Editorial: Fixing the deficit in 5 minutes?
Rumor has it financial wiz Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, has a sure-fire solution to reign in the nation’s looming debt: “I could end the deficit in five minutes,” he allegedly tells a CNBC news reporter. “You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.”
The rumor is being spread via the Internet like wildfire and fueled by the millions of Americans upset with a dysfunctional Congress.
Who cares if the comment is taken out of context, or is in context. It makes sense.
In the only film clip we could find on the matter, via YouTube, he makes the comment somewhat in jest, but he also makes the point: “it could be done.” That is, a solution could be found, whether it is something that drastic or something else. We live in a democracy and the public has the power to force the issue, if not the will. It’s an undeniable point.
Others have propelled the argument further, suggesting that the solution could be the next constitutional amendment, which would surely pass with ease. The 26th amendment to the Constitution, after all, granted the right for 18-year-olds to vote and was reportedly passed in 1971 in three months and eight days, the email says. That was at the height of the Vietnam War as young men were being sent off to fight when eligible for the draft at 18 without being able to vote until 21. The absurdity of that circumstance was obvious to all, and a quick solution was found.
In this particular case, the email suggests that Buffett would want us all to pass the proposal around to 20 other people and within a few days most Americans would have received the message and we could get Buffett’s sensible suggestion passed in a hurry. And bam, just like that, the nation’s growing deficit would be put in check.
After all, who could possibly object?
Well, let’s start a count, beginning with the most obvious: congressmen and -women. But also add the thousands of very powerful lobbyists who have invested millions in the contacts they currently have on powerful committees that run government and assign lucrative contracts. They have worked their charms for decades to sway politicians to their causes and have invested billions of dollars in their comrades in office and they would surely fight such a measure with millions more.
More to the point, the military industrial complex would go ballistic if an amendment were passed that effectively put a cap on government spending anywhere close to inflation. Cuts in defense would be forced year-after-year until some semblance of reason were achieved — and that could take years of cutting, and cost every state in the nation thousands of jobs.
Such a list could go on and on. Then there’s the old saw about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Vermont and the nation would lose three stellar representatives; not to mention the nation would be left with almost 500 rookie legislators with little guidance on how government works.
So, OK, it’s a compelling idea in the abstract, and it’s a fun distraction, but it just doesn’t match reality — leaving us with the hard work of making sense within Washington’s political framework.
Angelo S. Lynn
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