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The Economist: Down the rabbit hole


The shenanigans in D.C. over the last year or so have convinced me that we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and joined Alice on the other side of the looking glass. So it seems like a good time to consider six impossible things before breakfast.

Impossible Thing No. 1 – Redo the congressional districting.

I’m sure a computer can lay a grid across each state with a cell for each allotted seat in the House of Representatives and adjustable cells to equalize the population. There won’t be any possibility of gerrymandering; as far as I know, computers don’t have political affiliations. After each decennial census, the computer will make necessary adjustments.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution and the 14th, 19th and 26th Amendments provide for proportional representation in the House, but each state is responsible for designing its districts. Colorado could take the lead in accomplishing this, shaming other states into quickly following suit.

Impossible Thing No. 2 – Limit the amount that can be spent on getting elected.

I think the amount of money we spend on elections is obscene. Now that corporations, unions and individuals can make unlimited contributions to super PACs, spending will only continue to rise. It is legal for candidates and super PAC managers to discuss campaign strategy through the media, which brings them quite close to supporting individual candidates. One recent proposal is also to allow unlimited donations to individual candidates. Why not the reverse? Limit donations and spending to, say, $1 million for national elections, $500,000 for state, and $50,000 for local campaigns. TV stations will just have to find other sources of ad revenue.

Impossible Thing No. 3 – Hold House of Representatives elections less frequently.

When you have to run for re-election every two years and raise many millions for campaigns, there isn’t much time left for pesky things like governing the country. So let’s elect representatives every six years, on the same schedule as Senate races. The other five can be devoted to the administration part of the job.

Impossible Thing No. 4 – Fix the Social Security problem this year.

This one is easy and I’ve written about it before. Raise the retirement age from 67 to 70. From what I read, no one wants to or can afford to retire any earlier. Then impose Social Security taxes on all incomes, not just the first $113,700. Most of us won’t be affected by the change – 80 percent of households earned less than $104,096 last year. We survived when Medicare taxes were required of all incomes. And I’ve got a sneaking suspicion we’d get through the increase in SS taxes, as well.

Impossible Thing No. 5 – Fix the health care affordability problem.

It is fascinating to me how many people support the Affordable Care Act but adamantly oppose Obamacare. But, we are down the rabbit hole, after all. So, we need to do three things:

•    Require EVERYONE to purchase health insurance.

•    Set the penalty for noncompliance higher than the cost of insurance.

•    Require insurance companies to provide a basic policy with a large deductible at a government-determined rate to anyone who applies.

Impossible Thing No. 6 – Have the Federal Reserve be less transparent.

Back in the good ole days, when I was in graduate school, the Federal Reserve operated behind a veil of secrecy. I could hardly wait to read William Greider’s “Secrets of the Temple,” which promised to take us “inside the government institution that is in some ways more secretive than the CIA and more powerful than the president or Congress, and reveal for the first time how the mighty and mysterious Federal Reserve operates.” (If you’re interested, there are used copies on Amazon for 23 cents!) Now the Fed tells us in advance what it plans to do. I can’t see that as an improvement.

Six impossible things before breakfast! As an old friend used to say, “It’s worth a wonder ...”

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Tucker Hart Adams

Tucker Hart Adams, president of the Adams Group, monitored and analyzed the Colorado economy for 30 years. She can be reached via her website, coloradoeconomy.com.

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