Artwork by DONKEYHOTEY
BY WILLIAM C. HENRY H.L. Mencken famously said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” In the upcoming election Americans will be presented with a choice between what the Republican nominee and his V.P. for everything budgetary would have them believe is the only answer to the complex economic problem of continuing budget deficits and mounting national debt, namely, a complete dismantling of the social welfare system as we know it, and a mufti-faceted alternative that is clear, pretty cut-and-dried and altogether righteous. This latter approach entails: 1) no longer allowing the American military/industrial complex to piss away massive budgetary resources on useless relics of a bygone military era; 2) restoration of income tax rates to pre-dubya era levels and gradually increasing them as improvement in the economy warrants; 3) eliminating loopholes and other tax-avoidance mechanisms created for and by the rich and powerful; 4) turning off the “corporate” welfare spigot; 5) making it mandatory that every American income earner regardless of economic status or situation pay something in federal income tax.
Let’s start with the redirection part of that altogether righteous answer: Reallocate those unconscionable sums of money the United States squanders “protecting” us from imaginary foes. Did you know that we lavish more on our military than the next 15 nations combined! We maintain some 1,000 bases overseas (actually nobody — and I mean nobody — knows for sure just how many there are) plus a mere 400 or so (at least that’s a number the government is willing to admit to) here at home! In plain old greenback terms, you and I are currently coughing up about $1.2 trillion annually for military make believe. That’s right, $1.2 trillion! Unfortunately, that $850 billion figure you’ve heard bandied about doesn’t include secret accounts, slush funds, cost overruns and write-offs the number and extent of which would make your head spin (like that little under-the-rug matter of $6.6 billion in cash that went missing in Iraq and is now regarded as the “largest theft of funds in national history”). Folks, we will never solve our long-term debt problem without owning up to the unimaginable waste, fraud and abuse as well as the obscene lack of oversight and accountability inherent in the Defense Department.
As to the recovery and reclamation portions: 2) Restore income tax rates and eventually raise them. The right loves to blame our “exorbitant” taxes for all of our problems. Well, bullshit. We’re about 37th down the taxation list of the world’s industrialized nations. And, too, obviously they’d love for you to forget the Clinton years. That’s back when we had a balanced budget, a semblance of corporate and financial industry regulation, some of the highest taxes ever levied on America’s wealthiest, and such a boom in business and employment as the world had never seen before — or since! You remember, back before a plague of unfettered (and still unpunished) corporate and financial industry criminality nearly destroyed the nation and annihilated its middle class. And as for Romney’s plan to even further reduce taxes on the wealthy, the idea is so utterly preposterous, so out of touch, so sadly typical of the elitism and sense of entitlement that pervades the Romney mindset as to rate nothing more that a blip on the comic radar. 3) Eliminate the loopholes, secrecy and other preferential circumvention means that allow corporations and the rich and powerful to avoid paying the rightful portion of their income to the nation that made it possible for them to amass their wealth in the first place.
4) Put an end to “corporate” welfare. My, my, isn’t it interesting how so many seem to absolutely hate the $50 billion individual variety, but simply adore — or apparently could care less — about the $100 billion annual “corporate” kind. Of all the budget “injustices,” this is perhaps the most insidious. It’s incredibly costly, and benefits primarily those least in need. It steals tax revenues on both ends and places the entire burden on the shoulders of those who will benefit only marginally at best. It invites corruption and anti-competitiveness, and in many instances amounts to nothing more than legalized extortion. In other words, it’s tailor-made for the American political system. 5) Require everyone to pay federal income tax. I happen to believe that everyone living in this great country (well, at least it has always had the potential to be) has a duty and an obligation to contribute to its financial well being. We all have the wherewithal to pay something. Should the amount be fair and proportional? Of course. But, everyone, to one degree or another, enjoys the benefits and should consequently share in the burden. No matter the sacrifice required, there is simply no excuse for not contributing something.
Anyway, all of this may not amount to Google Earth in the search for fiscal righteousness, but it can certainly serve as the preface to a Trip Tik back to budget fairness and functionality. Nothing will happen unless the American people demand it, however. If you’re waiting for Congress to eventually do the right thing on its own, you better hope that that longevity gene research pans out. You’ve seen what a biased Supreme Court can do to the American electoral process. Believe me, you don’t want to learn the hard way what a Republican administration — especially one chomping at the bit to accomplish a fully-stacked conservative Supreme Court — will do to complete our metastasis to full-blown plutocracy. Why don’t we hear about alternatives? Why aren’t they the centerpiece of the discussion? Because the political/corporate/military power elite connection is the very symbiosis that designed and profits so highly from a perpetuation of the existing abominations and injustices. On November 6th it will be up to you to decide which kind of America you want to live in. An unconstrained plutocracy or one still determined to preserve at least a semblance of democracy including a viable middle class? It’s your choice. There may not be any perfect answers to our complex fiscal problem, but there are damn sure truer and fairer options than the clear, simple and decidedly wrong one being offered up by the Republican horror-mongers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.