What'd Justin Bieber Do About America's Deficits?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 10/01/2010 12:10:00 AM
Dear readers, I must confess to knowing nothing about the teen pop sensation Justin Bieber until reading about him under very strange circumstances. However, since I do understand that part of this blog's readership is a look-what-Emmanuel-dragged-in sort of appeal, let me elaborate. To begin with, note that Bieber is, er, Canadian, so he probably can't run for public office as an American deficit hawk. So the post title is a trick question of sorts.

For reasons I can't recall, though, I recently visited the site of Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ). There, he used the unlikely example of the aforementioned teenybopper to explain...So, Just How Broke Are We?:
Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, who represents Arizona’s Sixth District, today illustrated the size and scope of the growing national debt.

Sunday night at the Video Music Awards, MTV crowned teen mega-sensation Justin Bieber as 2010’s “best new artist.” With more than 4 million albums sold in just about a year, the 16-year-old is a very rich guy. With his new-found wealth, he might consider helping pay down some of our nation’s staggering $13 trillion worth of debt [fat chance of that since he's Canadian so there's nothing in it for him]. The U.S. is so broke that more than 1.3 trillion Justin Bieber CDs would need to be sold in order to bring us back into the black.

“The thought of having 1.3 trillion Justin Bieber CDs in circulation is almost as frightening as America’s $13 trillion debt,” said Flake [my emphasis].
Ouch! Watching some YouTube clips of Justin Bieber, I can't say what makes Flake so dismissive of this fairly innocuous looking and sounding kid. But, Flake then reaches for the real punch line. Together with his fellow Arizonan John McCain, Flake is proposing a scheme wherein taxpayers can designate part of the their taxes to help pay down the national debt--with Congress then asked to reduce federal spending by a similar amount. Social marketing or PR gimmick?
Along with Senator McCain, Congressman Flake introduced the Debt Buy-Down Act of 2010, which allows taxpayers to designate up to 10 percent of their federal income tax liability to reduce the national debt. The bill then requires Congress to reduce federal spending by that amount.
And here's a lengthier backgrounder. It turns out others have proposed something similar before:
Federal spending is out of control, and Congress is either unable or unwilling to pursue meaningful steps toward reining in the national debt. Congress may not be ready to tackle the debt, but taxpayers are. In order to let taxpayers directly affect the process, Congressman Flake, along with Senator John McCain, has introduced H.R. 5536, the Debt Buy-Down Act of 2010...

The Debt Buy-Down Act would require the IRS to include a check-off on tax forms providing taxpayers the flexibility to voluntarily designate that up to 10% of their tax liability be put toward debt reduction. In order to ensure that reductions in the debt are protected, the bill also requires an equal amount of permanent reductions in federal spending.

The bill requires spending reductions for the coming year (in order to ensure that gains in debt reductions are protected in the coming year). Congress has an opportunity to pass spending reductions equal to the amount of debt reduction designate by taxpayers. Otherwise, the spending reductions are gained via an across-the-board cut in program spending levels.

The bill provides several exemptions in the event of an across-the-board cut, including Social Security benefits, benefits for the uniformed services, and payments for net interest.
What's exempted gives a clue of Republican priorities for the upcoming midterm elections. Yes, Social Security is still a third rail issue even for the GOP, but Medicare and Medicaid go unmentioned. Ditto for raising taxes which is par for the course. It's good to see Arizona's Republicans haven't lost their sense of humour. They're definitely poorer than they were before the housing bubble burst--Arizona was a real-estate magnet until then--but at least they're entertaining themselves in the desert.