Let Them Eat Cake
One thing I have noticed with politics over the last 40 years. It is much easier to be the "out" party and throw jabs at the party in control. It is much more difficult to govern.
I will be interested in seeing how the Republicans govern now that they have the control of Congress. I will also be interested in seeing how the Governors deal with their state's deficits. If we keep the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250K it will add $1.3 trillion to the deficit.
To make up for that in spending cuts we would have to cut entire departments. Medicaid, Medicare, and the military make up 75% of our budget--but nobody wants to see those programs cut. If we cut them all we would also lose thousands of jobs--not a great thing in a down economy. It is easy to say let's cut government but when it comes down to specifics we find there is not much to cut without hurting a lot of people.
Should we cut food programs to the elderly? Housing? Health Care? Should we cut our police forces in half? Close hospitals? Cut fire departments? What about children in foster care? Nobody wants to live in an America that has 2 million homeless and uncared for children walking the streets. Republicans do not want to cut the military budget and they want very little taxes--and Democrats do not want to cut social security, Medicare and Medicaid. The UK may be doing the right thing--they cut services and raised taxes--it may be the only realistic way of dealing with this.
It all boils down to what kind of country we want to live in. I sleep better knowing I am paying my taxes so the elderly can have food and shelter and children can get medical care and food--all these wealthy people who do not want to pay taxes do not stop to think that it is this country that gave them the opportunity to get rich. Everyone who went to school here and went to college has had a government handout. When we buy gas, that is a government handout since it is subsidized--in many countries they pay for what the gas "really" costs. Just think of the wars we have fought and the military presence we must keep to ensure that the oil lines keep running. That is billions of dollars that should be added to the cost of gasoline--but it is not.
If you have ever needed a police officer, driven on the roads, or needed an ambulance or called the fire department you can thank the government. If your elderly parent is getting medical care, housing, or social security, you can thank the government. How much would it cost you to care for your elderly relatives if you had to pay the whole thing out of pocket? A lot more than you pay in taxes. If your spouse develops a disability or cancer, should your children suffer? Should you lose your house and security paying medical bills? Should you have to rely on the kindness of strangers or become a burden to your family? Imagine how your life would change if one of your relatives and their children had to move in with you and they had no resources. You would be responsible for feeding, housing, and clothing them, plus helping with medical bills. Could you do it?
What if you had to pay for grade school. What would be the cost of kindergarten if it was totally unsubsidized? $20,000 a year? $30,000 a year? How about college? $40,000 a year? $100,000 a year for the most basic community college? Everyone wants to pay little or no taxes, but we also want to have basic services. There are countries where there are little taxes and no government interference yet nobody wants to live there and the people are fighting and clawing to get out.
I say to the tea party--go visit a country where your beliefs of limited government are actually put into place. You will not like what you see and you would not like to live there. The two top countries in terms of their standards of living are Norway and Sweden--both countries that take care of their elderly and have universal health insurance. In many countries there is no universal health debate--when you ask them should they be able to see a doctor if they are sick they say "of course!" It would be like asking us if a person has a heart attack on the subway should paramedics come to help them or should we just let them die. "Of course" we would say!
It is easy to say we all want limited government. But do we really know what that means? I would love to hear from people about where the government should cut. Do you really want to cut the defense budget in half? Our military is depleted after fighting two wars and really needs billions of dollars just to get back to where it was in 2000. How much security are you willing to give up? Are you willing to risk another 911? Is that acceptable? The military is what keeps the oil flowing and the oil is what keeps our economy going. Do not think for one minute that the oil producing countries would not love to shut us off.
20 percent of federal spending goes to providing benefits to veterans and to retired federal employees, assuring safe food and drugs, and investing in education, scientific and medical research, and basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and airports. Now, if you cut the roads and bridges' financing, the states will have to pay for it. We need roads for America to run. Should the people who fought for this country be thrown out onto the streets? What about food safety? Do you care if your kids are eating safe food? What about medical research? Cancer? Do we just throw in the towel? The sad truth is that even cutting those programs is not going to balance the budget--it will not even begin to touch the tax breaks to the wealthy.
Any politician who tells you they can cut the deficit is lying--it will not happen. Unless they are willing to cut defense, cut Medicare and Medicaid, and slash social security and raise taxes, it will not happen. Everyone thinks "earmarks" are the bane of our existence but they account for less than 1% of the budget. Cut them all out and you are still trillions over budget. If they extend the Bush tax cuts the deficit will go higher. You cannot take 4 trillion out of the tax coffers and just make up for it by reducing a few earmarks.
The situation is similar in the individual states. Most states have huge budget shortfalls, even those states that have been in Republican hands for years: Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Indiana. You would think that those states would have small government and no deficit. Where is this small government happening that is being touted so much in the media? Not in Alaska which receives the highest subsidies per person from the federal government and has been in the Republican hands for years.
I make two cases in this rant: we do not really want small government and the two parties who are in power now will never give you small government. Yes, health care reform may be dead because of the election, but that is not going to help make medical costs go down or create jobs, or decrease the deficit. Insurance companies will still make trillions of dollars off of people's disease and disability. The rich will get richer because of tax cuts and the middle class will become poorer and the poor will suffer. The working class will support the fat cats with their yachts, multiple houses, and good medical care, while our own children suffer.
Richard Bissell is a part time author and full time health care practitioner who lives and works outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He has three children who are all the same age but are not triplets. For more information about his unique lifestyle please visit him at www.bissells.com