The special operation soldiers in the military often talk about the fight against the “good idea fairy” in order to make their missions successful. In the military, the good idea fairy shows up whenever the high command or the planners get down into the weeds and try to improve the mission by having a plan for every possible situation the mission may encounter. On paper this appears to be a good and sensible thing to do. However what the men and women who have to carry out the mission will tell you is that the good idea fairy more often than not, will add two or three new problems in its effort to solve the one original problem.
In the book “No Easy Day: the Autobiography of a Navy SEAL”, by Mark Owen, the author discusses the Bin Laden mission. Owen says the good idea fairy wanted to keep innocent bystanders from coming near the Bin Laden house while the SEALS were making their assault by having them turn one of Bin Laden’s cars from the house into a police car by placing a police light on top of it and stationing it on the corner of Bin Laden’s street. This idea created more problems than it was poised to solve. The SEAL team members asked some basic questions: who was going to push the car out to the street since no one would have the keys? Who would have time to push the car out since all the SEALS assumed they would be pretty busy in a fire fight? Wouldn’t it be a problem that there would be a flashing light highlighting their position? Did anyone know what color police lights in Pakistan are? When no satisfactory answer to these questions came up, the idea was dropped. In politics and government we are not as fortunate as the SEALS were with the police light; the good idea fairy often wins the day. Far too often our public policy and legislation goes for the simple fix or the idea that makes us feel good in the moment and the consequences are almost never thought through. We create additional problems, and the original goal is never achieved.
For example think about some of the big issues in the news these days. The fiscal cliff, according to the President and his allies and supporters–the big fix here is to have the wealthy pay more taxes or as the President calls it: their fair share. Going after the rich is a great vote getter but it does nothing to solve our very real serious fiscal problems. Our country spends more than it takes in and as everyone knows, this is not sustainable. The country could take every last dime from every rich person in America and it would barely be a drop in the bucket. More importantly it should be understood that higher taxes do not automatically mean increased revenue. In fact the data shows the exact opposite: in most times of higher tax rates in this country we actually get less revenue from the rich. It is when we cut tax rates that revenue from the wealthy increases. Why is this? Simply put, the rich, because they are rich, have more options.During higher tax rate times they put their money in tax shelters like municipal bonds and corporations and expand operations to countries with lower corporate tax rates, creating jobs and revenue for those countries. When the Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush 43 administrations got tax cuts in the very high tax rates guess what happened? The government increased revenue from people in the highest income brackets because those folks began to seek higher returns on investments than tax shelters tend to provide. This type of investing often leads to business expanding, which in turn means more jobs, and jobs are what this country desperately needs right now.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, telling the truth about taxes is not quite as good a rally point for votes as demonizing the rich is.