Opinion: Fixing the federal budget

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer is a senior integrated life sciences major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

After Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution to fund portions of the government, a government shutdown promptly followed. The debate was over delaying the Affordable Care Act and ultimately neither side would budge.

Although a well-intentioned law, the Affordable Care Act has already resulted in friends, family and students at this university getting their hours cut and people’s coverage being dropped, all in preparation for the law’s full implementation. If I am right, Obamacare will not survive in its entirety for long.

Even worse, we still do not have a balanced budget for the federal government. The upcoming debt ceiling debate is what is going to make or break us internationally, and it is happening for one reason: we are running a deficit.

To balance the budget, two things must be done: increase revenues and decrease spending.

To increase revenues, we should replace every form of the income tax with a consumption tax. Possibly in the form of the Fair Tax which proposes a straight sales tax of 23% or in the form of a Value Added Tax, which imposes a tax at each stage of the manufacturing and retail process, protecting against tax avoidance. In the style of the Fair Tax, everything new that is bought and sold should be taxed, even food and clothing because wealthier people buy steaks and Chanel, for example and to prevent regressively (poor people paying too much) a prebate should be given as a refund for taxes on the necessities of life.

The advantage of no longer taxing businesses is that we would have by definition the lowest corporate tax in the world. Companies would not feel the need to shelter their assets elsewhere in the world, and outsourcing would become must less cost effective. The pre-tax cost of goods and services would also decrease because companies currently pass on the cost of paying taxes to the consumer. Thus, without raising taxes we could increase revenues by growing our economy.

In terms of spending, mandatory spending must be reformed (the part of the government we cannot shut down). Chiefly, Social Security should be transferred to private retirement accounts that grow with the market. Well-diversified mutual funds are far superior to the current SS system in that they bring far greater returns and hedge well against inflation. This particular kind of investing is very low risk and is the most straightforward way of ensuring the viability of our retirement system into the future.

Medicare and Medicaid could be restructured into Health Savings Accounts that stay with the person form birth and are tax-free. Money paid in that is not spent should be allowed to grow in a mutual fund. Thus, a person’s healthy years would hedge against their years of illness, and of course, there should be assistance to those who are never healthy.

The above suggestions change the way the U.S. does business in radical way. No longer should we be slaves to our debt, bickering over the little spending we can control. Rather, a balanced budget should fade into the background as a concern that our generation solved.