I won’t be pleased with a budget deal unless the AARP and Grover Norquist both pull their hair out. Then we’ll know we made some progress.
News flash: compromise and sacrifice are hard. We need to reduce spending and obligations on everything from Medicare to Defense to Ag subsidies. No sacred cows. And unfortunately, we need to raise taxes on more than just “millionaires”. Clearly this can’t happen all at once or overnight. And no doubt, it won’t be pleasant.
Pissed off yet? Please continue. It gets better…
Americans cannot collectively continue to pay the lowest effective tax rates at the local, state and federal level as a percentage of our income since 1958 while demanding the government pay us more benefits after age 65 than we all contributed. The “Benefit Age” (I don’t like calling it the “retirement age”) needs to be closer to 70. People are living and working longer. Benefit packages for wealthier citizens need to be reduced so we can adhere to the intent of these vital programs: to keep the elderly out of abject poverty.
Lets look at facts. A smaller percentage of our debt is owed to foreign creditors like China than people think. Most of our debt is owed to ourselves, and if we are responsible, we’re capable of changing an unsustainable course while maintaining necessary investments in our future.
Our problem is so big that we will not be able to just tax, spend, slash, or grow our way out of it. A thoughtful and measured combination of all four over a sustained period of time is the most reasonable and likely way to start balancing budgets.
If you think eliminating earmarks, capping Congressional salaries and cutting foreign aide will get us to the promise land because you read it in a forwarded email or saw it on Fox News, I gleefully say: “CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve addressed 1 – 3% of our budget crisis! Thank you for your bold and misguided insight. Now please, don’t run for Congress.”
If you think all this debt is Obama’s or Bush’s, or Democrats’ or Republicans’ fault, you’re wrong. Yes, they own their fair share. But the real culprit is the American people. We wanted it, we bought into it, and we got it. Democracy can be a real bitch.
The days of us demanding more and more stuff and wanting to pay less and less for it have to end. Politicians work for us – they’ve never been good at telling us “No”.
Our elected officials can wrap this tough medicine in cheese and feed it to the public by calling it “entitlement reform”, “closing special interest loopholes”, “expanding the tax base”, “finding revenue raisers”, or whatever poll tested bullshit members of both parties feel more comfortable calling it. But, we know what needs to be done. We have a curable disease and unfortunately remain impervious and allergic to the right prescription: Facts, Math, Compromise and Acting like Adults.
This isn’t a contest between “socialism” and “fascism”, so please get a grip and turn off your talk radio, minimize your blogs, and stop watching cable news. They’re rotting our brains and encouraging people with no clue what they’re talking about to think they actually know what they’re talking about.
I much prefer apathy to motivated ignorance. This is about being patriotic and collectively growing a pair.
Since 2000, my generation’s formative years saw a dot com burst, 9/11, two wars, multiple natural disasters, a global financial meltdown and a Great Recession. In short, it was a shitty decade for mankind. But the 10-year bipartisan response from our government may have a longer psychological impact.
Instead of “Ask not what your country can do for you…”, we were instructed to “go to the mall, spend money, take out a second mortgage because the value of your home will only go up, and by the way, go on vacation because your tax rebate checks are in the mail”.
Instead of paying for our wars, we borrowed money to knock down and rebuild other countries. We relied on an all volunteer army. Few men and women actually had to bear the burden for the rest of us. Wait, I forgot, our new Department of Homeland Security did ask us to remove our shoes at airports, buy duck tape for our windows, and monitor the daily terrorist threat color to add an extra level of personal hysteria if it changed from yellow to orange. So, I guess we’ve sacrificed…
This was accompanied by trillions in tax cuts, expanded loopholes and credits, expanded entitlements, TARP, Stimulus, and, and, and…
You get the point.
Yes, some of these measures were necessary on their own merits, others were illogically “feeding the beast”. But we’ve seemingly forgotten the lesson from our grandparents who pulled together after the 1929 stock market crash and throughout the Depression and WWII.
What have we been asked to do?
I hope enough Members of Congress are willing to lose their jobs to help our country. And I hope we let them do it.
There. Someone had to say it.
Submitted by guest contributor: Rob Ellsworth