Archive for the ‘budget’ category

What’s Going On?

December 18, 2016

It seems every news venue, radio or TV talk news program, or in the pages of the top newspapers, the subject, in some way, is about Donald Trump. Further, the inference questions (1) his victory as not legitimate, (2) his opinion poll numbers as terrible and getting worse, or that (3) he is hopelessly ensnared in conflict of interest situations. These reports question the wisdom of those who elected Donald Trump.  Hmmm.

There are, IMO, two important observations to remember. First, these same media outlets failed to point out the threat that the rust belt (or fire wall) States posed, and second, there are far more important matters about to impact Americans thanks to the upcoming Trump Administration.

Russian hacking and the subsequent Wikileaks disclosures were hardly earth shattering and even FBI Director Jim Comey’s totally out of place report to Congress was to a thinking person not decisive events. What the media could have reported was that despite overwhelming information on Donald Trump’s character, preparation, and natural disposition, a large group of voters could not care less. These voters cared only about their personal situation and preferred someone who offered them a life preserver, even if imaginary, to someone else who would be an adult in the room.

So it is now. Those “margin of victory” voters who decided the election thinking Trump was a great business man and was the only person who could deal with the economy and provide (good) jobs for everyone (but especially them) are still of the same mind.

This group cares little whether Donald Trump’s companies do well, even if the Trump Administration trades favors with foreign countries to boost more favorable outcomes for Trump enterprises… as long as these voters do well.

Rather than question Trump’s legitimacy, his razor thin temperament, or his near corrupt business dealings, the media would do well to inform all voters what other Trump and GOP policies are about to bring them.

Healthcare. The emphasis, the GOP says, will be on repealing Obamacare. With that, coverage of those under 26, those with pre-existing conditions, and those really sick Americans who exhaust some predetermined amount of coverage will be without coverage. In addition, Medicaid roles will be reduced and consequently hospital emergency room lines will increase while hospital balance sheets turn red. And while they are at it, Medicare will be up for improvements, read less coverage for more money. Buying the Trump line gets all this at the same price.

Social Security which these “margin of victory” voters expect to receive may look a bit different. Rather than a government managed benefit private enterprise might be called upon to offer 401K-like policies where social security taxes are invested by investment firms and the future of many Americans with no other means will ride upon the stock market.

Income inequality will become an accepted way of life. Work hard, get rich, and why worry. But for these “margin of victory” voters, there is no pot of gold waiting for them. Higher taxes on the richest or hire minimum wage levels are not going to happen. Income inequality will be transformed into what makes America Great Again (for the wealthy).

Regrettably there are other changes coming for which the “margin of victory” voters will not immediately register concern. For example, ignoring global warming, diminishing the EPA’s reach, pushing charter schools, expanding the concept of religious freedom (read making legal discrimination on the basis of deeply held religious beliefs) and reversing all sorts recent progress on inclusion will be the just reward for the “margin of victory” voters.

But the cruelest hoax will come under the flag, “cutting government spending” for the purpose of reducing the national debt.  Consider that the budget is currently unbalanced by about $600 billion or roughly the size of the defense budget.  So, there is suppose to be a massive tax cut, a massive investment in the infrastructure, and a rebuild of the military (to make it great again).  Where is the money going to come from to balance the budget?  Hmmm.  Cut baby cut.

Fasten your seat belts, the race to “Make America Great Again” is about to begin.

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How Could Congress Make A Deal?

February 21, 2015

There are many explanations for the apparent gridlock in Washington. Certainly there are cases of distrust and misunderstanding. There is also just partisan politics where it makes no different what anyone says, “I’m voting my party line”. And I suspect some of the gridlock can be traced to “what’s in it for me”.

As a general statement Democrats favor a wide range of progressive issues ranging from poverty reduction to assistance for those on fixed income to healthcare availability to education access, and so forth. Democrats see government as a pathway to improve these areas.  Democrats are ready to tax others to provide these services. (Regrettably Democrats are not big on measuring whether the services were actually provided, or that the services provided accomplished their intended purpose). If sufficient tax revenues are not available, Democrats are comfortable with borrowing (increasing the national debt) in order to provide these services.

Republicans, on the other hand, question the wisdom of any entitlement (either because the see no need or they feel the aid will fall into the wrong hands). Republicans think citizens should “earn” enough or go without (the GOP recognizes the truly indignant and would provide for them). Government ought to be confined to Defense Spending and probably infrastructure (the major national defense highway systems) spending in the mind of the GOP. States and localities should tend to all other issues. Hmmm.

One party seems to care little about the ordinary person, the changing nature of American society, or recognize the need for reasonable constraints on our modern, highly technical free enterprise economy. On the contrary, this party may actually value highly the potential of each American to take care of themselves.  This party may think how things are is how they should be.

The other party sees most “problems” as beyond the scope of Americans to solve without the help of government. Progressive solutions, they reason, have worked in the past, so why not now?   Progressive (Government sponsored) solutions and the cost be damned are their motto.  They foresee social ills ultimately ruining the country.  On the bright side, they see progressive solutions creating economic rewards which will more than pay for the solution’s cost. Hmmm.

How are we to find common ground?

For starters, why don’t both parties acknowledge “nothing” is free. For example, free education for grades K-12 in fact is not close to free. Teachers’ salaries, text books/supplies, and building maintenance/operating costs must be paid for in some way (normally through property or sales taxes). So, it should be clear that even good things must be paid for… So for starters, why can’t Republicans and Democrats agree upon that?  If government provides services, these services must be paid for.

Stay with me on this.

To begin, Republicans and Democrats do not agree on what services the government should provide, so it makes it very difficult to agree upon how to pay for the services we might want if we do not already agree on what we are receiving.
But maybe here is a starting point. Let’s forget about what is on the books already.

What if all new legislation required a portion of its funding to be generated from reductions in existing programs cost?

Requiring savings from existing programs would accomplish two objectives…

  1.  All organizations initially gain in efficiency as they age. This efficiency could be converted into lower operating cost which probably means less people.  This efficiency generated lower cost could be converted into funding for other programs. Hmmm.  (Political organizations, however, seeks the votes of government workers too.  People reductions are often ignored even though those workers eliminated from one program could be employed by a new one.
  2. All organizations tend to calcify as they age. Shaking up exiting organizations keeps them vibrant and more likely to remain effective.

Political leaders (regardless of political party) ought to recognize that inefficiency creep into existing bureaucratic  organizations.  Political leaders might find it easier to accept (or at least consider) new programs if they knew that already existing programs would have to be trimmed in cost to help fund the new proposal.   Taking positions like “no new tax revenues” or “no more Medicaid support (for those can’t afford healthcare)”, or on the other side of the spectrum, no changes to Medicare or Social Security (even when bankruptcy looms ahead, and everyone will lose) are not the most productive of positions to take.

The most honorable face that can be put upon the current gridlock behavior sees our politicians practicing the art of negotiation. Each is starting with their “best of all worlds position” (as they see it) and will not move off this position unless there is a sizable win for their side. Isn’t this how bargaining is suppose to proceed?

Maybe, but…  there is nothing happening in Congress that is even slightly productive.  Funding in part all new programs from reductions in existing ones will necessitate current programs continually being reviewed for efficacy and cause legislators to think hard about the cost of new laws.  Maybe this is dreaming but it seems better than the nightmare running now.