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1.  Elect chairs of committees by secret ballot. When there are contests within the majority party, this will enhance the likelihood that the more bipartisan candidate will win.

-- The Honorable Tom Campbell: Dean of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and former Congressman, California State Senator, and Director of the California Department of Finance


2. Guarantee to each Member that one bill of her or his choice will be voted on in committee, and, if it succeeds there, on the floor. In the California Legislature, every Assemblymember has 40 such bills guaranteed. As things are now, a Member might never have a vote on any of her or his bills, and this leads to disaffection. With a recorded vote, the need to obtain help from across the aisle will enhance the bipartisanship of every member of a committee.  I made these motions in the Republican Conference when I was a Congressman and the Republicans were in the majority. It takes a majority member to offer such suggestions as changes in the rules of the House. Please help me by writing to your Congressmember, especially if she or he is in the majority party, to support a rule change like the two I've suggested.

-- The Honorable Tom Campbell: Dean of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and former Congressman, California State Senator, and Director of the California Department of Finance


3. There should be a mandate that all developers of affordable housing utilizing any type of government funding including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, provide high speed internet wiring to all units in their buildings. This mandate should apply for all new construction projects and substantial renovations. For this to work, it should be combined with a requirement that internet providers as a condition of their license provide internet access for $5 per month. Through this, there will be the wiring and the affordable access so low income people can access the internet.

-- Robert Goldman: President of the Montogomery Housing Partnership, Montgomery County, Maryland


4.  The alternative minimum tax's biggest hit is taken by people in the $200,000-$500,000 range, who lose 74 percent, while the AMT takes back only 7 percent of the tax cuts of people with incomes over  $1,000,000–presumably because the credits for college tuition and  state and local taxes aren't worth much to people like Bill Gates.  I've  written about the AMT several times.  A tax passed to get some  revenue from an elderly lady who kept all her money in municipal bonds  has morphed into a tax that threatens to gobble up extra thousands for  affluent professionals who not unreasonably do not consider themselves rich.  Figures from the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute (indicate) that 89 percent of families with two or more children and  incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 will get hit by the AMT in 2010,  compared with 1 percent in 2006, and that almost half of all taxpayers  will have fallen into the AMT in 10 years.  The reason for that high  jump from 2006 to 2010 is that Congress has been passing stopgap  measures every year to keep lots of people out of the AMT; the 1  percent would be higher if it hadn't.  But the crux of the matter is  this: The AMT is the lever that sooner or later is going to move us to  a major tax reform. Toward something like the rate-cutting, preference-eliminating tax law enacted with bipartisan support in 1986. Democrats aren't interested in lower rates; they'd like to raise the rates on high earners instead. But politically they have to get rid of the AMT. And doing that is too expensive under the pay-go rules that the Democrats have reinstituted for taxes. The only way to do it is by comprehensive changes in tax law.  I don't expect such a reform  in this 110th Congress. But it could come in the 111th or 112th. The pressure will be there, whichever party wins the elections of 2008 and 2010.

-- Michael Barone: Author, Almanac of American Politics; Senior Writer, US News & World Report; Contributor, Fox News Channel; Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research


5.  We now have a legal system in which the majority of Americans cannot afford adequate legal service. The problem of access is as much a middle class problem as it is a problem for the poor. The vast majority of unrepresented parties today at all income levels are in family court, housing disputes and consumer credit claims. Their lives and their families’ futures depend on these cases. And yet often only one side has a lawyer, or in some cases neither side has one. So what is the solution? (1) In California, Chief Justice Ronald George has proposed a pilot project that would grant litigants in important types of cases, such as child custody and elder abuse, the right to counsel in a few counties as a way of gauging the value of such a program.  (2) Another possible solution is to move away from the traditional model of purely adversarial litigation and develop more cost effective models for non-criminal cases.  Instead of each side paying a lawyer, for instance, specialized judges who already know that field might appoint specially trained investigators to impartially collect information and present a report to the court on their findings. (3) We might allow some legal services to be performed by less-than-full-service lawyers including students, specialists (sort of the legal equivalent of nurse practitioners) or apprentices.  Even more radically, we might consider certifying some non-California lawyers — for example, in West Virginia or Canada, for that matter — to perform certain types of work that can be done over the Internet and which does not require broad knowledge of California law.  For example, many types of tax issues can be resolved simply by mastering the federal tax code, federal patent prosecutions do not necessarily demand California experience, and other such advice can be outsourced to the extent that it is in too short supply in our state.

-- Jeff Bleich: President, State Bar of California


6.  I propose the creation of an "F Corporation" as an alternative corporate entity to the traditional "S Corp", "C Corp", and 5013c non profits. This new entity would be free of federal taxation, but would be allowed to operate for profit. The catch is that upon incorporation, and for any share issuances thereafter, the US Treasury receives 35% of the equity. Why this could make things better: The Directors and Officers of a corporation have a fiduciary duty to benefit shareholders. This is a real, legal obligation. That obligation requires that Directors and Officers take action to maximize the cash flow from the business that ends up in the hands of the shareholders. One way this obligation is met is by avoiding payment to other stakeholders in the corporation--in particular the tax authority--since that stakeholder provides no direct benefit to corporate interests. A significant amount of inefficiency exists because of this lack of alignment of interests between the government and the shareholders, as evidenced by the existence of an entire industry for corporate tax accounting and consulting. Over time, the shares held by the US Treasury generate cash flow in two ways: first, through the payment of corporate dividends, in the same way that other shareholders receive dividends; and second, through the cash payment for shares when a corporation is acquired. If tax payments were retained within a corporation, that capital could be reinvested and grown at a rate equal to the return on equity, less dividends. In the time period from 1802 through 1998, a dollar invested in Treasury bills --the effective return on tax recipts-- would have grown by a factor of 3,847 while a dollar invested in large cap equities would have returned 9,856,849 times. (Source: Pioneering Portfolio Management, Swensen, page 61). Few people appreciate the magnitude of compounded returns over long periods of time. Compounding our national wealth in such a way could easily erase a federal debt that is otherwise insurmountable. Existing corporations could elect to irreversibly convert into "F Corporations". This strategy leverages one of the United States greatest assets: efficient, well developed capital markets. Argument against: What about the other stakeholders, like employees and the environment? Government taxation of corporations allows these interests to be represented by #1 diverting cash flows directly to the government for allocation and #2 changing corporate behavior through implementation of tax incentives and penalties. Counter argument: The cash flow to the government from the equity interest is significantly higher than from direct taxation for 3 reasons: 1) the elimination of loss from tax avoidance and deferral strategies 2) the compounded returns gained from corporate reinvestment of capital, 3) the increase in corporate profitability due to the increase in ability to make decisions solely based upon profitability uncompromised by the considerations of tax implications. This increase in ultimate tax revenue to the government, by growing the pie, will give other stakeholders more capital for their needs. Moreover, legislators can still influence corporate actions through non-tax oriented laws. A good example of a law which changed corporate behavior without a tax motivation is Sarbanes Oxley.

--  Ray Conley: Investment Professional at Palo Alto Investors


7.  Time for a Post-Partisan Broadband Debate. The current broadband debate has degenerated into a highly partisan, ideological, and bitter battle increasingly devoid of real analysis and lacking in any measure of civility. This is certainly troubling, for it’s extremely difficult to make good public policy in an environment like this. Whatever one thinks about either presidential candidate this year, one thing is striking; they both are talking about the importance of ending the bitter and destructive partisan battles in Washington. Regardless of who wins in November, there is no better place to start this task than with broadband policy. This partisan debate plays itself out in at least four areas: (a) Our International Broadband Position; (b) Net Neutrality; (c) The Role of Competition; (d) Overall Broadband Policy. There will continue to be legitimate differences over broadband policy. The right will be more likely to trust markets and worry about government failures. The left will be more likely to trust government and worry about corporate greed and market failures. But if we are to make progress and make good policy, it’s time to pull back from the unwarranted extremism. Maybe it’s too much to ask to move to a post-partisan broadband policy world. But, maybe we can set the tone for Washington on all the other contentious issues.

-- Robert D. Atkinson, President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation


8.  [The U.S.] should strengthen and coordinate its aid efforts at the executive branch level through the National Security Council, giving much increased attention to agriculture, hunger, and malnutrition as part of an overall 'soft power' approach. Aid must again play a bigger part in U.S. diplomacy, and State Dept. staffers must become more actively engaged.  Washington should also strengthen the leadership role of USAID. The Administrator of USAID should head the Millennium Challenge Corp. and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. And agriculture-focused staff at USAID and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture should be increased, and the Peace Corps should create a special cadre devoted to agricultural development. Congress should pass the 2008 Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act as part of a drive to boost funds for agricultural research, education, and extension, with particular support for a second green revolution, this one in Africa. The House Select Committee on Hunger should be reestablished, so that there is a focal point in Congress for debate and oversight over global hunger and malnutrition.  In the field, the U.S. needs to adopt different tactics in designing both agricultural-assistance projects and food-aid operations.  It should strengthen research, training, and other links between the U.S. land-grant universities and historically black colleges in the US and their counterparts in the developing world and encourage them to work on specific issues, especially communications technology in agriculutural extension work. It should better address the impact of drought and climate change on small farmers, with measures such as basic crop insurance and the innovative famine-insurance proposal based on rainfall indicators devised by the World Food Program and the World Bank. It should jettison preconceived ideological approaches to aid and show more flexibility on issues such as subsidies and GM foods. It should coordinate U.S. aid better at the country level, both internally and with international institutions and NGOs.  And it should purchase more food locally to stimulate market development in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

-- The Honorable Dan Glickman: CEO, Motion Picture Assn. of America, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives; excerpt from "Farm Futures: Bringing Agriculture Back to U.S. Foreign Policy" in Foreign Affairs, co-authored by Dan Glickman and Catherine Bertini, Co-Chairs of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Agricultural Development Project (posted here with the advice and consent of Dan Glickman)




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