Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting Serious About Our Nation's Future

Today’ newspapers feature continued posturing by both parties as they tackle the country’s economic woes.  At the center of the contentious debate is the debt limit crises; and the proffered solutions could not be more distinct.
The Democrats want to offset their proposed decreases in spending with tax increases on corporations and those making over $250,000 per year. Specifically they want to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the rich and roll back tax rebates for big corporations.
Republicans refuse to consider any tax increases and seek to reduce the deficit through entitlement reform and the reduction of social programs.  They tackle the entitlement issue by turning Medicare into a voucher program and passing off Medicaid to the states in the form of block grants.
Speaker Boehner has been the most vocal on the subject.  He has emphatically stated that tax increases are off the table… period.  He argues: “It makes no sense to increase taxes on the very people who invest in our economy and create jobs.”  Boehner further commands that spending cuts must exceed any increase in the debt ceiling.  If his demands are not met, the Speaker says that Republicans are more than willing to let the deadline pass and the country default on its obligations.  “The time has come to get serious about our country’s future” he exclaimed.
Speaker Boehner is correct.  It is time to get serious about our nations’ future.  Unfortunately Mr. Boehner is not practicing what he preaches.
First of all nothing says “compromise” like starting a negotiation by limiting the things on which one can compromise.  Spending cuts are important but you cannot effectively balance the budget without increasing revenue as well.  The tax rate on the wealthiest Americans is a huge piece of this puzzle. Republicans want to maintain those cuts at all cost.  Last year they went so far as to hold unemployment benefit s for the needy hostage in order to maintain them.  While this tactic may play well to their Tea Party base it is a non-starter for anyone “serious about our country’s future.”
Not only are Mr. Boehner’s statements disingenuous, they have no basis of fact.  If eliminating the tax cuts for the rich will cost the country jobs then one must ask…where are the jobs?  The Bush tax cuts have been in place for a decade and unemployment still hovers around 9%.  The folks who benefit from these cuts are not using the money to create American jobs.  In fact they are using the funds to invest overseas, reduce debt or line their pockets.  Every economic indicator shows that Wall Street is flourishing while the middle class and poor are struggling.  If you are not willing to talk about “shared sacrifice” then you don’t have much chance of reaching an agreement.
Second, Mr. Boehner’s statements fly in the face political reality.  If Mr. Boehner and his cohorts force the country to default the stock market will tumble, interest rates will rise and the economy will crash. The very people that Mr. Boehner claims to defend, the wealthiest 2%, will be impacted the most.  The repercussions of this economic decline would be the end of the Republican Party.
If you are truly serious about our country’s economic future then you must put be willing to put everything on the table.  The only way to fix the debt crises is to reform entitlements, cut defense spending and raise taxes.  To suggest anything less is disingenuous.
Mr. Boehner is adamant that tax increases are off the table.
Listening to him we are reminded of an old Yiddish saying:  “Man plans…God laughs.”          

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