Thursday, August 25, 2011

Budget Battle Brainstorm

The big battle over raising the debt ceiling makes me wonder if there might be a better way of handling our national budget.

What would happen if Congress and the President agreed to a top-line number: We Shall Spend XYZ Trillion Dollars This Year.

But left the details of exactly what to spend it on to individual congressional representatives.

Just divide the budget by 435, and let each representative decide what to spend their portion on (maybe after paying out interest on the debt, and putting Social Security revenues/expenses into its own account).

Representatives from far-left-wing districts could decide to spend nothing on Defense, and lots on Medicaid and Food Stamps. Representatives from Florida could decide to spend lots on Medicare. Tea-Party representatives could decide to refund part (or all!) of their share back to the taxpayers in their district.

What would happen?

Would spending rise because voters knew their representatives would spend the money on stuff that they like, or would it fall because representatives would compete to give more and more tax dollars back to voters?

Would special interests gain more or less power?

Has anything like this ever been tried-- are there other countries or states or towns that simply elect a bunch of representatives and then divvy up a budget for them to spend however they wish?


Anonymous said...

Sweet. When I get in congress, I'll put half the money into my personal paycheck, and the other half into my re-election campaign!

Gavin Andresen said...

Seriously? You think voters would stand for that? I think you'd be a one-term congressman.

Anonymous said...

What incentive would they have to pay any of it towards someone else's district?

Bernardo Kyotoku said...

There would be a lot of, I'm not going to spend there because I know A and B are going to spend there. Therefore I will put my resources where where there is going be the biggest benefit for my district.

A and B will see that and then will either not contribute, or come to talk me into contributing. And then we are back again where we got started.

Alex Thornton said...

One downside off the top of my head would be that the budget could fluctuate wildly year-to-year. If a particular department or outlay became suddenly unpopular, it could receive a one-year drop in funding. Planning would therefore be difficult even if budget voting were done years in advance (ie. if the 2011 congress voted for the 2016 budget.) There might have to be a mechanism to smooth out expenditures.

Gavin Andresen said...

RE: budget fluctuating: Seems to me the top-line number would be pretty stable. Individual programs might get cut if they became unpopular... but that's true today, right?

If we assume that the representatives WOULD funnel as much money as possible back into their districts, then it seems safe to assume that they are CURRENTLY funneling as much money as possible back into their districts. The only difference being the more powerful representatives today get more than their fair share.

Seems like progressives would like my proposal, since it would be a wealth transfer from higher-income districts (that pay more taxes) to lower-income districts...

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Alex Waters said...

I'm pushing for radical change, any thoughts on the 9-9-9 deal?

Xerographica said...

...or...donations to government organizations could be 100% tax deductible...aka pragmatarianism.