If we want to break the cycle of increasingly frequent US government shutdowns, we need to change some of the rules. Here is my take on some changes that have to be part of any plan to re-open the Government.
There are three main categories of ideas I have that would make lawmakers do their jobs and stop creating these artificial crises that impact the quality of our government.
Shutdowns Make OUR government worse.
But first, let’s talk about why it is such a bad idea. The civilian employees of the Federal government are people that have dedicated their lives to public service, they have decades of experience at their job and do so at pay rates that are far less than the same job in the private sector. Any of them can leave and get better pay someplace else and would be replaced only by someone who knows less, costs more, and is worse at their job. Every shutdown makes the quality of Government worse. And there is no good reason for it other than politicians not doing their job.
So what are some of these ideas? You seem to be up early and want to get on with your Saturday, let’s get straight to the meat of this post:
THE PLAN, PART 1: I am not going to be charged for services you are not providing.
This is the easiest most bi-partisan supported by all the people idea I can think of. If the government is closed, I should not have to pay taxes, right? If my cable is out Time Warner reduces my bill. If my electricity is out, I don’t pay anything during that time. So plan one is let’s make sure that my taxable income is reduced by the amount of time that the government is not open. if it is closed for 1 month, reduce my taxes due by 1/12th. Two months, 2/12th and so on.
If the government is closed, I should not have to pay taxes
I would still get to keep all my deductions and such, just my starting point for what I owe gets chopped by like 10% at this point. (author’s note: yes I am rounding up and no I don’t want to do the math to figure out the real percent since it will be changing every day, 10% is close enough.)
That takes care of the changes that we would make to benefit all of us. The second change would be something like a poison pill that companies adopt to prevent take-overs.
THE PLAN, PART 2: Adopt a Poison Pill to make shutdowns much much less attractive
I am not playing around here, let’s make the consequences so bad that no one would dare do a shutdown again.
The first poison pill, if you are going to lay off a big swath of the federal workforce, you have to give them severance, or retention pay up front. I think that 3 months pay due immediately would be a sufficient deterrent. And for the federal workers, you can make all your bill payments. But that pales compared to corporate lay-off or furlough plans, so maybe more than 3 months, maybe 6, maybe 2 weeks per year of service. Maybe non-essential employees get 3-6 months, essential employees get 12 months.
The first poison pill, if you are going to lay off a big swath of the federal workforce, you have to give them severance, or retention pay up front
Either way, paying out months and months of salary to hundreds of thousands of workers is a strong financial disincentive, and if it has the bonus of reducing or eliminating the impact on the families and communities that would be impacted by these shutdowns.
The second poison pill is much more aggressive: make all future government bond payments due immediately. If you have a 10-year bond that is due to mature on 7 years, the day the government shuts down, you can redeem that immediately at full value.
The second poison pill is much more aggressive: make all future government bond payments due immediately.
The US government carries so much debt, the idea that all the payments would accelerate should scare the living crap out of any politician and take shutdowns totally off the table. You see acceleration clauses in business for that reason if you fall behind on payments, everything becomes due immediately. Same for if you try to break a contract. There are plenty of places I have seen this used as a demotivator.
So that is the highlights of the second part of the plan, to make shutdowns financially less attractive. Now for the final part of the plan, things that will hit the legislators where it hurts, punishing them.
THE PLAN, PART 3: Making the elected officials feel the pain
This section is longer because maybe this is more fun to think about. If your elected officials cannot figure out a way to provide the services they are hired to manage and administrate they are not doing their jobs. And if someone is bad at their job, there should be consequences for all of them. Not just team red, or team blue, ALL of them. So here is my non-exhaustive list of policy that would help.
- All Elected Members Full Loss of pay and retirement. Essentially if you oversee a government shutdown, you forfeit pay, without chance of backpay for yourself and your staff. That matches part 1 basically, you don’t get paid while the government is closed. The second half of that, is you lose you senate/congressional retirement. I don’t know the details, but I hear they are pretty sweet. You don’t get retirement if you are there during a shutdown. If you have secret service protection for life, you lose that too.
- All Elected Members are prohibited from holding any future elected office. If you are not able to do the job, you are barred from holding any elected position in the future.
- All prior laws passed are vacated and void. Anything you have passed in the current session is wiped from the books, it is like you were never there. And in general if you are bad at your job, we should be suspicious of the things you did manage to pass, so to be safe, let’s wipe the whole record clean.
- All nominations and appointments are rescinded. The same idea, you are being removed from history. everything you did is undone by your inability to provide the government. This may create some perverse lose-lose incentive for a minority party that is losing bigly, but I think the net is a more cooperative government as a whole.
- Finally, Replace All Elected officials. if you cannot get the government reopened within say 7 days, all leaders in Congress are replaced with new majority and minority leadership. If you can’t solve it after 7 more days, it is new elections for everyone. Everyone loses their job and new elections to be held within 30 days. And all their names are removed from the list of people who have held that job.
So that’s my 3 part plan. Don’t make me pay for this, add a serious no joke poison pill, and then punish the responsible parties in ways that mean something to them.
Any plan to reopen the government needs to have these clauses in it, so that we do not have a repeat of this in 3 months, 6 months, whatever. If you agree share & retweet this.