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Liz Ciancone

December 20, 2011

LIZ CIANCONE: Let gifts to lawmakers help cut the deficit

In the holiday spirit of giving, I’d like to pass along to Congress a tip I ran across in my reading. If adopted, it would enable the competing parties in Washington, D.C. to enhance federal income without raising taxes or reducing social programs.

Originally the brain storm of journalist Daniel Schorr nearly 17 years ago, it should have attracted more attention. But it’s never too late to fix the economy, so I offer Schorr’s solution for what it’s worth.

To begin, let’s bring business donations to members of Congress out from under the table and begin to sell advertising space in the Capitol. For a financial consideration, a leading corporation could bid on a sort of billboard behind the speaker’s rostrum which would be highly visible during the annual “State of the Union” address. It would be less visible, of course, to those not devoted to C-SPAN. but revenue might be increased by limiting time to exhibit before requiring a rebid.

Along with that, Schorr suggests requiring members of Congress to wear “neat but visible ID tags representing their commercial sponsors.”

He says these should be large enough to be picked up by TV cameras.

I would suggest a more populist ID — a T-shirt bearing the corporate logo along with the name of the member of Congress. The presiding officer could recognize members by saying, for example, “The gentleman from Texas and Gulf Oil is recognized!”

Even with a 50/50 split on revenue with half going to the campaign fund of the wearer and the rest to the budget to run Congress, it should be lucrative. Lobby money is there anyway, and it would be nice to know who my congressman is representing. He was voted in to represent folks like me and this way we could at least share in the profits.

Schorr went on to suggest that we nationalize baseball by drafting owners and players into the National Service Corps. This would put gate receipts and proceeds of TV contracts into the federal treasury.

I’m not sure I’d stop at baseball. Football could be even bigger with basketball, hockey and soccer adding further to the public take. Players could be put on salary while winners of the World Series or Super Bowl could be awarded gold medals just like the Olympics.

If this seems like it shuts out the owners, maybe they could be employed selling hot dogs and popcorn as Schorr suggests.

So, as Congress works on yet another self-created budget crisis, I offer a money-making solution. It may not solve all our problems, but if it knocks a few zeros off the deficit, I feel I have done my duty as a citizen.

Liz Ciancone is a retired

Tribune-Star education reporter. Her column has appeared on this page for more than 25 years. Send e-mail to

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    March 12, 2010