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.