Chicago Sunday AM, March 22, 2009
Editors, New York Times
The New York Times deserves as much commendation for their Friday, March 20, 2009 Editorial "Political Animal Behavior 101" as its subjects, Congressmen Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, and Peter Visclosky, Indiana Democrat, for their David-like attack on Congressional earmarks. But your closing comment "the best hope of ending this cynical influence trading is for the taxpayers to hear the full and shameful truth," well-meaning as it is, from past experience is not real encouraging.
The solution is found looking upstream, in this case at the 2009 Statistical Abstract of the United States, that says in 2007, 65.64% of the total federal income that year ($2.568 trillion) was 'withheld' by employers from employee paychecks. 'Withheld' is a euphamism for the entire amount coming into the feds as checks on employer bank accounts and immediately deposited to the US general fund, no better demonstrated than the fact that if any of those checks fail to arrive, it is the employer who goes to jail, never the employee.
The employers are not real happy with this, but 1) they don't have enough votes to complain, and 2) unlike the employee, they can pass it on to customers, which has worked just fine for 75 years of a regularly expanding national economy. So 535 people control 2/3 of the federal income that no one cares about, to the extent of needing to take it out of their personal accounts and send it in. Result: earmarks.
No number of editorials or letters to congress creatures has had any effect in the 66 years it has been going on. There is a way to fix this. Get 218 members of the House of Representatives and 60 Senators, and an agreeable president to sign it in to law, and change paragraph 3402 of United States Code Title 26 — 'Internal Revenue Code' Subtitle C 'Employment taxes' Chapter 24 'Collection Of Income Tax At Source On Wages... from "every employer making payment of wages shall deduct and withhold upon such wages a tax..." to "every employer making payment of wages shall pay all of those wages to the employee...." Leave the tax calculation with the employer so that with the check they include a stern note telling the employee how much the feds are expecting him to send in within 30 days.
Would it be easy to do? Probably not all at once, but a good place for the "frog in boiling water' technique: over a three-month quarter convert the 0.1 percent of the population w/ names starting with 'x' to a new, real 'pay-as-you-go' system, add in a new letter every quarter for 26 quarters, thru the 20% of the population w/ names starting with M and S.
Would this be inefficient? Certainly for an insatiable federal bureaucracy, but instructive for a growing portion of the electorate, sending in sizable checks every month from their own bank accounts. Questions would arise: Is the federal level the best to run health care? Education? retirement? What did the founders think of this approach?
Apparently not much, since they not only didn't authorize it in the Constitution, but in fact wrote specifically prohibiting it. Little did they envision their add-on 'general welfare' clause being beaten within an inch of its life, finally threatening the very existence of the country.
Those 26 quarters would cover three elections of the House of Representatives, reelection of the entire Senate, and election of a president. People would be asking the candidates these questions, and voting on the answers. And congresscreatures would forget how to spell 'earmark', let alone use it. This is the only way the voters will ever understand "the full and shameful truth" of why congress throws money around. Arnold H. Nelson 5056 North Marine Drive Chicago IL 60640