Dear Congress: Grow Up
After listening to this bit of news, the following went out to my (Republican) congressman:
I am writing in regard to what should be among the U.S. Congress' highest priorities at the moment: addressing the federal budget, the annual deficit and the national debt. Like most Americans, I have read and listened to a dizzying amount coverage of this issue recently. Radio, television, newspapers and online sources have been consumed with the subject, high levels of hyperbole and posturing obscuring reality. In my efforts to weed though the rhetoric, I have determined the following:
- The federal debt stands at a staggering $15.476 trillion. This level is projected to exceed our GDP for the first time in decades. Reducing the deficit will not put a dent in this; indeed, at best it will only slow growth. It doesn't take sophisticated bookkeeping to figure out that any spending which exceeds income will still add to the debt.
- Our economic recovery from the recent downturn is spotty at best, with unemployment levels, housing starts and other economic indicators still at uncomfortably poor levels in many areas of the country. Even those areas with better numbers are still fragile in their recovery. And every one of those numbers represent our neighbors.
- At the same time, large corporations are showing record profits and individuals with higher incomes are taxed at some of the lowest rates since the Great Depression. These also represent our neighbors.
- In the end, there are really only two ways to deal with a budget that is out of balance: decrease spending and/or increase revenue.
I agree with the necessity of cutting federal spending. I do. It's hard, but it's necessary. However, given the state of our economy and the level of debt that is simply not enough.
Now, the deal on the table today (when the last round of negotiations broke down) involved more than 3 trillion dollars in cuts-- cuts that would be acutely felt by those who are already suffering in our society. And by all reports the revenue increases asked by our president were roughly $1.2 trillion-- 1/3 of the previous figure, most of which was found by simply closing loopholes that never should have been open in the first place. Not accepting this as a viable compromise seems to me to be simply ridiculous posturing and thoughtless intransigence.
So I expect-- no, as one of your constituents, I require-- that you speak to your colleagues about finding a point at which you can compromise, and that you find a way to agree upon tax increases for the wealthier citizens and corporations in this country. It is not unreasonable to expect those who most benefit from our society to bear more responsibility for its upkeep.
"From those to whom much is given, much will be required." This teaching applies clearly, not only to the tax argument on the table but also to the role of leadership you hold. You are in a position of great privilege, sir. With that privilege comes great responsibility. In other words, someone has to act like the grownup. Please do so.