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31 Comments

  1. Jane

    What I’d trade; my pension for a lump sum payment into TSP (the Federal Governments 401k). I’d much rather have this option than the proposed changes to the pension system. (jacking up participant contributions, no COLAs and no early retirement supplement to SSA as my position requires me to retire before I can collect SSA.) If I’m going to pay more for less I’d like to control the proceeds.

    The G fund in TSP. Trade it for something equivalent to a savings account. I don’t think the 2% it’s been getting is all that special so just make a high yield savings account option available for the I don’t want any risk crowd.

    I’d give up itemizing state and local taxes if the mortgage tax deduction and charity giving are also eliminated. Kind of an all in thing. Mainly because I see the elimination of local tax itemization as causing me an ethical dilemma when it comes to charity, will I give less if it is harder for itemized donations to get above the standard deduction for a single person.

    If we can make health care more transparent like proposed by Mr. G, I’d give up my health care and go out into the open marketplace.

    Rightsize the military and the military industrial complex. We don’t need to be the worlds policemen in order to be relevant in the world.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Jane. Sorry for the late reply. Things have been crazy in Groovyville and your comment went unnoticed until Mrs. G saw it today. Man, I like the cut of your jib. You offered up a lot of promising give-backs. I especially like the idea of doing away with deductions for local taxes and mortgage interest. And we can lesson the sting of this on the lower- and middle-income groups (and the charitable) by increasing the standard deduction and keeping the personal exemptions. I also love your idea of rightsizing the military. I’m all for a strong defense. But we’re $20 trillion in debt, and we can no longer afford to defend Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and all the other countries that benefit from our military-industrial complex. Thanks for stopping by, Jane. I really appreciate your contribution. It was very thoughtful.

  2. Oooh good questions Mr. G! I would give up my 529 tax break – I mean, I’m still not going to be able to afford to pay for my kids’ college education, so what the hell’s the difference? I give up the mortgage deduction for the home I will probably never be able to afford to own. And I will pay more tax on my capital gains/ dividends. I am also ok giving up agriculture subsidies that encourage monoculture farming; subsidies to gas and coal companies; for-profit prisons and every republican member of congress’s health insurance.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it! Your Brooklyn is bursting through. Take no prisoners. The real test is with our wealthy countrymen. The wealthy got to man up, so to speak, and show us all how to surrender goodies. Will that happen? Probably not. If any surrendering happens at all, it will probably start with people like ourselves. Meh. This democracy thing ain’t so easy. Thanks for playing along, Linda. As always, I really appreciate your comment. In just a few sentences, you pointed out a lot of fat in our federal budget.

  3. Love this framing. Both that you’re flagging taxes and spending where people tend to want to address one or the other and that you’re asking people what they would give up rather than what they think others should give up.

    Here are some things I’d be willing to throw in that benefit me as an upper-middle-classer without helping those with less money:

    1. Capital gains/qualified dividends tax rates
    2. Backdoor Roth
    3. 529 accounts

    I benefit from the first two right now and will benefit from the third if it still exists when kids enter the picture.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Matt. If everyone gave back something we could get a handle on our fiscal woes over the next couple of decades. What a tremendous gift that would be to your future children.

  4. Hmm. .. where to strike a leviathan first?

    I agree with mortgage tax deduction (we don’t itemize) and the health care subsidies (I don’t think single payer is the answer either… the Vermont experiment recently collapsed).

    My third point would be less military intervention. The world would be more volatile (potentially), but it will be when our creditors repo our warships and planes as collateral.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Indeed, where to strike a leviathan first? I agree with you about single payer. Much of our healthcare woes would be solved by a system that featured price transparency and competition. Single payer would be a joke. The sorry people would get the crappy government-run hospitals and clinics. And the non-sorry people–which would surely include our political class–would get the exquisitely run private hospitals and clinics. And you’re absolutely right about less military intervention. We need to retire from our role as the world’s policeman. I’d much rather have of our military on the Mexican border than in Europe. Thanks for stopping by, Josh. As usual, your comment put a smile on my face.

  5. Laurie Blank

    Interesting!! I worry about ppl giving up the COLA for Social Security since so many retirees are in dire straits financially, but it could be done on a volunteer basis. Rick and I could definitely give up COLA on our Social Security checks. Not sure what else we’d have to give up? I think there is SO much waste in spending on education and military. I’ve seen it personally in our former suburb – decorative items for schools costing thousands of dollars, etc. Not sure what to think about the prison stuff and non-violent crimes. That would be too long a comment. 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      How about this one, Laurie. Allow people to opt out of their Social Security COLA. But let them decide where the savings will go. Let’s say you forego the COLA and your annual Social Security benefit for a particular year is $500 lighter. You can direct the SSA to send that $500 to another federal program (defense, education, welfare, etc.), help reduce the national debt, or augment a national emergency fund. Giving Americans direct control over how some government revenues are spent might have some beneficial results. I got to think about this. Thanks for commenting, Laurie. And thanks for giving me an interesting idea. For a little ol’ frugal farmer, you’re pretty awesome.

  6. Pot is legal in Seattle. There’s a bunch of dispensaries semi close to us. My complaint is that it draws the most awkward, run down people that clearly aren’t worried about their livelihood. Not much money in taxing them I don’t think.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Legalizing pot will move the needle a little bit at most. It will generate some sales, property, and income taxes. It will also reduce our prison population a little. (That’s just conjecture on my part. I don’t know what percentage of our prisoners are in prison for marijuana possession only. My guess is that it’s very small.) But like you pointed out, Lily, with legalization comes externalities. No one wants to live next methadone clinic. And my guess is that pot dispensaries will not elevate the property values of their neighbors. But only time will tell, of course. Thanks for stopping by, Lily. Great comment as always.

  7. Moe Parr

    It’s all about the trade deficit. We buy Chinese, Korean, and Japanese-made goods, then borrow the money back from the foreign countries whose pockets we’ve been lining. Put Americans to work and tax revenues will increase manyfold as that money cycles through the economy. Buy a Chevy or a Buick instead of a Hyndai or a Lexus!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Tough problem. On the one hand, trade helps protect American consumers from lousy and abusive American companies. Japan only got a foothold in our car market because GM, Ford, and Chrysler got lazy and started producing a lot of crappy cars. On the other hand, though, it’s not fair to expect American workers and companies to compete against foreign companies that are blessed with lax environmental laws and ultra cheap labor. I can see a 15-20% tariff on all imported goods as part of our comprehensive safety net.

      • Jane

        I must point out that there are good reasons for the environmental laws. One of the Big local stories right now in my hometown is water pollution from Shoe Corporation Wolverine Worldwide (Hush Puppies, Cat, Saucony, and Merrell to name a few of their brands.) Their major legal trash dump from the 70s is polluting the local well water. And now 3-4 new sites where they just dumped leather scraps treated with a hazardous chemical have been found in other areas such as the site of the old plant. The company seems to be addressing it well for now but the problem is only in the discovery page once the costs start adding up things could change.

        • I’m in Grand Rapids, too. What’s troubling about the Wolverine story is that the “hazardous chemical” they are talking about is the Scotchguard waterproofing coating that had been applied to the leather scraps. In the ’70s I had a summer job cleaning carpets and one of the up-sells was to apply Scotchguard to just-cleaned carpets to provide some protection against casual spills. ERGO the “hazardous chemical” was once applied to carpeting in people’s houses and I used to get the overspray on my clothing and skin. Moreover, Scotchguard was a common upholstery treatment in autos, too. Since it hasn’t killed me in the 40 years after exposure, this story has me lifting an eyebrow of skepticism

  8. Mrs Groovy has gotta come up with at least one more.

    I’ve got 4:
    1)Less wars
    2)Less prisons
    3)Close loopholes
    4)Legalize and tax pot? Even though I don’t want anybody smoking right next to me, please 🙂 . The last time someone smoked around me, I spent the next day high and throwing up.

    • Mr. Groovy

      C’mon, Ms99t01. You don’t like endless wars in which nothing ever gets solved and more and more American lives and treasure get wasted? I’m with you. We can’t afford to pay for an empire anymore. Let Europe, South Korea, Japan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia defend themselves.

  9. Ron Cameron

    The answer is simple but not easy. As you stated, we need to spend a lot less AND increase our government income (taxes). Simple, but not easy. Here are a few points:

    -I’ve never seen a budget/debt problem that got fixed with more income. Ever. Usually, the person/entity who is in debt got that way by overspending. More money equals more money to overspend.
    -While I’m not convinced we’re going to pay down the deficit, I’m not so sure it isn’t sustainable for a long time. And I hate saying that, because it -shouldn’t- be sustainable. But even Warren Buffet says running these deficits is quite sustainable. Which, again, kills me to consider.

    Having said all that, I’m a big fan of cutting spending across the board. It’s amazing what someone can do when they -have- to.

    I’ve talked with my wife about my big “fix people” idea: An inhabitable island we could send people to who have a difficult time in life (measured in a variety of ways). The island would have no one on it, and no support. And then we simply give them a gentle nudge and say “Go.” And the vast majority would figure it out and survive. There would be no room for finger pointing, whining, pouting in the corner, or relying on others. For anything. When we picked them up in six months…or two years…they’d be a better, stronger person. Or be dead. But I like to envision the better, stronger scenario.

    • Mr. Groovy

      LOL! I like your idea of combining the Survivor game show with Devil’s Island. Very intriguing. I don’t think the ACLU will go for it, though. And I hear you about the spending side of the equation. My ultimate fix would be a Constitutional amendment that limited the tax bite of all levels of government to 15 or 20% of your income. If our federal, state, and local governments can’t fix all our problems with that amount of money, then some or all our problems don’t get fixed. To say I have compassion fatigue is a gross understatement. Thanks for stopping by, Ron. I love the cut of your jib.

  10. As Dr. Reynolds says, “that which cannot go on forever won’t.” Expect a Greek-style fix and I suspect depositors in US banks and holders of dollar-demonimated cash assets will get a haircut.

    Got bitcoin?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Dr. Reynolds is a wise man. The day of reckoning is coming. And it will not be kind to the debt-ridden and dependent. Meh. Digital currency here I come.

  11. Mrs G, NO FAIR. It’s not a give-back if you’re NOT getting some value from it today! Glad you came back in your comments with the Obama give-back, tho I did note that it’s with an unrealistic “hook”.

    There’s a reason I’m putting in as much as I possibly can into my Roth (LOVE Mega-Back Door!). I’ll give up my Mega Back Door, just don’t change the rules and start taxing my Roth post-retirement.

    Taxes are clearly going to go up. A lot.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see gov’t getting smaller. I fear it’s a one way street, and bigger is all she’s got. As your post makes clear, no one wants to give up any benefit they’re receiving. Unfortunately, no politician has the backbone to force the issue.

    End result = Not Good. For our country, or it’s citizens.

    • Mr. Groovy

      C’mon, Fritz. Be a little bit more optimistic. Sure, full-blown socialism didn’t work for Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela. But it will work for us. We’re much smarter and kinder than those losers.

  12. How about the higher rates for long-term capital gains and qualified dividends? It would hurt me, but it’s probably fairer for that to be taxed at something closer to the regular rate.

    If I have to come up with 2 more, I’d say our retirement savings credit and child tax credit (but not if we lose personal exemptions too.)

    And I’d also say legalize pot and stop prosecuting users. Prison costs for nonviolent offenders are a huge drain on the tax base, do nothing to help economic productivity, and marijuana is imminently taxable. (Admittedly, as a nonuser, I wouldn’t have to pay them.)

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agree! Agree!! Agree!!! Thank you, Emily. If we’re ever going to get a handle on our national debt, we all have to be willing to sacrifice something. And it would be really great if those with the most means stepped up and made the biggest sacrifices. In other words, I expect more from the One Percent than McDonald’s workers.