A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
April 19th, 2011
By Tom Carter
Which do you want first — the bad news on the economy or the worse news?
OK, the bad news is that our economy continues to swirl around the drain, and it’s inexorably glugging away. Witness, for example, that Standard & Poor’s has just affirmed the U.S. government’s AAA credit rating, but for the first time S&P changed its long-term outlook from stable to negative. That means, they somehow know, that “there is at least a 33% chance that it will downgrade the country’s debt rating within two years.” Whatever. Bad news, any way you look at it.
And here’s the worse news: Our political leaders aren’t going to do the hard things necessary to save the economy. Collectively, they’re so partisan, so stubborn, and often so unintelligent that they can’t get it done. As long as so many politicians are unwilling or unable to make the welfare of the country their first priority, nothing will change. Voters could make a big difference, but that seems a chucklable proposition at best.
Most of us are relegated to standing around watching the house burn down, unable to do anything about it and not even understanding what should be done. We could do worse than to follow Robert Samuelson’s columns. For example,
In the Great Budget Debate, Democrats and Republicans are closer than you might think. Neither is proposing a balanced budget anytime soon; both peddle soothing myths to convince supporters that they’re upholding either “liberal” or “conservative” values. Meanwhile, the public seems largely clueless about the enormity of the problem. The Congressional Budget Office reckons that, in 2021, even after a full economic recovery, the remaining deficit will equal almost 5 percent of gross domestic product. In today’s dollars, that’s $750 billion. It’s the hole that needs filling.
We won’t make much progress until (a) Democrats concede that spending control requires genuine cuts in Social Security and Medicare, which now total $1.3 trillion annually and represent 35 percent of federal outlays; and (b) Republicans acknowledge that, even after significant spending cuts, tax increases will be needed to balance the budget. Last week, there was little sign of either. President Obama rebuffed Social Security and Medicare cuts. Most Republicans held fast on taxes.
What we have instead is a public relations war. Both parties propound brands of wishful thinking designed to make it seem that they’re accomplishing more than they are. …
We still await a serious debate about which programs to cut and which taxes to raise. Congressional Republicans advance a radical plan for shrinking government — and are not candid about it. Obama defends the status quo of ever-bigger government — and is not candid about it. Perhaps these are negotiating positions and, needing to raise the federal debt ceiling, both sides will recognize their shortcomings. It’s a hope.
The real hope, unlikely as it may be, is that the voters will actually do the right thing in November 2012. And it’s going to fall to independents and moderates to get it done. Liberals and conservatives are so ideologically rock-headed and so uncompromising that they aren’t part of the solution, but at least they tend to cancel each other out. The goal is simple: Any candidate, regardless of party, who doesn’t have a record of being willing to compromise and who doesn’t understand that tax reform that increases revenue and spending cuts are both required should be sent home to try to find a real job. Then do the same thing in every subsequent election.
You can see how bad things are when we’re down to relying on the intelligence of voters to solve the nation’s economic problems.
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