To the Editor:
Apparently, State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin has spent so much of his life counting beans that he now is full of them. (“Treasurer: Maine is—thankfully—unlike Washington,” page 1, TCT, August 11, 2011.)
Granted, his assessment of the situation in Augusta, which constitutionally must balance its budget, seems to be essentially accurate, if bloated with praise for his own administration. I want to address two of Poliquin’s more gaseous talking points, made in last week’s piece about the imminent beatification of the LePage administration.
1. “This is the third year in a row that Washington spent at least $1 trillion more than it collected in tax revenues.” True, sadly. But the GOP’s answer is to rob from the poor, who are, we have been told and told, “given” too much already. Hence, the debt deal idea: cut military spending, cut programs like heating fuel assistance and Medicaid and raise all the boundaries on Social Security.
That would be “a start,” we are told. However, what Poliquin and no other Republican I can find will admit is: without the “Bush tax cuts” and corporate giveaways, these mountainous deficits they rightfully despise would have been by this point less than half of current levels—even despite the lousy economy. Anyway, a sensible formula for reducing a large deficit involves both spending cuts and revenue enhancements.
Why is it so hard to get through a politician’s head that the only true way to “share the pain” is to actually share the pain—not dump all of it on the poorer classes? Well, shoot, the argument goes, you can’t tax the rich; they’re the ones creating the jobs! What jobs, pray tell?
Fact: In only eight years since 1930 have the taxes on top-tier American income earners been lower than they are right now.
Solution: Cut back the welfare state moderately, sure. But restore the former tax rates, close the most flagrant loopholes for corporations and stop fighting endless land wars in Asia. Return tax, fiscal and war policy to where it was in 2000, and the deficits melt away.
2. “Congress refuses to reform the national pension plan, Social Security, which is bankrupting the federal budget.”
This is disinformation. The fact is, Social Security has always paid for itself and could run essentially forever with very minor adjustments, given some semblance of economic conditions similar to yesterday’s and today’s. Social Security is not “bankrupting the country.”
Social Security would still be on track, or close enough to it that no major overhaul need be done, right up until the present time, except that Congress has robbed from the fund over the years and except this year they decided to take away the employee contributions for Social Security in order to give consumers “more money in their pockets.” Did you notice that extra dough?
Probably not, since the real CPI increases, like the real and actual unemployment rate, run more than twice as high as the federal government will admit they do. (No wonder there’s such a big deficit: nobody down there can count!) You may not have noticed the lower paycheck deductibles, but rest assured, John Boehner noticed. I heard him saying, with great satisfaction as the deficit debates foundered, that Social Security is “no longer paying for itself.” Well, of course it isn’t, sir! Washington apparently decided we didn’t have to fully fund that, either!
The debt deal, Poliquin notes, doesn’t prevent Washington from “spending what we don’t have and addressing the $14 trillion national debt. What an embarrassing missed opportunity.”
That is undeniably true. Poliquin is also correct in asserting that Augusta is doing a better job than Washington (though it would be difficult not to.) But our national “missed opportunity” is only “embarrassing” because the politicians, Republicans and Democrats both, do not seem to dare to address the revenue side. Why?
Could it be because they think low-taxed big money elected them and higher-taxed big money can un-elect them? Both parties are failing America. Democrats can no longer be counted to stand up for the little guy. Both parties now stand up for the short-term-profit, long-term-Earth-killing, send-the-jobs-and-money-offshore international corporations.
Today’s laissez-faire international business practices are building up the middle class all right—in India and China! Meanwhile, everyone in Washington points fingers at the other guy and lets the robber barons rob. We always suspected big business would abandon America, if that’s where the profits were. But, even here in Dystopia, we never expected it from Congress.