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10Feb/112

So now what?

Posted by Nate

Charles Krauthammer in a recent column concerning President Obama's State of the Union Address entitled, “The old Obama gussied up in new clothing”, stated the following:

“This entire pantomime about debt reduction came after the first half of a speech devoted to, yes, new spending.  One almost has to admire Obama's defiance.  His 2009 stimulus and budget-busting health care reform are precisely what stirred the popular revolt that delivered his November shellacking.  And yet he's back for more.

It's as if Obama is daring the voters — and the Republicans — to prove they really want smaller government.  He's manning the barricades for ObamaCare and he's here with yet another spending, excuse me, investment spree. To face down those overachieving Asians, Obama wants to sink yet more monies into yet more road and bridge repair, more federally subsidized teachers...with a bit of high-speed rail tossed in for style.  That will show the Chinese".

This is an example of the usual brilliance of Mr. "Sour" Krauthammer, another Obama-hater gussied up as an impartial journalist.  I wouldn't waste my time debating just another piece of anti-Obama propaganda, but I started this letter before I read this “pearl.”

I am not an economist, but I can add and subtract.  I am trying to understand the problems we are facing and their possible short and long-term solutions.  In my opinion the long-term problem lies in the very foundation of our society.  We are losing revenue because we fall further and further behind other nations in critical areas such as education, science, health care and technology.  We are losing our competitive edge.

So what do we need to do as a society?

Science and technology - We need to triple our investment in science, research and development.

Education - It starts with the family.  It starts in preschool and kindergarten.  We need to educate parents, we need to fund preschool and early learning.  We need to change family culture.  Perhaps we can learn a few things from the "Tiger Mom".  We are failing to provide adequate job training for our young people and for the older generation.

Infrastructure - Our deteriorating infrastructure is in urgent need of repair and technological improvement.  We need to fix our roads and bridges and to build bullet trains for us, Mr. Krauthammer, not to stick it to the Chinese!

Energy - We need to end our dependency on oil.

And yes, Mr. Krauthammer, we call it an investment!

To accomplish all this we need money, but not just money.  We must change the way we operate as a society.  It sounds scary and radical, but here is some news for you – we do not have a choice.  If we don't change, we will run short of resources in the not-so-distant future.  How do we fix the energy problem?  How do we fix our dependence on fossil fuels?

Conservation and new sources of energy

We improve car efficiency, we develop public transportation, we reduce our commute to work.  Many jobs can be done from home.

Optimizing delivery of goods

We should use locally-grown and produced goods instead of transporting goods from all around the world.  Above all, we must stop making junk that people can live without.  We need to encourage online shopping in order to eliminate the middleman "brick and mortar" stores.

And yes, Mr. Krauthammer, we need that "eliminate fossil fuel Sputnik moment" to develop a serious replacement for oil.

What would you suggest, Mr. Krauthammer?

Ways to reduce or eliminate budget deficit

Republicans, who somehow became fiscally responsible, tell us we need to cut expenses...and I agree.  And boy, are they ready to cut!  But they will not tell us what they would cut.  And Mr. Krauthammer will not tell us either.  I cannot wait to see their plan. But I doubt that cutting alone will do the job

Economist Galbraith said that the current mania for deficit reduction is disastrously misplaced.  "The right economic objectives are to meet real problems, not those conjured from thin air by economists", he concluded.  "Bringing about a rapid end to unemployment, caring properly for an aging population, cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico, coping with our energy insecurity and with climate change are all far more important objectives than reducing a projection of future budget deficits."

Galbraith's testimony may have been the most detailed and extensive presentation of the deficit-contrarian's position.  But its basic thrust has received support from other prominent and respected figures.  Paul Krugman of the New York Times, Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a progressive economic think tank and Robert Reich, who served as Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, all have contended, like Galbraith, that the deficit was caused by a loss of demand triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble.

So where do we cut?

In order to pay off our debt we need a surplus.  Our income must exceed our expenses in order to pay off the 14 trillion dollar national debt.

Considering that we have a one trillion dollar current budget deficit and a two trillion dollar income, we need to cut our expenses by 30% every year or roughly by 1.1 trillion dollars per year in order to begin to significantly reduce our annual shortfall.  Or we need to increase the revenue by at least 30%...or even better, we need to do both

In my simple mind, I see some obvious ways to save money:  1) stop the wars (300 billion annually), 2) cut the defense budget by getting rid of Cold War-era weapons and weapons-building programs (about $300 billion annually), 3) fix health care (we spend twice as much per capita on health care than any other industrial country).  Let's learn from others how to improve our health care system.  In the long run we should be able to save at least 30% or about $300 billion a year.

Here is a shock for you,  America. You are not a super power anymore...you live on borrowed money.  You are falling behind in science, education,  your standard of living and life expectancy.  Nobody is afraid of you anymore.  You cannot invade every nation that you do not like.  You do not have the money to fix your own roads!

Let's drop this arrogant attitude of total superiority and learn a few things from other nations.   How about bullet trains?  Or public transportation?  What about a health care system where families don't have to go bankrupt if a loved one gets sick?

Do we really need military bases all around the world?  We don't.  Our military industrial complex does!  Can we afford to spend more on weapons than the rest of the world combined?  Do we have to?

How do we deal with the lost generation of Americans between 40 and 60 years old who don't have skills to participate in today's economy?  How do we attract the best scientists when some politicians are trying to politicize science and don't want to finance important scientific projects?

I liked the State of the Union address as did the majority of Americans including Republicans.  It offered some concrete programs to solve very serious problems we are facing as a country and as individuals. These programs require sacrifice and hard work.

Mr. Krauthammer's words provide us with no answers.

There is a saying, “The one who finds what he is looking for is looking for faults."  But what can our President do to satisfy you, Mr. Krauthammer?

I think “drop dead” would be the only answer.

   

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