O’ That Darned Long Term Reality

Nice election, but what if the real prize isn’t won?  What if we have to do something more or we’re all screwed?

Look, it’s a fairly simple thing.  George Will explained it years ago in clear terms, saying that we want about $300 billion per year more in services than we’re willing to pay for.  Even 70% of self-proclaimed, hair-on-fire Tea Partiers want low taxes, our budget balanced, our debt reduced, Washington made irrelevant except for national defense and, oh, by the way, they want their Social Security and Medicare, too.  Sadly, most of us are similarly wired.

We’ve been doing that kind of free lunch fantasizing for decades and have the national debt to prove it.  While there always have been huge spenders and creators of enormous debt in Washington, we can attempt to point the finger of blame in any direction we like and it will always be a divining rod that points to us, because we as a society voted for the people who legislated the debt.

Now that debt is causing otherwise (sometimes) sensible people to suggest crazy things.  It’s time for a national “get real” conversation about priorities and perhaps that is what is starting in DC.  But we have to do more than hope that’s happening, which means that we all have to participate.

America needs a tax system that is congruent with what we decide to spend.  Given that historically we’ve had top rates as high as 90% and still grew as a nation, a few points over the current marginal rate aren’t going to kill the golden goose and, really, they won’t make a dent in the lifestyles of the richest 2%.

Comment for the richest 2%: Please stop trying to sell the fiction that you’re the job creators and that trickle-down economics is anything other than a fraud.  And tell your legislative buddies to do the same.  The rest of us are tired of your 30-year attempt to manipulate us with those fictions.

We really don’t need to spend more on national defense than the next 17 countries (some say all the rest of the world) combined.  The Cold War is over and we don’t need to prevent a Soviet invasion of Europe.  WW II has been over for 47 years and we don’t need to prevent a Japanese invasion of anywhere.  The people in the Pentagon don’t want the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that they have refused every time they were asked, so congress can stop authorizing still more billions for it.  You get the idea – we have to stop defending against threats that no longer exist and buying toys we don’t need.  That’s just a starting short list for pruning our absurd national defense budget.

That “get real” conversation has to include our willingness to shift our national priorities from lots of guns to a reasonable consumption of butter.  And as unrealistic as we Americans can be, we need to recognize that there are a few things we must do – these are not optional.

We absolutely have to encourage, support and advance education.  Were we to follow through with the outrageous cuts that have already been made and make the other proposed cuts to our education system, we would be metaphorically eating our seed corn.  We would be ensuring that we will be unable to compete in a world that is increasingly better educated than us, sentencing our young to a dismal future.  And enough already with the bashing of teachers and teachers unions.  It’s way past time to stop looking for a boogeyman and instead construct an education system that serves our young for generations to come.

We cannot let our infrastructure continue to deteriorate.  If you have doubts about such a statement, check with Minneapolis residents about the importance of maintaining bridges for our interstate highways.  All of the survivors and all the loved ones of those who died as a result of the I-35W bridge collapse a few years ago wish that we had done a better job of upkeep.  You’ll wish the same if a bridge collapses near or on you, like one did on the Fourth of July this year in Northbrook, IL, killing a couple in their car beneath the bridge.

Here’s another way to look at our infrastructure: We can’t afford the 25% loss of electricity traveling through our grid.  We need to build a smart, efficient way to transmit electricity.  It’s a national priority if you’re going to be able to plug in your electric car, your computer, your blender, your cell phone, your lights, your dishwasher and everything else that runs on electricity and have them work at an acceptable power cost.  And it’s critical to have that smart grid if we are to shift away from fossil fuels and stop hard boiling the planet.

About the global warming denial thing – the flat-Earthers need to get a handle on reality, because if we don’t do what is necessary to counter that global threat, we can kiss good-bye all of our cities along every seashore and much of our arable farm land.

Memo to those who want to curtail, cut, eviscerate, bend, fold and mutilate Social Security and Medicare:  We as a society are going to pay those costs one way or another.  If we kill Medicare we’ll take our seniors away from practitioners who would provide early treatment for seniors’ ailments.  Instead we will send them directly to the emergency room.  That way we will provide healthcare in the most expensive and least effective method on the planet.  In addition, lots of those seniors will die much younger than they would have had Medicare continued to be available.  Think: Pulling the plug on Granny.  Social Security cuts will produce parallel results.  If you want America to save money, forget about abandoning those programs.

Final question about Social Security and Medicare:  Why are the richest people in America contributing $43 million to lobby against those programs?  Crank your brainpower on that and get back to me with an answer that is sensible for America.  Yeah, right.

All of those issues require our thinking beyond the near horizon.  The upcoming sequester business is the foolishness of trimming a budget with a meat cleaver.  We have to stop focusing on the short-term stuff that tweaks our current senses and instead we must do our best to imitate reasonable adult behavior and plan for our future, as this petition and this petition call on us to do.

Get real, America.  Demand grown-up behavior from your legislators.  Tell them to leave their tantrums behind them and start having the conversation about the future of America and do it on an adult level.  Tell them you require them to make good choices for tomorrow, because it most assuredly will come.  The only question is whether we’ll be ready for it.

Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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