Once more over the cliff my little lemmings, once once more over the cliff.
We now have less than 30 days for Congress and the administration to do something it hasn't been able to do in four years -- adopt a budget. Let alone one that's balanced, or, heaven forbid, one that actually addresses the issue of the national debt.
Our debt wasn't all that bad until Bush came into office. His father and his father's successor had both done reasonably good jobs controlling spending, but all of "Dubya's" budgets were only "balanced" because, unlike his own successor, he didn't bother to put the cost of his wars in his main budget. Little things like Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina and all the long-term care for our injured veterans (estimated at $3 trillion alone), got put on credit cards, with the bills starting to come through today. At least the current guy in the White House puts the wars and the VA costs for wounded vets in his budgets. Battlefield medicine has gotten so good that a lot of people survive with horrific, permanent injuries, who would have died in previous wars. The "entitlement" they've earned should never be denied -- even if they're included in those mindless "we've got to cut all entitlements to the moochers" arguments.
Then the economy melted down right at the end of Dubya's term (due to poor oversight during his term and that of his predecessor) and the current administration immediately pulled out those same credit cards, adopting an economic policy originally used by FDR to stall and then end the Great Depression, but not nearly as effectively this time around with the Great Recession.
Finally, the Tea Party came along, voting on complex issues using the type of simplistic thinking usually reserved only for posters and bumper stickers on the back end of beat-up pickups, and suddenly we have a self-created and entirely artificial fiscal cliff staring us in the face, with true economic armageddon on the other side. It's a long way to the bottom of that cliff, people.
Both sides in this argument have a part of the solution. They just seem incapable of putting the best parts of those ideas together.
The Republicans seem oblivious to the fact that their basic line in the sand was obliterated during a crushing defeat at the polls just a few weeks ago. The Democrats, however, seem to have gotten a little arrogant over that victory and dug in their heels. So far, on both sides of the aisle, only a handful of Republicans have stepped up to the plate in a spirit of true compromise -- and they're getting the political equivalent of death threats from the right wing of their own party.
Anybody with any brains can see that there are two basic legs to this equation.
First, the federal government needs some additional revenue.
They've pretty much scraped the bottom of the barrel in terms of hidden-cost fees and user taxes, so it's back to tax rates. Both sides want the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class to continue (so do we -- very much). The alternative is to see a hike of at least $2,200 a year, a huge percentage increase in federal taxes for the average American -- the little guy.
The sticking point is asking millionaires and billionaires to pay 1-2 percent more in taxes. Remember, this is essentially the upper 1 percent, who have acquired 93 percent of the economic growth that's occurred in the last ten years, and which is sitting on record amounts of cash (we're talking records in terms of world history), while waiting for the little guy on Main Street to restart the economy for them. Then they can swoop in, buy everybody out, and take credit for utopia.
For some unknown reason, the GOP has abandoned the Main Street businessman it used to champion, giving only lip service to those people it should represent, and become the voice instead of the ultra-rich oligarchs. They have become so beholden to those oligarchs they would rather hold the rest of the country hostage, and threaten economic doom for all but those who can afford to ride it out, rather than give in on this point.
Keep in mind, these increases are in personal income taxes only (tax rate cuts for businesses actually make sense in terms of world competitiveness), and there are so many deductions for the rich that aren't accessible to the average citizen that usually the rich pay far less of a percentage in practice than the average American. Mitt Romney, for example, paid about three percent less on his income than the average middle class Joe, and people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates usually pay pretty close to zero income tax, thanks to all the loopholes put in for the rich by the rich.
And that's one of the problems. Congress is overwhelming filled with millionaires. These are the same guys who give themselves much better pension and health care insurance than is available to all the rest of us. What are the chances they're going to take money out of their own pockets-- make the kind of sacrifice they say all the rest of us have to make -- in order to improve the country? It would be a stunning reversal of both history and human nature if they did.
The second leg of the fiscal crisis is federal spending. No question it's gotten out of hand. But remember that most people have already "paid" for those "entitlements," like social security and medicare, with their taxes. The fact that Congress has been robbing those accounts for years to pay for boondoggle pet projects is apparently irrelevant. Now, they want the American people to agree to that theft -- and in fact embrace it.
The reality is, however, there just isn't a lot of alternative discretionary spending available where serious cuts can be quickly made.
The military is already taking a huge hit. Taking more from that budget is unwise. Our infrastructure is in terrible shape and getting worse. Slashing money for roads and bridges will actually hurt the economy by slowing the transport of goods. Recent news stories have shown the value of having health- and product-monitoring agencies.
Looked at piece by piece, there just aren't the needed billions and trillions laying around being wasted in large lump sums that could make quick, serious inroads into spending relief. This is a slower process to do right.
It's going to take a concerted effort by the government agencies themselves to spend no more than is absolutely essential, to literally watch their pennies, nickels and dimes (because they DO add up) and if any budgeted funds don't get spent, they should go directly to debt reduction, not grabbed up by Congress for some quick pork-barrel project (and those have to end as well, period).
It's time Congress and the administration quit playing power games. We thought that, ultimately, was the cry of the last election.
Understand, if any of you Congressional millionaires can, what life is like for the rest of us little guys, and do something to help US. Now!
-- Kelly Everitt