Sunday, July 24, 2011

Let's Make A Deal

Let's Make a DealImage via Wikipedia

I, just like 80% of Americans, am fed up with our government and the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans on the impending crisis with the debt limit.  I know a lot of people probably think of me as a true blue Democrat, the fact is I am a reluctant Democrat at best.  I chose the lesser of two evils.   The majority of Americans are not ideologues and don't care about the supposed "class war" that we're supposed to be engaged in.  We don't want our Congressmen signing pledges with anyone or taking oaths other than their oaths of office. People like Grover Norquist exercising so much influence on the workings of our Congress is problematic to us.  We don't want to stick it to the rich and we don't want the poor to suffer.  We want some degree of fairness in our tax code and we want the sacrifice that needs to be made in this crisis to be shared.  Nobody wants to pay higher taxes (even though some very wealthy people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have publicly said they should pay more than they do.  Nobody wants any program they are benefiting from to be cut. 

Most people are not buying the idea that we simply have a spending problem, not a revenue problem (one of the talking points of the Republicans lately).  And I don't think anyone thinks the reason for our deficits and our coming up against the debt limit is simply because we don't pay enough in taxes.  We realize that, in this crisis, we'll need an approach that both raises revenues (taxes) and cuts spending will be necessary.  As Obama put it to Congress a couple of weeks ago, telling them it was time to eat their peas, we know it's time for us to eat our peas.  Eating our peas means we'll have to take less in benefits.  That's going to hurt.  It might mean means testing for Medicare.  People who are wealthier might have to pay more out-of-pocket expenses.  As people are healthier and capable of working longer and as people are living longer, we should periodically expect the retirement age for Social Security to increase.  Democrats who are opposed to any changes to these "entitlement" programs are being foolish.  The programs  cannot continue to go on the way they are going.  Most of the changes to Social Security and Medicare being proposed will impact the poor and middle class people more than they will the wealthy.  Most of the spending cuts being proposed by Democrats and Republicans impact the poor and the middle class more than the wealthy.  This is the sacrifice they are making.

On the other hand, we could close the budget gap by raising revenues.  Both Republican and Democratic politicians realize that raising taxes on the poor and the middle class right now would be counterproductive.  However, over the past several decades, the poor and middle class have experienced flat incomes while the wealthiest among us have seen their incomes increase.  In the past decade, thanks to the Bush tax cuts, the very wealthy are enjoying the some of the lowest marginal tax rates in the almost 100 year history of the income tax.  The poor and middle class have suffered so over the past several years while the very wealthy have seen their incomes rise at the same time their tax rates have been reduced, it's not unreasonable to ask the wealthy to make their contribution to this sacrifice paying a slightly higher marginal tax rate- an increase from 35% to 39%. 

Friday evening President Obama went on TV to complain about Speaker Boehner not returning his phone calls and shutting down negotiations with the White House. Frankly, I thought it made Obama look a little childish.  He's frustrated.  He's not getting the respect he feels he deserves from the Republicans in Congress.  He's not getting the cooperation he would like.  When he give up anything in negotiations, Liberals scream their heads off saying he's abandoned his base and is "just as bad as Bush" when he "caves" on certain issues.   Boehner's got a bunch of out-of-control freshmen in the House who are more committed to a pledge they signed than they are to doing their duty as Congressmen to legislate effectively for everyone.  Last week, headlines were made when Grover Norquist indicated that a return to the Bush tax rates were not technically a tax increase.  First of all.  "Duh".  Secondly, who cares what Grover Norquist thinks?  It seems there are Congressmen who fear Grover Norquist more than they respect Speaker Boehner.  Boehner has Cantor, the new darling of the Tea Party, breathing down his neck threatening to usurp his role as Speaker if Boehner shows too much weakness.  The mere fact that the politicians are coming at this as making some sort of "deal" and are playing negotiating games show they just don't get it.  The American people don't want a "deal".  We don't care whether the Republicans or the Democrats win.  We want a working solution that doesn't place an undue or unfair hardship on anyone and that solves this crisis that is threatening all of our economic welfare.  There are Republicans now saying "Oh, we won't default on our debt.  To default is to miss debt payments.  There is plenty of money to pay our debt."  That's possibly true. What they seem to be ignoring though is the credit rating agencies are very nervous about this situation and that it's entirely possible that they'll downgrade our debt without a default.  After Obama's speech on Friday, I'm fairly certain if a deal isn't struck by the end of the day today (Sunday), we'll see the markets open sharply lower tomorrow morning.  As someone thinking about my retirement accounts, I'm wondering if I should be selling my stocks and buying gold.  I'm sick of this whole mess.  We've known this day has been coming for seven months.  But, just as I predicted,  nothing will get done until the 11th hour.  We need a long bipartisan solution to calm the markets, restore the confidence of the American people and to put us on a path to fiscal responsibility.  And, we need it now.  Here's to hoping the men (and women) in Washington can grow up a little and finally just get this done.
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kc bob said...

"The majority of Americans are not ideologues"

Well said Brian!

I do think that, after the congressional and presidential action of last December, we should call then the Bush/Obama tax cuts - sad that the Democratic led congress could not let the cuts lapse when they had a chance. The moment passed without anyone speaking to Americans about the need for shared sacrifice. The only people that were called on to give more in taxes were the ultra-rich who seem to be blamed all of the time.

Like you I am sick of the state of congress but I see the Democrats more culpable that you do. They were in leadership in all phases of government and lost the trust of the country in November, 2010 because they chose to focus on healthcare legislation. Consequentially they gave the Tea Party the power theyt have today.

All that said, I wish that they would all learn that compromise is not a bad word as the country seeks to recover, pay our bills, balance the budget and pay down our massive debt. Families do it every day - it is not rocket science.

Brian said...

I always enjoy hearing from you, Bob- because you do represent the true center of the country. Most of the majority is pretty silent- not really discussing politics.

You're right. The Democrats did blow the first two years of Obama's administration. They focused on healthcare, which while important, was probably not the most pressing issue of the day. They also let the Republicans spin the whole issue so that instead of getting credit for it, they actually ended up taking blame from a lot of people.

From my perspective, the Democrats didn't view the debt as a crisis. It wasn't a crisis until the Republicans took control the House. Raising the debt ceiling has been a pretty routine thing over the past several decades. The Republicans again have been able to capture the ear of a percentage of Americans and said we have to fix this debt issue now. Obama has gone along with them and "lo and behold" what had been considered a short term spending blip because of the wars and the bailouts has turned into a crisis.

But we are where we are. Just about everyone has agreed it's a crisis now and we have to do something about it. With the eyes of the credit agencies focused on us and the fragile state of our economy, it is a true crisis.