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The Real Problem

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O.K., it's time for us to pay some attention to that old nemesis, perspective.  Perhaps we are, however late in the day, on the verge of a deal between two criminal factions that will free up the U.S. debt ceiling.  Perhaps the president has substantiated his reputation as an adult among bickering adolescents and as a mediator?  Perhaps he may be viewed by some as one of the few players in Washington working for the good of the country as opposed to the good of one party or another, and perhaps we may avert a small portion of the economic disaster already inflicted on a dying country?

The real problem, of course, is that the Tea Party folks, despite their record of miserable ignorance of economics and history and especially their pride in their ignorance, are correct.  A few fifth graders, a hamster and Bush (Laura, not George) could travel to Washington D.C. and, in a few days, cut trillions of dollars of waste without much difficulty at all.  Ideally, there really is no reason to raise taxes, of course.

What Tea Baggers cannot seem to comprehend, so often, is what must be cut and even more important, in what sequence.  Yes, Medicare spending needs to be cut, but before cutting mostly necessary benefits, how about cutting Part D by 40 to sixty billion dollars a year by simply introducing competitive bidding like they have at the V.A. and in the military?  How about cutting 20+ billion dollars a year in (you guessed it) durable goods, oxygen supplies and lab fees, by introducing competitive bidding?  Let the hypocrites use the same formulas employed so successfully by the V.A. and military so that Congress can't use the excuse that theirs is too complicated.  Next, instead of the arbitrary and inappropriate across the board cuts that lazy Republicans are famous for, detail the astronomical overpayments to hospitals and outpatient centers for their procedures and the serious underpayments for the same procedures as inpatients.  Detail the ridiculous Medicaid expenditures for unlimited drug benefits and welfare status for millions of people that only want medical coverage.  After all of this is done, then look to appropriately cutting benefits and raising retirement ages.

Anyone can see that scores of inappropriate tax loopholes need to be eliminated before anyone talks about true tax increases.  Again, "it's the sequence stupid!"  Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has it right: eliminate inappropriate tax loopholes, make legitimate cuts in spending and then see if taxes need to be raised.  I think they will need to be raised, Coburn thinks not.  Sounds like a fair argument, doesn't it?  What Coburn, a most frank and clearly intelligent conservative thinker, is not allowed to talk about is the actual reason that we will always have to raise taxes.  No lesser a man than Bush 41 identified the problem and in doing so, gave up the support of his party and any chance of a second presidential term.  A weary and frustrated President Bush 41 admitted to the shocked viewers of his last presidential debate that "campaign reform" was the most important single issue facing the nation.  The subject, clearly considered anathema to die-hard Republicans and some Democrats could have been avoided, but that day the elder Bush decided to forsake politics and become a statesman.

The recent Supreme Court decision, defining corporate campaign donations as expression of speech illustrates how far campaign contributions have gone in the erosion, not only of our political and economic institutions, but into the legal system itself.  Lobbies now control every phase of human existence.  Medicare spends fully one third of its budget on "legal" and "illegal" fraudulent overpayments.  The military industrial lobby through its champions, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld,  managed to divert an estimated four trillion dollars into their pockets to fight two useless foreign wars.  More than one and a half trillion was "borrowed" from payroll taxes (social security surpluses), while the rest was borrowed from China and other foreign lenders to fill the shortfall.  To make matters worse, the inappropriate Bush tax cuts created trillions more in national debt, another case of pandering to the richest of lobbies.  One of the reasons Senator McCain lost so badly to President Obama was the disparity between their campaign war chests.  The disparity is the only conceivable reason that I can see for choosing a clearly unqualified Sara Palin as a running mate, for her ability to raise campaign funds! It is also the reason for thugs like the Koch brothers to destroy unions and their ability to raise funds, usually for Democrats.

The Supreme Court Decision equating money and speech may not be purely a case of questionable legal perspective.  Not only did conservative think tanks actively wine and dine various judges such as Scalia and Thomas, but they virtually paid for "vacations."  In Thomas's case they paid his wife well over half a million dollars as well, never reported by the "Justice."  Both Scalia and Thomas could be said to have violated the "Honest Service Law" made famous by the "Siegelman Case."  The law states that the public has "the intangible right to honest services," clearly not something Clarence Thomas has given us.  Meanwhile Justice Scalia, who has been quite vocal in his criticism of the law, is probably guilty of its violation as well.  Clearly, Thomas needs to be threatened with disbarment and even federal prosecution.  Scalia needs at least a slap on the wrist.  Until these things are done, there will be no campaign reform and we will always require higher taxes to feed the increasingly ravenous appetites of both Republican and Democratic lobbies.

Allen Finkelstein  


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Dr. Allen Finkelstein, writing since 2006 under the penname “O’finky,” was born in New York, where he attended the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County as a boy. He continued his religious training in South Florida until his family, (more...)

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