ECONOMICALLY INCORRECTTo The Editor:We don’t need a balanced budget amendment. But we do need a mechanism to make our government [...]
May 1 1995 by Chief Executive
To The Editor:
We don’t need a balanced budget amendment. But we do need a mechanism to make our government fiscally responsible and accountable to the public. Even Genghis Khan believed in the concept of the “leader-servant”; our leaders should adopt this philosophy.
After all, Congress and the administration are in charge of the country, just as a board of directors or trustees is responsible for running a hospital, business, or university.
Government alone sets the level of its own income (taxes) and expenses (appropriations), resulting in either a surplus or deficit. Discipline is needed, as evidenced by the long history of federal deficits that has built a mountain of debt for our children. This creates a pressure for inflation that will penalize everyone except government employees, who receive automatic cost-of-living increases in their pensions and other benefits. It is not surprising the system encourages government to overspend, to give to today’s voters by taking from tomorrow’s.
Clearly, there are situations where deficits are necessary-wars, earthquakes, and depressions-but generally, over time, there must be a balance between deficits and surplus to arrest inflation. How can we create an automatic mechanism to encourage the government to strike that balance?
- Remove cost-of-living increases from the pensions of Congress and senior administration officials.
- Calculate the deficit as a percentage of the federal budget each year. This year, for example, the deficit is projected to be 12 percent. All congressmen, senators, the president, and the members of his cabinet then would pay a surtax equal to that percentage on their individual income tax returns; i.e., 12 percent extra tax on all their taxable income.
This combination of long- and short-term incentives might motivate politicians to search out waste in government. Might they think twice before allowing pork-barrel projects? Might they set priorities and actually balance the budget? I’d like to think they would, especially if it cut both ways; that is, a bonus for surpluses.
However, when the president and a majority of Congress determine that circumstances require expenditures that would cause a deficit, they could do so-but they would have to lead the national sacrifice by paying the surtax. The public would respect their decision.
Only in a bureaucracy do mangers get paid the same whether they do a good job or bad. That should stop; it’s time we apply the laws of economics to politicians.
United Distillers NA
THE HUMAN TOUCH
To The Editor:
In the “From The Editor” column (CE: November/December 1994), you quote Charles Handy: “The world is an empty place waiting to be filled. We have to show that efficiency can march hand in hand with humanity, and that there is room for the human soul in the corridors of our institutions.”
You conclude, “CEOs, we trust, already have absorbed this lesson.”
I don’t think they have. My company teaches a work/life balance program that improves worker productivity while helping employees better balance and focus their lives. This win-win program benefits both the company and its employees. We have found that CEOs of smaller organizations realize this, but in larger corporations, CEOs often refuse to hear about anything that benefits employees outside the 9-to-5 workday. They certainly haven’t learned “that efficiency can march hand in hand with humanity.” As far as they are concerned, there are no human souls in the corridors of their organizations, only bodies. Maybe when there are no longer any functioning bodies, CEOs may begin to absorb this lesson.
Let’s hope so.