Saturday, September 8, 2012

Resonant Story Lines

There are no particular pictures for this idea.  We, as a country, have far too much debt... that is, the National Debt has increased to more than we can handle or very soon will be at that point.

You won't get much argument from either side, left or right, on this being a fact and a problem.  What you do get is a lot of finger pointing about why this is the case and a lot more finger pointing about what to do about it.

Essentially the Republicans say we can cut spending and pull ourselves out of the debt through austerity.  Much the same approach being used in Europe right now.  It is the what has led to people in countries like Spain to pull their money from the economy and send it to safe havens all over the world.  The Democrats say that we can combine ideas and do some trimming but that we also need tax increases in certain sectors to raise revenues.  The Dem's also say that some additional stimulus will awaken the economy and that will add to the income side of the equation while shoring up the economy with a bit more deficit in the short run.

That is a huge difference based on the agreement that we have a common problem.  The Neo-Republican idea is fairly narrow in scope.  It says simply that we can cut, cut and cut.  Okay, what shall we cut?  They say that it should be across the board, starting with social programs.  Why do they say this?  They posit the idea that ALL federal spending is equal.  That is, a dollar is a dollar no matter where it comes from.  A very infectious theory.  They further say that we need a one to one approach... for every dollar we spend we need to cut a dollar thereby "saving" a dollar to then "spend" on bringing down the deficit.  Our interest expense is eating into our national budget and just like a household whose spending is out of control we should focus on this until we can "afford" to spend again.  Hidden here is the fact that it will shrink the economy in the process.

This view is not complete without saying that the Republicans are targeting Social Security and Medicare spending even though these two programs do not contribute to the debt.  In fact, Social Security is one of the largest purchasers of government debt!  These are self funding programs that are viable well into the future and can be made even better by thinking about better ways to fund the insurance plans.  Along the same lines defense spending is, for the most part, off the table for discussion even though it IS much of the cause of and for the deficit.  Hmmm... well, in any case, the ability to walk away from negotiations and say things like, "My way or the highway," is to say there is a diminution of useful discussion.  Thus here we have a position that carves out support by giving a seemingly simple set of ideas and then does not bend.  One would say this is a then a radical solution or at least based on a radical take-no-prisoners approach.  Yes, a very political, one sided way to attempt to accomplish laudable goals.  Thus the charges and counter-charges of lies and deception take hold rather than real debate.

By contrast the Democrats propose a multitude of ways to bring down the deficit by the dual approach of cuts and enhanced income.  As my brother once relayed to me the advice of a CPA we once knew... the key is to make more money while you get your budget in order, spend less.  This too is a pretty basic and simple idea.  Fairly straightforward.  The first thing on the negotiating table should be the thing causing us the most initial pain.  The recently undertaken unfunded wars were at the heart of the matter.  The Pentagon has funded more hardware even as they cut direct spending on the people of war, our volunteer army and the veterans.  The Pentagon tends to support the Republican ideas and is loath to adopt the Democrat's ideas.  Additionally, the placement of where the increase in income will come from has taken center stage.  The Republicans oppose any tax increases outwardly saying that it is based on a pledge most of them have signed to someone other than their constituents.  At this point no group of them have stood up to Grover Norquist and his organization and walked away from this pledge en-mass. 

In short, without the distractions, the two sides are vying for hearts and minds by displaying this contrast.  The Republicans are pouring lots of money into shouting down the opposition while the Democrats are relying more on the ground game to flush out support.  Either way we are buried in a national bumper sticker, sound bite ride for votes.  There IS a crisis looming in the near future but I doubt either side knows what it really will be.  The Fourth Turning is upon us.

No comments:

Post a Comment