Mark Warner's Courageous And Creative Debt Strategy

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If you want to scare a politician to the soles of their shoes, describe what they are proposing as “courageous.” Political courage often equates to political vulnerability and if you remind them of that some politicians are reluctant to take another step forward in those shoes.

United States Senator Mark Warner has a debt reduction strategy that qualifies as politically courageous, and creative, but I expect him to move forward with determination. Warner advocates creation of what he described during a recent town hall in Farmville as a debt reduction surcharge. Courageous, of course, because it would be similar to a new tax, or certainly billed as such by those who will oppose it.

The nation should contemplate the merits of the proposal with an open mind, however, because they are considerable. We would wipe out the $16.5 trillion debt, a debt the senator rightly considers to be a graver threat to our national security and national future than terrorism, North Korea or anything else you might care to name. And it would not cost so very much to do so, while uniting Americans of all stripes and likes in a great national crusade.

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Senator Warner explained in Farmville that he proposes a surcharge on income of one-quarter of one percent for individuals making $40,000 to $50,000, or about $69 a year. This money would go directly into an account set aside for debt reduction and when that goal had been achieved the surcharge would be removed from the books. The rate would only get as high as two percent for those, Warner said, who earn as much as he does.

Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly just hit individuals with an annual fee of $69 because they own a hybrid vehicle. A fee that will result in what? Urban Virginia getting more transportation funding; $69 a year to erase our national debt seems vastly noble in comparison. Doing so would achieve a desperately important goal vital to our national security.

“Why couldn't we do something like a debt reduction surcharge that would apply to everybody?” he asked Prince Edward County leaders during a town hall meeting at the Moton Museum. “…And all the money would go into a separate debt reduction account. A separate account not used for anything else other than to start paying down the debt…and paying off this bill.”

Why not, indeed.

The debt reduction debate now is dripping with class war graffiti paint, elements of both the right and the left, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, spray-painting their opponents as the bad guys, haves against have-nots. Senator Warner's proposal would help erase the debt while bringing all Americans together in common cause. If that were achieved, who knows where it might lead us in creatively addressing other problems and challenges.

“It would turn the whole debate away from this kind of Us and Them populism into 'This Is A National Cause.' This would be the 21st Century version of the war bond,” he said. “We say every American helped create (the deficit) and every American's going to pay a little bit. Those who can pay more will pay a little bit more, but we're going to use this to make sure (the deficit is overcome)…At least you'd know we're all chipping in,” the former governor said.

Now, yes, there are going to be people who immediately throw stones because they are going to get hung up on the tax-like aspects. But the senator's use of the word “surcharge” is more apt to the heart of the proposal's aim and why its creation is justified. A surcharge is specifically aimed at repayment and when the bill has been paid the surcharge is dropped. A tax goes on forever. A tax is meant to fund many things.

Creating a debt reduction surcharge, of course, could not be done in a vacuum devoid of other effective actions aimed at bringing the national debt down to a level that does not threaten our national security and our national future. It would become a new tool, not the only tool. We must accompany any debt reduction surcharge with wise budgetary decisions that address unnecessary spending and necessary tax reform-and Senator Warner made that point. Doing so would increase support for the debt reduction surcharge among those who will fear the surcharge would do nothing more than create a new revenue stream, somehow mixed up with general funds and spent on federal programs. Or that the surcharge would become the only means of bringing down the debt-even if it did function as advertised its creation would allow Congress to forgo any other action to bring down the national debt.

Create the debt reduction surcharge as part of an overall strategic plan to get the debt guillotine from above our national neck.

Senator Warner, who genuinely works to bring Republicans and Democrats together, has proposed a courageous solution, and he's got enough political and personal courage to stand and fight on its behalf.

The former governor does not overreach into hyperbole when describing the proposal as a 21st Century version of the war bond. The national debt is far more likely to bring us to our knees than any foreign adversary. While there will be critics of a debt reduction surcharge, I believe if Americans thoughtfully consider the proposal, why it is necessary and what it will achieve for the future of this country, Senator Warner's plan will become one for the history books.

Yes, it is a courageous plan, especially in the current corrosive political atmosphere, but rather than cut tail and run, Mark Warner will cut the debt and advance this nation.


Warner In The White House?

Hillary Clinton will get the Democratic nomination to run for president. If she wants it, the party faithful will provide her with that chance. Even if Joe Biden tosses his hat in the ring.

With no idea whether Senator Mark Warner has aspirations for the Oval Office, one could see Clinton regarding the former Virginia governor as a compelling vice-presidential nominee as her running mate.

A moderate Democratic with a track record of bipartisan bridge-building-and from the increasingly important political state of Virginia-Warner's first step toward the White House could come at Clinton's side.

Just a thought