What is the price of changing America?

Published 10:49 am Friday, May 15, 2009

Is there no one left to ask “Can we afford all of this?”

The deficit for 2009 alone will be $1.84 Trillion dollars. Additional deficits appear on the horizon without end. But is there any serious discussion about the effects of this deficit spending? Not really.

Republicans would like to talk about it, but most of this years’ deficit is a carryover from the Bush administration and its tax cuts for debt policies of the last decade. The party has no creditability on the topic and it simply sounds like partisan criticism when Republicans only now demand fiscal sanity.

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The Democrats, for their part, are largely silent on the topic. They know that Obama’s spending is an overhaul of all our domestic agenda, long overdue, and they want to do nothing to stop the changes in policy.

The American people, tired of the policies of the Bush administration, for their part want to give the new president a chance to re-shape the domestic agenda.

The problem is, we really do need to make some fundamental changes in domestic policy. Think of domestic policy as a cable TV product if you will. For the past decade we have had basic cable with only one premium channel, HBO. Our HBO is defense spending, nearly equal to the defense spending of the rest of the planet combined annually.

And defense spending is exorbitant beyond imagination. We have spent about $64 billion dollars building 184 F-22 fighter planes that have never been in combat and have no strategic plans to be used in combat.

On Star Wars, now called Ground based Midcourse Defense (GBMD) we have spent $53 billion dollars between 2004 and 2009, making it the second largest item in the defense budget. The program works marginally better than hitting a bird in the air with a rock, but not good enough to be dependable anywhere.

In the meantime, consumers have asked for a few new premium programs, including affordable college, living wage jobs, health care for everyone, energy that they can afford without going to war, pensions that don’t disappear in the gamble that is the stock market, and homes that really are sound investments.

The Bush administration had a pricing policy for their cable package that was unsustainable. When cable needed $75 per household to break even the Bush folks charged $50 and let the difference be added to debt.

Now the Obama folks want to allow some of the tax cuts to expire so the costs of their cable programming are better met. But the new cost of the additional premium channels brings the monthly cost to $90. The expiring tax cuts only raise the price of basic plus premium channels to $70.

Like all good sales teams, the Obama folks do not want to mention that low priced college loans, help with home re-financing, a strong social safety net, good health care, all cost more than we are currently paying.

The U.S. federal tax cost to Americans is at about 20 percent, the lowest in the last thirty years and lower than most Western democracies. This cannot continue.

There will have to be higher payments from Americans to afford the new premium services the public wants. There is no other solution. There cannot be enough cuts to pay for all that is to become part of the American domestic service net.

The problem is, times are tough. And even though we need health care, college help and energy plans for our future, our credit cards are maxed out.

Can we afford all of this?

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.