When President Obama announced that he would be naming a
commission to work out a plan for reduction of the national debt, some of us
expected that the people to be named would include such names as Paul Krugman
and Jonathan Turley, a man with expertise in matters financial, and one with
great knowledge of history and constitutionality. Instead, he named as co-chairs
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, which thoroughly dampened any hope for a real
progressive solution that could possibly solve the problem.
The rest of the
panel was merely an afterthought to most of us. It was much like his
announcement of all the Clinton/Bush retreads to work with him in the White
House. Without a doubt, these people and their opinions lowered our expectations
and hopes for a really progressive program of reform in the most necessary areas
As for the commission "co-chairs," the selection of these two men
was the most perplexing. Both held their positions of importance in a totally
different era and have seen no reason to change their minds about anything since
the Reagan years. Former Senator Simpson was always a hard-right Republican who
felt that the government had no business even dabbling in the area of health
care or the welfare of the common people. He spent almost his entire career in
trying to eliminate Social Security and every other vestige that we ever had, thanks to a
president named Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Erskine Bowles served about the same
amount of time as an adviser to a number of presidents in years gone by, in
between hitches on Wall Street.
Now, both of these esteemed gentlemen spend their time
sitting in their lavish homes, re-living their days of glory, secure in their
respective government pensions, and complaining that their fat investment
portfolios are so successful that they still must pay a bit of income tax. Their
own retirement is secure and they don't want their heirs to pay any tax for the
privilege of inheriting their assets when they pass. Both chafe at the prospect
of any of "their money" being used to support those "lesser people" who were
less fortunate, (or more compassionate) than they. In short, chalk up one more
bad decision by President Obama.
Now we are back to Square One; how should the problem be
handled? When pondering problems of national finance, I find it very useful to
consult my friend, Richard, and I did so this morning when discussing the news.
He had one of the best takes on the problem that I have heard:
"We read all the time the right-wing garbage that 'every
man, woman, and child owes $135,000 as their share of the national debt.' Let's
be perfectly fair and divide it equally among all of us -- right after we divide
income and wealth the same way -- equally. After all, we do want to be perfectly
fair, don't we?"
Realistically, we know that this is not going to happen!
But the answer is still out there in that unexplored space where Congressional
Republicans and a large number of Democrats refuse to go. Letting the Bush tax
cuts expire would be a huge leap forward. Granted, it would not please the
Middle Class or anybody else. But it's called "sacrifice," something with which
those of us who can recall World War II are intimately familiar.
Nobody has ever
yet been asked to sacrifice to pay for Bush's Wars. It has all been done on the
national credit card; all the unnecessary spare parts and second engines for the
fighter planes, the rip-offs by the "civilian contractors," the pay-offs to the
blackmailing despots that we installed in the conquered territories. All of it
has been kicked down the road with the intent of leaving the payment to
generations yet unborn.
Now, we have reached the end of the road. Bush's bar tab
must be paid. The bouncers are ready to break a few kneecaps, and we have no
choice but to pay. The leaders of the United States have been on a 10-year
power binge but now the bar is closed. While the leaders of the nation want to
penny-pinch their way out of the situation, cutting off the flow of food to the
kids and the elders will not do it. With the 90% top tax rate of the Eisenhower
years lodged in the memory, the answer seems clear.
The only funds available to the government come from
taxation and that is the monster that keeps the rich awake at night. That's
okay. While they're lying awake, worrying about their stockpile of cash and
investments being "raided," the rest of us are lying awake, worrying about how
we will manage to pay the rent or feed the kids until we can earn or borrow more
money. It is well past time that the "have-nots" tell the "haves" -- "Welcome to
the club! We have to pay our bills or live on the street. Now you must pay yours
because there is no room for you in our neighborhood."
The exorbitant tax breaks must go! The rates must be
adjusted upward. The bills must be paid. Now, just do it!
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