It's Tax Day America, and that means it's a day of pain. A day of pain for millions of us who have to get the paperwork done. A day of pain for those of us who have to pay any taxes due. It's even a day of pain for those of us "lucky" enough to get a refund and then realize that we just gave the government an interest free loan for an entire year.
Now I say enough is enough! April 15th should no longer be such a painful day for so many Americans. No, I'm not saying we should chase windmills and try to abolish all taxes and the IRS. Face it, that's never going to happen. But I am saying we could do something to take away the unpleasant air of April 15th and turn it into better feelings about our people, our country and our government. I propose we turn that pain into excitement and joy. And we can do that by combing the entrepreneurial excitement of the blockbuster hit show "Shark Tank" with the old tradition of ancient kings issuing pardons and lenient rulings on festival days. If we create the "National Day of Yes," April 15th will become a jubilant national holiday even if we never cut taxes by a penny, (though let's please not forget to do that someday).
Here's how it would work: Every taxpayer in America with a reasonable idea to better develop public land or other property with private money and private workers will be given the coveted and often elusive "yes" response from the local and federal government. For example: do you have a solid and detailed plan to develop a now-vacant U.S. post office? Well, forget that decade-long waiting period and endless environmental impact studies! Because on the "Day of Yes," Uncle Sam says, "you're approved!" Do you want to take a million acres of untouched federal land and turn it into a public hiking and camping park built and maintained by private funds only? No need to ask the EPA for permission first, because on April 15th, Washington says, "yes!" I could go on, but the scenarios and ideas are endless and every entrepreneurial American will be a potential winner.
In case you think this is some crazy dream scenario, I have a great example to prove it isn't. After years of ignoring it, I finally visited New York City's beautiful High Line this past weekend. Conceived and paid for by private citizens using private funds and donations, the High Line is a long stretch of long-unused elevated industrial rail tracks that were an eyesore of rusted metal above the far West Side of Manhattan for almost 25 years. Now those weedy tracks are a lovely way to get a bird's eye view of much of the city and the Hudson River shore. Better than that, the many blocks surrounding the High Line have exploded with new development and a surge of economic activity. It's the perfect marriage of private enterprise and public space, and all the government had to do to make this happen was to say "yes." When presented with the idea, then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the federal government both approved. Now private investors and tourists and even grizzled New York City veterans like me are rushing to say "yes" to visiting the area more, building more residential and business properties there, and providing that same government that finally said "yes" with a mountain of new tax revenue the High Line is directly responsible for creating.
Now wouldn't it be great if in the future April 15th became the day that the government said "yes" to dozens, or even hundreds, of ideas like the High Line? Wouldn't it be great if the public got to watch and enjoy the pitches for those projects on live TV during a day-long broadcast of the process, (all on CNBC of course)? We should even let the Shark Tank Sharks act as official advisers and judges so the politicians stay away and keep the event exciting and watchable. Millions of Americans would be rooting for their favorite investment and development teams with the best ideas. Regional rivalries would be ignited, but also soothed by the fact that on the Day of Yes most every good idea will be approved. And better than that, the taxpayers would start the quick countdown to when the they would start to see real benefits from all the previously useless and wasteful things the government had created with our money in the past. The old anger about how the IRS takes our money and throws so much of it away would be replaced by joy as those boondoggles become successful after getting a private investment makeover! And if the stuffed shirts in Washington are worried about how people in the private sector will make them look bad by succeeding where they failed, they can console themselves with all that new tax revenue the new ideas will bring them,
And finally, after suffering through a century now of the impersonal harshness that Tax Day has inflicted upon this country, my Day of Yes will remind us all of the one dominant fact that anyone who watches "Shark Tank" already knows: people are truly our greatest resource.