Bloomberg named the Supercommittee's impasse "partisan paralysis." The "automatic cuts" that may result from their indecision will devastate the national security and public safety and overtax both us and future generations; more jobs will be lost and hence also economic growth.
Cutting programs is not the way to go, said this Independent, reaching out to liberals at this point. Our status on the world stage will deteriorate. We need leadership from the president and Congress. It's not enough for Obama to submit plans and then step aside. We need real action.
If Congress walks away now, circumventing negotiations until 2013, interest rates might increase, which will devastate the economy, making the $1.3 trillion figure meaningless. Growth will decrease deficits. Other countries will surpass us by creating jobs and more while our deficit disease deteriorates to an emergency level.
We need a long-term plan, concentrating on economics instead of politics. We can't tax our way out of the problem. All sides must give a little, rising above special interests and politics. Entitlement reform is essential, said the Independent, reaching out to conservatives now.
We also need more revenue. The broad middle of society here wants compromise, the mayor asserted. How can we accomplish this? By cutting Medicare and Medicaid [what of the destitute, an older black woman asked me after the event]. The government must control spending. The cuts must extend over the next ten years.
The world is passing us by, Bloomberg reiterated. The Gang of Six must embrace cuts in Social Security. One out of every two children born into the most recent generation will live to be one hundred--how will their retirement be supported? In the past there were five workers to support each retiree; now the proportion is two to one.
Aside from OPEC, probably, he said, Social Security occasions the largest transfer of money in the world. We must increase the age qualifying the employed for retirement--that will make Social Security solvent for the next seventy-five years; tort reform is needed; the U.S. spends $7500 per capita on health care, while Europe's total is not only far less, but its people enjoy a longer lifespan that we do.
We need affordable health care [of course].
We must maintain the graduated income system that keeps our tax allottments fair, he continued. We must allow the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2012--he himself at first supported them but has since changed his mind. Simpson-Bowles never made it to the floor for debate. Europe ignored deficits to its destruction. Clinton's program of deficit reduction was highly effective. The deficit here will destroy the economy. Our income taxes are lower than most of those in Europe!
In New York, however [ahem], state income taxes are higher than in some states and, by not raising taxes on the rich, the Empire State held on to its big businesses. But the Supercommittee should not allow tax cuts, and Obama should veto any that cross his desk.
We need to increase revenues and eliminate tax loopholes and farm subsidies and cut back on allocations to energy programs; in this way we can balance the budget by 2021. It is up to us to get Congress to adopt an agreement that will foster fiscal responsibility.
There is no such thing as a cure-all, said the mayor, anticipating questions from progressives he did not take. Corporations here pay the highest corporate tax rates in the world.
Much about our future will become apparent in the next two weeks as we track the Supercommittee's progress. We must rise above politics as loyal Americans, mindful of that "can-do" spirit that defines us. It's in our hands.
Bloomberg summed up his ideas with two chief drivers of our country's destiny: letting the Bush tax cuts expire and a good outcome from the so-far moot state of the Erskine-Bowles debates.
The distinguished billionaire economist quickly exited at that point. I listened to a conversation between an Independent [whom I accused of being a Libertarian] and a Progressive. They seemed to be corroborating each other while I kept disagreeing with the former, not wanting to make him feel bad, as I told him, but dying for the sort of dialogue that en masse may be the action we need to take to save the economy. Let's all be Erskine-Bowles.
They left and that's when the black woman, who had been listening to us, observed that much more is needed. "No one cares about poor people," I responded. My mother [who is not poor but one of the 99 percent] already lost some of her Social Security, I told her. She nodded.