In the movie “Hunt for Red October” about a Soviet era defection of a submarine captain and his sub – the Red October – there is scene where the Soviet subs in pursuit are “pinging” or sending a sonar echo to ascertain the whereabouts of the Red October. The observation is made that the pingers were not listening as they were moving too fast to hear anything. They were “driving” the Red October to an area where they could sink it with waiting Soviet subs. I use this analogy as this is what is transpiring and has transpired in Congress over the last year and a half. Everyone is pinging, but no one is listening.
We have serious problems in this country, but rather than work together, we have strident politicians pinging each other with legislative bills that cannot pass both houses or survive a President’s veto. The bill creators are not listening to each other or the American people who want some semblance of action. You would think being downgraded by the S&P last summer as a financial steward would have awakened people, but it has not. What is happening is positioning for the election. So, while Rome burns, we have too many Neros fiddling away.
We have a deficit problem that was largely created by the unneeded Bush Tax cuts, two wars, a financial bailout and economic stimulus package. We were last balanced when Bill Clinton left office, before the Bush tax cuts. And, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), we were still less than 5% below the global average of 34 countries on tax revenue vs. GDP. In 2009, after the Bush tax cuts, we were almost 10% lower than this same global average and in the 32nd place out of 34 countries in taxes/ GDP.
We also have a slow economic recovery that should have been highlighted at the outset. While I think the President has done a commendable job (with over 3 million jobs created from his first budget to the end of the last budget), this lack of management of expectations is an Achilles’ Heel. Housing based recessions take six years on average to work their way out. That would put us, on average at, the end of 2013 for a recovery. The President should have highlighted this and focused on infrastructure planning. Contrary to the commercials, the economists said the stimulus package worked. It was not enough, though. So, we need to make strides against the deficit while not throwing water on the slow recovery.
What we do not need is the political posturing of “my bill is better than your bill.” You can sing along with the popular childhood tune. We need to address issues today in a collaborative fashion. The Taxed Enough Already crowd needs to read the OECD report which shows very clearly with unbiased data that we are one of the least taxed countries in the world. Let me repeat that – we are one of the least taxed countries in the world (32nd out of 34).
We cannot resolve our budget issues with spending cuts alone. The math does not work. We must have tax increases, but we need to be mindful of the recession. Yet, we also need spending cuts as well, so here where I mention another big issue. We cannot gut programs for those in need as we have 50 million Americans in poverty and many more who are living paycheck to paycheck. We have a huge income and wealth disparity in this country. We cannot just give more to the “gated community” crowd (I like that better than the 1%) and let it trickle down as that policy did not work according to economists and people like David Stockman who was one of Reagan’s advisors. Just the name, “trickle down” sounds inappropriate as we need more of the opportunity to pour down.
As an Independent voter, I have the vantage point of seeing the good and bad of both points of view of each party. I can also see the hypocrisy of many of the extreme points of view, especially those which will not address our problems. To the chagrin of my conservative friends, I don’t see many good answers coming from your end, but we need your perspective at the table. We need politicians who signed the Grover Norquist pledge of no tax increases to pull the pledge out and tear it up. We need people to read the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report on man-influenced global warming and stop listening only to the data provided by the Oil/ Gas Industry who has a vested interest in decisions. To my more liberal friends, we need to stop grandstanding (Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, but the same could be said for Mitch McConnell – the poster child for what’s wrong with Congress) and start listening. We need Returns on Investment in every thing we do. We do need to look for spending cuts, but let’s be smart with them. We need to plot a course forward of what we need to do. And, to all of you, we need to cut defense spending. We spend so much more than anyone else it is mind-boggling. Like taxes, we cannot balance the budget and pay down debt without tax increases and defense cuts – these are the two of the biggest lies that the GOP is telling people.
Yet, we have solutions to work from rather than this “bill pinging exercise.” The Gang of Six tried this last spring and were not given sufficient voice, but they had the answer. Here is your idea already grounded.
1) Adopt the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan as a working draft to work toward an effective date of January 1, 2014. I would suggest that the draft require good reason not to do something therein. I would suggest we not chip away at it to protect “sacred cows.”
2) Let the Bush Tax Cuts continue for one more calendar year along with the 2% FICA tax cut, but there is a price to pay for the GOP in item 3.
3) Increase the minimum wage and let ACA continue with only targeted changes to make it more workable. ACA is not perfect, but it is moving the ball forward and guess what – is a largely GOP idea who Senator Jim DeMint recommended in writing that we do (following the Romney MA Health Care law) in a letter to President George W Bush.
These are few thoughts from an Independent voter. Call me crazy, but I think they can work and be accomplished before the election. Of course, they won’t but I can at least make a collaborative set of suggestions that will serve a greater good. I would love to see a definitive stimulus bill to create more infrastructure jobs and alternative energy jobs. On this latter point, there are many alternative energy success stories out there, yet we do not celebrate them enough. This scares the Oil/ Gas and Coal Industries to no end, which is why the nice commercials with less than forthcoming data on how safe things are. There is no such thing as Clean Coal, e.g. and Germany is ten years ahead of us on alternative energy and will be 80% alternative energy powered by 2030.
So, let’s stop pinging and start listening and making better decisions. You may just find out the other folks have some ideas worth hearing.