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Sunset Everything

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Let me be the first to point out that I wrote on December 1 in the MULLINGS titled: "It's NOT a Tax Cut"

You don't have to be a scholar of Congressional finagling to figure out that the unemployment benefit extension will somehow be tied to retaining the current tax rates and both sides will get what they want.

Well, imagine my surprise when the President outlined the "framework" of the deal which included extending the current tax rates and extending unemployment benefits.

I'm allowed to crow about those few times when I've been right because you are oh-so-quick to point out all the instances when I have been wrong.

Yesterday morning the whine du jour on cable news programs was complaining that all the President and the Congress will have done is "kick the can down the road" for two years [to the next election] when the tax increase on the top two percent of earners in the U.S. will take effect.

That got me to thinking which, as you know, I don't do very often.

What's so wrong with having, as a major element of a Presidential election campaign, the issue of tax rates?

It seems to me that a campaign centered around real issues like tax rates is a much better discussion for American voters to engage in than 30 second ads about how a candidate's step-brother-in-law once got arrested on a minor-in-possession rap as a sophomore at the University of Texas and NEVER SHOWED UP IN COURT!

More? I've got more.

How about a Constitutional amendment which would add a section to Article I (the Article which deals with the Congress) and states something like: "Congress shall make no law without an accompanying expiration date"

That goes for programs, spending, taxes, loopholes, set-asides and anything else that Members of Congress, Senators and their staffs cook up just because they're allowed to.

And, in the same Amendment, an Article II (the Executive) addition: "The President [and by extension his appointees] shall promulgate no rule or regulation without an accompanying expiration date"

The point is, it is healthy to have a public debate about whether or not we need all of the Departments, Agencies, Commissions, etc. and all of the rules and regulations they toss out because that's what bureaucrats do.

I'm not just talking about some backwater (literally) agency dealing with wetlands in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. I'm talking about having a real, grown up discussion about whether the Department of Defense, as it is currently constituted, needs to be shut down and rebooted.

If we were starting from scratch, would we have five separate armed services as we do now? As a student of the lowest enlisted echelons of the U.S. military (having spent six years there), I would say not.

If every loophole in the billion-page U.S. tax code had a sunset provision and had to be re-authorized every four or five years, how many do you think would make it through without withering in the full sunshine of a public debate?

Earmarks? Bwah-hah-hah-hah!

Sunsetting everything would also get us away from the bogus accounting that every Administration and every majority in every Congress use to pretend things are going to cost less than they really do.

Cost cutters are timed to start immediately. Cost raisers don't begin for four or five years, and the Congressional Budget Office (or whomever) stops counting juuuuust before the heavy costs kick in. Whoo Hoo! Look how nicely this new jillion dollar program fits into our deficit reduction plan.

It's like those auto insurance ads on TV. If I could really save an average of $436 by switching from All Star Insurance to Promethian Insurance I would switch carriers every year. After about three years of switching they would have to pay me. Same logic.

The accounting used to pass the Obama health care legislation should have made Enron's Jeff Skilling and WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers file a class action lawsuit because everyone involved hasn't been thrown into their same cellblocks.

Where was I? Oh, yes. A Constitutional amendment to sunset everything.

What are the chances of anything like this ever happening? What comes before zero?

It's a good idea, though.

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