Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There is more at stake in the coming few days than talking points can address

In what we anachronistically call a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” no longer has much to do with “the people.” I don’t know about you but I am beginning to believe the government of the United States (which, by the way, includes Wyoming’s congressional delegation) is partisan to such a dysfunctional level they are actually willing to watch you and I lose significant portions of our life savings in order to play out their game of chicken over the national debt limit.
The President says the national debt must be addressed with a shared sacrifice, i.e huge spending cuts along with revenue increases in the form of repealing certain tax advantages secured by the wealthiest Americans when George W. Bush was president. The Republican Speaker of the House said, “Not a chance!” The ship will go down before Republicans agree to a shared sacrifice.
Of course, the World Bank doesn’t have to cajole the Tea Party but it is interesting that it understands the mathematics of debt reduction enough to have insisted Greece use budget cuts and tax increases to reign in its debt before there would be any international assistance.
I understand partisanship. I get it that any number of Republicans have pledged “no new taxes.” What I don’t understand is how they can’t seem to understand the nation’s debt crisis is little more than a math problem.
The current national debt is more than 14 trillion dollars.
Partisan politicians on both sides are fond of blaming but there is more than enough blame to go around. There are non-partisan economists who make the case that we have today’s problem largely because of the revenue losses resulting from the Bush tax cuts.  According to Fareed Zakaria, “If Congress were to do nothing, the Bush tax cuts would expire next year. That by itself would yield $3.9 trillion to the federal government over the next 10 years. We would go to the bottom of the pack in terms of deficit as a percentage of GDP among the rich countries in the world — we would basically solve our fiscal problems for the short term."
During a recent GOP Senators press conference they lined up to say there would be no revenue increases, only spending cuts. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) said the federal government should solve the problem like any American family, live within your means. From which planet does she come?
Even the most financially responsible American families address their needs through a combination of both revenue generation and debt. Responsible families understand debt and borrowing as a tool to obtain certain necessities, e.g. home ownership, automobiles, health care and education. They also understand that there are times when they cannot either borrow more nor can they reduce their expenses below a certain level. That’s when they address the need for additional revenue. Maybe they ask for a raise or one takes on an additional job.
Americans understand math better than those they elect. Americans can see through the partisanship fog enough to know you can’t get there from here by limiting the solution to spending cuts alone.
The US can’t put a sufficient dent in a 14 trillion dollar debt without a balanced package of spending cuts AND tax increases. This chart at the bottom shows the point at which the budget balances with spending cuts alone. Tax avoiding Congress members would have to entirely eliminate all discretionary spending (which includes defense) in order to balance the budget without new taxes.
Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian or a Tea Partier, there is more at stake in the coming few days than talking points can address. Your future is going to be decided by whether or not there are a few leaders in Congress willing to take the risk of doing the right thing. The saddest part of America today is that we can no longer be confident there are.

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