I had been thinking lately about posting. I thought maybe about posting about the Rapture. The craziness that is the GOP presidential horse race. Or even the obsequiousness of the Congressional reaction to Netanyahu's speech. In the end, I wanted to respond to all this posturing over the federal deficit.
Now, first off, I am not entirely sure this whole thing about our children's future and not living within our means is really all that critical. I seem to remember this whole issue being up during the late 70s and early 80s. I remember that everyone was concerned that our country was going to be owned by the Japanese. Now, those children from the 70s that had no future are now convinced they have to protect their children's future.
So, I am going to address this issue by accepting the premise that we have to accept that the deficit/debt is a critical issue to our nation's future/survival. The Democrats' approach is to just ignore it and hope it goes away. This is not a good solution as it just upsets the Americans who take this issue seriously. It isolates them and upsets them, and gives some politicians an opportunity to demagogue. The Republican approach is to cut taxes, provide more subsidies/tax breaks to business, and to cut spending. This is not helpful, either, as it isolates another section of the American population - the working poor and middle class, the disabled, and the vulnerable.
The obvious solution is to provide an integrated solution. But politicians, as we know, are not too good at obvious. I have observed lately that politics in this country has become more and more emotional and reactionary. It has become very like the stock market in that respect. People are so quick to insult and attribute evil intent in the party to which they are opposed. Instead of confronting the issue or stand he objects to, he instead attacks the person. Why don't we step back and look at this from the point of view of what are priorities should be?
First of all, my opinion is that our government should be there to protect the interests and welfare of the American public. Unfortunately, these our not the same thing and it seems that our government over the past two centuries to the position that our interests settle down to financial. Many politicians (and citizens) seem to think if you protect American business interests and economic well-being, it will - in turn - protect the American citizen. I personally know that this is not the case. It works on the premise that businesses (companies) are entities with a moral and ethical core and will protect their workers. It also works on the assumption that communities will take care of the members of their communities that - through no fault of their own - cannot work.
So, what can be done? First of all, it needs to be acknowledged at government level that they are responsible to the citizens first, and the businesses second. I am not some radical socialist that wants to dispose of the free-market system (although, the system is obviously flawed). Neither am I a libertarian who believe if we remove all regulation and trust the market all will be well. I'll be honest - I never paid much attention to business and economy or even the government until recent years. So I am going to try to apply a little common sense - it may not be practical, but I feel I need to say something.
Number one, let's be fair. If we need to make spending cuts, spread the pain. Don't just tell the American people that they have to make sacrifices. Why is it the cuts are against children, the disabled, the seniors, and other disenfranchised? Let's just take the budget and spread the cuts equally based on percentage of spending a group/department/service takes up. For instance, the military has a huge cut of government spending. Shouldn't they shoulder a higher percentage of the cuts?
Number two, let's face it - there have to be taxes. I am always surprised at the paradox of the generosity of the American public. Look at all these disasters. Earthquakes in Japan and Haiti. Hurricanes in the southeast. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The tornadoes. The Mississippi flooding. Americans have historically responded to such disasters with great generosity. You look at international aid and we donate millions of dollars as a country, and many people work hard to help the less fortunate. Yet, we don't want to pay taxes to provide services like education, health care for all, etc. I don't really understand why that is.
Number three, stop the subsidies and tax breaks for businesses. Why do we do this? If we really believe that the free market system is the way to go, let's put our money where our mouth is. So many people were furious about the bailouts. And, rightly, in my opinion. If the free market system works, shouldn't we let these companies free in the marketplace. If they are strong companies, they should be able to survive without help. And that tax money could go to better use.
I think that - in the end - it comes down to priorities. Do we want to protect the wealthy and entitled? Do we want to protect the financial and business interests in the United States? Or do we want to protect our citizens? When I hear Paul Ryan talk about making hard decisions, I am appalled and a little frustrated. If he truly wanted to make hard decisions, he would be spending more time finding ways for business to contribute to our country and less time finding ways for the public to give more and more.
I'd like to know what any of my readers has to say. Especially if you disagree. The only way to fix this country is to get together constructively and find solutions.
For good reading about the national debt and the history of it and the debt ceiling, check out the following
Planet Money - When the U.S. Paid Off The National Debt