Sunday, March 14, 2010


How to cut local and federal debt

The government must cut spending somewhere before adding a new obligation, popularly known as PAYGO. Unfunded mandates from the federal to the state must cease, particularly in education.

A young doctor will borrow against future earnings to buy an incredibly expensive piece of equipment, and then charge patients to pay for it. Perhaps the government might subsidize the cost of the equipment, rather than distributing the same amount in subsidized patient health care. I think health care professionals would find subsidized equipment financially attractive debt relief.

Student loans are a drag on the economy. Somehow, you should be able to work all of them off in public service, like on the reservations. (For example, teach GED or tutor students to work it off)

Did term limits encourage the mountain of debt? This is a cynical thought that during the cheap credit drama, borrowing on the part of cities in Arizona rose precipitously, giving the borrowers much power in the community, without having to return to the voters for a long career in congress. Absolution of responsibility? Why not borrow? They won’t be here to pay for it because they are term limited. I think politicians ability to indebt the taxpayer should not exceed their term of office. Term limits disrupt entrenchment of special interests, which is a positive effect. Which is worse?

Road building has gone far enough for now. We need to maintain the transportation infrastructure rather than borrow to expand it. No more borrowing for transportation would force a pay as you go plan and reliance on short term contracts to local contractors.

Moneylenders have their place but it should not be at the top of the profit chain. There are too many fees, interest payments, obligations; it costs too much to borrow, too many brokers, too many people who produce nothing cut in front of everybody at the table. Endgame. Somebody big should take a haircut, face a clawback of that money and fraud charges.

Legislation against debt needs to happen. It looks like the city of Tucson is paying $133 million to borrow $80 million. This is not judicious use of taxpayer money. How about limiting debt incurred by politicians to their term or require a public vote on any debt?

Reduce the fleet the government sponsors. Cancel all cars for other than police and fire. This would save insurance, fuel and maintenance plus a cash outlay for new units. Sell off gas guzzlers, private cars etc.

Van Tran in Tucson: how many people are being served at what cost per person? Would this be cheaper contracted out to a private enterprise taxi?

Pima County should not borrow to build more wastewater plants. We are still paying for the last one. Why not start incremental work and use local contractors and pay cash as it comes in? Don’t borrow to build. Pay for the ongoing work as the money comes in and avoid interest charges. If this doesn’t generate enough money then the plans are too grandiose and must be scaled back to the actual income available. The amount of actual income available should drive the scope of the project, not the maximum able to be borrowed and the cash in a lump sum for somebody to play with. It costs money to borrow money and an ambition to control a large amount of money is not adequate criteria to indebt the public.

The TIF Rio Nuevo in Tucson did not produce adequate results from the cash borrowed and the debt remains. Legally this appears to be tenuous as audit results are awaited. How did the people who controlled Rio Nuevo get the power to borrow against the revenue stream? Why is this allowed without a popular vote? Somebody landed control of $80 million and blew it. Who voted to do this? What about the $15 million entrance boondoggle? That’s like financing a new Cadillac and never getting possession of the car but still have to pay the debt.

Mandating insurance turns it into a debt. This assures that a percentage of income is forever inaccessible to the earner. This is a tax also. The net result is that the earner may never have access to this money, but is required to pay it. This is a debt. The insurance companies are taking too much out of the general economy and funneling too much of the money to themselves and health care professionals, who are pumping up the costs by ordering expensive tests/procedures in order to avoid litigation.

Litigation in the medical world is making money for the lawyers at the expense of the insurance companies and medical professionals who must pay enormous insurance premiums. Some claims are legitimate but the parasitic aspect of litigation and the negative results on society is a cause for concern. Limits on litigation must be set in order to protect our medical professionals, while protecting individual rights.

There are more ideas out there. Cut debt, reexamine contracts for legalities and applied limits to more than the market value for rent as a lease payment in Tucson, and renegotiation possibilities for strapped homeowners. Or defaults will continue to rise. Nobody wants to put more money into something that is losing face value, making the debt impossible to pay in today’s economy. If you can get better elsewhere for less money, then that will happen. Buyers have dried up. Cut the rents. Nobody can make money while paying exorbitant rents because the owners have huge debt on the property. So units stand empty.

If you own a rental and that rental remains unrented with an exorbitant rent demanded, does that constitute a tax deduction for the owner? If it does, cancel that deduction. Nobody should make money from the government by leaving units unrented.

Creative thinking needs to happen. Focus on the real necessities. If local default becomes an option, we can start over with the actual income to be applied to the necessities of government, instead of harmful cutbacks in physical necessities in order to meet debt service. Practicality must rule.

Remember that old Alexander Dumas story about the poor woman who borrowed a diamond necklace from a rich friend, lost it, and spent years paying for a replacement only to eventually find out the original necklace had been glass? I don’t want to spend the taxpayers’ lives paying for debts incurred within a few years. This truly impoverishes the community for the duration of the debt. They cannot count on continued inflation and another boom to bail them out of debt made smaller through inflation. That is wishful thinking.