Archived Story

Why not a grand budget plan?

Published 9:01am Friday, February 15, 2013

Rumor has it that in 2011 House Speaker John Boehner and first-term president Barack Obama came very close to creating a long term solution to our deficit problems if not our debt.

Reportedly the deal fell apart because Boehner could not deliver enough Republican votes to increase any revenues, and Obama needed more revenues than in the package to win Democratic support for Medicare cuts.

So both parties back-stepped and never seriously tried again to do a “Big Deal.”

We deserve better.

We are not the country of smaller ideas, modest goals and acceptance of failure. We are the country of great accomplishments and of the largest working democracy ever imagined.

Republicans and Democrats need to start by accepting the facts about our current situation. Facts matter, and here they are indisputable.

We entered the Great Recession largely as a result of American “Big Banks” becoming casino’s gambling junk equities with other people’s money, namely mine and yours at the end of the day.

The Great Recession was not limited to our shores, it became worldwide and our recovery, though modest, has been better than any nation but Canada.

So if you object to all things Obama, have at it, but, so far at least, the U.S. economy has recovered as well as possible against a near Depression.

That is the history but not the solution.

Now in terms of solving our budget problems created by jobs lost from technology, globalization, worldwide recession and a shortage of skill sets in the workplace, we have avoided the European solution of austerity.

That solution has just tossed Great Britain and Spain into a third recession and was never a path forward.

This is good, but fragile, for the fundamental argument has remained spending cuts over growth funding, Republicans for austerity opposed to Democrats for investment.

The only answer lies in compromise.

Democrats, who, thanks largely to Republican pushes, have cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion going forward, have been unwilling negotiators to further address necessary spending cuts.

Republicans, have approached all things budget with ideology, that is “big government is evil so we must cut spending.”

The problem with that was evidenced listening to Marco Rubio rebutting the president this week by praising his own student loans and his mom’s Medicare while attacking the vacuous target “Big Government.”

The argument makes no sense and it is time to stop attacking paper tigers.

Fact: The government is operating with 15.4 percent of GDP, the lowest budget funding percentage since the 1950s.

This means we have two problems, not one: spending and funding. The sooner Republicans stop wasting time claiming otherwise the faster a “grand bargain” can happen.

There are plenty of spending cuts other than Social Security and Medicare that should all come first. The defense budget has doubled in the last decade; we deserve a peace dividend. We have 47 federal jobs programs; Leader Cantor has suggested combining them for savings, a great idea.

Our corporate tax rate is too high and the exemptions far too generous if the highly profitable GE manages to pay no tax at all.

Taxes on the wealthiest Americans are equally filled with loopholes unavailable to most Americans. We can fix these problems and improve revenues at the same time, and we should.

Medicare needs to be more efficient. We deserve better pricing from “Big Pharm.” We should demand “best practices” from health care providers and standardized claims submissions. And hospitals are about to save from the uninsured becoming insured, meaning their charges should better reflect actual costs.

There are all the tools needed to compromise and accomplish a “Grand Plan” if only our politicians will stop grandstanding and do what is necessary.

We deserve no less.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.

 

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