I'm impressed by the trigger that Congress included in the Budget Control Act in 2011. The idea is that if Congress can't agree on a better way to balance the budget by year end, automatic and painful spending cuts and tax increases will go into effect. The hope was that members of Congress would act responsibly if there was a gun to the head of total strangers that they don't give a shit about.

I've never wanted to run for Congress until now. The job looks boring, but I'm attracted to a system that punishes total strangers for my bad performance. I assume this is some sort of "best practice" that our government is borrowing from a successful system elsewhere. So starting today, if you tell me you don't like my blog, I will pay a stranger to kick another stranger in the nads. If Congress is right about the trigger concept, you should see a big improvement in my blogging performance. I'm all about incentives.

There's a Wally-esque genius to this budget trigger concept. It actually solves Congress' biggest problem, namely that doing anything that is balanced and appropriate for the country renders a politician unelectable. Republicans can't vote for tax increases and get reelected while Democrats can't cut social services and keep their jobs. But don't cry for Congress because this isn't the sort of problem that can thwart a building full of lawyers. They put their snouts together and cleverly invented a concept - called a trigger - to take the blame for them. This way, both sides can screw their supporters while still blaming the other side. No one has to take responsibility for anything.

So while there might be a Santa Claus, there is no hope that Congress will reach a budget deal before the trigger goes into effect simply because no politician wants a balanced deal. So in the next few days the stock market will take a nosedive as the public comes to terms with the fact that the trigger was never designed to be avoided. It was designed to trigger. If Congress planned to avoid the trigger they might have named it something like "The Avoidy Thing" instead of trigger.

A good time to buy stocks is after the public realizes the trigger is unavoidable and the markets tank, but before everyone realizes the automatic spending cuts and tax increases are as good as we would have gotten under any negotiated plan.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go to Craigslist.com and see if I can hire someone to kick a member of Congress in the nads until my blogging performance improves.  

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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 25, 2012
I sent this to the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago, but they didn't publish it:

Congress and the President erred in 2011 when they formulated the so‐called Fiscal Cliff as an incentive
for them to reach an agreement on resolving the budget deficit. Instead of imposing the potentially
calamitous consequences of the Fiscal Cliff on the U. S. economy, and, by extension, millions of working
people whose employment, savings, and investments depend on the strength and advancement of that
economy, I would suggest that the consequences of failure to reach agreement be instead imposed
directly on the financial well‐being of the President and each member of Congress. I submit that the
President and each member of Congress should be personally assessed, say, $25,000 per day, payable to
the United States Treasury, for each day beyond 1 January 2013 for which they do not reach agreement.
I would view this as simply holding Congress and the President directly accountable for failure to act
responsibly. Perhaps if they were immediately, personally, and adversely affected by their own actions
in this matter, they would be more willing to reach a rational compromise. I would expect such a
compromise to reflect a combination of revenue increases and entitlement reductions that may not be
ideal to all parties, but, nonetheless, resolves the federal budget deficit problem in a rational way.
Dec 21, 2012
Amazing - the first word that came into my head as I started to read this was - wait for it - Wally!
Dec 18, 2012
The company that I work for has a similar system. Every year I get a bonus, which is nominally based on my performance. By far the greatest determining factor, though, is the company's overall performance. So if the board makes good decisions and the sales department sells a lot of product, my bonus gets increased; and if all that goes poorly, my bonus suffers. It's called "pay for performance", and I'm not supposed to figure out that it's somebody else's performance.
Dec 18, 2012
Actually grgeil, one of the best ways to get your credit card limit raised is to come close to maxing it out while making at least the minimum payment - they raise it so you keep using their card instead of switching to one that's not maxed out from another issuer.

Funny thing, that.
Dec 18, 2012
I've been thinking that both sides were hoping that we go off the fiscal cliff this whole time so that they can blame the other party for making us go there while avoiding the voter backlash for backing down on their positions.
Dec 18, 2012
So explain to me the immunity scenario. I mean... like I don't really know you personally, but as a fan and reader of your blog, am I the kind of stranger that gets paid for kicking nads, the kind of stranger who gets kicked in the nads, or am I disqualified from both positions?
Dec 18, 2012
I believe you have hit on the solution to the problem with congress (notice the lack of capitalization). We should push for an amendment to the Constitution to make it forbidden to run for the Presidency or Congress if you have or have ever been a lawyer.
Dec 18, 2012
"if you tell me you don't like my blog, I will pay a stranger to kick another stranger in the nads"

Absolutely the best quote ever. Or the best life philosophy ever - both work for me.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2012
No, Scott, to follow the analogy, you should get paid by a stranger for kicking him.
Dec 18, 2012
I do not like your blog!

Lets spread the pain...
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2012
Go ahead and max out your credit cards and your home equity line of credit, too. When out of this credit, you can simply vote to increase your own debt limit even further! Just notify your creditors that this is OK because you have gone ahead and obligated your children and grandkids to pay the debt.
+21 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2012
[ I will pay a stranger to kick another stranger...]
Technically, if you want to adopt the Congressional model, the person being kicked is the one who has to pay.
Dec 17, 2012
I love the idea of automatic spending cuts. There will *never* be agreement on what should be cut and what absolutely can not be cut. So instituting across the board automatic cuts is as close to a "balanced" approach as you are ever going to get.

And, in fact, restricting *increases* to federal spending to 2 or 3 % would get us to balance in approximately 10 years. That's better than anything I've seen so far from any of those idiots in DC who absolutely deserve automatic nad "sequestration".
Dec 17, 2012
For you to really feel incentive equivalent to congress, I think you're going to need to procure a small business grant that subsidizes you for the cost of hiring the ball-kicker. probably better limit your victims to Democratic congressmen until that comes through...
Dec 17, 2012
I always get a kick out of people saying - well, the approval rating is so low for Congress, I'm surprised they get re-elected' - or words to that effect. Hate to tell you all, but that's the approval rating people give for anyone OTHER than their congressman. Their own congressman has much higher approval ratings especially among those that actually vote in the primaries. And since most elections take place there (most districts are so gerrymandered as to ensure certain party candidates get elected in the general election), and so few bother to vote, it's no wonder they stay in office, and often nobody who has much of a chance, bothers to challenge the incumbants in the primaries anyway. So stop complaining, unless you're willing to spend several hundred thousand if not more of your own money to run what would be required for a decent campaign - with no assurances you will actually get elected (see: Romney). We are getting the best Congress that primary money can buy. Regarding Scott's basic point? Why take risks when toeing the party line will ensure you get that primary vote win.
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 17, 2012
You can solve the debt problems EASILY in most countries by auctioning off the right to kick a politician in the "gender" parts. Televise it live and you can have sponsorships as well.

How much would you pay to kick your MP in the fork on live TV? Bidding will start at $1000.
Dec 17, 2012
Another example of Congress doing its best work by refusing to vote was the military base closing commission. Congress realized that they would never have the nerve to actually vote for any closures, so they offloaded it to an independent commission that did a fairly good job of it (at least for a while).

Our elected representatives have proven that they are unable to make difficult decisions, so we have two choices; a) we can continue watch them get nothing accomplished, or b) we can find more ways for them to offload decision-making to technocrats and mathematical formulas.

I vote for option B.
Dec 17, 2012

[With Congress's approval in the low teens, I'm surprised that more candidates don't run on an anti-congress, anti-gridlock platform, I would think it would be quite popular. ]

When people disapprove of congress its typically not THEIR congressman they disapprove of but OTHER FOLKS congressman they disapprove of. As for running on an anti-gridlock platform think about what this means. Suppose you're a tea party congressman currently part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. You have the choice of A) ending the gridlock by accepting tax hikes or B) doing the job the tea party put you into office to do (i.e., say no to tax hikes). You can't be anti-gridlock AND anti-tax. Which do you think said congressman's voters REALLY want him to be?
Dec 17, 2012

Except those inept congress people didn't time the trigger very well. They don't want to work over the holidays, but if they go home without a deal the opposition can use that against them in the next election.

You should expect a deal at the end of this week.

The "deal" will probably be a short-term compromise that will delay the trigger for a more convenient time, which is essentially the same as pausing to consider the rocky crags below the cliff before leaping to our doom.
Dec 17, 2012
There are many well-regarded congressmen who get re-elected even though they don't tow the party line. One reason Congress has such a low approval rating is that too few of them show any balls. But the ones who show independent thinking are often the most well-regarded.

With Congress's approval in the low teens, I'm surprised that more candidates don't run on an anti-congress, anti-gridlock platform, I would think it would be quite popular.
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