February 27th (Portland, OR) – During a rare first-year State of the Union address, the President of the United States proposed a number of new, expanded, and reallocated programs. This included creating considerable controls over medical billing; investing in research that may lead to lowering the death rate related to heart disease; building massive desalination plants and filling the deserts with water; deploying more renewable and nuclear energy capabilities (along with carbon sequestration); constructing an elevator to space; and starting a two-year required national service for 18-year-olds. Of course, all of those high ideals brought up one question...
How are we going to pay for all of this?
Cutting Military Expenditures
Though the President had already proposed the idea of closing a tax avoidance mechanism known as the “Delaware Loophole”, that would hardly put much of a dent on the already multi-trillion-dollar United States budget. Further, the White House itself has now conflated the issue by demanding that Congress pass a balanced budget—that is, one in which expected revenues are to meet or exceed planned expenses without borrowing any money, something that has not been accomplished since the dawn of the 21st century. As such, the President has highlighted one area in which the administration expects there to be cuts. Said the President:
The armed forces, security organizations, intelligence community, and related support cost this country—in a time of peace, mind you—well over a trillion dollars every year. How much over a trillion? That is nearly impossible to figure out.
In particular, the President highlighted several troubling statistics. First off, no other country on Earth spends as much on their military as the United States. Just comparing armed forces expenditures alone, America clocks in at nearly $800 million. Meanwhile, the runner-up is the U.S.’s perennial global adversary China, which only pays around $250 million. As a matter of fact, the United States outspends the next dozen countries combined—namely, in addition to China: India, Russia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Australia, and Brazil.
Still, some may say that most of these other countries are incomparable to a nation set up like the United States. To this, the President provided the example of the European Union (E.U.) as a whole. With nearly 30 member-states after the recent ascensions of Ukraine and Moldova, the E.U. is relatively the same physical size as the U.S.A., but is more densely populated with around 500 million people compared to 350 million. And despite sharing borders with known aggressor states like Russia and their allies, the E.U. still maintains a military budget under $250 million.
Total expenditures were not the only way to slice the data, though, as the President highlighted. When looking at spending per citizen, the United States is third in the world, below only Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Similarly, America is the second highest payor per soldier with only Libya spending more—despite the fact that India, China, and Russia have far more active members in their armed forces. The President obviously found these figures unimpressive as in a follow-up comment the Commander-in-Chief stated:
What this tells me is that the United States is not spending its money wisely. We should be getting more for less, not less for more. These numbers are clear: we are highly inefficient and need to do better... much better.
To this end, the President asked—or more accurately demanded—that Congress cut military expenditures by 25% each year over the next three to four years until such a point that the United States became more in-line with its peers. These cuts, the President contended, would more than cover the expenditures of all of the programs the administration has proposed and then some. Neither the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) nor economic experts have weighed in on whether the President’s assumptions are true.
Opponents in Congress and elsewhere have blasted the President. Said one well-known Senator who is considered a potential candidate for the next Presidential election:
This so-called President started on day one by making the world less safe. Hamstringing our defensive tools against terrorists, depleting our deployments around the world, attacking our allies in dangerous zones, and letting Russia and China be the world’s leaders... just add slashing our military readiness to this already burning pile of garbage.
When asked to respond, the White House Communications Director noted that while the President believes the United States needs a strong military to be safe and maintain our freedoms, it does not need one with near unlimited funds and no accountability.
Very Novel Sources of Revenue
Nevertheless, just cutting spending was not the President’s only plan. Instead, the administration would like to see the “War on Drugs” ended—which would be a cost savings unto itself—and then, with that, create a new revenue-generating program. As the President explained:
Of the two million people behind bars in the United States, 1-in-5 of them is there for something related to drugs, most likely nonviolent possession. This is a complete waste. The majority of drug users are perfectly functioning people and valuable members of society. For the small minority that suffer from addiction, rehabilitation and health services would be far less expensive than incarceration.
The President then outlined a five-point plan that the administration hopes will be acceptable to all sides:
- Decriminalization – The President said that possession should not be a criminal offense so as not to fill-up jails and prisons, while at the same time refocusing law enforcement efforts towards those trying to circumvent the yet to be determined management processes;
- Regulation – The administration believes that not only should all recreational drugs be legal, but that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ought to be able to maintain quality and safety, just as they do with all other substances that are consumed;
- Taxation – “We need to get something in return,” the President said, in order to afford the expanded role of the FDA, as well as the next two programs;
- Education – The White House wants the tax dollars generated by drug consumption to be directed towards public outreach and in-school courses on the “honest benefits and dangers of all of these substances” so that people can make their own informed decisions; and
- Rehabilitation – “And should all else fail,” the President noted, “then we will have those tax dollars generated by users to support a safety net for those that do have an addiction or other problem.”
Public polling shows that the majority of the country would support these or similar measures—at least for marijuana—with even conservative districts having been much more receptive to such ideas in recent times. Still, it might be a bigger pill to swallow when talking about harder drugs like the opioid fentanyl that have torn communities apart. After being questioned on this after the State of the Union, the President conceded that it might be more palatable to start with “more mainstream drugs” and slowly legalize the rest over time. When further pressed to provide examples of “mainstream” drugs, the President demurred. Based upon historical precedent and current trends, though, aside from marijuana, this could include other psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin (mushrooms). Studies going back to the 2010s that have contrasted the fatality of these and other substances compared to alcohol have found them to be much “safer”. Per those examinations, even cocaine had a lower chance of an overdose death than alcohol. Only opiates like heroin fared worse in these investigations.
However, controlled substances were not the extent of the President pushing the boundaries of what many may find permissible. Up next in that bucket was a proposal for the decriminalization of “consensual adult sex work”, which most would recognize as “prostitution”. The leader of the free world outlined a plan based largely on the rural counties in Nevada where prostitution is already legal. The focus was on the wellbeing of workers, customers, and the community. This included:
- Having designated zoning within a commercial district and not inside or near residential or industrial areas;
- Requiring that all solicitation and transaction activities happen indoors (i.e., no “street workers”);
- Using the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to confirm safe working conditions, to make sure safe-sex procedures are followed, and to assure testing for sexually transmitted diseases happens on a regular basis;
- Ensure through existing Federal and State agencies that fair wages are received and support the rights of workers to organize; and
- Use freed-up investigative resources to eliminate underage and international trafficking.
These measures, the President contended, would again reduce costs and would instead help replenish the coffers of the government through tax collections. And this would all happen while also decreasing the use of an unregulated and dangerous black market. Here, the President highlighted to a skeptical Congress that since 2020 more than half of Americans have supported decriminalizing sex work, with the averages rising swiftly among younger voters.
Finally, the President expressed a desire to give up something many others who have sat in the Oval Office have enjoyed over the last century:
And if you are looking for even more dollars, then please use the power granted to this Congress by Article 4 § Section 3 § Clause 2 of our Constitution to “dispose of... other Property belonging to the United States” by selling off Camp David. Nothing is more the antithesis of what it means to be a public servant than for me, as the President, to have my own private 125-acre country retreat. Please, take this away from me and my successors and use those funds on the great people of this land, instead.
The President did not stop there and asked Congress to review all properties owned by the Federal Government that could be sold off at a profit, excluding lands being protected for environmental, quality of life, security, and indigenous uses. Further, the President wanted Congress to entertain the idea of accepting sponsorship for buildings and structures that the government does own—such as is done with stadium naming rights—which would provide a desperately needed novel revenue stream.
Seven Months to Figure it Out
After all of this, the President wrapped up the administration’s desires and requirements for the budget and the economy—as well as the State of the Union in general—with an ominous forewarning. It was at this point that the President indicated that the federal budget, in its entirety, must be passed by the end of the fiscal year, which is on September 30th. For decades, Congress has been running in a piecemeal fashion by passing various parts of the budget for differing lengths of time, anywhere from a few days to several years. This disjointed methodology has resulted in several limited partial-government shutdowns when they have not been passed and signed-off on in time.
Each of these acts have become known as “continuing resolutions” and the President has indicated the administration’s support for them would remain, but only on a very limited basis. Said the President:
Despite everything you have heard me say, I will support and sign-off on any continuing resolution this Congress gives me. However, I will immediately veto any of these funding mechanisms that extends beyond September 30th. For funding any part of the government after September 30th, you must give me a complete and clean budget that covers the entire Federal Government and spans the whole fiscal year.
The President continued by saying that any budget that did not cut military spending by 25% while also reappropriating at least some of those funds towards any of the programs and ideas the President had laid out will be met with an automatic veto. The President let Congress know that the only way they could escape the chief executive’s veto would be to garner enough votes to overturn it.
And that is the real rub. With Congress so evenly split between Democrats and Republicans (and the independents that caucus with them) and the President not aligned with either, no one appears poised to compromise. Political experts fear that Democrats and Republicans will push their own preferred policies without taking the President or the other Political Party into account. If that is the situation, Congress will lack the ⅔rds majority necessary to override the President’s veto, even if they manage to pass a budget or continuing resolution on mostly Party lines through a reconciliation process.
That said, even getting to that point is a tall order since there are many renegades even within the Republican and Democratic Parties. In the times when either of the dominant Parties had complete control over Congress and the White House, they still struggled to pass any major legislation due to these mavericks. Many of them could potentially be placated with a bone thrown to their district that they can take credit for, but sometimes in small groups they are impossible to appease.
Only time will tell if the President will be successful or if Congress will find its own path. Nonetheless, the White House has committed to working with Congress, starting immediately, to resolve their differences and come up with a budget that can be supported by most. After all, they have over seven months to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, otherwise the entire Federal Government will completely shut down.
And that does not benefit anyone, least of all the politicians that would potentially cause it.
The above piece is an excerpt from the speculative fiction novel 254 Days to Impeachment: The Future History of the First Independent President by J.P. Prag, available at booksellers worldwide.
Learn more about author J.P. Prag at www.jpprag.com.
254 Days to Impeachment is a work of mixed fiction and nonfiction elements. With the fiction elements, any names, characters, places, events, and incidents that bear any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. For the nonfiction elements, no names have been changed, no characters invented, no events fabricated except for hypothetical situations.
About the Creator
J.P. Prag is the author of "Compendium of Humanity's End", "254 Days to Impeachment", "Always Divided, Never United", "New & Improved: The United States of America", and "In Defense Of...", and more! Learn more at www.jpprag.com.