Solving the Deficit

I know that Barack Obama puts a great deal of stock in people like Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Harry Reid and Barney Frank, but they’re the folks who helped get us into this financial mess. As usual, it takes an ordinary American such as myself who relies on logic and common sense, not a bunch of pie charts and Keynesian theories, to get this economy moving in the right direction.

I realize that Obama is counting on class warfare to win re-election, but I’m here to tell him that most Americans won’t fall for it. They know that Bush started that jalopy down the hill, but it was Obama who kept pushing it over the cliff or into the ditch or wherever the hell it wound up. As a result, a child of six can see that placing a two or three percent surtax on rich people is just more of the same.

After studying the problem, I am here to report that, as usual, Obama’s thinking is small and entirely inside the box. I, on the other hand, have discovered that the solution is well within our grasp. I suspect that the reason that Obama didn’t arrive at the obvious answer is that for all his grousing about millionaires and billionaires, in his heart he realizes that most of his friends, not to mention he himself, are members of those two elitist groups. I mean, who else do you think can afford to plunk down $35,000 to attend one of his fund raisers? When your nearest and dearest include the likes of Jeffrey Immelt, Jon Corzine, the folks at Goldman Sachs and George Soros, you don’t want to act too rashly.

I, as you’ve probably guessed, suffer from no such inhibitions. If you are serious about getting the deficit under control, you can’t nibble a little here, a little there, especially not if you wish to keep spending tax dollars like a fleet of drunken sailors, otherwise known as Democrats.

After conducting a little research, I discovered that there are over 400 billionaires in America. Thirty-one of them are worth more than ten billion dollars, 11 of them worth more than 20 billion. Bill Gates tops the list at $59 billion, followed by Warren Buffet at $39 billion. I’m sure it’s just the cynic in me, but when those two pals get together for lunch, I can’t help wondering which of them pretends to have left his wallet in his other jacket.

Most of the people in the billionaires club are fairly anonymous, having come by their fortunes through mining, hedge funds, hotels, the media, banks, construction, computers, sports teams, casinos, supermarkets and real estate. A few of the better known include Meg Whitman, H. Ross Perot, Jerry Jones, Steven Spielberg, Donald Trump, Stephen Bechtel, Ralph Lauren, Michael Milken, Oprah Winfrey, Sam Zell, Steve Wynn, Charles Schwab, George Lucas, Ted Turner, Barry Diller, Mark Zuckerberg, George Kaiser, Michael Bloomberg, David Geffen, three people named Ziff, four people named Hearst, seven people named Pritzker, T. Boone Pickens and a whole bunch of heirs to Walmart and the Mars candy company.

These 400-odd people are worth over 10 trillion dollars. The way I figure it, all we need to do is confiscate all their money and we are nearly 70% of the way to eliminating the national deficit. Frankly, I’m a wee bit surprised that with all the advisors and czars who make up this administration, it took an outsider to come up with this brainstorm. Of course it’s just possible that Valerie Jarrett or Van Jones suggested it, but once Obama saw so many of his friends and supporters on the list, he had no option but to nip it in the bud.

It’s one thing, after all, to whine constantly about generic millionaires and billionaires not paying their fair share, and quite another when you have to break the news to old chums like Oprah, Bloomberg, Diller, Geffen, Spielberg, Kaiser and Soros, that their future won’t be quite as rosy as they had anticipated, and will likely consist of panhandling, food stamps and homeless shelters.

©2011 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write![bitsontherun Dx3fm1lV]

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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • Bryan Horn

    As always the patients are still running the asylum. I’m lost as to the answer of solving the financial issues.
    If we spend more we just get in deeper.
    We can’t cut spending if we are to take care of our seniors, poor, those who have served our country and countless others needing some type of help such as health care and jobs.
    Like I said, I don’t know. What I SEE is a huge financial hole called Medicare which is only a money pit because of the abuse of it by our physicians and insurance companies. It’s a wonderful program for our seniors however it needs to be overhauled. A friend of mine went in for an unstoppable nose bleed and the facility charged Medicare 20,000.00 for 2 1/2 hours in the er. Medicare paid 19,600 and sent him a bill for 400.00.
    Just a small example of the waste. Maybe it’s things like this that need to be fixed, otherwise I think we’ll just keep pouring money into a broken system. I’m pretty sure there are many examples like Medicare within our system which need fixing. And I think we need to stop pointing fingers at Democrats or Republicans as being the CAUSE of this mess. I believe both parties are equally reckless. Just depends which party is in office at the time.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Drew: I actually expected that my readers would understand that I was not serious about confiscating every rich guy’s money. It was intended to be a satirical take on Obama’s waging non-stop class warfare. It’s bad enough that just about every time that one of my articles is posted, some reader is either complimenting Bernie Goldberg or taking him to task over what I’ve written. If people start reading me literally, I’m going to have to start putting those little yellow smiley faces in my articles whenever I’m trying to be amusing. And then you’ll be sorry.

    FL Jim, listen to Cmacrider. I keep writing pieces about how Obama barely won the election in 2008 even though McCain ran a Dukakis-like campaign; that nobody who didn’t vote for Obama is likely to vote for him this time, whereas millions who fell for “Hope & Change” have no reason to do so again; and that his class and race warfare is only going to solidify his left-wing support, while turning off moderates and independents. (It also doesn’t hurt that some states will be requiring photo IDs.)

    Although nobody ever refutes my arguments, a great many people continue to think that Obama is an unbeatable opponent. I honestly don’t think the Republicans have had an easier target since Jimmy Carter.


    • Gena

      Mr. Burt – the main reason so many so many people continue to believe Obama is unbeatable is because the majority of people in the media continue to tell them that Obama is unbeatable. Also the republicans want to keep their voters concerned and involved, as they don’t want even one of them to become complacent enough to stay home on election day.
      Anyhow, that is MY theory.

  • Drew Page

    Burt — Even if all the combined wealth of America’s 400 billionaires were seized, it would reduce the current national debt by 66%, leaving us still with a $5 trillion debt. That leaves the big question of where do we get the money for the next year? Does the government seize all the combined wealth of millionaires (that would include at least half the members of Congress and the Senate unless, as usual, they exempt themselves from such seizure)? That might make up the rest of the deficit, but again where do they get the money in the next year, once there are no more billionaires and millionaires?

    For many billionaires, like Gates and Buffet, their wealth is tied up in stock. In order to get at that wealth, their stock would have to be liquidated. Would the IRS seize their stock and try to sell it? Once a massive sell-off were attempted the price of the stock would drop like a stone. Then how much cash would the Treasury wind up with? Without that operating capital how many of the people who work for the companies owned by Microsoft and Bershire-Hathaway would lose their jobs, further increasing unemployment and reducing IRS revenues?

    Once we got down to talking about seizing the wealth of millionaires, would a person’s “wealth” include the value of his home, his life savings and his 401k retirement assets?

    Of course those who have no home equity, life savings or 401k pension assets will probably think it would be “only fair” for the government to take these things from those who have earned them.

  • Florida Jim

    I have never felt so discouraged about my beloved country. We are in such debt and being led by people who want to add still more debt to our 15.4 trillion currently. Instead of making plans to reduce spending and debt they are fudging ideas to “reduce the rate of the debt growth” and they [Obama] calls that improvement. There are more of us than there are of them, although the media would lead us to believe differently. If we stay together as we did in 2010 we can defeat this group and lead our country back to prominence.

    • cmacrider

      Florida Jim:
      Keep the faith Jim. As a Canadian I’ve learned to never underestimate America’s ability to redefine itself. Obama can’t throw strikes …. so he can expect a trip to the mound and be told to hand over the ball in November.

  • Bruce A.

    Good one Burt. What would the rich libs. do?
    They have no problem spending someone elses money
    so lets see how they like having theirs confiscated.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Dear Mr. Manning: Nobody holds Bernie Goldberg in higher regard than I do, but I’m afraid that you labor under the impression that everything that appears at his website is written by him. That’s not the case.

    CMA: I like the piracy idea. It sounds like a real moneymaker.

    Regards, Burt

  • Wallace Flint

    Hi Burt,
    It would seem that a clown like George Soros, who is so far to the left in his politics would be the one guy that Obama would feel safe with!
    It’s strange how guys like Soros made their money on a capitalistic system, then want the rest of us live uder a socialistic system. That last statement of yours really was hot stuff- seeing those guys panhandleing!
    In today’s world, in Europe, they are practicing that same kind of socialism with a hell of a lot of trouble- it becomes real that it just DOESN’T Work! Why in hell do we even cosider it, unless it’s to buy votes and control people!

    In God We Trust!
    Wally Flint- Boonville, NY

    • Drew Page

      While I do understand why poor people think socialism is a good thing, I’ve often wondered why really rich people would back a socialistic form of government. After much consideration I believe I have the answer. Under socialism the poor look to the government to provide life’s necessities and when the government does this, the people are under the control of the government. But then who controls the government? Why the politicians, of course. And who controls the politicians? The really rich people.

      Think about it for a moment, even in communist and/or socialist countries like China, Russia, Venezula and Cuba the people in charge live in palaces, own private property, wear expensive cloths and travel the world. They don’t live in high rise public housing, stuffed into tiny apartments. They don’t stand on line for hours waiting to get their ration of rice, or potatoes, or toilet paper. They don’t take their kids to the government clinic when they are seriously ill. Then think about our own Senators and Congressmen. They exempt themselves from Social Security and include themselves under the federal employees pension plan, which pays four to five times more than Social Security. Has anyone ever heard of the federal employees pension plan being underfunded or going broke because its funds were spent by the government on other things? Those Democrats in the House and Senate who have crafted Obamacare and shoved it down our throats were very careful to exempt themselves from it. Those who push socialism the hardest always manage to exempt themselves from the cost of it.

  • cmacrider

    Burt: Great article but I hope Debbie Wasserman-Schultz doesn’t read it. It could become official Democratic policy.

    While you are solving America’s debt problem here are two ideas to flush out your new Economic plan for America.
    First … Gore et al are panicky about global warming. The Feds would acquire cold air from Canada ..(which we would give away since its 30 below zero up here at the moment) and require all the Global Warming Groups to buy this from the Feds for $10.00/cubic yard. Gobal warming solved in America and …….. Fed coffers filled.
    Secondly, I notice that Somalian’s are making a fortune of piracy and all they have are a few 15 foot fishing boats. America has a 600 ship navy which if they dabbled in a little good old fashioned piracy they should solve the debt problem in no time.

    • Will Swoboda

      You’re making way too much sense now. We could get a lot of dough with those 600 warships though. A good laughnto start the day.

      • cmacrider

        Will: the piracy program only involves a Pres. Executive Order changing “Hope and Change” to “Hand over your Change” Give Axelrod a cutlass & pirates cap so he can lead the boarding parties. Any ship that doesn’t stop on demand threaten their country of registration with a State visit by Hillary. You won’t have to fire a shot.

  • Dave O’Connor

    But the issue will come down that group whom I refer to as Americana; acting upon and echoeing opinions of others they would emulate in style, dress, linguistics, or the glossies, or the canned humor of late-nite TV – depending on how the late nite host is styled, dressed, speaks, etc.). They’ll slip that two-month old magazine from the laundromat into their dried wear, never referring to again but for undisciplined banter; no longer even an echo to most of us. To even remember to review it again it would exceed the capability of their attention span. Their sense of poignancy oxidizes with each breath. That magazine will balance an uneven table. These are the people, who, when led to the font of knowledge, will only gargle

    • Steve Angers

      There was some very nice imagery in your post, Dave. Although I would suggest that gargling, while certainly far from enlightening, is at least a step in the right direction.

  • Tom Manning

    Dear Bernard,

    I read your input every blessed day. At past 80 it is so refreshing to read something that make sense. I also enjoy you on The Factor. At my age I am so very fortunate to still be here. Thanks for helping me to sift through all garbage out there. May God richly bless you for what you are and do for us.

    Tom Manning

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Maloney: Nonsense is my stock in trade. If you don’t enjoy satire, I suggest you read other pundits.

    lklwa: You have to pose your questions in the form of complete sentences if you expect answers.

    Steve: The problem with that solution is that it punishes responsible people like Darrell Issa, Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan, at the same time that it punishes such guilty parties as Charley Rangel, Henry Waxman and Sheila Jackson Lee.

    Shirl: You are correct. The Democrats were running the House and Senate ever since the 2006 election, a fact that Obama makes a point of ignoring when blaming Bush and the Republicans for the economy he inherited.


    • Steve Angers

      I understand your concern, Burt, but I don’t fully agree with you. There are many reasons it would be difficult to implement a successful pay-for-performance compensation for our political representatives, in the same sense that the system already in place (i.e., an informed electorate is supposed to vote the poor ones out) isn’t particularly effective. I just want to see the system work better and am less concerned about fairness.

      Think of it in a corporate sense. Almost everyone who works for the company has some stake in the success of the organization and will make every effort to support that success out of economic self-interest. This might even include working together. (And wouldn’t it be nice to see Congress and the President make some effort in that area!) But if they can’t make it work and the enterprise fails, then everyone becomes unemployed (or not compensated for their efforts). Then a new corporation (or Congress) tries to fill the void. It may not be fair to all employees of the failed “company”, but I do think it would dramatically increase the effort all would put into getting good results for their customers.

  • Shirl

    If I’m not mistaken, haven’t the democrats been running the show for the last 5 years now; even the last 2 years of Bush’s reign? Seems to me, they are the party responsible for running up the debt, especially under Obama. It’s all about the amount of power and money they can attain for themselves for as long as they can. Voters need to wise up and start listening and paying attention to the ones guilty and holding them responsible for their actions. I do like Rick Perry’s idea of these Washington elites living under their own stupid rules and regulations. The voters need to make it happen.

    • Steve Angers

      Even more interesting, Shirl, the dramatic increase in U. S. unemployment also took place entirely during years when the Democrat Party controlled both houses of Congress. Unemployment in January 2007 was sitting at 4.4%, a rate just 0.2% higher than it was in January 2001 when Bush took office. By January 2008 it had climbed to 4.9%. It really took off from there, not starting to stabilize until Scott Brown’s election took away the Democrats’ super-majority in the Senate.

      While the factors that contribute to unemployment are many and complex, and party control of Congress won’t have an overwhelming impact on everything that happens in the economy, I do think there’s an interesting correlation there. Add that information to the Democrats’ indisputable responsibility for the dramatic increase in deficit spending, and I have no idea why anyone would vote to return any member of that party to office.

  • Iklwa

    “Also, don’t insult drunken sailors. They spend their own money.”

    Well said!

    Even I, a well known bone-head descending from a long line of colossal bone-heads (but never a sailor), figured out in my sometimes drunken youth that blowing one’s pay check in one evening on wine, women and song had dire consequences during the following week (Hey, what about the rent?).

    The democrats and those wearing a supposed “R” behind their names in bed with the democrats never seemed to have gained that simple wisdom. Perhaps if their retirement accounts were tied directly to the state of our deficit, the nation’s financial outlook would be somewhat different.

    And…Go Navy!

    • Steve Angers

      “Perhaps if their retirement accounts were tied directly to the state of our deficit, the nation’s financial outlook would be somewhat different.”

      Now that is a very interesting idea. Directly linking performance to compensation might actually lead to a responsible fiscal policy, or to bad lawmakers too damned poor to afford their airfare back to Washington. Either works just fine for me.

      • Mike Jackson

        At first glance it appears a good idea, but as we know with government work failure is better rewarded than success.
        e.g. Joe stays 10% under budget by being frugal and providing good stewardship then is rewarded with a 10% budget cut for being frugal, and no bonus either. Since Joe wasn’t able find or create a need for the funds received, Joe obviously didn’t work hard enough.
        Freddie, on the other hand, blows his budget by 50% after buying every new idea in the store and is rewarded with a 60% budget increase due to “economic demands” and is also rewarded with a large bonus due to the difficulty of his job. It had to be difficult if Freddie had to spend that much money and being innovative. Never mind that he never balanced his checkbook and went on a spending spree the likes of which even an entire navy of drunken sailors would envy.
        In other words, linking government compensation to performance leads to rewarding failure and penalizing success.

        • Steve Angers

          I agree that a pay-for-performance plan for representatives would be impractical, Mike. But I love the idea behind lklwa’s suggestion.

          You’re absolutely correct about how government often allocates, and misallocates, resources. I worked in mental health (the private, not-for-corporate-profit side of it) for fifteen years and had many interactions with government bureaucracy. The inefficiency I encountered is mind-boggling! (In the interest of fairness, I want to note here that there are many dedicated, intelligent, and hard-working people in government. It just seems that most of them don’t have any power to implement policy.)

          The situation in your example is common. One of my programs was funded by a government grant. We understood that we had to spend every last dime of that grant by June 30 every year or we were at serious risk of seeing our funding reduced, whatever our performance, in the next fiscal cycle. That led to some ridiculous and wasteful games with our tax dollars.

          I knew of another federal grant for a pilot program. Staff were trying to direct people into the program who were most in need of the service, but the head of the program insisted on taking less needy individuals because there was a greater likelihood of demonstrating “progress” toward grant objectives, and securing more funding, if she started by serving higher functioning subjects. She knew how the game was played.

          I recall a budget crisis in which the state agency that oversaw our work was faced with a 10%, across-the-board budget cut. They might have first tried to negotiate specific cuts without success, I really don’t know, but the across-the-board cut was the ultimate mandate. Department heads seemed to be deliberately targeting their cut recommendations to have the greatest impact on direct services. I suspect their goal was to increase consumer complaints to help them “prove” their case that their department really couldn’t afford any level of budget cut!

          The games played are amazing! And remarkably wasteful. I firmly believe that the mental health system in my state could be replaced by a system that would provide all the services currently intended to help customers, and could do so for half the cost of the current system. But there’s no way to do that without completely eliminating the current system and everyone who works for it. Otherwise, the inefficient practices of the current system would slowly creep back into the new system and add cost or decrease effectiveness. But the disruption that would be created by eliminating the current system isn’t politically tolerable. Not that there would be much political will to implement such a reform, in any event.

          The problem is that the government has no reliable way, that they consider acceptable, to judge effectiveness of many of the services it provides. Parameters and goals are set far away from the level of direct customer service and are often wildly impractical and even irrelevant. And there is always a dense layer of inefficiency built in to make sure that individuals can’t cheat the system, and that ends up cheating all of us out of effective services and additional costs.

          It’s frustrating, because many of the human services provided by government, I believe, are desirable, even necessary. But our government bureaucracy is remarkably ill-equipped to provide those services effectively and inexpensively. The same holds true of almost any expectation that the government might set reasonable and effective standards for performance, whether its own of that of others. There will be too many points of view, personal agendas, and colossal incompetence to frustrate any hope of collaboration on clear goals, objectives, and standards for measuring them.

          And that’s all a very long-winded way of saying that I get your point and agree with you. But occasionally I like to dream of a world where professional politicians can be held to measureable standards and given consequences if they fail to achieve those standards. It may not be practical, but it makes me feel better to hope that someday it might be possible.

  • Joseph Maloney

    Nonsense like this isn’t going to get us anywhere either. Government is bloated, and the politicians rake in the bucks with their knowledge of what’s being passed. The stock market is no better than the so called “gaming industry”, and the news that fed to americans is nothing but baloney! Your solution will win tou the support of OWS. They’ll see you as the real thing, and realize the support they’ve received from the the left, unions, a prominent politicians are all bogus. At least you have the courage to tell how you see things, Unlike Washington.

    • Iklwa

      Sense of humor?

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Doom161: By next year, the GOP will control the House, the Senate and the Oval Office. And unlike those who filled those roles earlier in the decade, I believe that they will have learned their lesson. By the way, you do realize that I was being sarcastic in the article…..

    Regards, Burt

  • DOOM161

    There are two problems with this plan:

    1. It only takes care of 70% of the $15 trillion of reported debt.

    2. What do we do next year, when these people have no money and the idiots in the government are still spending money like it grows on trees?

    Also, don’t insult drunken sailors. They spend their own money.