Unlike those countries in North Africa, and on or near the Arabian Peninsula that seem to be imploding as they plea for democratic governance, in the US we still have the opportunity to fix things without destroying the village to save the village. Whatever you hear about federal, state, and municipal deficits; unemployment; inflation; poor education and health care systems; or environmental collapse -- what you need to remember is that we could fix most every problem facing this country with a snap of our collective fingers. Snap! Done.
US budget shortfalls, endemic unemployment, stagnant wages, poor health care and education, overcrowded prisons, precarious food and energy supplies, catastrophic environmental degradation -- all of the things that make life really tough for wage-earning people, all of it could be fixed practically overnight if we found the collective will to get ourselves informed and organized, and instead of putting ourselves first, put society and the rest of the planet first. If we let go of selfishness, fear, and greed, if we planned and worked for the common good instead of our own enrichment, we could pull out of our tailspin and soar.
Nothing has happened in this country that is not our own doing. Nothing has happened that can not be blamed on our own ignorance, fear, laziness, or greed. Hypnotized by denial, we have allowed ourselves to be divided, and we have accepted the destructive assertions of self-serving demagogues. Assertions that would have us believe that poor and middle class people are to blame for the problems the US faces. These assertions are lies, and they will destroy us if we allow them to persist unchallenged.
Wage-earning people need to wise up, stop looking out for themselves alone, and start thinking about how we can all work toward common goals of fixing the problems that cause us grief, rather than how to anesthetize ourselves with material luxury like big houses, big cars, and electronic toys. Ignorance is not bliss; ignorance is the cause of most of our problems. We believe things that are not true because we do not know any better. We need to stop doing that.
First, we need to learn that tax cuts do not create jobs. Eviscerating state and federal government does not create jobs. Republicans refer to severe spending cuts as "Starve the Beast," and their goal is to cut taxes so the wealthy have more money in their pockets. They do not care about you. We need to put tax rates -- income, capital gains, estate, and corporate -- back where they were ten years ago when we ran a surplus, the way good government is supposed to. That is not class warfare; that is fair governance. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Taxes are the price we pay for civilization." And in return for the benefits they have accrued on the back of our civilization, the most prosperous should contribute most.
Second, we do not have deficits because of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, or Head Start. We have deficits because Republicans cut taxes as part of their Starve the Beast, enrich the rich agenda. And the spending cuts they propose will do nothing substantial to alleviate federal deficits -- they propose cutting less than 15% of non-defense discretionary spending. That is 15% of 15% of the budget. Instead, raise taxes on the very wealthy (back to where they were ten years ago), and we will eliminate our federal deficits in five years. Our most prosperous years ever, back in the fifties and sixties, happened while the top income tax rate was around 70%. Fair taxes do not destroy economies; mismanagement and greed do. (Lots of smart, rich people think taxes should be raised: like Warren Buffet, and bond fund guru, Bill Gross, of PIMCO.)
Third, we do not suffer from unemployment because taxes are too high, or union workers are overpaid. They are not. We suffer from unemployment because there are no jobs. And there are no jobs because CEOs and bankers, too lazy or inept to manage industry the old-fashioned way, found it easier and more profitable to sell off our manufacturing sector for pennies on the dollar during the leveraged buyout craze of the Reagan years, and let underpaid, unsafe, chronically polluting overseas workers have our jobs. Any idiot can run a manufacturing company that has an infinite supply of cheap labor; and no wage, worker health and safety, or environmental rules. And that is what our idiot CEOs have done. We pay them millions a year to deny us jobs and hold slaves overseas in polluted concentration camps. And we call that free enterprise. It is not. It is not free, nor is it enterprise. It is fraud, extortion, and exploitation.
Fourth, we do not import ten million barrels of oil a day, and send a billion dollars a day (same as a tax!) to foreign countries because we have no choice, or it is a good idea, or it is the American Way, or the alternatives cost more. We do it because oil companies tell us to, or tell politicians to tell us to, or TV tells us to, and we do it. Same for coal -- at 2.7 million tons a day. We do not dump all that pollution into the air and water, and destroy millions of acres of pristine land and streams and rivers (same as a tax!) because we have to. We do it because our politicians are bribed, and because we are too ignorant to ask the right questions. Renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner, proven, and would create more, better paid, domestic jobs if we were smart enough to build that modern energy economy, like other less corrupt nations are already doing.
Fifth, we need to stop believing that we are so threatened by terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan that we have no choice but to perpetually occupy those countries at a cost of around $4 billion a week, or $200 billion a year. Think of what that money would do to alleviate state and local budget shortfalls? And we do not need to spend five times as much on defense as any other country on the planet. That is white-collar welfare, and it is corrupt.
But we can not fix anything unless we get smart, get courage, and get moving. And put the tax code back where it was before we elected that bonehead George W. Bush. The rich have had a free ride long enough. Now, it is time for smart, wage earners to work together toward broad, sustainable prosperity. Piece of cake, we are Americans.