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.


Anonymous said...

These are the basic facts: whats added to the colossal national debt are among other things, the trillions in bailouts to Wall Street banks and the trillions of dollars spent on the wars. If political leaders wanted to reduce the deficit they could take a crack at the real "nonessential" services of the U.S. government: giant loopholes that allow the world's richest corporations to get away with paying nothing at all in taxes; the extension of the Bush tax breaks for the super-rich; and funding for U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. But none of this is ever "on the table." The debate is how much to carve out of social programs and government agencies that have already been cut to the bone. The two parties' agendas overlap considerably. Both are intent on passing the ravages of the economic crisis onto workers and the poor, while protecting the profits and power of Corporate America. Their budget wrangles are over the details, not the overall drive for austerity. The "debate" between the Democrats and Republicans over the deficit isn't whether or not to cut, but how deep to go.

Bush took office in '01. Then the government budget was in surplus. 2rounds of tax cuts for the rich (2001 and 2003), 2 wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and 10 years later the US government is in record deficit with a massive increase in federal debt.

The Obama administration's budget outline for the next fiscal year 2012, unveiled in February, proposes to take away $100 billion from the Pell Grant program over 10 years. Democrats are trying to outdo Republicans by proposing around $400 billion in cuts over 5 years, even reducing funding on a program that provides home heating assistance for the poor.

Obama's claim that the military would not receive funding during a government shutdown was just a ploy to get the Republicans to come to a compromise. There was no way either party would shut off funding for the military.

Anonymous said...

You think the FBI, the US government's secret police against US citizens, is necessary? They regularly violate constitutional rights, trample upon civil liberties and have murdered people.

The rich often times aren't even taxed at all! Didn't you hear recently that General Electric paid no taxes last year? Does that make sense? What we have with the government is Robin Hood in reverse policies; increasing taxes on the working class and giving their tax money to the rich in the form of tax breaks, subsidies and bailouts. Meanwhile keeping taxes low on the rich or not taxing them at all. The rich are getting taxpayer money meanwhile making record profits and giving out record bonues. The rhetoric of "we can't increase taxes on the rich because it will kill jobs and hurt the economy" is a scare tactic the rich use in order to try to keep their money. The rich aren't using their profits to create more jobs. They are using all that money to play in financial markets on Wall Street and/or they are simply putting it in the bank. Its not helping anyone but themselves. The corporate profit boom isn't leading to an investment boom. Early last year the Federal Reserve estimated that non-financial corporations were sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash and other so-called liquid assests. Up 29% from 2009. Meanwhile the working class taxpayers whos money is going to the rich, they are losing their houses and jobs. And the government is cutting programs that help them. The workers are being told to tighten their belts and "share the sacrifice" meanwhile the rich are never asked to tighten their belts or share the sacrifice. They make the working class do it instead. People who can't afford to.

Anonymous said...

Regarding not taxing the rich:

Nationally two thirds of US corporations pay no taxes at all. In many cases because the rich stash their trillions in cash away in off shore tax havens that do nothing to create jobs. This costs US taxpayers about $100 billion a year annually. If the US closed such loopholes it could nearly eliminate the combined budget deficits in all 50 states for 2012 - projected to be $125 billion over the course of a decade. This would generate $1 trillion.

It's true that the top 1 percent of wage earners paid 38 percent of the federal income taxes in 2008 (the most recent year for which data is available). But people forget that the income tax is less than half of federal taxes and only one-fifth of taxes at all levels of government. Once payroll taxes and other federal taxes are taken into account, the burden shifts disproportionately to workers and the poor.