File it under “blinding flash of the obvious”: The other day, Warren Buffett presented a quick, easy, and impossible-to-dismiss solution to America’s deficit spending problem on CNBC. His sound advice should serve as a wake-up call to both Congress and the voters as our country approaches a critical election year.
“I could end the deficit in five minutes,” Buffett said. “You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than three percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for reelection.”
Can anyone seriously doubt that this would work? Is there any good reason not to propose and pass such a law?
I have a funny feeling that Buffett’s idea could vindicate Ronald Reagan’s belief that “every complex problem has a simple solution.” And Warren Buffett’s blinding flash of the obvious is not even an entirely untested idea: A wildly popular new California ballot initiative proposed docking the pay of state legislators for every day that a balanced budget is late. Crazy idea, right? Guess what? It passed. Guess what else? It worked. Suddenly, the budget that was supposedly impossible to balance got balanced.
Buffett’s proposal simply raises the stakes. If the members of Congress don’t shape up, put our country’s financial house in order, and stop running deficits, then they’re fired. Period.
I would never, ever run my business at a deficit. I would never run my household at a deficit, and I hope you wouldn’t either. Why the hell should our government believe that it can run a deficit indefinitely?
Congess has forgotten that this is our money it is spending. The only realistic chance we now have to remind them that it’s our money is intense public pressure for a constitutional amendment along the lines of what Buffett has proposed. If you think this idea is far-fetched, and that public pressure would never be strong enough to get such an amendment through Congress, you may be underestimating the current level of public rage. Check out this poll, which reveals that 62% of the US voting public “would dump all current legislators in Congress if they could vote today.” And if you are still wondering how deep the emotions of voters really run, you should log onto Twitter, do a search on the hashtag #firecongress — and prepare to have your eyes opened.
If you aren’t curious about whether your representative in Congress, or your favorite presidential candidate, supports Buffett’s proposal, you should be. Why not ask?
You can reach out to your Congressional representative about this issue (or any issue) very easily, just by clicking this link and sending an e-mail.
If your Senator or member of Congress has a Twitter account, you can also send a tweet about this, and get the conversation started even more quickly. Here’s the directory of available Congressional Twitter handles.
You can also write a letter, of course. Here’s the directory of congressional addresses.
If you get an answer that says Buffett’s idea wouldn’t work, but doesn’t say why … if you get an answer that is evasive … if you get an answer that pretends you were really asking for a civics lesson about how the Constitution gets amended … or if you get no answer at all … then you should make a resolution to fire your congressman or congresswoman next November.
If there was ever an idea whose time has come, Warren Buffett’s proposal that we prohibit members of Congress from running for re-election if they don’t get government spending under control is that idea.