and taxation. Entitlements are here to stay, because they are just that. Let’s stop bashing them. We the people are entitled to our bargain made for paying taxes. Try taking an entitlement away. All entitlements keep people above water. Certainly there are scofflaws who abuse the system, but that is not the rule. We can drag out the bogeyman of cheaters, but this is chump change in the deep pool of tax expenditures. There will always be marginal elements that could be cut from entitlements, yet we simply do not generate enough taxes to stem the tide of debt, absent a draconian cut in defense or services.

There is great bounty in our nation and it is paid for by people and businesses who can afford it, pay grudgingly and regularly, and work harder to gain more of the product of their labor as Americans… cash and credit. I need not remind everyone here that our tax system is confiscatory. What is to be given unto Caesar is paid to Caesar, first, before we pay ourselves.

The trick, the tipping point, is how much and from whom. And no one will volunteer a tax if she wants to keep her seat. I want both.

Elected officials take pride in tax cutting. The last tax cut benefitted many Americans, but was largely the vehicle that off-shore American businesses needed to repatriate money squirreled away in foreign banks to avoid paying U.S. taxes. There was the real beneficiary. No mention of the debt, and its interest. Not even a nod of the head.

As the deficit grows on the one hand, and Social Security as the core entitlement grows on the other, and the demands of a defense policy with foresight reaches its hand forward still, it is fraudulent and foolish to state that we can cut and cut without increasing revenue.

Nearly half of all Americans don’t pay anything at all beyond Social Security. To ask a fireman to pay twenty percent when a zillionaire pays next to nothing because he can afford tax lawyers is a corruption of decency, and of the system, the IRS system, which is rotten at its core, if you could find it, that is, somewhere in all 9,000 pages of exceptions, deductions, and exemptions brought to us by an entrenched lobby of businesses, industries, clubs, and charities.

When a person is injured in an accident, there is a triage that is brought into immediate use: stop the bleeding, start the breathing, and treat for shock. The reason this is maintained is because there is an order to the potential mortality of the victim, the patient. We have misapplied this very basic tenet of victim care.

Ten years ago, a financial crisis caused by poor lending practices came crashing down. Ascribing blame is useless… preventing it from occurring again is instructive but not my intent to speak on today. The remedy at the time was to resuscitate… start the breathing of the national economy. But we didn’t stop the bleeding. An EMT will tell you that a patient will bleed out long before he or she suffocates. Why didn’t we stop the bleeding when we had the chance?

And bleed out we will. Sure, we treated for shock, too, in spades, and the 24/7 news cycle spits out each party’s treatment for shock: finger-pointing to generate revenue for campaigns. As an aside, I have always stated that money in politics will always remain, but it is vile. Campaign finance is the only legal method I know of to launder good money and make it bad.

Two tax issues at stake here, one immediate, the other will take several years to implement. Neither one is wholly original, neither one is more than conceptual, today.

Of immediate need is a tax specifically on debt reduction. It cannot be redirected into the general fund, nor can other monies commingle. I propose a one percent on all transactions, and with particular specificity on all on-line sales. One exemption: food. The stated mission is to eliminate the debt.

Why tax everyone and everything? Because we are all complicit. We are all guilty of this outrage of the debt, especially if we vote. We elected the irresponsible, and the irresolute. We have lived through a ten-year period that doubled the national debt, a debt that took our nation over 200 years to accumulate. We are all culpable. It is our national mea culpa.

The other issue that will take a few years to materialize fully, is general federal tax policy. Start with Social Security. Add a point to both the employee and the business payor. Raise the ceiling for contributions, which inch up every year but are unsustainable if we expect the system to continue payouts. Keep the payouts indexed to where they are now. Means testing should not be done for two reasons: first, this is an entitlement. Whether a person makes $50,000 a year or $5 million a year, the payout is the same, and both people are entitled to the security without prejudice. Second, the issue is revenue generation. Let the $5 million earner keep paying into the system well beyond her ability to withdraw. She, or he, is just as responsible for the current crisis of debt and social security by electing cowards.

Federal tax policy is the big bear. Yet the revenues are not as important as the protected classes. A simple flat tax for all… no exceptions, no exemptions, no deductions. If a flat 10% is assessed on everyone, whether they make $30,000 or $30 million, would give everyone a clear idea of tax policy on its business, industry, club or charity. And no exceptions means just what it states. None. Everyone has a stake. Everyone pays. This will require work. Hard work. Apolitical work. It is a national emergency and should be attacked with impunity.

I know that it appears the rich get away with a lot. Go ahead and graduate the tax for them. Set a reasonable ceiling, graduate it based on gross income… remember, no deductions.

Businesses, industries, charities and families need predictability in tax policy. Make it simple and predictable. One rate, no exceptions, exemptions or deductions. Everyone pays.

Of course, as unpopular and painful as this might be, the real gnashing of teeth hasn’t even begun. We do need to reign in spending.

No more corporate welfare, from Planned Parenthood to the Export-Import Bank. The list is longer than the average voter is aware of. Privatize the VA, too, in the name of competence. No more government student loans, with the exception of vocational schools. And for the love of Pete, government pension and healthcare should mirror the people’s… Help the needy, not the greedy. I subscribe to that.

I do not apologize for anything the president says or tweets. I am against many of his knee-jerk attempts at “making a deal,” which is beneath the office. With that said, he did bring up an interesting topic which has merit, but the media and even the cabinet is silent on it.

Late last year Trump asked for each cabinet and executive department to drop its costs by five percent. Reasonable coming from an autocratic boss, but it looks like Mr. Trump is getting a lesson in willful disobedience. It might have been his one and only idea that everyone should get behind. If the cabinet departments cannot do it on their own, we, congress, should provide a road map.

Our National Economy is strong and robust… but mired in crippling debt that will hamper full maturation of potential in our lifetime. It is not good. Social Security is going broke, and depending on who you talk to, it could be insolvent by 2030 or sooner. The government needs to get out of the business of subsidizing banks, businesses, and whole industries.

The government of the United States is about security and integrity, not subsidy. It is past due when Congress should act with speed and toughness on the debt and our funding of entitlements.

Do we really care about our nation, our children, beyond the next election? No, we don’t. I stand here only because one district in New Jersey put me here. If they want someone else, they’ll elect someone else. I am not afraid of losing an election. I am afraid of failing the American people after I promised to work, work, and work more for their interests, everyone’s interest, and to a more secure future.

Thank you.

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