When President Obama announced that he would be naming a commission to work out a plan for reduction of the national debt, some of us expected that the people to be named would include such names as Paul Krugman and Jonathan Turley, a man with expertse in matters financial, and one with great knowledge of history and constitutionality. Instead, he named as co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson which thoroughly dampened any hope for a real progressive solution that could possibly solve the problem. The rest of the panel was merely an afterthought to most of us. It was much like his announcement of all the Clinton/Bush retreads to work with him in the White House. Without a doubt, these people and their opinions lowered our expectations and hopes for a really progressive program of reform in the most necessary areas of government.
As for the “co-chairs”, the selection of these two men was the most perplexing. Both held their positions of importance in a totally different era and have seen no reason to change their minds about anything since the Reagan years. Former Senator Simpson was always a hard-right Republican who felt that the government had no business even dabbling in the area of health care or the welfare of the common people. He spent almost his entire career in trying to eliminate Social Security and every other vestige that we ever had a president named Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Erskine Bowles served about the same amount of time as an advisor to a number of presidents in years gone by, in between hitches on Wall Street.
Now, both these esteemed gentlemen spend their time sitting in their lavish homes, re-living their days of glory, secure in their respective government pensions, and complaining that their fat investment portfolios are so successful that they still must pay a bit of income tax. Their own retirement is secure and they don’t want their heirs to pay any tax for the privilege of inheriting their assets when they pass. Both chafe at the prospect of any of “their money” being used to support those “lesser people” who were less fortunate, (or more compassionate), than they. In short, chalk up one more bad decision by President Obama.
Now we are back to Square One; how should the problem be handled? When pondering problems of national finance, I find it very useful to consult my friend, Richard, and I did so this morning when discussing the news. He had one of the best takes on the problem that I have heard:
“We read all the time the right-wing garbage that ‘every man, woman, and child owes $135,000 as their share of the national debt.’ Let’s be perfectly fair and divide it equally among all of us–right after we divide income and wealth the same way–equally. After all, we do want to be perfectly fair, don’t we?”
Realistically, we know that that is not going to happen! But the answer is still out there in that unexplored space where Congressional Republicans and a large number of Democrats refuse to go. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be a huge leap forward. Granted, it would not please the Middle Class or anybody else. But it’s called “sacrifice”, something with which those of us who can recall World War II are intimately familiar. Nobody has ever yet been asked to sacrifice to pay for Bush’s Wars. It has all been done on the national credit card; all the unnecessary spare parts and second engines for the fighter planes, the rip-offs by the “civilian contractors’, the pay-offs to the blackmailing despots that we installed in the conquered territories. All of it has been kicked down the road with the intent of leaving the payment to generations yet unborn.
Now, we have reached the end of the road. Bush’s bar tab must be paid. The bouncers are ready to break a few kneecaps, and we have no choice but to pay. The leaders of the United States have been on a ten-year power binge but now the bar is closed. While the leaders of the nation want to penny-pinch their way out of the situation, cutting off the flow of food to the kids and the elders will not do it. With the 90% top tax rate of the Eisenhower years lodged in the memory, the answer seems clear.
The only funds available to the government come from taxation and that is the monster that keeps the rich awake at night. That’s okay. While they’re lying awake, worrying about their stockpile of cash and investments being “raided”, the rest of us are lying awake, worrying about how we will manage to pay the rent or feed the kids until we can earn or borrow more money. It is well past time that the “have-nots” tell the “haves”, “Welcome to the club! We have to pay our bills or live on the street. Now you must pay yours because there is no room for you in our neighborhood.”
The exorbitant tax breaks must go! The rates must be adjusted upward. The bills must be paid. Now, just do it!
This writer is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.