From today's Talking Points Memo:
In the upcoming recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin faces the first ever gubernatorial recall in the state, and only the third gubernatorial recall in the country’s history.
Next to the presidential campaign it will likely be the biggest, most expensive race in the country, costing $100 million or more — and that’s just for one state, compared to the whole country.
In last year’s state Senate recalls, when six Republicans and three Democratic incumbents were put on the ballot — with control of the 33-seat chamber officially up for grabs — nearly $44 million was spent on those nine races, between the candidates, their political parties, and the various third-party ad groups on both sides.
I want people to remember this: ALL politicians -- all of them -- are currently saying that there's not enough money to do everything we want to do, and therefore we have to do things like cut social spending and not build roads and kick kids off health insurance programs (doing the latter even though there's enough money to help those kids.)
What political spending represents is voluntary contributions. No political party can by force take money from people or compel them to give.
So when people talk about spending $100,000,000 (or more) in a recall election, they are talking about other people voluntarily giving that money to be spent.
In other words: people have $100,000,000 sitting around that they can think of no better use for than to get rid of or keep Governor-for-now/future indictee Scott "Patsy" Walker.
So here's a thought I had on the spur of the moment:
Tax political contributions and political spending.
I want to emphasize that I thought of this entirely on my own -- it popped into my head as I typed this post.
But I did a google search for "Can you tax political contributions" and found that other people had thought of this, too. Back in 2006, this blogger suggested doing what I'm now suggesting doing.
Taxing political contributions would be somewhat dicey: I'm no First Amendment lawyer, but I do know that any imposition on speech (which political contributions are) is going to be looked at under (likely) a strict scrutiny-standard (whereby there needs to be a compelling government reason, a narrowly-tailored law, and the least-restrictive means used), and while political contributions often buy ads and the like, they're not strictly speaking "commercial speech" that may be more freely regulated.
But a simple 10% tax on political contributions would raise (from Wisconsin alone) $10,000,000 for just the recall cycle, all of it voluntarily donated.
If people have enough money to contribute $100,000,000 to a political cause, then we have enough money to fund healthcare for children, and to pay our military a decent living wage so that we don't have to play budget games to let their families get food stamps. (How, by the way, is it smart government to give food stamps to families [that being government money] but not simply pay those families the [government] money we'd give them in food stamps? Ask yourself that. I have the answer. It's at the bottom of this post.)
Just something to think about when some politician says "We don't have enough money" to do this or that -- as all politicians have said over the past two years. From here on out, every time a politician cites budget problems, revenue problems, proposes cutting a program, or otherwise references a shortfall of funds, reporters should immediately ask how much money that person has raised, and follow up with "If you can ask your constituents for money to re-elect you, why can't you ask them for money to support government programs you feel are necessary?"
*The answer to the food stamp question:
If you pay soldiers more money, then every soldier gets more money and you definitely have to spend it. But if you make soldiers' families go elsewhere for food stamps and assistance, then some of them won't, and you will save money simply because they are too busy/proud/uninformed to claim the assistance they need. AND you will keep your military budget down, by virtue of shifting some of your military costs (the costs of feeding soldiers) to another budgetary item.
That is: If soldiers are falling short of food budgets by say, $500 per month, you could pay all soldiers $500 more per month, in which case your budget increases by number of soldiers x $500 per month. Or you could make $500 per month available in food stamps, knowing that some soldiers will not take advantage of that, in which case another department's budget increases by number of soldiers applying for food stamps x $500 per month.
That is the kind of numbers games that both parties played when they switched the treatment of the $150 increase in pay active duty soldiers get; in the past, that $150 counted against food stamp/poverty guidelines. Rather than increase their pay, our current crop of politicians chose to "support" the troops by simply exempting that $150 from the calculation towards the poverty line -- allowing a few more soldiers to officially be considered poor.