On Sunday, Chicago Tribune's John Kass wrote an insightful article on the current state of both U.S. political parties. In his usual acerbic, Chicago style, Kass doesn't mince words and rips both parties.
"At least the Democrats know what they're about. Democrats are the government party, and they're about big, big government; big, big taxes to come on the middle class (demonizing the rich was just a prelude); redistribution of income; and making lawyers rich…But the Republicans? What are they about...They don't know what they're about, not really, and so they have a difficult time explaining what they don't know they're not about to the American people who don't know either…Confused Republicans can't draft simple messages."
However, I think the Republicans may not have to craft messages.
I think Republicans can follow the lead of a Chicago Democrat and let the American voter decide. You say this is an apostasy? You say this is an abomination? You say this is abandonment of the Republican core?
Fear not, oh lost Republicans, and read on.
The new concept I'm referring to comes from the little known and "quirky" Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas. Pappas had the temerity to do something outrageous: she sent hundreds of politicians their tax bills, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"I sent it exclusively to each person. No one else sees it," Pappas said according to the Trib. "I just want people to know that when they ask, 'Why are my taxes going up?' they will be able to see that now."
It seems simple, but it's truly ingenious. Why?
"For the first time, property tax bills will show what Pappas' office says is the debt, pension obligations, budget and other financial particulars of the school districts, cities and libraries their taxes support."
"She said she's excited about the new information at taxpayers' fingertips. "I wanted to draw some attention to this, to the fact people will be able to easily see where their money's going," Pappas said. "This is going to make me really unpopular with some elected officials in this county."
But Pappas will be immensely popular with the voters as they will now be able to see exactly how their tax dollars are spent and then be able to decide if that's the way they want their money spent. Before, they never knew the breakdown.
Why can't Republicans in Congress (or Democrats) send every taxpayer a breakdown of how their actual tax dollars are spent? Defense, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, jobless benefits and the interest on the national debt would all be spelled out for Americans to see for the first time. When this occurs, there will be finally be an informed electorate assisting politicians make better decisions on what level of taxes and spending should exist.
For the markets, this sliver of common sense coming from the lowest rated credit of all the 50 states is a sign that positive things can develop out of the current mess. For those non-believers, please take a look at California and how they (likely) have balanced their budget in two years from a $16bln deficit. I'm not suggesting the federal government will do achieve this milestone, but I'm encouraged by the direction the debate is taking away from paying bills (debt ceiling) to spending (BCA and CR).
And wouldn't it be great if on the final bill, the American voter got a personalized bill of where their tax dollars were going?