“Vote Brisketarian,” the T-shirt proclaims, flanked by images of two American flags. The T-shirt appeared last spring during the annual Dripping Springs (Texas) Cook Off. More than 100 brisket teams took the heat to see who made the best brisket.
As with all true competitions, there may have been some disappointed producers among the Brisketarians, but there were no unhappy consumers. Trust me, no one muttered about the lack of two chickens for every pot. I just wish the Brisketarians could be a little more serious about their politics.
Why? Brisketarians may be our only hope. As I see it, if the Brisketarians in the red states could form a coalition with the blue Pastramian states in the Northeast, we’d never hear from the Democrats or Republicans again.
It’s pretty clear today that neither party would be missed if there were an alternative. Skeptics should consider the current 12 percent approval rating of Congress, a tie for the lowest rate in history. If that isn’t enough, consider the choices the parties are providing in November: an Apostle of Apology and a Wizard of Success.
Whatever their differences, the Brisketarians and Pastramians share the same cut of beef, so I think they have a future. What they need is a platform, one that could save the country. So here it is (and fear not: Potato salad, coleslaw and pickles come with the plate):
* Chuck the entire tax code. Do it now. Commit any incumbent who defends it, or wants to continue tinkering with it, to life occupancy in the nearest mental institution secure enough to handle the criminally insane. Replace the employment tax, personal income tax and corporate income tax with a national sales tax. Make it genuinely progressive, with a hefty pre-bate based on household size, unlike the largely fictional and highly uncertain progressivity of the current system. Stop the insanity. This single action will do more for our country than any other. It will increase tax revenue. It will reduce prices to consumers. And it will tax our ever-growing shadow economy.
* Make bankers take risks with their money, not ours. This can be done through something called “limited purpose banking,” which, as the name suggests, limits the amount of risk banks can take. Banks that want to take risks can, but the bankers, not taxpayers, will bear full liability for losses. No more bailouts from taxpayers. Watch how the presence of actual risk will improve attention to loan quality.
* Create a unified savings plan for what workers don’t spend. Since money saved is money not taxed under a national sales tax, the current hodgepodge of tax-deferred savings plans can be simplified and contributions would be unlimited. It would be handy, however, to have an automatic, low-cost and easily managed plan. With automatic deposit of paychecks, this can be done through our new limited-purpose banks offering a wide variety of dirt-cheap exchange-traded funds.
* Restore Social Security to a pay-as-you-go basis. And pay for it with national sales tax revenue. Return fraudulently taken overpayments of employment taxes collected since 1983 to workers, as I suggested some time ago.
* Cap Medicare as a percentage of GDP. Remind current and future retirees that 80 percent of all advances in life expectancy were from improvements in public health, not heroic doctors and warm-hearted hospital administrators. Stop allowing the medical/pharma complex to use government to increase its revenue faster than anyone can pay or the economy can grow. Trust me, the result will be innovation, improvement and reasonable use of health care, not shorter lives or poorer health. Provide federal funding for medical education of doctors, physician assistants and nurses, increasing the supply of all three and reducing the pressure medical education debt creates to focus on specialties rather than primary care.
* Make friends and feed the world. Do it by ending subsidies for ethanol and redirecting crops from fuel to food, reducing prices by increasing the available supply of food crops. Couple it with aggressive expansion of all domestic energy sources.
* Be energy efficient, produce domestic energy and starve a terrorist. Set our drillers free; unleash Amory Lovins’ ideas in Reinventing Fire. Every dime we don’t spend importing oil is a dime very well not spent. Anything close to energy independence would allow major reductions in military spending.
SCOTT BURNS is a principal of the Plano-based investment firm AssetBuilder Inc. His website is www.scottburns.
— Universal Press Syndicate
On the web
* Scott Burns, “If You Want to Rebuild America, Start With the Tax Code” (9/22/12): assetbuilder.com/scott_burns/if_you_want_to_rebuild_america_start_with_the_tax_code
* Scott Burns, “Making Things Rights” (2/18/12): assetbuilder.com/scott_burns/making_things_right
* Scott Burns, “Too Big Too Fail Banking Has Got to Go” (5/11/12): assetbuilder.com/scott_burns/too_big_to_fail_banking_has_got_to_go
* Reinventing Fire: rmi.org/ReinventingFire
* Scott Burns, “The Dark Pony Party Rides Again, 2008!” (11/3/08): assetbuilder.com/scott_burns/the_dark_pony_party_rides_again_2008!
* Scott Burns, “The Dark Pony Party Rides Again” (9/12/04): assetbuilder.com/blogs/scott_burns/archive/2004/09/12/The-Dark-Pony-Party-Rides-Again.aspx