Friday, July 22, 2011

The Looming Federal Debt Crisis...One Man's Opinion

Political Editorial...the views expressed in this article are those of Sherwood Martinelli, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of this blog.

August 3rd is fast approaching, and not so wise men (and women) in Washington DC are making decisions that will affect us all...will we lift the debt ceiling, should we lift the debt ceiling, and what are we as a nation going to do about our 14 Trillion dollar federal debt? The decisions which are made will affect all of us, and this American is tired of all the fighting in Washington DC, tired of the party line posturing. Democrat or Republican, politicians once elected are supposed to represent ALL THEIR CONSTITUENTS, not just those who got them elected, not just the special interest lobbyists that line their campaign coiffures with gold...there is no black and white world in which lines are drawn upon party or class boundaries, but instead there are myriad shades of gray, yet we are led to believe the fix for our nation's budget and economy woes is found along party is not.

To the Republicans who do not want to raise taxes on the uber rich, the millionaires and billionaires...stop your whining and raise taxes so the once proud United States of America can get out of the interest trap that is strangling our economy, killing our nation. Your party mantra is, "Don't raise taxes on the job creators". WHAT JOBS? It is not like you have incentives in place that would lower a rich man's taxes based on creating new jobs...instead, you want us as average citizens to believe these wealthy Americans will create more jobs if we just let them sit on their coins. It is not working, just as trickle down economics has not worked. Most out of work Americans don't want the promise of a job, they want a job, a job that pays them a living wage, allows them to meet their own financial obligations, raise their families.

The Democrats don't get a free pass either...there should be no sacred cows...America is in crisis, we cannot maintain our current pace of spending, must find whatever way forward there is that PAYS DOWN OUR DEBT, gets America out of the interest trap. Is means testing fair for Social could and should be argued that means testing is fair depending upon where the line is drawn in the proverbial sand. Also, is it fair that someone earning $250,000 a year only pays Social Security taxes on less than half of their income...that is a regressive tax, a tax that in some ways, based upon that line in the sand is onerous to those in the lower and middle class. Our social programs should be on the table, but with some of those is leaving benefits (including cost of living increases) intact for all those who are 55 and older on the day the changes are signed into law. 79 million baby boomers have played by the rules, paid into the system for over 40 years by the time we retire...we should not be penalized because the Federal Government MISMANAGED OUR FUNDS, stole our contributions.

A few suggestions of my own as the politicians in Washington DC dig in their heels, threatening our way of life in that process which more resembles a kabuki dance than fruitful negotiation.

1. Enforce our immigration laws and make E Verify the law of the land. Some may disagree with this, but fact is, there are 7.5 million illegal aliens that have jobs in our American Economy while over 16 million Americans are out of work. Remittances alone sent back to foreign lands deny our economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year in much needed fuel.

2. Change the retirement structure for our elected members of Congress. A Congressman qualifies for a $42,000 (and that amount continues to grow) retirement payable from the first day they are out of office after serving only five years. Disgraced New York Congressman Weiner for the rest of his life will collect a yearly retirement north of $80,000 for about 12 years of service. Shave the numbers back, and do not start the retirement package till these politicians have reached the age of retirement set for all Americans to collect our Social Security. All Federal, State and local government retirements should be benchmarked to this same age requirement as well...not saying government workers do not deserve a great retirement package, but do question when they are allowed to start collecting it.

3. Greatly reduce for a period of time our Foreign Aid, and do away with USAID, which is nothing more than a candy store owned by the State Department, and used to dispense vast sums of our hard earned tax dollars to foreign lands in the name of our political interests. We need to invest that money in paying down our own debt, need to invest that money in rebuilding our nation's public infrastructure, rather than spending it building up infrastructure in foreign lands.

4. Reduce the size and budget of our military by 25 it or not, at this point in our nation's history we cannot afford to be the world's policemen. We need to disengage from both Iraq and Afghanistan, let the Middle East straighten out their own issues, while at the same time we make sure to stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally, and close friend Israel. The policy set forth by George W. Bush, and carried forward by Obama of nation building is not working, has been a complete disaster. America has been the greatest country in the world, has been respected around the world because we led by example. Now it seems we have lost our way...are we leading by example when we try to force our will, our democracy on foreign lands? Are we leading by example when we cannot even balance our own federal budget, state budget, local budget? The collective debt of our government here in America if you take local, state and federal is in excess of 100 trillion dollars...what kind of example is that, and what kind of example is it when we fight wars in foreign lands that our citizens cannot afford?

5. There is NOTHING WRONG with a little bit of protectionism...China practices it every day of the year, and if our Federal Government will not take the necessary steps to protect American jobs, we as Americans can do it ourselves. 43 percent of China's exports are dumped on the shores of our lands. We can restore our private industrial infrastructure, end this product dumping on our shores with our pocketbooks. Retail stores will stop lining their shelves with products made in China or India when we as Americans stop buying them. When we as Americans return to the practice of BUYING AMERICAN companies will again start producing goods made in America. Where is your smart phone, IPOD, IPAD or other favorite electronic gadget produced? Chances are, not in America.

6. Stop lending our money (taxes) to the banks at near zero percent interest so that they can turn around and lend it back to us at exorbitant mark ups. Furthermore, cap credit card interest at 12 percent. Interest rates on some credit cards is now running as high as 30 percent, and that is LOAN SHARKING. Our government must get out of the interest trap, but they also must provide a pathway for the citizens of America to get out from under that same trap.

7. Unions are not a bad thing, and our government at every level needs to stop enacting laws that steal away our collective bargaining rights...we as a nation do not need to slide backwards to the days written about by Upton Sinclair in his classic novel, "The Jungle". Sure, many of our jobs have left our shores because said goods can be produced off shore less expensively, and primarily because those offshore manufacturing locations have unsafe work places, and pay what could be considered slave this what we want for our own citizens? Furthermore, is buying something cheaper by having it produced overseas a good thing when it supports slave wages, puts Americans out of work? We need strong unions, not less unions or weaker unions.

At almost 56, I remember the days when Americans citizens were proud to be Americans, where we said the Pledge of Allegiance and Lord's Prayer at the beginning of every school day. I remember the days when we as a nation believed in dreams bigger than ourselves, like putting a man on the moon in ten years. I remember a day when every American citizen felt they had a duty to Buy American first whenever possible, and when those ready and wanting to work had a job, were able to pay their bills and raise their families.

It is my belief that we cannot return to those better days until and if we address our government debt at every level, and to do that, we ALL MUST EQUALLY SHARE IN THE PAIN. We have to make hard choices, and that means we all must be willing to sacrifice today for a brighter tomorrow. No one likes higher taxes, but if higher taxes will pay down our debt, provide our children and their children the opportunities they deserve, then we should be willing to pay those taxes. As someone fast approaching retirement, the thought of having Social Security Benefits shrunk is a scary prospect, but if cutting those benefits in a fair and equitable fashion in the name of shared pain, duty and responsibility is what is needed, I'll accept that reality. What I will not accept, what every American should not accept is a Federal Congress that kowtows to the rich and elite, that caters to special interest lobbying, rather than representing the will of the people. We are in a crisis here in America, and it is time for our elected officials to stop their party posturing, and get on with with the task they are charged to take care of, "The peoples business".