Drawing the Lines

November 28, 2012 at 11:42 am | Posted in Congress, Economy, Obama Administration, Politics, Taxes | Leave a comment
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The bombardment has already started, and will intensify until, as the year ends, either a solution to the “debt crisis” will emerge—or our fearless leaders will kick the can down the road. Again.

There are actually three sides to the discussion. One side believes that the need to eliminate the national debt has been overhyped. After all, they say, people have been crying for decades that the sky has been falling. But it hasn’t, and it isn’t. People, regardless of nationality, have been falling over themselves trying to lend us money, with the result that the interest rate on our national debt is at an all-time low. (There are many other arguments for not worrying so much…but I understand that one, and agree with it.) What we need to do is worry about improving the economy as a whole; if we can do that, the national debt will take care of itself.

The other sides are mostly debt hawks, and they have framed the discussion in terms of reducing/eliminating the national debt, with the health of the general economy at a lower priority.

One group (let’s call them conservatives for short) has an economic philosophy akin to the European Austerity policy. They believe we can’t afford social programs, we need to spend more money on the military, and we must reduce taxes. They say that cutting social programs (especially entitlement programs) will save the money we need to reduce the deficit. They say that by reducing taxes we will induce business and wealthy individuals to create more jobs, thus raising more revenue to further reduce the deficit.

But look what Austerity has brought the Europeans: their economies are in decline, and their people are rioting or striking because they’re not getting a fair return on the time and energy they spend working. They’re not creating jobs. They’re not increasing revenue. They are imposing poverty on their populations.

Another group (yes, we’ll call them liberals) believes differently. They’d like to increase taxes on the very rich. The increases won’t make a bit of difference to the lifestyles of these people, nor cause them to fire people. The proposed increases would apply only to the income over $250,000. The liberals would like to eliminate certain tax breaks treasured by big businesses and wealthy individuals, like the oil depletion allowance. They’d like to eliminate tax breaks that help pay for corporate jets, and tax loopholes that encourage businesses to make as much of their money as possible overseas and avoid taxes here. Liberals say that by increasing taxes on the very wealthy and eliminating tax breaks and loopholes we’ll increase revenue we can apply to the national debt.

They’re probably right. But both groups are forgetting that the best way to reduce the national debt is to create jobs. We need to invest in physical infrastructure, like roads, bridges, power grids, and buildings. Those physical projects will create thousands and thousands of jobs, most of which can only be done here. The workers who get those jobs will pay taxes and buy products, creating more revenue for the government and more demand for products, thus even more jobs. Employers will hire, but only if there is more demand for their products and services.

The federal government needs to invest in the states. Money for education will help our workers compete in an ever more challenging workplace—and provide jobs for teachers. Money for public safety will reduce crime rates and improve state and local responses to disasters—and provide jobs for police officers, firefighters, and disaster relief workers. Those are only a couple of examples of areas where federal investment can provide programs, equipment, and jobs to improve our lives. And the workers who get these new jobs will pay taxes and buy products, creating more government revenue and more demand for products and services.

The top priority is not the national debt: it’s the economy. The conservatives and the liberals need to work together, to find compromises that will get the job done. You need to pass this message to your friends and let your elected representatives know how you feel. They need to stop “standing on principle” and start governing: the country is at stake.

The Petraeus Tragedy

November 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Posted in Politics | 2 Comments
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Are we a nation of prudes? I don’t condone adultery, but it seems to me that we make unreasonable demands on our leaders. They are not “ordinary” people, or they wouldn’t be leaders. But neither are they superhuman, or immune from the temptations most of us face. In fact the moral temptations they face dwarf those most of us must handle.

Nobody will ever know whether Mr. Petraeus seduced Ms. Broadwell or she seduced him, or whether it was a mutual infatuation. I can tell you that Ms. Broadwell is a very hot lady. She has a great body, and she knows how to make the most of it. She also has a tremendous intellect, judging from her accomplishments. That is a combination that is extraordinarily attractive. Mr. Petraeus is in very good shape physically, and is a superb military leader. From all accounts he was doing a good job as CIA head, too. And I’m told that men who wield power are attractive to women because of it.

So we have a situation of extreme temptation, and the two gave in to that temptation. Their spouses are justly upset, and each family will handle the situation in its own way. Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell violated their marriage vows and will pay the price in the anger and grief of their families.

There is no question about it: The affair was a violation of our society’s ethics and morals. But there is no indication that the affair had national security implications; according to the FBI it did not. There is no indication that the affair had any effect on the performance of the couple’s jobs.

That’s what sticks in my craw. the nation has lost the services of one of our most brilliant generals because, as Mr. Petraeus put it, he showed bad judgment and behaved in a way that is unacceptable. But his judgment and unacceptable behavior were a part of his personal life, not his public life nor his job performance. Yet because he committed an immoral act he has been pilloried and driven out of a public life that has otherwise been inspirational.

Media attention to leaders has become intrusive. The media seizes on anything that makes a spectacle and plays to the public’s prurient interest. The public throws up its hands in (frequently hypocritical) horror at the stories, characterizing the actions as unforgivably immoral and disgusting.

I don’t think it’s anybody business, except of course for the families of those involved. Without in any way approving what Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell did, I conclude that the punishment does not fit the crime, and that our nation is being harmed by the loss of a fine leader.

We certainly are a nation of prudes, and we need to do better.

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