Estonia has online voting, so should we!

It’s a known fact that we’d have better government if more citizens made their voices/votes heard.  So, I vote for a new voting system!  Come on, Estonia has online voting — so should the USA!

Manual balloting has no place in the modern world.  Haven’t we learned anything from the Hanging Chads of the 2000 election?  Just last week a whole bunch of votes went missing in Iowa – the board of elections had to shake the local precinct captain out of bed to find them.  What the heck???

Online Voting — Let’s do it!

  • Electronic balloting should replace manual balloting.  No more hanging chads.  No more lost votes. No more stuffed ballot boxes.
  • Everyone should be able to vote online – no need to trek into a polling place.
  • Give people more time to cast their votes.  Voting should take place over the course of one week.

    What are they doing inside there? Certainly not working, that's for sure

  • Online balloting would also be available in any language.
  • Online balloting could also show live results of current voting activity.
  • Online balloting will make Absentee Balloting unnecessary and save millions in postage.
  • Active duty Armed Services personnel should be able to also vote online
  • Do away with voter registration; instead your social security number becomes your username of which to log in.  (Individuals would also be able to pick a password – part of a National Identity card – more on that in another post).
  • For individuals that don’t have access to computers* – they would be invited to vote at local libraries.  Also computer retailers such as Apple stores would be encouraged to open terminals to voters (a good sales tool as well).  (According to recent Nielsen Report, more than 80% of Americans now have a computer in their homes, and of those, almost 92% have Internet access)
  • A secure unhackable system would need to be engineered.  The technology exists today.

Implementing electronic online voting would:

  • Rid the world of chads
  • Greatly increase the number of people voting in elections
  • Reduce/eliminate election fraud
  • Deliver instantaneous election results
  • Greatly reduce the current 1 billion dollar cost of running the elections (poll workers, election observers)
  • Eliminate the need for people to take time out of the workday – hard to put a price on 1 hour of lost time to the U.S. economy – but another billion would be more than a fair guess.
  • And finally yes, if more people voted we’d have better government.

*In the 2008 presidential election, 71% percent of voting-age citizens were registered to vote, of which 64% percent voted.  Overall, 131 million people voted.

Happy birthday, now pay your taxes!

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes — well maybe not exactly certain because this year we get three extra days (April 19th instead of the 15th) to submit our returns. But why April? Why the 15th?  Apparently the first income tax was paid only by the very wealthy, and they tended to spend their summers vacationing. Thus, the IRS Commissioner argued, “The collection of taxes would be much easier if an earlier assessment was made, before they leave town.” Seems early to start vacation but whatever, that was many years ago.

I’ve been thinking about taxes and I’ve come to the conclusion: the IRS could mange them a lot better — again a pretty simple solution is the answer: Rolling Returns.  I see absolutely no reason why every single American has to submit their taxes on the same day.  Why not just vary the date so that not everyone pays on the same day?  For simplicity sake make everyone’s yearend be their birthdays.  Yes, that’s right I’m suggesting that we all pay our taxes on our birthdays. This accomplishes a couple of things: 1) it lessens the amount of workers the IRS has to have on staff– this could be a HUGE SAVINGS.

No reason these returns all need to be collected on one day

Returns would come in all year long and greatly reduce the paperwork overload. 2) the U.S. Post Office also would benefit from having to process so much mail in one short time span. 3) Having a constant cashflow would ease budgeting in Washington. 4) People wouldn’t forget what day their taxes were due and they’d pay on time. They’d also have a few extra dollars in their pockets from cash gifts. 5) There would be less automobile accidents because fewer drivers would be on the road at the same time trying to drop off their returns at the post office.

6) Companies like H&R block and accountants could have a much more normal workload — and afford to keep preparers on fulltime instead of the hundreds of thousands that are employed for March and April and then let go and then go on unemployment — (costing the government more money.

To me this seems like a no-brainer, but then again who am I to judge how the IRS runs its business, I’m just another stressed out last minute taxpayer.  Oh, and if you are wondering   Douglas Shulman is the Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service.  It would be great to get his take on this.  Doug, any thoughts?

Doug recounts his latest fishing expedition for a Senate hearing.

Next up: The Tax Deduction We’ve all been Waiting for!

Going Postal on the Post Office

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds except every other day and on weekends.

5 day a week mail delivery -- who needs it!

As a kid I used to look forward to getting the mail: models, cereal box prizes, cool stuff ordered from catalogues and cash-stuffed birthday cards from grandparents were at the top of the list. Then as time went on there were perfume-scented letters from summer camp girlfriends and then college acceptance letters. After I grew up — it was just pretty much Christmas cards that I looked forward to opening. Then the Internet happened and everything changed.

These days my kids don’t get mail — they do everything by text or Facebook and as they get older their college acceptance letters come by email. My wife buys stuff online and it gets delivered by FedX. The only thing that comes in the mail now is junk mail, bills (and not that many because most we pay online) and Christmas cards (even those are starting to show up in my inbox).

So what do we need daily mail delivery for anyway? The post office, like many government institutions has shown it is incapable of operating at a profit. They gotta make some BIG changes. Why not make deliveries to even zip codes on even days and odd codes on odd days? Do away with Saturday delivery all together — it’s totally unnecessary. This could save billions of dollars. Sure we can still keep the actual branch offices open to accept parcels and sell postage (even that is online now). Or maybe not. Maybe just hopscotch the crews between zones: We live in Pacific Palisades 90272 — Malibu 90265 is few miles down the road — One day our postman shows up for work in Malibu — the next day he comes to the palisades. Eazypeazy.

I’m not sure if this could cut 50% of manpower and operating expenses — but it could be a HUGE savings. And the delivery cutbacks would just encourage more and more people to take advantage of easy to use online services such as bill paying and postage buying.

A thing of the past?

Turn it into a museum or maybe a mall.

Next post: Changing Tax Day

Washington — Time for a Remodel

This year we remodeled our kitchen. We’ve lived in the same house for about 17 years now and it really needed it. The whole experience made me think that our government needs a remodel as well. I’m not talking a cosmetic paint job, but more of a serious ground up, tear everything down to the studs remodel.

When you think about it, our government was created back in 1776 — that’s like over 200 years ago!!!! Aside from a bunch of bandaid amendments we really haven’t made any significant overhauls to it — it’s like we’re still using gas lamps instead of electricity. Come on!

I have some ideas of how to fix the government, not the whole thing, but certain parts, and have decided to write them down. Barak, Newt or Mitch if you happen to stumble across this post please feel free to consider all this “open source.” Use what you need — maybe make some improvements and share it.

What’s up with the photo?

That’s me circa 1965 — the young entrepreneur in training.  I was at my dad’s office and photographer took my picture for an article that was featured in a trade magazine that he subscribed to: The Oriental Rug Importer’s Association.  The photo was captioned: “future boss of Geo. B. Zaloom Oriental Rugs.”  About 15 year after the photo was taken I got an offer to actually be the boss, but made a decision to continue to my studies at USC to become a filmmaker.  I wonder what would have happened had I accepted???