A shovel-ready idea to cover the cost of the stimulus

No doubt about it. The economic crisis places this generation smack-dab in the middle of historically historic times, so I sure hope someone out there is taking decent notes.

These are the kinds of times that not only will be featured in history books, but also contain unfortunate real-life stories of family hardship that will be solemnly shared across kitchen tables for years to come.

Not to crassly romanticize what are clearly desperate straits for millions of families trying to make ends meet, but in the midst of these challenges we should not lose sight of the fact that these are the sorts of times for which the vaunted, indomitable American spirit was probably hardwired into our DNA in the first place.

ADVERTISEMENT

I have no doubt that if we stick together, think creatively and all do our part, we will come through this with flying colors. Your government officials here in Washington are certainly doing theirs.

A rare weekend session of the Senate was convened so senators could crank away on that $827 billion stimulus package. On Monday night, President Obama was to hold a dramatic primetime news conference in the East Room of the White House, with the event broadcast live on all the networks.

Earlier in the day he shoehorned a group of Indiana political VIPs onto Air Force One and traveled to Elkhart, Ind., to hold a town-hall meeting in an area of the country that has been hit particularly hard with layoffs. Apparently not having any complaints about his mode of travel these days, the president will scoot down to Fort Myers, Fla., for another town hall on Tuesday.

It’s not just presidential action, either. The Cabinet is working just as hard.

Anticipating the eventual flowing of that all-important stimulus money, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has invited transportation honchos from across the country to transport themselves to town Wednesday to share ideas about quickly turning dirt on those “shovel-ready” and “on-the-shelf” road and bridge projects that are just waiting for some stimulating governmental cash to get them started.

ADVERTISEMENT

Just an aside, but the phrases shovel-ready and on-the-shelf should definitely be inducted into a Spending Buzz Word Hall of Fame with those earlier hyphenated inductees “first-responder” and “off-budget.” Sounds like a worthy earmark to me, but I suppose we better check in with Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeKelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) or Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.) just to be sure.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also quite busy these days with an appearance scheduled Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee and another Wednesday before the Senate Budget Committee, both rolling out the next phase of the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). Good thing they didn’t call the thing the Troubled Relief Asset Program (TRAP), which would have caused some unnecessary PR problems.

Desperate times require desperate measures, folks. And in the spirit of the times, I, too, have been burning the midnight oil trying to come up with ideas to help get the economy on track. Giving credit where credit is due, I was inspired after learning about Geithner’s and former Sen. Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) recent encounters with TurboTax and the U.S. tax code.

On Tuesday, down in Fort Myers, President Obama should step to the podium and announce a new government initiative totally unrelated to the stimulus package or the TARP. He should announce a completely new effort (that would translate immediately into thousands of high-paying jobs) involving an order to the IRS to commence an immediate audit, for the past 10 years, for everyone who holds a paid or unpaid position in his administration. No exceptions! Everyone — including his sweet mother-in-law, who is living with the family in the White House.

One of two things would immediately take place: 1) We would wind up with about 100,000 job openings in the federal government because of all the folks suddenly opting for early retirement, or 2) It would generate approximately $823 billion in back taxes — enough to fund the stimulus bill. Now that’s an offset that the Blue Dogs could support.

Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who used to say there is no limit to what we can accomplish if we don’t mind who gets the credit? These are tough times, and this is a team effort. Feel free to pass along all similarly brilliant revenue-enhancing or cost-cutting ideas to jmills@thehill.com.