After the excrescence which has emerged from Congress as the second CoViD relief bill it is time for the People to assert control of their finances. Here’s how:
All American taxpayers are entitled to allocate their contributions as they individually think best, and most certainly in a way which does not violate their principles but actually enjoys their individual consent. Billionaires already appropriate what should be their tax payments in just this way: Mike Bloomberg makes $650 million in annual tax-deductible contributions, wiping out what would otherwise be his tax obligation to the Federal government. More to the point, it allows him to summon the ‘worthy causes’ to audition for his money and affords him not just that entertainment but also the satisfaction of directing his money where he chooses. The rest of us are left with horse-trading among congress-critters and the lobbyist class, swapping three-martini lunches for supplemental payments to the DC police for ‘crowd control’.
We proved to ourselves in the 2020 election that we can manage enormous unprecedented voter participation even when it is expressed through non-traditional mechanisms like early voting and mail-in ballots. Likewise building out the computing and payment processing capabilities of the Federal government in order to deliver the first round of CoViD relief has gotten us a national system of two-way interaction between taxpayers and the Federal government which can now be exploited for an unprecedented direct participation of individual citizens in the work of governance.
The new Congress of 2021 should be able to pass enabling legislation for a re-imagined Budget and Appropriations process. The IRS would have until July 1st to build and deploy a system under which every taxpayer — individual and corporate — would have access to a computerized account which reflected all the actual withholding, estimated and other taxes collected from that taxpayer in the first half of the year, along with a reasonable estimate of tax liability for the second half. Meanwhile the Congressional Budget Office would deploy a similar system which accounted for every actual expenditure of the Federal government in the first half of 2021, including ‘tax expenditures’ of money donated to exempt organizations in lieu of taxes. Every documented recipient of those Federal expenditures would have access to the system to make a ‘budget request’ for the fiscal year beginning October 1st. Likewise any Member of the House of Representatives could submit an ‘appropriations bill’ making a specific dollar request for a specifically described purpose. On July 1st both systems would go live and every taxpayer would have two months, until September 1st, to allocate both the actual and anticipated balances of tax collections among any of the requests in the budget system. After September 1st each Member of the House of Representatives would be permitted to allocate any funds attributable to constituents who had not done that allocation. The entirety of this Budget and Appropriations bill would then be deemed passed unanimously by the House and go to the Senate for passage and the President for signature.
What’s not to like? If you want to defund the police (or ‘re-fund’ the police by directing money into social programs) you can do that directly up to the full extent of your tax obligation, as well as lobby your neighbors and like-minded members of your social networks to do the same. If you want more spent on a program than it has previously received, or even more than it has requested, there is nothing to stop you from making that happen by persuading your like-minded acquaintances. The only satisfaction you will not be able to have is seeing your political enemies forced to pay for something that they abhor. And that is truly what might be most contentious about this proposal — that it forces us to grow up and admit whether our primary motivation is to do what is best in light of our individual principles or to force our fellow citizens against their will and consent to do what we prefer.
Next Installment: Appropriations made from borrowing, printing money, monetizing debt, and otherwise not covered by taxes.