above it all
DECEMBER 22, 2010 5:48PM

Sacrifice, Part II

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Some time ago I posted a musing on whether or not it was time to think about the word “sacrifice” again.  In the interim, I have not only become more certain that it is, I have noted the incredible dearth of the political types being willing to address the issue.

 

A few weeks ago millions of people turned out to vote for one thing – an end to the tyranny of debt.  I know many of you will say I am either being simplistic in my assessment or downright ignorant of the real forces.  You might even correctly point out that I have been decrying Citizens United V. FEC since August of 2009 so why the weak reading of the election?  I agree, but allow me this little indulgence.  I stand by my first comment based upon what people tell themselves regarding their votes, and I doubt you will find many who will tell you they just don’t want to see a black family in the White House.

 

So if the national debt is the reason for the ouster of many a Democrat and the installation of increasingly myopic Republicans I think it is fair to ask “How will we trim the debt?”  Really, how do we get the debt to go down, how do we lighten the tax burden on the overtaxed, how do we encourage productivity and what happens if we don’t do these things?

 

Let’s take a 30,000 foot view of where we are.

 

(http://www.usdebtclock.org/)

 

As you can see it takes but a few short moments for the counter to move by a million dollars.  Perhaps not much, you say, in this age of trillion dollar debts (that’s a million million if you’re keeping score), but in my family accounts, it is substantial.  This little counter has to stop before we can hope to reverse it.  And reverse it we must, because as they say in DC, a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon its real money we’re talking about.

 

So even though the vote has been taken (I actually started this post late November) and the decision has been set in stone, the issue hasn’t changed.  We need to stop spending money we don’t have at levels we can’t support over the (not so very) long run.  We need to put more money in the government coffers and get the government to spend less of what we put there.  How do we do this?

 

First, increase receipts by the government.  This must include more than just personal income taxes, although that’s a given.  Sorry folks, but the “tax cut” ~ really just a continuation of a temporary tax holiday ~ has to end.  I know that won’t happen for two years yet, but start thinking about it now.  And before some right winger comments here (yeah right like I ever get read by those types!) know that my income as a business owner is generally high enough that I pay into the top brackets.  But an even better way to speedily increase receipts would be to end or at least modify the disasterous “free trade” policies which only benefit the investing class.  And please don’t tell me we all benefit by cheaper prices at Wal-Mart.  If you still drink that kool-aid there ain’t nothin’ I can do for you.  Do you realize that from the birth of this nation all the way through the start of WWII the majority of the cost of government was paid for by tariffs?  Make trade fair and not free and the combination of these two things will go a long way towards getting the monkey off our grandchildren’s backs.

 

Next, there has to be a cut in spending.  Everything, and I mean everything has to be on the table.  Here is where sacrifice becomes the watchword of the day.  We do have to cut entitlements.  There is no choice here, because we spent this money for our benefit (or at least for people who are currently alives benefit).  I don’t want to see a lessening in Medicare or Social Security but the sooner we face up to the fact that we are seriously tattooed drunken sailors the sooner we will dry out and get back to the business of sailing the ship of state.  We have to make real cuts in current and future benefits.

 

Most importantly, we must rethink Empire.  We must pull back from military bases in 200 countries around the world.  If we think that threatens our security we need to rethink security.  A generation of killing Palestinians has not made the Israelis less hated.  But a generation of the Marshall plan made a much more prosperous world where being American in a foreign country only meant you were mocked for the way you dressed.  Aid in the form of food and technology is much more effective at turning hearts in a positive direction than drones blasting wedding parties.

 

I will post more on this subject in the coming months.  I am only hoping to start a debate now and perhaps hear a few fresh ideas.  This is really a post from 30,000 feet.  As we zoom in we will find ourselves facing the “blue tarp blues” but we will also see opportunities that one can’t see this far up.  But if you think just taxes or just spending cuts or just technology will make a better country for your grandchildren please don’t bother to comment.  I won’t delete you if you do, but you’ll just be telling everyone how little effort you are willing to make to solve the one crisis around which all other crises of our day revolve.

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Unfortunately I think you are overlooking the inevitability of your own preordained extinction as a Business owner Tim. Deficit? There is no deficit Tim its nothing but a phantasmagorical conjuration of your Citizens United controlled media. Do you see any slackening of Drones machine-gunning wedding parties? I think instead of viewing this from 30,000 Ft. up we need to view this from the deck of the SS Ronald Reagan. What they want Tim is a revolution in the streets and a consolidation of all remaining assets, namely yours Tim, into the hands of the multinational corporations who are putting on this little presentation of the theater of the absurd.
Great points all around Tim. "And please don’t tell me we all benefit by cheaper prices at Wal-Mart." Believe me, I won't tell you that. Have not bought a single item from that store in my entire life except when it was the only place I could fill my prescriptions in Alaska per my insurance companies directions.

On the whole I agree, especially about the trade issue, however I am not so sure about cutting at Medicare and Social Security. Yes, I think it needs to be reformed, but the word "cutting" sits strangely in my stomach. When I think of an overhaul of Social Security, I think more about who will be receiving these benefits. Why can't we have an "over income threshold". I can't see how the rich will be able to claim that cut as a deterrent to job creation?

Just my initial thoughts. I'll come back to read more comments and see what others come up with to spur my thoughts.

Nice post Tim, as usual.
Although not part of the American "dog" I am a citizen of that dog's "tail" - Canada. When your economy takes a bath ours might not get wet - at first. But in a moment or two we get to the same place you do. This is said to defer those snarky jerks who often, not liking my comments, tell me to butt out and leave American politics to Americans. Being part of the tail gives me much interest in where the dog is headed - because, like it or not, I'm going to wind up there stuck to your nether regions.

The real problem is with the concentration of the vast majority of wealth in the hands of a relatively few plutocrats.

Those plutocrats are sitting back in the stands, as the Roman emperors did, watching us fight each other about silly political issues. The real battle isn't even on our radar. The real battle is an economic one.

While we babble away about how "our" political party will solve all the economic woes created by "them other guys" when they were in office, the elite are greatly amused by our blather and our posturing and our pretence at knowledge of what the heck is really happening.

And what is really happening is that our form of capitalism is on its death bed. We have nursed it along for a good few hundred years now, provided it with great care and every possible band-aid, medicine, patch and adjustment known to man. It has come to the end of its days. It has an addiction to the very thing that is killing it. It will not give up that addiction and so will die of it.

Excerpted from a soon to be posted blog.
I would eliminate tax loopholes and deductions. Maybe a flat tax would make sense but it would make a lot of people angry.

I would not eliminate a safety net because without it social chaos would ensue, and tax revenmue coming in would plummet.

I would crack down on predatory lending, because individual debt, I believe, fuels the national debt. And help people creak the addiction to credit cards, etc.

I would teach people the difference between yearly deficit and overall debt...
Thanks for stopping by. I am still pondering just what kind of changes need to be made. Like Patrick, I abhor any cuts to the social safety net. But overall, no cuts make sense until we cut the bloated military budget. the problem there is those who read the Constitution to say that defense is the main job of the Federal Gov't. To which I would agree, but you would have to change the definition of "defense" from what was intended by the founders to what we have today in order to support the empire we have created.
The Law of Diminishing Returns curve is off the charts with 7+ billion people to sustain in just food & clean water, but in 678 days on less when all electrical power and the lights go out for only a week or two and the food trucks are unable to re-supply the mega-cities around the world, then some real deep-shit will began to happen as people flee the big mega-cities and suburban-homes on foot as no gas for their cars....they will be searching just to find any food to eat & any water to drink to sustain them and to survive just to live another day....the world population will decline according to the Law of Supply and Demand and Survival of those in Physical Fitness....so, you better stop eating all those big macs, king wroppers, kfc chicken, and hut's pizza every week and begin to get into shape with organic food while supplies are good to 2013.......