Robert's Random Ravings

How serious are we about national debt?

This past election cycle saw a lot of talk about the need to reduce the federal budget deficit and the overall national debt. Of course, what we heard was mostly talk. We did not get a lot of specifics from either Democrats or Republicans. The Republicans published their Pledge to America. After reading it, I am left far from impressed.

The items that are addressed are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $1 trillion dollar + budget deficit. Saving a few billion is not nearly enough. If our lawmakers are serious about reducing the debt and the deficit, real choices are going to have to be made.

The most obvious thing needed is to raise taxes. If we reduce the loopholes, enforce corporate taxation better and let the Bush tax cuts expire, it would make a significant dent in our annual deficit. Our current culture is vehemently anti-tax, however. So people want to continue spending more and bringing in less. I don’t think you need an MBA to know that this formula does not improve the deficit situation. That kind of thinking is what has left the State of California in such a fiscal mess.

Subsidies of various industries is another area that could be looked at. The amount of money spent to subsidize corn, sugar, energy exploration, and several other industries is obscene. We espouse a “free market” ideology, while at the same time we rig the market with artificial subsidies. Corn and sugar are probably the two biggest culprits. I realize that our farmers are very important and that they have to make a living. But it is not the job of the federal government to pay them. It always amazes me that the same people that yell about deregulation and free market also have their hands out collecting federal money. At the very least, the subsidies should be limited to families and not be used as handouts for large collectives (like Mansanto, etc.) I wonder just how much could be saved by the federal government if we re-evaluated the farm subsidies.

Another area that could use some reform is the “war on drugs.” It is a losing battle. The fight is not being won. Meanwhile, people are dying and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on enforcement that is impractical at best, as well as the incarceration of so called criminals who then get to live on the taxpayer’s dime. This “war” has clear racial overtones and is wasteful, harmful, and ultimately, completely unsuccessful. If we were to legalize marijuana in the US, it would be quite a boon to everyone. It would bring in tax dollars. It would reduce law enforcement budgets significantly. It would lessen the significant overcrowding of our jails and our justice system. I think it is a win-win. The people that want to smoke are going to do so, whether it is legal or not. I am completely unconvinced about any real harm in the recreational use of pot. [Clearly – that is my opinion and others will think differently – but let’s at least have a legitimate conversation]

With the current group in power trying to extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans (the same Americans that have bled the rest of us dry over the last few years in the economic disaster that hit most of the country) is bad policy. It is unjust – even immoral. We end up cutting programs to the people that are most in need so that the people that are least in need can have a higher stack of bills to roll around in.

I am not suggesting that we take a Robin Hood approach. Rich people deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor. But that should not be at the expense of the ones that cannot afford it. They should pay their fair share. Their income and capital gains should be taxed without loopholes, just like it is for the rest of us. Corporation that do business in the United States should pay taxes on the income generated in the United States. Moving your offices to Bermuda to avoid taxation is a true travesty and perversion of corporate responsibility.

There are so many real things that our Congress can do to benefit all of us. It’s time that they started worrying about that more than getting re-elected.

I have no problem with Americans saying “throw the bums out.” It is our right. We express ourselves through the voting booth. I may be unhappy with the result of this past election, but I believe in our system. I wish more people participated – that’s for sure. I wish the disinformation campaigns were not allowed. I wish that people that put out and pay for political advertisements did not have the ability to do so anonymously. I wish that the Supreme Court had not opened the flood gates of corporate spending on elections. But this is the system we have and as we make mistakes, it is incumbent upon us and our leaders to correct them.

I suggest to everyone that they make themselves a part of the process. Write to, call or visit your congressional delegation. They should be interested in hearing from you. If they are not, maybe it is time to back someone else.

Most importantly, let’s engage in a serious debate – not a shrill shouting match. No one wins when we do that.

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11/12/2010 Posted by | General, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can’t we all just get along?

Tomorrow is the 2010 midterm elections (finally!!). I know that I will be glad to see it done with. The tone of the elections has been so negative – it seems to get more and more so each election cycle. Billions of dollars are being spent nationwide to elect Governors, Senators, State Representatives and scores of other government officials. But at the end of the day, what will really have been accomplished?

The Tea Party is a recent movement that seems to be riding on a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the federal government. People are supposedly tired of Washington and its inability to actually listen to the citizens and do what they need done. The Tea Party is not alone in this. I am not a tea-partier, but I am also very dissatisfied with the direction of the federal government and the state government here in Texas.

I voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election. I was hopeful that it would be the start of a new day in Washington. Of course, the minute President Obama got elected, the Republicans started to march in lockstep in total and complete opposition to any and everything that Obama’s administration tried to do. Obama is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong. But what do you think might have been accomplished if the Democrats and Republicans had decided to work together to fix the things that are wrong in our country as opposed to making sure their own party retains power? There is something seriously wrong with a system that encourages little more than a 24/7/365 election cycle. Our Senators and Representatives are supposed to work for us – “we the people.” Not the other way around.

When I see candidates on both sides slinging mud at each other instead of telling me what their plans/ideas are, I am disgusted. When I see gross misrepresentation and outright lies used in campaign commercials, it literally sickens me to my stomach. Unfortunately, both parties are guilty of this.

At any rate, after this election is over and the counts are in, it is likely that, at the very least, the House of Representatives will become a Republican majority. It is possible, though not nearly as likely, that the Senate, too, will pass into Republican control. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 2 years. Will the Republicans continue to be the party of No? Will they continue to oppose any proposals that come from the President or the Democrats (even when they include ideas they themselves used to champion), without actually making proposals of their own? Will there be any fresh ideas on either side of the political spectrum?

Unfortunately, I think we will see more of the same. With the Republicans in power, we will probably see the Democrats start using a lot of the same obstructionist tactics that the Republicans have used over the last 2 years. Instead of taking the hint from a sea change that the people of America want to see a balance in government and all sides working for the betterment of the country, we will probably see more entrenchment and bickering. This simply cannot continue.

I don’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican. We are Americans first and that should be our concern, not a political party. We have pushed too much to the extremes in both major parties and it is leaving the moderates (both liberal and conservative) in the dust. Let’s hold our elected officials accountable for representing our interests – not the interests of their allies/supporters/friends. Public office should not be a get rich quick scheme. It is service to the public. I think it is high time we demanded that level of service from our elected officials.

11/01/2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment