Review of Brennan’s Swamp-Draining Proposals
In his article “Five Modest Swamp-Draining Proposals,” Chronicles (August 2019), Mark Brennan sets forth a five-point plan to reduce the size of the federal government by requiring federal employees to live like the rest of America. Most of his suggestions appear to be limited to Washington, D.C. and perhaps the surrounding suburbs. His proposals should be extended to cover all federal facilities, whether owned or leased by the federal government.
Frequently, he refers to “federal employees.” By federal employees, he seems to imply civil service employees and perhaps presidentially appointed bureaucrats. The term should be extended to cover not only civil service employees, but also to cover the president, members of the cabinet, all other presidential appointees, all federal judges, all members of Congress and their staff, all military and naval personnel, and everyone else who receives a paycheck from the federal government. (“Federal employees” used in the following discussion is used in this broad sense.)
1. Brennan’s first proposal is to remove all air conditioners and fans from the geographic limits of Washington, D.C. This proposal should be extended to all federal facilities, wherever they are located. Moreover, it should be extended to heating. No thermostat should be set above 50ºF. Hospitals are the only exception to this cooling and heating proposal.
One of the great benefits of this proposal is that it shows that the federal government is serious about climate change. The federal government would be leading by example instead of by coercion. By reducing its fuel consumption, it reduces its carbon footprint. Certainly, federal employees are willing to make such a small sacrifice to save the planet.
2. Brennan’s second proposal is to require all federal employees to prepare and file their own taxes without assistance from anyone — including spouses, accountants, tax preparers, and tax preparation software. Further, he recommends that if a federal employee miscalculates his taxes due, he pays a penalty of 100 times the error. Moreover, if the person fails to pay the penalty within 30 days, he spends one day in jail for each $100 owed. (Presumably, if he fails to pay his taxes when due, he suffers the same penalty.)
Although nearly all taxpayers can find more valuable things to do with their time and money than compiling the information needed to file a tax return, completing and filing the forms, and paying the taxes due, Congress and the IRS cannot think of anything more valuable for taxpayers to do. Within a year after preparing their own tax forms, Congress would make significant changes in the income tax code and greatly simplify it. If Americans are really fortunate, Congress would abolish the income tax.
3. Brennan’s third proposal requires the two senators and the house representative to serve as casualty notification officers for the deaths of all military personnel in their district. Thus, they would see firsthand the anguish that their undeclared wars cause spouses, children, and parents. Currently, members of Congress bear no responsibility for endangering the lives of American soldiers for no reason other than transferring ever more wealth and power to the rich and powerful.
4. Brennan’s fourth proposal caps the annual pay of all federal employees at the current median household income, which was $61,372 for 2017. Thus, half the American households live on an income less than this amount.
Many politicians platitudinously claim to “feel our pain.” This reduction in their pay would offer them an opportunity to feel some of it.
Brennan’s proposal needs to be extended to cover benefits like paid vacation days, paid sick leave, health insurance, payments into retirement plans, etc.
5. Brennan’s fifth proposal requires all federal employees to send their children to the public schools in Washington, D.C. Presumably, he covers not only those employees who live in Washington but also the surrounding suburban cities. This proposal should be extended to all federal employees throughout the country.
Such an action would greatly increase the diversity of the public schools in Washington. And, what politician can resist more diversity? Moreover, this proposal is an egalitarian approach to education, and politicians are notorious for spouting their love of equality. This proposal provides the poor with the same quality of education that the rich receive.
Implementation of these proposals would remind the president, high-ranking bureaucrats, congressmen, senators, and judges how the average American lives and to keep them in touch with reality.
Copyright © 2019 by Thomas Coley Allen.
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