Monday, April 18, 2011

Wanted: Serious People in Congress

Now that Congress has passed has finally passed legislation to keep the government funded for the year they have moved on to the next matter of business; finding ways to gain a political advantage from the nations’ financial crises.
First the debt ceiling…  For those who are unaware, the debt ceiling is the nations’ credit card limit.  It currently stands at an absurd $14 trillion dollars.  As unfathomable as that amount may be the nation is about to exceed its limit.  If that should that happen all government spending will cease.  Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Veterans benefits will stop.  We will default on our obligations.  Our economy will be thrown into a deep recession if not depression and the disastrous rippling effects will be felt across the globe.   
So Congress needs to increase the limit.  They have increased the debt limit many times before.  But this time the Republicans, embolden by their Tea Party members are holding back.  They say we need fiscal restraint.  They say we stand at a financial precipice and increasing the debt ceiling will be the final step. Republicans Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Tom Coburn and many others have flatly said that they will not vote to increase the debt ceiling unless they are assured of serious reductions in the governments’ spending practices. 
They are lying.  They are fear mongering.  The intent is to use the threat of causing a worldwide economic meltdown to further their ideological agenda.   
There is no way that any politician would risk the dire consequences of jeopardizing the nation’s credit standing.  The results of such a vote would be catastrophic.  The political fallout would be immense and the tidal wave of criticism, both at home and abroad, would be overwhelming.  So Republicans should stop the pandering, increase the debt limit and then move onto more important matters.
The 2012 budget…  The proper format for addressing the nation’s financial woes lies in a serious debate between the Ryan and Obama 2012 budget proposals.  Rather than demagogue the issue Congress needs to examine the components of these proposals and find common ground.  There is much they can easily agree on.
Let’s look at one example.  Everyone agrees the tax code must be revamped. 
US Corporations currently pay 2% of GDP in taxes.  Fifty years ago they paid 7%.  Everyone knows that is not right. 
Exxon paid $15 billion in taxes to foreign governments…they paid $0 here in the US.  Everyone knows that’s not right.
The top 400 wage earners paid 17% in taxes down from 26% ten years ago.  Warren Buffet paid 14%.  Buffet said that’s not right.
So fix the tax code.  Close the loop holes.  Reduce the corporate tax from 35% to 25% so US jobs will stay in the US.  Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the top earners.  
Here is one more. 
Everybody agrees that our infrastructure is in dire need of repair.  Everyone agrees that our infrastructure needs to be revamped and modernized.  Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said that for $110 billion per year he could completely repair and revamp our infrastructure including light rail and broadband access.  This investment would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and infuse billions into the economy.
So where do we get $110 billion?  We currently spend $110 billion per year on the war in Afghanistan; a war that 70% of the voters believe we should pull out of immediately.
Pulitzer Prize winning author, Carl Bernstein, said it best: “We live in a time of manufactured controversy by two ideologies that are unable to come together…and this is buoyed by a media that has an economic stake in the perpetuation of conflict.” 
We need serious people in our government; people who are willing to set ideology aside and make tough decisions.
We can do this.  We have been through bigger crises.  After all we just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first shot at Fort Sumter.



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