Monday, July 04, 2011

A Call to Action

Reprinted with permission from my wife's blog:

A few days ago I received this letter from my Aunt Janie:

Dear friends and family,
In the 1960s I learned about a law that allows citizens to give gifts to the U.S. Treasury Department that may only be applied to reduce the debt. I've been so troubled by our current problems, most especially the August 2, 2011 payment deadline, that I dug out the old information on the law. It still exists.
For some months now, I've wanted to let people know about this opportunity for us as individuals citizens to come to the aid of our country just as we have done for victims of natural and political disasters around the world. We are a generous people and now our own situation is dire.
So, I dug out the old information on the law and then sat on it because several people felt my idea of encouraging us to help out was impractical. I believed they must be right. Then, last Sunday, June 26, 2011 I awakened with a dream about this possibility and a tremendous sense of remorse because I had not acted upon it.
This week, I sent out the attached letter which was published in the Las Vegas Review Journal's"Letters to the Editor" section. I also sent it to several politicians, but I do not expect a response because I know they are swamped with mail.
I don't have much money but I am sending a little to the Treasury specifically for the August 2nd deadline. If you are so inclined, the specific information is in the attachment. Be careful if you try to pay online. Make certain you have the Treasury Department. There are all sorts of sites that start with "" If you would, please send this email and attachment to others you know might be interested in helping.
Love and thanks. 
Janie   Click Me!

I think that this is a brilliant idea, not necessarily because it will pay down the debt in any significant amount (although if every American donated $10 we could pay down the debt 3 billion dollars), but because we will be able to show our leaders that we are committed to debt reduction.  Imagine, hundreds, thousands, millions of people donating what they can to pay down the debt.  Imagine them writing to their Congressmen urging them to work together to work out a national debt reduction plan.  (Yup, I am afraid we will have to work together to cut spending and raise taxes.) Here is a site where you can look up your Congressman's contact information.

Imagine people having debt reduction garage sales, raffles and lemonade stands.  Imagine this movement going national, viral and being talked about on national news.  Everyone has profited from government programs and tax breaks.  The debt is everyone's problem and we need to show that we are engaged and willing to sacrifice and do our part to pay it down.

Does that mean we will have to pay more taxes?  Yes.  Does that mean we might not qualify for government programs anymore?  Yes.  Are Americans tough?  Yes!  Can we sacrifice like our ancestors for the benefit of our country?  YES!  

Let us show everyone that we are willing to tighten our belts, make the tough choices and sacrifice to make our country a better place.  Please consider making a donationto pay down the national debt.  Please contact your Congressmen telling them about your donation and your commitment to debt reduction.  You could also contact your local newspapers.  Here is a letter Janie has written up that you could submit as a letter to the editor:

In as much as we face an immediate crisis with a considerably large payment on a portion of the national debt, and in as much as the Republicans and Democrats are entrenched in opposite positions, each of which has merit, it seems appropriate to ‘think outside the box.’ There is a third possibility.

H.R. 311 Public Law 87-58 (also found as Search 31 U.S.C. 3113:US Code-Section 3113) was passed on June 27, 1961. It permits individuals and groups to give gifts to the United States Government to be used only to reduce the public debt. Contributions may be mailed to Department G, Bureau of the Public Debt, P.O. Box 2188, Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188 or paid at (U.S. Treasury, Gifts to Reduce the Public Debt). In the present case, contributors should specify that the monies are to be used for the immediate debt crisis.

Cities, states, businesses, and organizations as well as private citizens of all economic positions could compete for recognition of their patriotic generosity. Efforts need to be transparent with regular reports of progress in the news, on the internet, and on television. A concerted, ongoing effort to reduce this debt would 1) find enthusiastic participants, 2) make evident our determination to meet our financial obligations, and 3) demonstrate to the world the patriotic fervor of the American people. 

Should this suggestion prove impractical, it may at least stimulate further discussion and the opportunity to ‘think outside the box.’

Your name

Please help spread the word!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Brian. Our country runs annual trillion-dollar deficits and has accumulated $14 trillion in total national debt, a figure that will probably double within 10-12 years, as a result of cumulative bad decisions by Democratic and Republican governments since the 1920s. This catastrophic figure nevertheless understates the magnitude of the problem. Including federal unfunded liabilities in social security, medicare, and medicare part D (prescription drugs, enacted by President Bush during his first term in an effort to buy AARP votes in FL), the U.S. has more than $112 trillion in total unfunded liabilities. That's astonishing. We have racked up these debts on an annual gross domestic product of $14.6 trillion. And even the intimidating numbers shown above fail to account for state and municipal debt; at least three states (California, Illinois, and New York) and an indeterminate number of cities could default on debts, mostly public sector stuff in the form of pensions and public entitlements. In fact pensions at all levels of society - federal, state, munipal, and in private firms - are heading toward insolvency. This is a problem with no solution.

Out of control student debt is another aspect of our society's inability to steward its limited resources. Our society has more than $790 billion in credit card debt and $850 billion in student loan debt. Credit card debt is at least theoretically issued based on the ability of borrowers to repay it. There are no rational limits on student loan debt; one just fills out an application, and creditworthiness is not a factor for federal loans; this should change.

Because the government constantly increases the maximum limits for student loans, schools both public and private are able to increase tuition far beyond the rate of inflation. Borrowers often have no idea what they are getting themselves into because an eighteen-year old asked to sign a promissory note usually lacks the financial literacy to envision himself or herself with $60,000 a decade later.

Our higher education policy consists of borrowing money we cannot repay so that we can loan the money to people who will not be able to repay it. This is characteristic of our entire society.

I am skeptical of arguments for new taxes when the government (no matter which party controls it) has shown such dreadful mismanagement with the resources they have. Why not leave marginal tax rates where they are, and allow individuals to contribute as you suggest, if they feel motivated to do it? I, personally, don't feel that I have accrued much public debt. I have never owned a car, have nearly repaid my student loans, have always had medical insurance, opposed Medicare Part D, opposed the escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have taken exactly two tax deductions (three times for student loan interest, and once for a large charitable contribution). I regret having taken the charitable deduction and believe that such contributions should not be deductible.

What I would really like to see is a massive simplification of the tax code, meaning an end to virtually all tax credits and deductions, along with a means-test for social security and medicare.