Monday, August 1, 2011

Absurdity Run Amok

It appears that the heavily-contested debate over the raising of the federal government's borrowing limit is near an end.  At the time of the writing of this post, influential members of all sides of the "debt ceiling" debate have cobbled together a 'compromise' that would, in theory, cut over $2 trillion from the federal government's budget, while allowing an increase of the national 'debt limit' of approximately $900 billion.  This legislation would, in turn, allow the federal government to sell sufficient Treasury bonds to raise the funds necessary to pay the bills of the federal government.  That's a good thing.  Right?  Not necessarily.

So ... why isn't this a good thing?  The primary reason that this, or any similarly constructed 'compromise', is not a "good thing" is because the basic elements of the debate are, in effect, simply not true.  What are the 'false' elements of the debate?  The biggest "lie" that has been trotted-out by some is that the federal government has a "spending problem."  Does the federal government spend a lot of money?  Hell yes, it does!  Over $3 trillion this year alone.  But when one considers that the federal government of the United States is charged with providing for the "general welfare" and "common defense" of the American people (all 300+ million of them), as well as provide the underlying foundation by which those things are able to take place (including the regulation of a $14+ trillion national economy), it's no wonder ... in fact, it's fairly reasonable ... that the federal government spends a great deal of money.  Despite the fact that many on the Republican side blanche at the mere thought that 'government' could actually do something beneficial for its citizens, much of why the United States continues to boast one of the most advanced, most affluent societies on this planet is because of our government. 

If we would take, at face value, the arguments offered by Conservatives ... that government is too big, that Americans are "over-taxed", and that American business is "over-regulated" ... we are supposed to believe that if American businesses, if allowed to operate completely free of any government oversight or regulation, would essentially cure all of the ills that this nation and its citizens face.  Sure.  And if you believe that, you're more foolish and deluded than the politicians that are trying to sell that "bill of goods".  If we want any sort of indication of how 'business' would operate without sufficient regulation, we only need to look-back through history at some of businesses greatest "success" stories: Love Canal, Exxon-Valdez, Enron, WorldCom, BP-Horizon, and the debacle presided over by our nation's largest banks and mortgage-issueing institutions that resulted in the most recent recession, which many economists now fear we're dipping back into.  And those "headlines" are only the most obvious, most reported excesses and abuses that "business" has "gifted" us with.  A person could literally spend every minute, of every day, for years on-end detailing and describing the outrageous behavior that has been (and in many situations continues to be) exhibited by American business.  And yet, some would suggest that business is over-regulated?! 

The other major falacy that is promoted by some partisan political types is that America's millionaries and billionaires are over-taxed.  Couple that with an equally offensive premise that those same individuals are America's "job creators."  Tax rates, today, are at their lowest point since just after World War II.  During the 1950s and 1960s ... a period of almost unprecedented economic expansion and growth in the United States ... tax rates were, at times, for top earners, over 70%!  Today, rates for inidividuals and couples that can be classified as "top earners" are capped at 35%.  Wait a minute!  Taxes were high, yet the country was experiencing immense economic expansion?!  How is that possible?!  It's simple economics, folks.  The more individual success and prosperity that exists, the more individual success and prosperity that is able to be created.  However ... and here is the nub of the issue ... that "success" and that "prosperity" does not necessarily mean that a person achieves significant economic wealth or success by way of America's businesses.  It means, pure and simple, that when more people are able to afford a reasonable standard-of-living ... when more people are able to pay ALL of their bills for the basic things necessary to sustain that "reasonable standard-of-living" ... there is greater success and prosperity for everyone.  And that "success and prosperity" does, and should, include some individuals receiving monies from "government" (Social Security, 'food stamps', etc.).  Members of Congress must face facts ... there are some in this country ... many, in fact ... who will not, or are simply not able, to be great economic successes ... when we base "economic success" on the notion that someone is successful by achieving great financial wealth.  And there are some in this country, like it or not, who are simply not able to "fend for themselves".  And it is that segment of society that needs ... and deserves ... a helping hand. 

Until ALL members of Congress are willing to embrace the notion that government can, and should, do good things for the citizens of this nation ... and that those "things" ARE more than simply defending this country from attack or invasion by other peoples and/or countries ... this debate over the "debt ceiling" ... and any others of similar subject matter ... are false arguments, at best.  And they are a serious dereliction of duty by our elected officials, at worst.  The American people deserve better.  The American people deserve more than farcical theatrics from members of all political persuasions.  The American people deserve a government that does provide for the "general welfare" and "common defense."  Like the individual who can walk and chew gum at the same time, government can, and should, do more than one thing.  It's time Congress, and the President, accept that statement as fact.  And THEN begin the debate and discussion over how to best provide for all Americans. 

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