The past couple of months have weighed heavily upon the nation’s common sense. Solutions to reining in the nations unsustainable deficit problem have been glibly floated without even the simplest use of mathematics to confirm their proposed impact. Other proposals sacrifice some segment of our society in order to make spending cuts, and still do not solve the basic problem. Where do we go from here?
For everyone who says we need to increase taxes, or says we need to cut defense or entitlements, they must be asked, “is your goal a balanced budget”? If the answer is no (or sometime in the future), their suggestions should be ignored.
For everyone who cries out for a balanced budget, they should be asked, “are you willing to pay taxes for the service the government does provide and are you willing to pay taxes for the reducing the debt we have already accumulated”? If the answer is no to either part, their suggestions should be ignored.
Strangely, there should be a lot of room for a rich dialogue over what is the proper role of government in the 21st century. It is possible that some will hold government should provide for security and aid businesses, and provide only the skimpiest of social safety networks.
It is possible that others will hold there should be much more government involvement in society, maybe modeled after some European countries. In the end, however, what ever level of government services is selected, they must be paid for and the debt should be reduced (because it is costing money each year).
The natural consequence of this process, making choices, goes like this. If the social safety net is severely reduced, the poor and unemployed will put pressure on State and local governments, and their costs will go up. If the social safety networks are maintained (or even increased), the need to generate greater tax revenues will increase too. Without citizens working more and paying greater taxes, the deficit will bloom again.
Maybe we should first be asking some more basic questions before we go about proposing solutions to the deficit problem, like
- Why is the US health care cost the highest (50-100% per capita) in the world and yet still not close to the best?
- Why is the US Defense Budget equal to the size of all other countries combined?
- Why does the US, who has 4% of the world’s population, incarcerate 25% of the world’s prisoners ?
These are just a few of the most glaring examples of US policies, well intended, that do not make sense and do not work as conceived. There are many more and each must be interrogated if there are to be meaningful reforms in Federal spending.
Unfortunately, the deficit debate has lacked any of this insight. And that is how everyone can be right, while at the same time be wrong.