Marjorie Taylor Greene is covered extensively on social media, but her often peculiar ideas are not in heavy rotation in formats such as major TV networks’ flagship news programs. Even Fox News seems to downplay many of her ideas, but she was a guest on Fox’s Hannity show recently in which her National Divorce idea was a topic.
While Greene is espousing a legal dissolution of the United States (but not really – it would still be one country, split in two completely independent parts, but still legally married to each other and sort of acting together on certain things but not on other things) … Sorry – got distracted trying to make sense of this idea.
Other GOP leaders are trying to figure out how to balance the federal budget without raising taxes or cutting defense spending. President Trump’s budget director, Russell Vought, has the plan for that – cut the Affordable Care Act and other social safety net programs so dramatically that 14.5 million more Americans than estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will magically enter the workforce. Vought’s track record isn’t great. He was part of the GOP decision to ignore the CBO’s projections that the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act would add $1.455 trillion to the national debt over the following 10 years.
The tax cuts were passed and, despite a strong economy, the budget deficit grew from $666 billion in 2017 to $779 billion in 2018 to $984 billion in 2019 (+48% in two years). The tax cuts don’t appear to be paying for themselves, just as the CBO predicted.
Let’s look at combining these two GOP ideas, at least a little bit. Let’s take Greene’s national divorce idea and apply it to the majority of federal spending. Greene seems to have a true hatred of Democrats and the values they hold and believes this divorce would allow Red State Americans to live without the tyranny that comes with Democratic tax and spend policies. Vought wants cuts to federal spending and is willing to hold the country hostage over the debt ceiling in order to force them.
Therefore, it seems as if the Greene/Vought solution would be a nation in which federal spending is provided to each state via block grants using some formula which reflects the different priorities of the two mini-Americas. The Blue States would presumably want to have higher taxes and higher social safety net programs and the Red States would want low taxes and minimal assistance to lower income individuals so as to force them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The block grants would be intended for all non-defense spending, including entitlements, and distributed exclusively at the states’ discretion.
This could actually be done. The federal government would collect duties, fees and taxes from the residents and businesses in all states, take out the money for national defense & paying interest on the accrued debt, and divvy up the rest to state governments. State and local jurisdictions may choose to raise additional funds through taxes, etc., but those decisions are under state and local control. Doesn’t this sound like a win-win?
Now, as for the formula to determine how the federal money is distributed, the fairest thing – and Greene goes on and on about how unfair the current system is to Republicans – would be for each state to receive the same percentage from the federal government as they have paid in.
There are six states that receive less than $1 in federal money for each $1 of federal income sent to Washington. The other 44 states receive more that $1 with Kentucky receiving the most at $2.89. Because of the annual budget deficit, the current average is $1.28 paid to the states for each $1 received by the federal government.
So, let’s lock in that percentage at the start; it would approach a $1:$1 relationship as the budget gets closer to being balanced in future years. Each state receives a block grant of $1.28 for each $1 received by the U.S. Treasury from that state’s businesses and residents MINUS the proportional amount taken out for national defense and interest on the national debt. Some states – primarily high tax, democratically-run “Donor” states – are going to like this formula a lot, while several primarily republican-led states will have much less federal money to work with than they’ve been used to. Still, isn’t this the definition of a fair system?
I suspect lots of people will move to another state should something like this go into effect, which seems to be the goal of Greene’s national divorce idea. Now, how does one go about starting a moving company?