Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Give Me Liberty: A Little Common Sense, Please

Published April 15, 2011 in the Gainesville Daily Register

In recent weeks, economic issues have been served hot off the Congressional fire and into the news. Democrats and Republicans have long battled over budget business, and now they have finally called a truce and made a decision. What does it all mean, and how will it affect the average citizen? I am certainly not an expert in economics, budgets, or deficits. (I’m only seventeen!) Nevertheless, it doesn’t take a genius to understand some basic facts. All it takes is a little common sense.

In 2008, America elected President Barak Obama because, among other reasons, they knew that the economy was in bad shape, and they grasped onto the “hope” he promised during his campaign. They believed him when he said in 2009 that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. In 2009, the national debt was 10.6 trillion. Today, it is 14.3 trillion. Four trillion dollars has been added to our national debt in less than four years.
It’s obvious that debt like this needs to be bridled, and for the last several weeks Congress has been debating about a budget plan. Many suggestions were set forth to stop federal funding for certain programs and organizations that are not necessary to America’s wellbeing, like National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood. But for what seemed like ages, no proposition could ever be agreed upon. Haggling back and forth, both parties recognized that if they didn’t decide on a budget, a government shutdown was inevitable.
To be honest, when I first heard the term “government shutdown,” I didn’t even know what that was. I learned that in the case of a shutdown, all government-sponsored programs would temporarily lose federal funding, except for those programs that are essential to the public safety, like the FBI or the military. However, when discussion of a shutdown arose, the President surprisingly claimed that the military would cease to be funded along with other programs. Many were adamant that this was unfair, considering that he refused to stop funding programs like Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio. Refusing pay to the military would also be dangerous for the morale of the service men and women, not to mention the safety of U.S. citizens. It may be inferred that the threat to stop paying the military led to the agreement on the finalized budget.
What does that agreement entail? The new budget allows for 38 billion dollars in budget cuts, which doesn’t even cover a full week of spending in Washington D.C.; the federal government spends 10 billion dollars daily. It has recently been discovered that most of the cuts had already been provided for in prior resolutions, so the actual amount of new cuts is far, far less than 38 billion! Considering that the national debt is 14.3 trillion dollars, this budget cut is like knocking one star from the solar system.
The deficit has now collided with the debt ceiling. Congress can either cut spending – really, seriously, tremendously cut it – or they can vote to raise the debt ceiling. Our President seems eager to raise the roof as soon as possible. According to his press secretary; “We believe that we should move quickly to raise the debt limit and we support a clean piece of legislation to do that.” Should they choose to raise the limit, how will that affect you?
First, let’s consider who will be footing this bill. Definitely not the government. The brunt of this blow will fall upon my generation and following generations. And how will that be paid? Through taxes!
Speaking of taxes, what happened to the tax cuts both parties have promised in recent elections? “How on earth could we afford to cut taxes at a time like this?” some might say. To be honest, cutting taxes would greatly help our economy, and it doesn’t take a PhD to figure that out.
We often hear about the poor being unfairly taxed and the rich not being taxed enough. Some would say that, especially in a crisis like this, taxes should be increased for the wealthy and cut for the poor. Reminiscent of Robin Hood as it may be, that doesn’t make sense. The top fifty percent of wage earners already pay more than ninety percent of the taxes – the bottom half pay less than ten percent.
In the event of an across-the-board tax cut, the rich, who own most of the businesses, would be able to hire more employees, thus lowering the unemployment rate. The economy – and the poor – would benefit.
Singling out the rich by increasing their taxes will lead to more job losses, more people without work, and less revenue circulating throughout the economy.
America, the alarm clock is sounding. It’s time to wake up and face the facts. Why is the President so unwilling to reduce federal funding for programs like Planned Parenthood, and yet ready to stop funding the military during a shutdown? Why is Congress even considering raising the debt ceiling when they’ve already promised us that they will work to reduce spending? Why do some try to increase taxes for the rich when it will only hurt the economy?
Working our way out of this bog will be hard enough; we don’t need to add more mud to the mire. If you and I embrace this common sense, maybe we can send some people to Washington with a little common sense of their own.