Houston, we have a problem. It’s a ballooning national debt and the last, best hope—our illustrious supercommittee—has failed.
I am a member of the debt generation (now Betsy at TCP can speculate about my age, as well as my race andgender). Everything this current crop of leaders does will affect my tax rate, retirement plans, health care and overall financial stability for the rest of my life. Today, Senators from both parties showed complete disregard for this responsibility when they folded their tents and went home. Only the President, who promised toveto any legislation off-setting the automatic across the board cuts, showed concern for our plight today.
I am a Democrat, but I am as mad as I have ever been today. I don’t believe anyone in Congress wanted this committee to work; they just wanted talking points for 2012. Republicans wanted to cheer about how they kept Democrats from raising taxes and Democrats want to pontificate about how they protected Medicare from the evil Republicans. In reality, they all screwed my generation and my children’s generation when they couldn’t find a tangible solution for a very real problem.
If we’re going to solve his problem, each party and their respective bases are going to have to sacrifice. Below are some facts that each group needs to accept and act upon.
-Taxes are going to have to be raised.
Compared to other nations, we have a relatively low tax burden. Given that the general public is unwilling to give up things like public education, roads, armed forces, social security and Medicare, they need to realize they’re going to have to pay. We can’t keep taxes at the same rate and expect more services. This is a fact, accept it and move on.
-Defense spending has to be cut.
We live in a post 9/11 world where suicide bombers and airplanes are the new nukes. In this world, we can’t out arm our enemies; we have to out innovate them. This means shifting funding from the large military industrial complex to areas like technology & education. We don’t need all the old hardware—the outdated bombers, airplanes and weapons that politicians support just to keep jobs in their district. It’s a new world, we’re broke and this is throwing money down a drain.
-You’re going to have to piss off your base.
The Republican base believes that we can cut our way out of this problem, that the Bush Tax Cuts should be made permanent and that getting rid of corporate loopholes is tantamount to raising taxes and they are prepared to primary anyone who disagrees. If Republicans in Congress really want to solve the nation’s problems, they have to realize they’re going to piss off their base. In other words, they’ve got to put it all on the line and become statesmen, not simply politicians.
-Raising taxes on the top 2% isn’t going to solve the problem.
The problem is bigger than this group. To be sure, they need to pay their fair share, but so do the 46% of Americans who pay no federal income tax at all. Just like the TennCare reforms, we all have to put a little skin in the game. From raising taxes on the rich to doing away with education and child tax credits, we have to have a shared sacrifice to address a problem this large.
-Medicare and Social Security are getting reformed. Period.
I have paid into the system since I was 16, but I have no illusions I will receive the benefit of either because the baby boomers are going to suck it dry. (To be honest, it irks me that politicians think this group ought not have to share in the sacrifice, simply because they can out vote my generation at the ballot box.) The facts are these: both programs are headed towards insolvency. We have to raise the age to account for longer life expectancy, we have to means test it for benefits and we have to raise the taxable income cap.
-You’re going to have to piss off your base.
The Democratic base believes that taxing the rich is the main solution to the deficit problem, that Medicare and Social Security cuts are off-limits and that massive public spending projects will pull us out of this recession—groups like Moveon.org, labor unions and AARP stand ready to primary and Democrat who disagrees (a la Blanch Lincoln.) If Democrats in Congress really want to solve the nation’s problems, they’re going to have to ignore these interest groups and do what is best for the next generation, not the next election.
I am a Progressive Democrat, which means I believe in always moving forward. Sometimes moving forward means making hard choices, not putting them off for the next generation to solve. Tonight, the members of the super committee showed themselves to be regressive and worse—cowardly. This isn’t a political fight, it’s a very real discussion about how America will be handed off to the next generation—my generation. I hope and pray that someone in DC finds the guts to flip the bird to all special interest groups and do what’s right for the country, not just their party.