Give Back Greenbacks

12/19/2011 07:05 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2012

While every economist and the occasional congressman struggle with how to support the working class while trimming the deficit during these Scrooge-like economic times, I have a modest proposal for this season of giving. In a word: tip.

I'm not just talking about the usual voluntary add-on of 15 percent. That's not nearly enough for the 99 percent in these tough days. Overtip. Double what you gave before to the waitress or trash collector or cab driver -- or come close.

The only time I've received a tip was one summer as a teenaged busboy at a Magic Pan crepe restaurant. I saw firsthand that tips are a critical source of living money for many working people. For me, tips were summer funny money; I was lucky enough not to need them to care for a family or pay the bills.

To be sure, many are suffering from tip fatigue. There's a beseeching jar on the counter of every coffee joint and ice cream shop. It's easy to rationalize not tipping or not tipping well. But forget about noble "paying it forward" -- just pay it. A stream of overtips is not only thoughtful, it's particularly meaningful for any working person.

This proposal even presents some side benefits for those who cook up economic policy. For the Democrats, overtipping is a welcome form of income redistribution from the haves to the less fortunate. For the Republicans, it's a de facto tax cut since very few recipients pay the government a share of their tips. Even the Libertarians should be happy with supporting a tipping economy outside of typical government regulation.

But before we minor league Robin Hoods pat ourselves too heartily on the back for easing national inequities, we must recognize that we are being subverted by some of the very people we are trying to help. Starting with my busboy days, I've noticed that some of the best tippers are not the one percenters, rather they are other working people who know firsthand how tough a service job can be.

So go immediately to your ATM. Overtip this holiday season. And while you're at it, tip big all year round.