Keep it simple stupid

By Reade Brower | Jan 11, 2013

Keep it simple stupid (KISS) is an acronym worth noting when thinking about those who serve us in our Congress and in our Senate. It’s probably too much to ask, but why does everything have to be so complicated and convoluted?

If they could just say “no pork allowed” in legislation, then perhaps lawmakers would talk and negotiate on the merits of the bill instead of “what can I get for my state, or what favors can I create, who do I need to pay back or, can I cash in on something down the line if I support this." Seems simple enough that putting in something that has nothing to do with the bill is stupid.

Now that the fiscal cliff has been avoided and our politicians are lining up for round two, a debate on our country’s debt ceilings, we have some time to continue to pound out the message to our leaders that the American public is sick and tired of politics as usual.

The first step is to bring in accountability. Filibustering is easy and strips away the process by preventing good bills from passing, as written, and it seems like the start of a “fix” is to simply say; “no more." At least bring back the times when a politician had to stand up and talk and talk; sometimes reading from the phone book. At least when we make them stand up and pontificate about nothing, their stalling technique is obvious. They are at least accountable, whereas these days the process of filibustering is fairly benign and easy. Bottom line: filibustering doesn’t help the process or move our country forward.

The last round of maneuvering was interesting. While the politicians tried to position themselves in the best light so that public opinion would swing their way, they had little sense of doing the right thing. Entrenched in positions, both sides acted in their own self-interests and that is precisely why we are in the mess we are in. Nobody seems to “get” that the American people are sick of this and we’ve had enough.

Both parties are guilty. I think the Republicans have it right when it comes to the overall philosophy and message when they say “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem." I am singing with the choir on that one. Amen.

Why can’t it just be that simple? Changing the tax code to redistribute a little more to the middle class (the Democrats understand that the middle class is the engine which runs the boat and will consumption spend with a tax cut) can create a philosophical discussion and we can negotiate it so that we encourage business. I am pro-business and think that taxing the highest wage earners, now over $400,000, an extra 3 percent is hardly a major restructuring of the wealth or socialistic in any significant way. Recognizing that we have created huge debt the middle class simply cannot afford to pay off without some extra help from those who “have” seems like the best path to travel.

In the end, we have to create a balanced approach so that we end with a balanced budget. It is an extremely complicated hill to climb but making it more difficult through politics and special interests just creates more waste and more problems.

While we need the Republicans to understand that taxing 3 percent to those fortunate enough to be earning $400,000-pus isn’t going to create chaos or a restructuring of the current caste system, I say the Democrats need to recognize that we have a spending problem and they need to be part of the solution.

America needs both parties coming to the table to clean up a mess that both parties created. If they both could stop blowing in the wind to what they see as popular opinion and just do the right thing, the people of our country will respond by respecting them and begin moving with them instead of in opposition to them.

When hard working people are in line and the person in front of them is on government assistance, it is beyond maddening when you see mostly junk food in their basket and then, after their “card” is used, see them take out cash to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. Most of us believe we need to offer a hand-up to those in need and to those needing a bridge to help them get on their feet, but many of us are angry (really angry) that we work so the government can spend money foolishly ($1 million dollars in a research grant to study and prepare a menu we could use if we lived on Mars even though NASA has no funding for a trip to Mars nor any plans for going to Mars in the next two decades) or for the government to support generational welfare people who feel entitled to hand-outs. If we could develop a system of work-fare it would stop much of the abuse as well as give people a chance to find some self-esteem and develop a skill set while giving something back.

The Congress and Senate also need to send some messages forward. It was good to see that they rescinded their pay cut in the final fiscal cliff deal but how about some stronger medicine going forward? Why can’t our elected officials be subjected to the same social security and retirement system and health care that the rest of us working folks have to rely on? Make their kids go to public schools and to the military and to war the same way our middle class has to. Seems like this would be a simple way for them to better understand the “real world” if they were living with the consequences of their actions instead of being completely isolated from real life in America.

Some think our country should operate in a more business-like model. I had a discussion last week and because I am getting older and forget lots of things, I can’t give credit to this person because I can’t remember who I was talking to. Anyway, I do remember the gist of our conversation; the idea was that if the President and our Congress were paid based on performance, we would be better off. For instance, let their salaries be set by the salary of our average worker. Take the index that tells you where the median or average yearly pay is and give the President 10 times that figure and give Congress and Senate legislators six times. Let their pay fluctuate with the American public’s average. Ben and Jerry had a similar plan when they ran their ice cream business. As I recollect, they paid themselves a salary that was 10 times that of their lowest paid worker; it gave them incentive to do well enough to pay all their employees and associates well.

A low tide sinks all boats while a high tide raises them. If you buy into that theory, then you understand that changing the tax codes and redistributing some to the middle wage earners will help those at the top. I like numbers and consider myself a math person, I looked at what happened as the fiscal cliff was averted and I think that the top wage earners did just fine.

Here is my theory:

Take investment; the Dow had a 10 percent swing (was falling 5 percent before, rose 5 percent after the deal was announced) when the cliff was averted and continues going up. Let’s assume a high wage earner translates into someone with a nice portfolio of stocks and bonds that can be reduced or increased as the economy goes. As stated earlier, the middle class is the spending engine of our capitalist system and putting more money into the system increases the wealth of the wealthy. Further, if a person with $5 million in assets considers a 10 percent swing, it translates into a difference of half a million dollars equity to your assets. And at a 5 percent rate of return through bond interest, dividends and commodity trading, that means $25,000 a year more in their pocket. If you are earning $500,000 a year, the 3 percent tax bump represents about $15,000 a year. If you’re following the math, and you’re rich, you are making more money between your salary and your investments than what the extra 3 percent is costing you.

In my simple mind, this all makes sense. The theory that the rich get richer when you have a strong middle class fueling it make sense and the math backs it up. However, the math and the theories can all be for naught when people, especially politicians, get in the path. Why? My guess is that it comes down to self-interest, lack of real-life perspective and the mother of all evils, greed. These are mostly fear-based emotions at their foundation and therefore have great power over people.

Simply put, some people, who are the “haves,” are afraid that someone wants to take it away from them. Others have become as entitled and share similarities with the disenfranchised that expect our government to take care of them and think, we earned it and we already pay enough.

It is easy to see why change is not forthcoming. For change, you need trust and we are not a trusting nation. In addition to not trusting our politicians, we also don’t trust our bosses, we don’t trust our neighbors, we are a nation of takers ruled by fear and we think others operate that way as well. A vicious cycle.

This circles me back to KISS. Keep it simple stupid is the only way to cure this. Confidence will only come if our leaders lead us down the right road by doing the right thing, without fear of consequence or political fall out.

Fear will never disappear, but it must be replaced by confidence that can only happen when our elected officials begin acting like grown-ups and make decisions based on the facts and on the math with the underling principle being “absolute fairness.”

In faith we go.

Turn the Page. Peace out; Reade.

Reade Brower, a longtime local resident, is owner of The Free Press and Courier Publications LLC. He can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 15, 2013 21:55

IT IS MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE UNITED STATES TO EVER BECOME DEBT FREE. PERIOD.



Posted by: Donald Herrick | Jan 11, 2013 17:35

I liked your article. know here are some numbers that might help.the nations debt as of 5 oclock jan 11 2013 is 16,443,633,000,000. the first thing the u.s. needs to do is stop spending more than it takes in. just like us citizens do.I have a plan, it will take 100 years,a lot of sacrifice,but we have to live with in our means. the country can only spend what it takes in,1200 payments of 31,703,854,182.55 equals 38,044,625,019,063. this is a lot of money. 21,600,992,019,063. is interest. know if we dont change our ways it will cost the taxpayers a lot more. we payed around 287,000,000,000. in interest last year multiply that by 100. think about this



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