This entry is part of a contest by HuffPost Books and The Buried Life. Click here to read more about it.
My idea came to me when I first started hearing about all of the teacher layoffs that began in Wisconsin (well, made national news in Wisconsin), and has quickly spread throughout the country.
My sister is a teacher, my mother is a former teacher and librarian, and several of my friends are currently teachers as well, and it caused me to worry about their jobs, their families, and their well being. I watched the news for several days, and began to daydream of how to fix the problem so that our public schools would be well taken care of financially.
President Obama had given his latest State of the Union address, and he mentioned that we needed more teachers, and that our public education rankings have dropped dramatically.
After his speech, a Congressman (I truly wish I could remember his name, but I don't at this time), said the problem with the President's speech was that he was creating more debt for our future generations, and that we (as a country) simply owed too much money to be able to enact any of his other plans.
I've also heard many rebukes to the national health care plan stating that "our children, and our children's children" would be the ones to have to pay for it. I then looked up our national debt, and I discovered the website www.treasurydirect.gov, and read a few articles about people who were making small donations out of their own pockets. One particular gentleman recycled cans and donated all that money directly to the debt. I also read about the Warren Buffet challenge to Congress (and how only two Congressmen have taken him up on that challenge), and I felt that with a big enough backing by the people, perhaps Mr. Buffet would match donations raised by certain groups of people (his alma mater, or the Boy Scouts of America, or something like that).
And if Warren Buffet was willing to make donations, why not Bill Gates, or any number of Hollywood stars, professional athletes, and various other CEO's?
I since have posed the question to all of my friends, "If you could have a change bucket, like they have at grocery stores or charity events, and you knew, 100%, that the change you dropped in would go to reducing the debt, would you donate anything?" Surprisingly, I got a lot of "No" answers at first. The reason they mostly gave was that they felt for every penny they dropped in the bucket, the government would turn around and spend one million.
But when I asked them if government had enacted a balanced budget plan, where the money donated wouldn't go toward the US budget in any way, and that government would finally be able to keep from borrowing more and more money, almost all of the No's turned to Yes.
One of my friend's in particular said, "It'd be like a drop in the bucket, but sure, I'd throw loose change in there,"...and that sparked the name for my idea. It may literally and figuratively be just "A Drop in the Bucket," but it's a program that I think would bring hope to American citizens, it would give them an idea that they can make a difference, that we can dig our way out, that our spirit to be the best nation in the world is still strong and sound.
It made me think that my sister's job as a teacher wouldn't be in such jeopardy, and not having to worry about friends and family losing jobs is a wonderful feeling.
With that idea, and the positive feedback, I've gotten a few more ideas for the details of the program. The buckets would be placed at places where government funding is the dominant source of income (at least to start... obviously, if the program becomes more popular, the
buckets can be put anywhere people are willing, businesses, sporting events, malls, etc.).
Initially, I figured post offices, city halls, police departments, fire departments, and any public libraries would be the kickoff places. The bucket should have a lock on it, and a courier service would come by once a week (or more, depending on how quickly the bucket's fill up), take the money back to a home office (probably at city hall, or a US treasury office), where it would be
counted, and then donated to the national debt.
Due to the nature of the donation, another problem some have said is that they'd want the donation to be tax deductible. Obviously, paying off the debt but writing off that donation from taxes would be the same as borrowing five dollars to pay off five dollars...it wouldn't really get anyone out of debt.
But, with the people I've talked to, people who are in danger of losing their jobs, people who barely have ten cents to rub together, people who skip meals because they can't always afford it, nearly all of them said they'd still drop their loose change in the bucket if they thought it'd make a difference.
I know I am dreaming very big with this idea, and it may be too big to become a reality, but I can honestly say I think, with the right help, and if Congress can pass a balanced budget Amendment, there truly is no reason why it wouldn't work.
It may not pay the debt off completely, but to see the number of the national debt stop going up, maybe for just one day, would truly be a miracle. To actually see that number start to go down would be one of the greatest American moments in history.
I feel, one hundred percent, that "A Drop in the Bucket" can start the whole thing off. But, it would mostly depend on the ability of Congress to find a way to keep within their budget, to stop increasing the debt with every new plan. And that's where I am stuck.
I would love an opportunity to express this idea to Congress (although, honestly, I am not very good with public speaking, so if someone from the Buried Life were on board and wanted to give that speech, I'd gladly let them...given the opportunity, it's one I would not turn down if given to me, but I'd certainly want as much help as I can get to get it right).
It may not make a difference, but then again, it may save our schools, our teachers, our auto industry, our banks, our homes, and our country as a whole.