Simpson-Bowles still gets the conversation started

In honor of November 8 being Deficit Day, meaning our US revenue for the year has run out in covering our expenses, I think it is important to revisit some of the saner voices on these issues. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson who partnered with former Chief of Staff (for Bill Clinton) Erskine Bowles to lead a committee to address the deficit, has penned an interesting editorial. In essence, he is critical of the various tax plans submitted by GOP candidates for president all of which would materially increase the deficit. He notes they are so poorly conceived, that there are not enough legitimate cuts to overcome the loss of revenue.

Simpson knows of what he speaks. The Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan combined strategic spending cuts with revenue increases to reduce the deficit. It was well conceived, but not perfect, as nothing is. People found faults with elements of it, which is a reason it did not move forward. Yet, it was a terrific conversation starter. It was something to work with and modify, as needed. And, it spoke to the need to increase revenue along with spending cuts.

One of the issues conservative folks have with the plan is the revenue increases, but let me state three truisms, two of which are universal, and one that applies to the United States.

  • Of course, people don’t want to pay higher taxes, but they do realize a need to pay for expenses.
  • Any politician can get elected saying they will reduce taxes. But, that promise should not be confused with good stewardship.
  • Per the Paris based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US is one of the least taxed countries of 33 countries who have participated in analyses dating back over forty years. In fact, the US is well beneath the median tax rate of the recurring OECD surveys.

The deficit is important and we need to be smart with what we cut and actually increase spending in some areas. Yet, we must garner more revenue or we will never get there. There is a reason President George W. Bush fired his Treasury secretary as he argued against the Bush tax cuts. It should be noted the budget was balanced by President Clinton the last several years of his presidency, which was handed over to Bush.

While President Obama has done many good things, he is an imperfect president, like they all are. One of my biggest criticisms of the president is not embracing the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan and say let’s start with this. It would have been a great conversation starter and still could be.


The Beast

In an interview last week, one of the infamous Koch Brothers was lamenting the demise of civil discourse in the Republican Party. For those who do not follow politics, the Koch Brothers have used their vast fortunes made primarily from fossil fuel industries to advance conservative ideas. They have done this by funding candidates directly and through Americans for Prosperity, its action committee.

Charles Koch noted that party has disintegrated into one where false bravado, accusations and blame have replaced discussion over the relative merits of ideas. As an Independent voter, who has been both a Democrat and Republican, I concur with his assessment. The big problem with his concerns is he and his brother helped create and feed The Beast that is dragging down the party. They funded and kept alive the efforts of the Tea Party. Absent their significant help, The Beast would not have flourished like it has today.

Through the stubbornness of The Beast, there is a “my-way or the highway” attitude which is very unhealthy for the party. Yet, my main concern is the lack of collaboration is harmful to our country and planet. It would be one thing if the Tea Party was filled with an abundance of good workable ideas, yet that is not the case. I have written before that the GOP is on the wrong side of more issues than not these days and the Tea Party has an even more extreme position. This is largely due to limiting news sources and rhetoric to a very biased and spin-doctored lens, where successes outside of this view are not reported at all or painted poorly.

And, to get their way, The Beast is willing to have everything come to a screeching halt. In their view, all government is bad, so therefore the government should not do anything. That is inane as there are roles for government to play that these same people benefit from. Yes, it could be more efficient and yes, we need to guard against bureaucracy, but that is where oversight comes in. And, our country has actually been much better than others about government co-investing with the private sector to do big things that the private sector cannot do alone or whose shareholders would not allow.

The Beast has every right to raise issues and concerns offering reasonable suggestions backed by data. We do not need The Beast shouting at everyone else while beating on their chest. That serves little purpose and is a poor substitute for effective discourse. So, in this instance, I agree with Charles Koch. Yet, he helped make this mess, so he should use his money to fix it, as our country is less served by false bravado.

Let it rain

We are getting the remnants of the bad rain that drenched Texas, so Eric Clapton’s song “Let it rain” seemed apropos. Thank goodness I cleaned out the gutters on the eaves of the house, as they will get a workout today. Of course, this old body is telling me three days later where climbing a ladder hurts.

Here a few rainy day random thoughts for my blogging friends to start the week:

  • I appreciate greatly the bloggers who share their poetry. I love their wordsmithing and clever eye toward the trials and tribulations we go through.
  • I love to take in the artistic talents of so many through their cameras and fingers. These shares take me on a journey whether it be tagging along on a hike or vacation or seeing the beauty of the edges of a jungle or the angst of people fighting the encroaching seas.
  • I also appreciate the quotes and songs of the day. They make me reflect and take me to another time. Songs are the mileposts in our lives and remind us of our memories. The quotes are the directions on how best to proceed.
  • I applaud those who can see the funny side of pretty much anything. They make the news of the day more bearable and help shine the light on the hypocrisies that our elected officials cannot seem to avoid.
  • I thank those who can make our lives better with helpful suggestions based on their experiences. These are great places of learning if we just sit down and take it all in.
  • I also greatly appreciate the voices who reveal how monied interests force decisions by our politicians that make no sense. And, how they use that money to convince people they are on your side, when after you vote for them or their candidate, you are no longer needed.
  • I respect mightily those who can see the issues from a data centric independent lens. We have so few decision makers who do this anymore and each side has its own version of truth, some of which is not true at all.
  • Finally, I am in awe of those who give of themselves to help through small or large gestures. I am in awe that in this selfish world, we have so many who are willing to offer their time, skills, passion or just a comforting presence to help those with so little or who just need a friend.

I have been blogging now since December, 2011. I have met online some wonderful people all around the globe.  I have even met a couple in person and will endeavor to meet more in the future. Keep up the wonderful work and please drop by and offer a comment or two. And, I hope you don’t mind me making comments, as I appreciate the conversation and what you say. You make my days brighter even in the rainiest of times. So, let it rain.