Reclaiming the American Dream



Reclaiming the American Dream
Specific updates to government, politics, and economy
Index
Background and motivation

Campaign advertising

Limits on lifetime income of government officials

Taxes

Gun registration

Congressional bills

Congressional voting (conflict of interest)

Budget

Bonds and debt

Congressional districts

Minimum wage

Banks and financial institutions

Media ownership

Corporate personhood

Freedom requires

Copyright 2015 Don Ray
Public speaking inquiries: DrDonRay@HotMail.com

Background and motivation:  In the struggle for freedom the struggle today is not with weapons against invaders landing on our shores. It is the timeless struggle against those influences that inevitably seek to coopt and manipulate political and economic systems to their advantage.
Invaders are easy to see, and the response is simple to define. 
Manipulators of information and economic systems make sure they are not obvious, and how to counter the subtle risk they pose is likewise not obvious.

Growing economic disparity, political cynicism, and social dissatisfaction require more than complaints and demonstrations, more than dropping out of the political process, and more than automatic, kneejerk rejection of any and all proposals by the “other side”, whichever it is.

The nation needs specific, focused updates and upgrades to the mechanics of democracy.  People need something to campaign for, not just protest against.  In that spirit, I submit the following simple proposals for your consideration. 
For every penny anyone spends on political ads, they must provide an equal amount for ads for the competition.

Because multiple groups, candidates, or parties might be opposing the purchaser of a political advertisement, dividing their half of the advertising money might prove problematic.  They instead could consolidate all their half of the money into ads negating the claims of the original purchaser.
This meets all criteria for free-speech.  The uber-rich can still buy all the ads they want.  But domination by spending will be eased by ensuring that groups with less money can still get some representation.

The powerful influence of donations to election campaigns would be significantly reduced.
Limits on combined income from all sources for former
government and elected officials:

Subsequent to attaining office, for the remainder of their lives an elected official will be limited to maximum revenue, income, gifts, and benefits from all sources.  

Rationale:
o  Avoid the present situation in which elected officials routinely move into lucrative positions of employment with the very industries, interests, and corporations for which they were just writing laws and regulations.


o  Avoid leaders implementing policy that favors firms in which the leaders have investments and interests.

This maximum revenue, from salary, bonuses, sale of capital investments, etc., should be at a sufficiently high level to not discourage qualified, professional office holders.  $290,000 per year, regularly adjusted for inflation and cost of living, should suffice to attract competent, experienced professionals and experts, but discourage those seeking to become instant millionaires courtesy of elected or appointed position.

o  Sale of capital and speculative investments netting more than the defined annual limit would be placed in a monitored account for access in future years, each year’s accessible amount remaining at or below the annual allowed maximum.

Election or appointment to public office would entail submission to a lifetime of continuous, real time monitoring and auditing of all income, investments, accounts, gifts, etc.

o  This will again discourage those seeking personal gain.  It will pose no barrier to honest candidates seeking office because of a desire to serve their nation.

o  Personal accounts might even be posted for public scrutiny. 

An office holder can retain all money, wealth, and investments possessed prior to attaining government office.  Only
gain
on those investments will be limited.  Maturing bonds and fixed rate interest bearing instruments owned prior to winning office or being appointed to office will also not be counted against the maximum allowed income, as these are not readily subject to manipulation by congressional and government officers.

Replace the income tax with a Financial Transaction
tax. 

Tax all money transfers including

o  Paychecks

o  Bond sales and purchases
o  Stock sales and purchases
 
o  Wholesale and retail sales
 
o  Bonuses in cash, stock, stock options, or any other form
·

Use existing sales tax systems and mechanics as a model.
·
Some money transfers would have scaled rates.

o  Medical costs: no tax

o  Nurses, teachers, soldiers, various other community service professions, no tax.
 
o  Alcohol, cigarettes, etc., i.e. items that result in costs to society, could be taxed at a higher rate to compensate for the product's impact, as is routinely done today.

o  Municipal bonds might be a candidate for no tax, since the bond is to raise money for the government entity in the first place.
·
Advantage: would discourage the common practice of computerized instant stock deals at hundreds of times per second that skew market values with no regard for actual company value, and to which average investors have no access.  With a tax on each transfer of funds, computerized algorithm driven trades at hundreds of times per second would no longer be advantageous.

Donations to non-profits would be exempt, if no goods or services were received for the donation.

Eliminate annual filing of taxes and the opportunities to use loopholes and creative interpretation to skew the filing.

No one gets off free.  Everyone pays their share when paid or purchasing.  Pay as you go.

Those spending the most pay the most, because they can afford it.  Loopholes and lawyers would not come into play.   
·
No tax penalty on profits, including corporate profits.  Make money, keep money.  The tax would come at the point of sale.

Increased stability of international currency exchanges, a small tax on purchases of currency serving to discourage manipulative short term speculators.

Sample values

o  The following example values provide only a very rough sense of the scale of possible tax rates.  Detailed economic analysis would be required to fine tune optimal rates. 

§ A 4% base rate on goods, services, stocks/equities, futures, and options might provide revenue of the same order of magnitude as today’s total U.S. tax revenue.

4%, or even 5% or 6%, is far less than today’s withholding rate for most wage earners.

This 4% base rate could allow an extremely low rate, e.g. 0.015%, on foreign exchange, cash flow swaps, and bonds, necessary for a smoothly functioning economy.

§ An even lower base rate of 3% on goods/services, stocks/equities, futures, and options could be compensated for by a higher rate of 0.2% on foreign exchange, cash flow swaps, and bonds. 
 
§ 2% tax base rate (!) might be possible if balanced with 0.5% rate on cash flow swaps, while still maintaining 0.015% on foreign exchange and bonds.

Note: Cash flow swaps are among the heaviest traded contracts, at well over $300 trillion worldwide.  Oddly enough, not too many construction workers and small business owners seem to be using them, if you know what I mean.   


License all gun ownership through the National Rifle Association.

Keep government out of the licensing business.  Eliminate fear of government “taking away guns”.
·  Apply the same reasoning of self-regulation and self-policing that has allowed skydiving, scuba-diving, auto racing, etc. to function with their own organizational bodies, without government interference.

By stringently outlawing unlicensed guns, authorities would have grounds to arrest terrorists, psychopaths, etc., before they commit a crime.

Let the NRA demonstrate their patriotic values by accepting the responsibilities and duties associated with gun ownership, while simultaneously protecting gun ownership rights by removing all government involvement.

Local NRA licensing committees might choose to apply training requirements before granting licenses; might require evidence of proper storage before licensing guns to homes with children, etc. 

If a community NRA licensing committee approved weapons for someone with an obvious history of criminal record, mental imbalance, drug use, violence, or threatening behavior, the eventual victims’ families would know whom to look in the eye to ask why the NRA committee approved that gun license(s).

Free NRA financial resources to be applied to protecting the nation and populace, with the battle for gun rights having been won once and for all.
* Limit all bills to one topic.  

E.g.: the funding for an agricultural history museum could not be slipped into the defense appropriations bill.
* Limit how often a bill on a given topic can be introduced in a given quarter.

Avoid political grandstanding and the associated expense of repeatedly re-introducing bills that everyone knows will not pass. 

Congressional voting
A member of congress must recuse themselves from a vote if their own state, district, or investments are affected. 

Votes will be based on what’s good for the country instead of a local district.

In practice this will make little difference, as most decisions are made off the floor of the house or senate.  But it would serve to force public disclosure of personal and political interests.

Budget:

Allocated to departments as a percentage of government revenue. 
·
If tax revenue decreases, spending proportionally decreases.

o  Percentage allocations could be shifted in response to shifts in the economy and tax revenue.

o  Deficit spending could in principle still be allowed in order to avoid or accommodate economic emergencies, but it would appear as an obvious value for each department over and above their allocated percentage of tax revenue.

o  Would allow readily seeing how spending is prioritized.  Percentages are numbers comprehensible by most people. Beyond some scale the large numbers for budget dollar amounts lose meaning for many people.

o  Can readily put proposed expenditures into perspective of how they impact the overall budget. 

Examples (estimates of 2015 percentages of spending budget):

o Defense Department (not including Dept. of Energy, foreign military assistance, Department of Veteran Affairs, Army Corps of Engineers, or Defense Civil Programs):
15%

o Military spending including all above programs: 22%

o  NASA: 0.48%

o  Environmental Protection Agency: 0.2%

o  National Parks: 0.08%

o  Peace Corps: 0.01%

Advantages:

No annual congressional budget debate.

o  No fiscal cliffs or government shutdowns

o  The percent allocation could be changed, but until changed, the existing percent allocation would remain in effect and government would function as usual.  

o  Adding or subtracting a percent of budget from a department(s) would entail subtracting or adding the same percentage to some other department(s). 

Congress would not define funds for specific programs. 

o  Run government funding like a corporation

§ A company board of directors does not define the spending for each piece of equipment and each factory.  They define funding at a higher level.

o  This would eliminate a large “temptation” for congress members to insert funding for pet projects in their district, state, or investment portfolio.

o  Department heads would be held responsible for their use of funds, meeting goals, and results of expenditures, just as in a corporation.

Bonds and debt:

Sell bonds with a payback in terms of a percent of future tax revenue.

Arbitrary Example: 
In 2015 buy a five year - $100 bond for $100.  That bond guarantees that in 2020you will receive 2.4 x 10-9 % (or 0.0000000024%) of the federal government’s tax revenue (i.e, the bond would pay back $105 per today’s projections.)

This would function very similarly to today’s bond sales, but with the following advantages:

Advantages: Virtually no possibility of bankruptcy or default.

o  The funds to pay off the bond would be allocated (directly from future tax revenue) at the time of sale of the bond.

o  If a depressed economy results in revenue coming in lower than expected, the bond purchaser gets a little less, but still gets some repayment, even if not the full face value.

o  The bond purchaser has virtually no risk of losing all their invested money.

o  In good years the bond owner would make more than expected.

The percentage of tax revenue that must be allocated to bond payments would be precisely defined years in advance and can be incorporated into budget planning.

It would be readily evident how much the government is paying on debt each year.

It would be readily apparent which generation will pay the debt accrued by the present generation. 


Congressional districts:
Eliminate districts. 

 A state’s allotment of representatives would be divided among political parties based the percentage of votes allocated to each party.

Each party would propose a slate of candidates. 
Parties would be motivated to ensure their slate adequately represented all areas of the state or they would lose votes.

This would eliminate gerrymandering.  Today’s situation in which through “creative” districting a party gains a majority of the House though winning a minority of the vote is a slap in the face of democracy.

Minimum Wage and bonuses:
In addition to today's minimum value, define a maximum percent difference between the highest and lowest paid employee in a company or corporation.

This percent difference will, must, and should be huge.  But it will make obvious the disparity between top and bottom..

Giving a raise to minimum wage earners would in turn allow a higher compensation to the CEO, President, etc, in contrast to today’ system that in the short term rewards CEO’s for holding the lowest possible wage costs.

CEO’s will be forced to balance profit and employee wages, while today only profit comes into consideration.


Banks and financial institution risk levels:

Replace the present Byzantine laws that make it almost impossible to prove wrongdoing. Instead subject executives of financial institutions to the same legal principles that apply to driving and gun use: i.e. reckless endangerment.   Let a jury decide if an executive was taking excessively high risks with the money entrusted to them. 

Advantages:

Increase clarity in hedge fund investments.

Decrease risk of investment bubbles.

Media Ownership

Apply anti-trust laws to media ownership.
·
Background:
From 1983 to 2000, the number of major media corporations in the United States decreased from 50 to 6.
Corporate personhood

Eliminate it, by constitutional amendment if necessary.

Corporate personhood</ is an American legal concept that a corporation, as a group of people, may be recognized as having some of the same legal rights and responsibilities as an individual. (Wikipedia)


If you feel this message worthy of distribution, please pass it on. 

For inquiries for public speaking on this and the other topics in this blog, contact DrDonRay@HotMail.com.
Freedom Requires
          Copyright Don Ray, 2015
Freedom requires
Courage, not fear;
Reasoned debate, not ranting accusations;
Personal bigness, not bigotry;
Opinion informed by verifiable facts, not wishful thinking
secure in a bunker mentality;
Education and enlightenment, not superstition and ignorance;
Freedom requires faith and fortitude, not fear and panic.

Freedom for our children and grandchildren requires our
selflessness to conserve and our willingness to pay, not greediness to consume
and selfishness to hoard.
Freedom requires marching forward, not running back;
Freedom is willing to face facts, not hide in convenient
opinions.
Look at our leaders: those in public office and even more powerful, those manipulative forces hidden in not so public offices.  Listen closely to that media personality telling you what you want to hear and playing your fears like a fiddle, and then ask “who is serving the cause of freedom?”
Then ask if by your actions, your discussion, your purchases, your giving, your learning, your listening, and your love, you will serve the cause of freedom. 
If you feel
this message worthy of distribution, please pass it on. 
For inquiries for public speaking on this and the other topics in this blog, contact DrDonRay@HotMail.com.