The National Dividend Plan would balance the budget, help develop a surplus and provide every registered voter an annual check of about $1,000, perhaps rising to $10,000 in a few years.
It would do this by freezing federal expenditures for two or three years, during which time rising revenues would eliminate the deficit, and by directing all corporate tax receipts into an independent trust.Each year the trustees would calculate the per capita dividend, which would vary with the level of corporate earnings and the number of registered voters - but would be paid only after any federal deficit was deducted.
Thus it would produce a constituency for saving rather than spending, spur investment in wealth-producing enterprises, and encourage voter registration and participation in the economic process, especially among the poor.
As a result, the chances are great that it would enhance economic expansion, lower taxes, reduce inflation and help correct the foreign trade imbalance by making buyers think before choosing foreign over domestic goods.
The idea of a dividend plan is well known to members of Congress now slogging their way through the budget process, arguing, posturing, threatening and inevitably raising taxes. It is even before the House as a bill - has been for years, and it has been praised to the heavens by members, but it is oddly denied a full hearing.
What is wrong with the National Dividend Plan? Nothing at all, says John H. Perry Jr., a businessman intellect who conceived the idea and developed it over four decades with help of academics, government officials and others.
Still, the very tightness of its units, their logical interrelationship, continues to provoke cynics who believe deficits cannot be solved. To them, it sounds panacean rather than practical. Skeptics feel compelled to seek flaws; failing, many have become advocates.
Another problem, says Perry, is the idea "must come from the inside and I'm an outsider." Someday, political insiders agree, a national candidate for office will seize the idea and run with it, maybe to the White House.
Meanwhile, the National Dividend Act is before the House Ways and Means Committee and probably will stay there for a while. But eventually it will emerge, he says.
"Success is opportunity and preparation," says Perry. "I've done the preparation, and it will become law when the (budget) situation becomes bad enough." To pass it, he says, "is in our ultimate self-interest."
Perry, 73, has spent $10 million of his own money on the dividend plan, whose origins go back to his days at Yale and studies of the Roman Empire's fall under the weight of spending, and fears that it would happen in the United States.
As the idea evolved and was refined through contributions, Perry founded Americans for the National Dividend Act Inc., with headquarters at 1620 I Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20006.
Throughout, Perry remained the businessman-inventor. He automated his 26 Florida newspapers long before others, sold them, invented and produced research submarines, and now develops fuel from sea water. Ahead of his time, always.
From his Riviera Beach, Fla., office he dismisses such accomplishments as mainly the product of a restless, challenged mind. A National Dividend Act, he says, would be his biggest achievement, "my ultimate destiny."
It has five elements:
1. All corporate-profit taxes would go into a National Dividend Trust Fund, to be distributed by private-sector banks to registered voters on a tax-free basis.
2. The fund would be reduced by the amount of any federal budget deficit.
3. Personal taxes on corporate dividends, already taxed once, would be eliminated.
4. The ceiling on federal corporate income taxes would be fixed.
5. A moratorium would be declared on new spending programs during a five-year phase-in period.
It is a strategy for national solvency, says Perry. "It is the ultimate self-interest."