Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pay Down The National Debt Project

Photo: Creative Commons via Flickr / Wollombi)
Last November, two dozen millionaires (and probably a couple of billionaires) descended on Washington to "protest" that they and their fellow one percenters should pay higher taxes. It looked more like a convention than a protest, as it took place in what appeared to be a large hotel meeting room and people were wearing name tags. But their alleged purpose there was to tell Congress, "We should be paying more to the federal government. Please take money from us."

But when they were asked, would they give it up?

Michelle Fields of The Daily Caller was on hand with her iPad, on which she had displayed the Department of Treasury website where you can make a voluntary payment towards reducing the federal debt. She talked to many of the men in attendance to ask them why they were there and if they'd be willing to make a payment right then to help lower the debt.

She reported that none of them would.

They had all sorts of excuses as to why they were refusing. Things like, "You're being silly," and "It would be completely puny and ineffective," and "I think that's a joke and I'm not interested."

One gentleman snarled at Ms. Fields, "Why don't you donate money?" When she replied that she was not part of the one percent, and she was not there asking congress to raise her taxes, his retort was, "Well that's okay, you can donate money just as well as I can. Do you think that'll help?"

Good question. Would it help if those who can afford to — even those not in the one percent — made a voluntary payment towards the national debt? How many Americans would have to chip in to make any sort of reasonable dent in the current debt? How much would people need to give to make a difference?

How much could we realistically hope to raise from average Americans?

One solution that has been offered to start resolving the debt problem is to return the top marginal tax rate to what it was during Bill Clinton's presidency: 39.6 percent. That's 4.6 percentage points higher than the current top marginal tax rate, and depending on where the threshold is placed, as little as 1 percent overall (a multiplier of 0.01), or less.

The median income for a worker in America is $39,336. If Americans donated one tenth of what the richest Americans are being asked to pay, or a factor of 0.001 of their annual income, the average donation amount would be approximately $39.34.

There were 217,342,419 eligible voters in 2010. Of those, only 90,732,693 turned out to vote. If only those Americans who voted in 2010 donated $39.34, we could pay down $3,569,424,143 of the debt.

That's $3.5 billion.

We are going through a national crisis right now. The debt, regardless who ran it up and by how much, is unsustainable. While there is no question but that we will have to make changes in both law and policy to begin to resolve our debt problem, Republicans have made a central theme of their party, that we should not rely on government to solve our problems. Private industry and individuals, they claim, can do a better job than government. Does that extend to our nation's fiscal problem, as well?

One could justifiably argue that once we've done what we're obligated to do by law, our responsibility ends. But during times of crisis, should it? Is it not incumbent upon us to work for the greater good, even if it goes beyond the limits required by law?

Many of us do just that. We volunteer our time with campaigns. We run for local or state office ourselves. We make charitable donations that help our neighbors, which in turn lightens the load on government and our fellow taxpayers.

When the nation's children are starving, we go out and feed them. What about when the nation itself is starving? Should we not feed it, too?

Billionaire Warren Buffett has issued a challenge to Republicans in Congress: He will match any contribution they make to the national debt dollar-for-dollar, except for Mitch McConnell who he will match 3:1. But so far he appears to be the only one willing to put his money where his mouth is. The millionaire protestors — oddly — admit they'll have to be forced by the government to give up any of their income to help save the country.

Show the millionaires that we are willing to step up to the plate ourselves, even if they aren't.

Thank You!


‘Patriotic millionaires’ demand higher taxes, but unwilling to pay up ~ By Michelle Fields at The Daily Caller
Warren Buffett To Republicans: I'll Match Every Dollar You Contribute To Pay Down The Debt ~ By Ben Walsh at Business Insider
2010 General Election Turnout Rates ~ By Dr. Michael McDonald, Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University at The United States Elections Project

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