Painful lessons Americans have to learn

Published 10:09 am Friday, October 3, 2008

It is hard to remember tougher times than those of today in America. Our economic system, the model for the planet, is crumbling; our energy costs are out of control; we are engaged in two long and expensive wars; our deficits in spending are higher than ever in our history; our homes are more at risk than they have ever been. Are there any lessons to be learned from all of this, so we can avoid ever repeating all that has taken us here?

One lesson that we must never again forget is that government must regulate the giants of business and industry, because left alone their greed will destroy all that it touches. The Republicans have for a hundred years told us that business needs to be freed from the shackles of onerous regulation. But the Republicans were wrong, it was the absence of regulation and the failure to enforce regulation that brought about a great deal of the economic collapse that is now unfolding in America.

Another lesson that we must never forget is the Republican theory of “trickle down,” that is giving tax breaks to the richest Amer-icans, does not work. There is no “trickle,” just failed tax policy. We must also learn, now and forever, that cutting taxes does not increase the revenue in the federal treasury. It has never worked, not when Reagan did it, and not when Bush did it. All that happens when we cut taxes to raise revenues is that the reduced tax collected is never matched by economic growth taxes. In every instance it has been used, the policy has simply increased the debt and the deficit.

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A third lesson we must never forget is that war is the last resort of a strong nation. The war in Iraq was never about the national security of the United States, and is therefore a war of choice. But that choice has cost the nation over $700 billion dollars and still counting. While our President and other leaders tell us we may have to reduce the benefits of Social Security, we squander the money that could have prevented that from happening in Iraq, pouring it into the sand with no benefit.

A fourth lesson we must learn is that energy policy is also national security policy. Almost eight years ago this administration set our national energy policy in a secret meeting Dick Cheney held with the largest oil companies. The result has been an oil energy policy that has trapped the U.S. into the Middle East, failed to develop alternatives, and allowed other nations to pull ahead of the U.S. in energy creation. Our first oil president indeed served the interests of the oil industry, for during the Bush administration we have seen the price of oil go from $20 a barrel to $100 a barrel (and occasionally beyond $100).

A fifth lesson we must still come to grips with is the powerful and destructive influence of special interests in Washington. While homeowners continue to struggle, the banks that loaned the money are bailed out; while pension plans that were the retirement savings of many shrink and dissolve, the CEO’s of failed investment banks cash out with hundreds of millions of dollars in golden parachutes. For too long the administration and the Congress have listened to those like Jack Abramoff, who corrupted our system and turned the Congress into a piggy bank for special interests.

America is still the greatest nation ever, but our future must lead us away from the failed ideas of our recent past.