by Terry Dunn
Not physically, of course, that would be weird. But, why isn’t there someone I can vote for that thinks the way that I do? Someone who can see what I can see and comes away with a similar impression of what is needed. You might think that I want everyone to be conservative or liberal because I am one or the other. But, this is not about party affiliation or right and left ideology.
I just want someone to recognize what is needed and stand up and do what is right (or left, as the case may be). Here are what I think are some obvious issues that need to be tackled and what I would like for a true leader to do.
The Debt (not mine…the one the politicians run up)
I’m not sure how anyone can argue that the debt and the ongoing federal budget deficit are not a problem that needs to be dealt with now. At my house, we only have so much money to spend. Sure, we can borrow for something major like a house or a car. But, credit card living is bound to catch up with you and I expect our government to set a good example. Why shouldn’t we have a requirement to balance the budget, including making payments on the debt – not just the interest, and only allow further borrowing for certain major events. Significant infrastructure improvements, wars (if absolutely necessary), and unforeseeable events such as devastating natural disasters or terrorist acts like 9/11.
Let’s just be honest and admit that the government cannot control the economy. Sure, they are one of the big spenders and can have some degree of influence. But, that influence has waned considerably in the face of consumerism. The real lever that moves the economy is confidence. Business owners who are confident in the future have a tendency to invest more and hire more people. Consumers who are confident in the future are more likely to purchase those bigger ticket items and make regular trips to the mall. The secret to the government boosting the economy is not a stimulus package, but a vision. Why won’t someone who wants to lead this country actually stand up and tell us what he or she sees in our future. Citizens, just like employees, want to know where we are going. What does the big picture look like? Many companies do strategic planning to define their vision of the future and strategies to get them there. Our politicians make campaign promises and recycle party rhetoric without any sense of an overall vision. I am a lot less interested in the specifics of a particular policy than I am where that candidate wants to take me. By the way, a stimulus package is a terrible misnomer. It should be called a “bridge”. It is only effective to help bridge the gap between the current state of the economy and the taking root of a vision that inspires confidence in the nation. The money, without the vision, may serve to get a politician re-elected, but it will not fix the economy.
Really, this is the best we can do? All of the people that we send to represent us and pay good money to can’t come up with a better plan than about a million pages of tax code that are so complicated that we have to pay someone to figure out how much we owe the government? If that is the case, there have been a lot of college educations wasted on Congressmen (and women). If you want to increase revenues, even though in my opinion we have an expense problem rather than an income problem, don’t waste your time raising tax rates. Just simplify the tax code. Eliminate all the special cases for special interests. Even that renowned economist George Carlin (I’m not sure if it was before or after the “Hippy Dippy Weather Man”) understood that the solution is not really all that difficult. George said to write down how much you made, take 10% of it, and send it to the IRS. If we all did that, our revenues would increase, government spending would decrease (how much do we spend to collect taxes?), and everyone would be paying their “fair share”. I know that some think it should be more than 10%, but even God only ask for 10% so it should be enough for the government. Part of the package could include retraining for all of the lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists who support the current system.
The Social Safety Net
I firmly believe in a social safety net. Any advanced society must provide for those who cannot provide for themselves or who need a temporary bridge, say from their last job to the next one. But, bridges are of a fixed length. At some point you come to the end and have to hit the road again. Why not spend money on retraining programs for those unemployed more than a defined time? Why not make those programs mandatory for those who wish to continue to get unemployment compensation past that time? Why would it be bad to help people gain new skills rather than just pay them to not work? How about requiring a certain number of hours of community service while you are getting compensated. I know the argument is that you have to have time to find work, but who really works 40 hours a week at looking for a job. It just doesn’t work that way. You answer ads, you send resumes, you go on interviews, you surf the net. But, you still have time to give 10 hours or even 20 hours a week for community service. People with full time jobs manage to do it. People without a job can do it. And, you can use those hours to help offset costs elsewhere and improve services for those who need them. Read to the elderly. Deliver meals. Tutor a child. Help a teacher ready a class project. Give someone who can’t drive a ride. Our entire “welfare” system as we know it is broken and needs to be scrapped. If someone is a third (or even second) generation welfare recipient it means that we failed to do anything other than send monthly checks. Every able-bodied person should be required to give something to get something. We do them no favors by giving them something for nothing. By revising our view of welfare we will be able to provide more to those who truly need the help like the elderly, the children, and those who face special challenges. And, the cost will actually go down.