If they wanted the country to start talking about getting its financial house in order, the leaders of President Barack Obama's bipartisan commission have wildly succeeded.
All it took was releasing a budget-busting proposal last week riddled with politically unpalatable ideas — from cutting cost-of-living increases under Social Security to raising the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon to possibly eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, an annual tax lifeline to many middle-class families.
Don't like the above?
We asked readers to offer their ideas to steer the commission toward its goal of erasing $4 trillion from projected deficits over the next 10 years. Some responded with detailed, 10-point plans that, alas, we only have room to print a sampling thereof. Some recurring themes: imposing a national sales tax and stopping lawmakers from spending so much on themselves. • Here's a smattering of suggestions so far … and keep 'em coming. Send with your full name and city to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Locate and eliminate all excess, nonessential defense spending. … Investigate and prosecute Medicaid and Medicare fraud. … Do away with PACs, corporate political contributions, any loopholes in campaign contributions. … Implement a tax on Internet commerce."
Brian G. Becker, Tampa
"Stop the wars."
Jack B. Weldon, St. Petersburg
"If you make over $100K per year, you should be required to make an annual donation (for the next 10 years) to the 'Save America Fund.' The donation should be 2 percent of your annual income and should increase another 2 percent for every $50K you make above $100K with no maximum income ceiling. … The Save America Fund can be used only to reduce the national deficit or assist with keeping Social Security afloat."
Chris Crayton, Bradenton
"The government should use stimulus money to modify every mortgage in the country that is underwater. The amount of money that would be put back into the economy would be staggering. Not to mention the boost to the real estate market."
Mike Morbach, Plant City
"Freeze all congressional pay increases for as long as any and all cuts are in place. … Tax alcoholic drinks the same as tobacco products are taxed. … Stop paying all of these outrageous bonuses to servicemen and women to get them to stay on active duty. If men and women are needed to fight, draft them!"
Bobby McGill, Valrico
"I am over the age of 65 — working full time and collecting Social Security benefits. If the government wants to reduce Social Security, they should take the FICA tax that people over 65 are paying and earmark that for budget reduction (and) leave the cost-of-living component in place."
James S. Waters Jr., Tampa
"Obviously, spending must be cut across the board, no exceptions. On the revenue side I suggest eliminating the maximum earnings cap for FICA. This would seriously affect the very high-salary people and have a minimal to no affect on most wage earners."
Ron Riley, Indian Rocks Beach
"Hire outside purchasing agents. When companies hear that the government is looking for certain items, i.e., toilet seats or hammers or what-have-you, they automatically add zeros to their price. Thus you get $600 for a toilet seat, $400 for a hammer. I used to work civil service for the Navy, and I put in price challenges all the time."
Dennis Warren, Hudson
"Legalize marijuana. … Cut the profit margin in half for the oil barons. … Cut the profit margin in half for the insurance company barons."
Jeff Slagle, Tampa
"Force pay cuts in Congress and Senate. They should have to buy the same health care we have."
Sandra Graham, Clearwater
"The first and most cost-effective measure would be to get rid of the Department of Homeland Security. It has been an ineffectual money pit since its inception. We have extant departments that could readily fulfill the functions that they have been assigned."
Terry Sorensen, Clearwater
"Cut government internal spending on themselves. Eliminate pensions. Eliminate expense budgets for politicians. Stop having rich, fancy dinners on the taxpayers' expense. Stop the president from vacationing on our dime."
Edward Acker, St. Petersburg
"Add a line to the annual performance review of government employees that asks their superiors to rate them on how well they have performed as stewards or trustees of taxpayers' dollars."
Bill Bassett, Clearwater
"Cuts are needed in all areas suggested. The argument should be not whether there are cuts in an area, but rather, how much of a cut in each area. We must all sacrifice!"
J. Watkins, Northfield, N.J.
"The bipartisan commission has it right. You have to raise taxes and dramatically cut spending. Entitlements must also be on the table for cuts."
Paul E. Riffel, Tampa
"Change the tax laws, i.e., flat tax for all — say, 6 percent. No exemptions."
Roger Verszyla, Tampa
"Add a 1 percent national sales tax to (nonfood/medical) consumer product purchases."
Emily Skinner, Largo
"Start by removing the elite congressional health care program … and placing all members under the same plan as all other federal employees. Also, remove the current congressional retirement plan, which provides lifetime pensions after short terms in Congress."
W. D. Braun, New Port Richey
"Increase taxes on imports so the U.S. will begin making our own products again and eliminate any tax breaks for companies who send jobs overseas."
Tammy Grice, Tampa
"There is one simple process that I am sure would significantly reduce the cost of Social Security in the future. As a financial manager and comptroller for Naval Air Station my staff hand-delivered every paycheck one day each year. We required positive identification and a signature before handing over the checks. Since most Social Security checks are electronically deposited monthly to the recipients, most of whom are old, it is inevitable that many checks are sent to dead people."
Andy Henderson, Dade City
"Get rid of 6 million government leaches and their benefits. It is the only sensible thing to do."
Griffin Crosby Jr., Lake Wales
"Why not a flat tax with iron-clad NO exemptions for even the golden 'untouchables' like mortgage deductions and charitable contributions."
Kenn Sidorewich, Oldsmar
"Consider at least a temporary ban on the enforcement of all vice laws (drugs, gambling, prostitution). Just like the lottery, take the profit out of the prohibition and you will also take the violence out with it."
Cindy Miner, Dunedin
"There should be a one- to two-year national sales tax instituted on all goods and services sold in this country. … (The) goal would not be necessarily to pay down the entire national debt, but rather to get it into manageable territory."
Kirk Williams, Hudson
"We have too much supply of workers now — that is the problem. Due to massive efficiency gains from the computer revolution and other improvements in industry, much more is produced by each man-hour. … The work week needs to be changed to 36 hours — thereby naturally creating a four-day workweek, with a three-day weekend. … The last time the maximum workweek was changed from 48 hours to 40 (creating the two-day weekend) was 1935 — sound familiar?"
Jim Mastro, Brooksville
"As of today the national debt is about $13.7 trillion, the population is about 309 million, and the debt per person is about $44,400. The plan released this week by the debt-reduction commission is a great one and should be implemented immediately. The country is in immediate danger of a financial collapse, and severe measures must be taken."
Peter Graulich, Inverness