There are some fundamental ideas about which 90% of Americans can agree. Of these, the need to provide for some basic social safety net for the destitute is the closest we may come to a unifying American principle. As a country, we differ over both the provider and the nature of this social security. But almost all of us believe that the hungry should be fed, the homeless should be housed, the sick should be cared for, the young should be educated, and the elderly should be assisted. These ideas are Biblical and universal in nature.
Though less unifying, there is a growing consensus that the current state of welfare distribution is unsustainable and inefficient. Whether those who on welfare are bums, unlucky, unfortunate, or truly deserving of help is not the essential issue, for we must deal with these people one way or another, as dependents or criminals. One thing is clear: our country can no longer afford the entirety of the entitlement state that has been built up in the past three generations. As I mentioned, a basic safety net is essential, and is a wise investment on many levels. But at what point does our virtuous desire to support the needy negatively impact the body politic as a whole? Are we to continue to spend ourselves into bankruptcy as a nation? What if we are unable to upgrade our transportation system or our military capabilities? Don't we all suffer as a nation in this case? Is this the inherent vice of socialism, as Churchill put it, that it leads to equality of misery?
According to the progressive rationale, we might as well spend $5 trillion each year, pay for everyone's college degree, free American-made cars, free food, free health care, free housing, etc. In this philosophical reasoning, since government spending increases productivity, then we might as well spend $10 Trillion each year. Its always another program proffered, in the guise of helping the, poor, the sick, and the elderly. Never can enough money be thrown at the problem. And to those who propose cutting these programs, altering them, or making them more efficient? Well, they are branded as racist, as being against the poor, as wanting dirty air and water. How can this lead to any productive reform or unity?
Here are a few common-sense ideas I support:
1) Strict drug testing of any recipient of any form of federal aid, whether social security, food stamps, Medicare, or Medicaid. In fact, any and all public servants, from the town clerk up to federal Senators, should be tested yearly for banned substances and drugs.
2) All able-bodied welfare recipient (Unemployment, section 8 housing, subsidized health care, food stamps, etc) must perform some form of national or communal service as a form of payment for government assistance.
3) After a certain amount of time (2 years maybe), if there are Americans who are consistently unable to find jobs, if they are able-bodied, and if they are still receiving government housing assistance, then they need to be encouraged to move to rural areas of the country where it is cheaper for the government to subsidize their housing. The country can even offer them free plots of land, teach them farming tactics, thereby guiding them towards self-sufficient. This is preferable to housing projects where generations of families stay on the government dole because they are locked in to ridiculously good rental rates.
4) Clear out our jails of any and all illegal immigrants and deport them back to their countries of origin. Encourage any other illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows by offering them monetary incentives to return to their countries of origin. Strictly police our borders. This will decrease the supply of low-wage workers, and thus increase the demand for low-wage American citizens, and therefore increase the wages of these workers, and decrease the amount of unemployed citizens receiving unemployment insurance.
5) Just as we must limit welfare to private citizens, so we must cut back on corporate welfare. Companies like Google and GE pay very low income taxes. I support simplifying the tax code at all levels. Hypothetically, lets set the tax rate at 10% for all private citizens and 15% for all corporations. There should also be minimum amounts of taxation for the wealthy and for big businesses, so that they cannot skirt their taxes by hiring lawyers and by manipulating their businesses strategy towards tax avoidance. This way, big businesses and wealthy individuals would have to pay taxes, even if they sheltered their profits overseas.
6) Allow a one-time repatriation of all overseas American profits and cash. Tax this money at 10%. This would bring a flood of American capital back into the country, into our banks and into the hands of employers. Some people have estimated $1 Trillion would come in overnight, meaning a $100 billion windfall for Uncle Sam
The Roman Republic collapsed and a dictatorial Empire arose in its place in large part due to the Romans' failure to reform their broken governmental system. We are as yet a young Republic, and have the power to shape our future in a positive fashion.