AN IMMODEST PROPOSAL

William Clinton was elected president by people who believed he would focus on and provide solutions for deep-seated problems the Republicans had ignored for more than a decade. The most important of these were chronic and growing budget deficits of over 200 billion dollars, the 4 trillion dollar national debt, our lagging economy and long-term unemployment, and the lack of health care for 34 million Americans. As if these weren't enough, Mr. Clinton promised to throw in a tax cut for the middle class.

One term is over, and people angrily debate the progress he has made toward these goals. In his favor, annual budget deficits have gotten smaller, the economy is flourishing, and our 5.4% unemployment rate sits near a ten year low. Clinton's detractors, however, point out that after four years, America's budget deficits remain in excess of 100 billion dollars, there is no national health care, our national debt exceeds 5 trillion dollars, the majority of jobs that have been created pay very modestly, and taxes were raised on the middle class. Clearly, there is a long way to go.

Let me, then, with the same incisive logic made famous several hundred years ago by Jonathan Swift in his article, A Modest Proposal, list some measures that would remedy our present political and economic dilemma.

First, I want to explain the realities of America's federal expenses. Half the United States' annual tax revenue is spent on entitlement programs that include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran's Benefits, and a number of other social programs designed to assist large blocs of citizens. These programs are considered sacred and untouchable. When the defense budget, which is in the neighborhood of $260B, is added to the entitlement budget, less than a third of our tax revenues remain in the category of discretionary spending. From this third, we must pay for building and repairing our infrastructure, education, environmental protection, elimination of drugs, immigration control, national parks, and myriad other programs clamoring for money. There simply isn't enough to go around. Congress' unwillingness to stop spending the money it takes to get reelected each term, and the successful politicians' prudent and sensible views on never raising taxes further complicate the already desperate situation. The anticipated $130B deficit this fiscal year amounts to $500 for each person living in America. We are not talking penny ante sums.

The preponderance of all entitlement benefits goes to the old. According to a recent survey, less than 10% go to the young, which have the greatest percentage in poverty of any age group. Consequently, nearly a quarter of America's children are growing up in homes with incomes below the poverty level. They are the products of broken homes and a single income parent, usually a low-salaried mother. Many of these mothers receive little or no child support. It is a sad circumstance, and one guaranteed in a single generation to both lower our standard of living and our position among the world's nations.

My solutions to correct these obvious inequities are basic, practical, and few in number.

1) Lower the voting age to 3 1/2. It is true most of the youngest children will not understand what they are voting for, but the same argument can be made for millions of totally uninformed adults. Understanding has nothing to do with voting in this country. If they can pull the lever, they are capable of voting.

2) Disenfranchise everyone at his or her 65th birthday. That is, take away their right to vote.

3) Implement a policy of mandatory euthanasia for everyone reaching the age of 70, which is the biblical allotted span. The so-called Dr. Death of Michigan has pioneered a method said to be painless. As a grandfather clause, anyone now living beyond 70 will be allowed one year's grace from the date this law is enacted.

These three simple steps will quickly resolve the worst of the problems facing our country today. Large sums of money will be freed within two years, because social security payments and medical expenses for older citizens will diminish greatly. The young, now that they have the vote, will be treated with renewed consideration by respectful politicians. Educational facilities, teachers' salaries, and infant health care will improve immeasureably.

As a bonus, the burden of generational care will largely be lifted from the shoulders of working adults. Funds now slated for building nursing homes can be shifted into adding correctional facilities to our federal and state penitentiary systems.

Congressional trial balloons of this proposal have received unconditional approval from the newer members of Congress. Additionally, as a means of enlisting widespread support among the elderly, a great American and former president has volunteered to be among the first to enter the program. George Bush, pragmatic patriot that he is, felt many loyal Americans would follow his example. With tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice, he declared the faithful had unquestioningly accepted his judgment during four years in office, and would unhesitatingly do so again.

Mr. Bush, now a private citizen, has finally stumbled upon a program that will balance the budget.


Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)