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?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Money in politics

Pop quiz: how many of the top-ten political "heavy-hitters" over the last 21 years gave more than half of the money they raised to Republicans?

How many are for-profit corporations?

If I hadn't seen the data first, I would have guessed "about half" for both. Wrong!

The Center for Responsive Politics crunched the numbers; results here.