ERROL CASTENS: Two birds with one stone – over and over

Being cheap, I subscribe to the “two birds with one stone” mode of investing time and money: Plant corn and beans together to save the cost of bean poles and to let the legumes provide nitrogen to the grain. Use a refrigerator’s waste warmth to make bread dough rise. Add a few days’ vacation to a business trip and make airfare do double duty.
The same approach would work with a number of governmental and societal problems.
- Do away with retirement pay for elected officials: Save money directly, and eliminate a major enticement for people to make a career of politics, which would curtail a whole host of other problems.
- Eliminate a host of inexplicable subsidies like building ponds on private lands, paying people not to farm, loss-generating public golf courses and public broadcasting: Save taxpayer funds directly by stopping such upper- and middle-class welfare and indirectly by firing the federal administrators required to oversee the false generosity.
- Require everyone who gets government benefits, from student loans to public housing to federal jobs, to take drug tests: Some people will be rightfully bumped from the programs, meaning less spent on them; more important, it will add incentive to stay off substances that foster crime and harm productivity. (Such a step would also put tax beneficiaries on more equal footing with a lot of people who have to take drug tests for the privilege of having a job to pay the taxes in the first place.)
- Same principle: Requiring anyone receiving public benefits except in a dire emergency to be here lawfully would save gazillions of tax dollars directly and eliminate one more perverse incentive for them to come here illegally.
- Students accepting state or federal aid should have to finish their undergraduate studies within eight semesters: Society would benefit first by not subsidizing indolents indefinitely and second by encouraging them to join the ranks of taxpaying adults sooner than they would on the six- or seven-year plan.
- Promote children as a source of joy and gratitude again (OK, I admit this cannot be legislated) instead of the trivial way of keeping score of “scores” that they have become for some: Taxpayers would less often be surrogate parents, and the next generation would learn that responsibility is one of the basic values of civilized people. Crime, poverty, drug use, suicide, school failure and every other social ill we can name would be lessened. More people might even enjoy their families.

Contact Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal