Note: I wrote this article on Tuesday, July 26. On the following day, Wednesday, my wife was listening to Glenn Beck in the morning and heard him speak of “The Ten Percent Solution.” As they say, “Great minds think alike.” In one sense, it is purely a coincidence, and our emphases are quite different—his on 10% of the people changing the morbid course of our history for the better, mine on reducing federal expenditures by 10%. In another, it is a hopeful confluence, and therefore I dare hope the two Ten Percent Solutions can be mixed, and reinforce each other’s medicinal potencies. We are a sick country indeed.
Let me assure the reader that I am being deadly serious in this proposal, to wit, The 10% Solution to the debt crisis. I really am challenging the government to cut everything—everything—by 10%. From the President’s salary on down to the post office scrub brushes, from farm subsidies to art subsidies, from college grants to research grants. Let it be emblazoned on banners flying from Capitol Hill, trumpeted through conservative talk radio, worn boldly on lapels—The 10% Solution.
It’s short. It’s catchy. It’s easy enough to remember, and even easier to implement. It’s trickle-down economics, because it begins at the top. Here’s how it works.
President Obama talks about eating his peas, and the need for sacrifice. Simple enough. He gets $400,000 a year. He vows to take a pay cut of $40,000, effective immediately. The 10% solution.
I don’t think the First Couple will miss it. The Obamas made $1,795,614 in 2010. They pulled in $5,623,690 in 2009, and $2,736,107 in 2008. They didn’t do so badly in 2007 either, stacking up just a bit under 4.2 million. Forgoing a measly $40,000 couldn’t possibly pinch, and it would certainly appear to the American people that Obama wasn’t merely asking for everyone else’s sacrifice.
Next, Congress. You folks on the Hill want to make us think you’re really serious about debt reduction? Scurrying around from meeting to meeting like hysterical chipmunks won’t do anymore. Vow to take your 10% pay cut ASAP. That’s more than $17,000 a head per year.
There are 237 millionaires in Congress. The median worth of senators is more than 1.5 million, and for the Housers, more than a half million. Again, I doubt we’ll find any of them shuffling through Goodwill.
And then you’ve got all the staffers (executive and congressional), and even more lucrative for reducing the gushing government payout, all the federal employees, wherever and whoever they are—there are, I’m told, somewhere around 2.65 million of them out there. They can all take a 10% hit, given that they receive about 15% more of a salary than their private-sector parallels.
Last, but in no way the least, we’ve got all the lovely programs, giveaways, grants, subsidies—all the way down to the bottom of the pork barrel. And don’t forget all that money strewn across the globe, fluttering down on foreign governments and the United Nations. Cut it all by 10%.
The math is simple. The effect on federal expenditures is obvious. But the psychology of the thing is pure genius.
Think about it. All it takes is for one congresshuman to call a press conference and announce with the gravest of faces, “My fellow Americans, I cannot ask you to sacrifice if I am unwilling to sacrifice. I have notified the federal paymaster to cut my salary by 10%, effective as of this morning. I call on other members of Congress, and the President himself, to follow me in this sacrifice. I will be introducing a bill tomorrow that calls for the immediate reduction of all federal pay by 10%, and then another, that will cut all federal programs by 10%. I thank you.”
If no Congress folk step up to the mike, then the press can have the honor of asking, “Congressman _____________, there is a grassroots movement to cut all federal spending by 10%—a secular tithe to reduce federal spending and the federal debt. People out there on Main Street have lost their jobs, or their salaries have been cut by even more than 10%. They want to know why you haven’t offered to take a 10% pay cut—especially since you have a net worth of ___ million?”
Once the ball starts rolling around the Hill, it will only gain momentum. What do you think the chances of reelection would be for those congresspersons who refuse to take the cut? Could Obama refuse, once Congress has swallowed the 10% solution? And what federal employee could gripe, given that the boys and girls at the top have already offered their deficit-reduction tithe?
Speaking of the brilliance of this proposal, note that it gets around that one psychological barrier that makes negotiating debt reduction so cursedly difficult—the feeling that some other guy is making out royally while you get the wet sock. On this plan, everyone has to man up. Everyone knows that everyone else has had to sacrifice. None of this, “I’m not going to give up a dime of my luxurious pension plan, while those so-and-sos are still lolling in their well-padded nests!” Everyone knows that everyone else has taken a hit.
It also gets around a behemothean practical barrier: the endless niggling-haggling over cutting this or that federal program. There’s one knife and one cut, and everyone feels the same pain: 10%.
Again, this is not offered tongue-in-cheek. The time for modest proposals is over. I long for the halcyon days when we were merely teetering on the cliff. The 10% Solution is so simple that it could be implemented without any of the loathsome cheek-by-jowl scrumbling and scrambling in the now smoke-free back rooms.
I know what you’re thinking, especially you, Mr. Obama. You’re thinking of conjuring up the genie-vision of starving oldsters bereft of their SS checks, the poor moiling about the streets begging for bread, the military going without pay.
Checkmate! With all the money saved from your salary, the salaries of all those dangling happily on the executive branch, Congress, all the federal agencies, all the other federal programs, subsidies and endless whatnottery, you’ll have more than enough to fund current levels of spending in the untouchable entitlements.
But I also believe that once the folks in Washington each have their 10% sliced off, they’ll be a lot more likely to want to wield the 10% cutlery when it comes to the great bloat of entitlement programs. That’s the final brilliance of The 10% Solution.