America is about to plummet off the fiscal cliff. In fact, by the time you read this it might already be on the way down. And all because those pesky politicians couldn’t agree on how to cut the deficit.
The problem is that even if the Republicans and Democrats established precisely how much they wanted to cut from the country’s borrowing, they can’t make up their minds how much of that will come in the form of spending cuts or tax rises. But are those the only options? I can reveal that in fact there are a number of more radical options Congress has not yet considered which could help it meet the deadline without having to cut one penny of spending.
That’s right. They’re a bit blue sky but each is, in its own way, flawless:
1. Switch to the Persian calendar
According to the Persian or Iranian calendar we are currently in the year 1391. So let’s say we retained the deadline for the fiscal cliff as January 2013. That would mean we’d have more than 621 years’ leeway. Alternatively, given that adopting a calendar used by one’s arch enemy might look a little iffy, America could always switch from the Gregorian calendar onto the Julian calendar which, I’m reliably informed by @allanholloway, would push the deadline back about three weeks. Problem solved!
2. Adopt the ancient Egyptian numeral system
Well, it’s all just a numbers game after all, this debt palaver, isn’t it? And if you can’t change the numbers, why not simply change the numeral system? The ancient Egyptian numeral system, is, conveniently, incapable of denoting any number over a million. All they have is a hieroglyph which means: “many”.
So the US national debt, currently around $12 trillion or $16 trillion, depending on which definition you use, would, far more simply, become: $many. Problem solved!
3. Stash it away in a tax haven
Big multinationals are a dab hand at using a variety of techniques (transfer pricing etc) to disguise the real state of their books. And what they can do, surely the greatest economy on earth can do even better? With a little bit of financial jiggery-pokery, it could hive off the national debt to an offshore subsidiary in the Cayman Islands. Out of sight, out of mind. And in case you’re wondering, a certain European country has done something not entirely dissimilar before. Problem solved!
4. Put it all on the Superbowl
It’s only a few weeks now until the greatest show on earth – the Superbowl. So how about Congress puts a big slug of cash on the result of the game? I mean, the 49ers are looking unbeatable this year, aren’t they? Though having said that, so did the Patriots this time last year… But anyway, what have they got to lose? $1 trillion on the 49ers, and just imagine the celebrations if they win! And if they lose, instantly impose a 100% tax on the gambling industry. Problem solved!
5. Mint a $1 trillion coin
The Treasury Secretary could, theoretically, order the Federal Reserve to mint a few platinum coins worth $1 trillion apiece, which the Government could use to pay off the majority of the public debt instantly. Problem solved! Although, come to think of this, wouldn’t that just amount to monetising the country’s debt, which is what happened in the Weimar Republic in the 1920s? Surely no-one could seriously suggest such an idea, could they?read more
This is typically the time of year when newspaper columnists are asked for their predictions for the coming year. However, I’d like to frame the question in a different way: which establishment/authority figure will face a backlash in the coming year?
We are living in the age of the backlash. Perhaps it’s down to economics – the paucity of growth, the lack of opportunity for many, the gulf in incomes and living standards between rich and poor – but every year since 2008 seems to have brought with it an episode of major public revulsion with a key UK institution.
Think about it: we’ve known for some years that multinational corporations have tended to pay far less in taxes than many other companies. There’s nothing new about transfer pricing and similar tax avoidance techniques. And yet for some reason 2012 was the year the public deemed that to be unacceptable, boycotting Starbucks and other companies, causing such a fluster that the company voluntarily gave a £20m “gift” to HM Revenue and Customs.
And that was only the latest in a series of backlashes against a whole host of establishment institutions in previous years: MPs (and their expenses), the media (and phone hacking), banks and financiers, the police, regulators and others.
The common factor in all of these cases is that, generally-speaking, the abuses of power these institutions have allegedly been guilty of have been going on for some time, but then one particularly egregious incident has triggered a landslide of public disgust.
As a result, guessing who will fall victim to a backlash next is fiendishly difficult. I’ve had a suspicion for some time that there might be a widespread backlash against Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks (much greater than the Instagram incident a few weeks ago). And I’ve always wondered why the legal and accountancy profession seems to have avoided some of the widespread disapprobation others have suffered throughout the financial crisis.
But that’s all guesswork. What’s clearer is that we are living in a period when the public’s relationship with leading institutions is more volatile than ever before. And although we don’t know who the next victim is, it seems inevitable that the backlashes will continue in 2013.
PS But one thing that’s more predictable is that the ongoing backlash against the media, politicians and bankers will continue. That pretty much goes without saying.read more