15 July 2011

To Fix America Start with Military and Health Care Spending

America stands on the precipice.  The road we are traveling will lead to our downfall simply because the rate of our spending is unsustainable.  As Republicans have made abundantly clear our debt will pull us under and lead us to default unless we follow Italy and pass some very serious austerity measures.  We have heard so much about Greece and the crisis they face.  Yet the US debt dwarfs that of Greece and the US debt makes up a larger percentage of our GDP.  The only difference is investor confidence that the US can and will rebound.  That mood can change swiftly as fickle investors grow concerned over unemployment numbers inflation woes.  The crisis in Italy sort of popped suddenly. Additional anxiety must be attached to the burgeoning gap between the wealthy and poor, a clear indicator of a shrinking middle class.  While corporate profits are up 22%, take home pay for the average worker is down or is stagnant.

In order to solve America's problems, every citizen will be asked, not to make sacrifices, but to make investments in our country.  That is how each of us should look at taxes.  Taxes are the revenue that supports our government which in turn tends to the welfare of the people.

What elected officials should do is formulate a four year plan aimed at real austerity measures designed to raise revenue and cut spending.  The federal budget should be addressed based on where the largest funding is now directed - military spending and health care (Medicare & Medicaid). 

American citizens have to force our elected officials to cut military spending over the next four years to a much more manageable amount.  We cannot afford to spend $650 billion on new WMDs, chemical experiments, and the various investing strategies that remain in place from the cold war era.  Reducing military spending by a half would be ideal but perhaps not realistic, a third would be practical.  Cuts would eliminate superfluous spending, close Guantanamo prison, end bombing raids on Libya and Pakistan.  Instead investment would be made in forging closer diplomatic relations with North Korea, Cuba, and Iran.  It would mean a different tactic in our self declared war on terror that would require the cessation of such rhetoric as "axis of evil" and nations of evil.

The next major reform is to end profit in health insurance by implementing a single payer system modeled after Taiwan and Canada.  Everyone would buy in and no billionaires can opt out.  This would require initial investment but in the long-term would lead to huge savings if it were initiated properly.  The time has come in America to end unfair medical treatment on the basis of the size of someone's bank roll.  We would invest in our future by investing in the health of the people.  Given the status of the US as the fattest country in the world, we ought to be demanding change in our country.  Our elected officials, and elderly receive incredible coverage that they would never want to give up.  They all receive government health care.  The percentage of people who are so frightened of "socialized medicine" need to open their eyes to the fact that the people they have voted for are receiving health coverage paid for with tax dollars.  Why shouldn't everyone be covered by the same insurance?

Ron "Another Rich White Guy in
Congress" Johnson
Not too long ago Ron Johnson entered the Senate race because he claimed to be incensed by the health care overhaul that Pres. Obama proposed.  Has Ron Johnson refused to accept government provided health coverage?  Of course not.  And no one should because it's great coverage that every American deserves.

Along with universal health coverage will come higher taxes or individual premiums.  Either way we cannot let the wealthy opt out.  And, the government must not allow the end of earned income credits yet also lower capital gains taxes.  Capital gains taxes must be increased and the incentive to offset realized gain with loss should be more tightly regulate.  There is no way a rich man like Herb Kohl should ever have a tax liability of zero.

In Wisconsin, the model healthcare program for the country could very easily be created.  Badger Care is a great program that provides comprehensive coverage.  There are currently budgeting concerns and questions abound whether the program is sustainable.  However, if every Wisconsinite bought in to Badger Care, there would be no budgetary concerns.  Premiums would be assessed based on income.  The state would act as the negotiator.   Public employees also receive health coverage.  The entire system could be unified and  expanded to cover every Wisconsinite.   

Fixing our health care system shouldn't be impossible.  The major obstacle is in the insurance lobby and the damn fools who are scared to death of a single payer system.  Fear of change is understandable.  But not changing because of fear is condemning oneself to certain doom.

In addition to raising taxes to pay for universal health care, the government must level the domestic to international playing field.  Manufacturing jobs have been sent to emerging markets.  The biggest reason Germany has been able to recover from the global recession is that government regulation has forced companies to retain domestic manufacturing jobs.  The US has allowed corporations to send those same jobs here overseas and the corporations have not been penalized for doing so.  It is time Pres. Obama warm to the idea of introducing a value added tax (VAT).  In addition, in order to shore up competition we should introduce a tariff on all imports.  The incentive will be for American corporations to keep their jobs here in order to produce more goods on American soil.  A tariff will immediately reward those businesses that still manufacture goods in America.

America will also need to instill a renewed investment in education, specifically elementary education, by focusing less time on test results that have been marketed by corporate interests and more time on authentic learning experiences, creative thinking, and mastery of basic facts and key concepts (arithmetic, phonetics, grammar, the scientific method, etc.).  Recent overtures in Wisconsin and Indiana to spend more money on private education will only exacerbate the problems.  These problems won't surface for 5 or ten years but when they do, it will be stark.

Another failed policy that should be redacted as soon as possible is the reduction of vocational secondary programs.  There should be a sincere effort at reimplementation of these vital programs.  In Germany and most other countries, high school students have an academic track or a vocational track.  Not every person is going to be a doctor or scientist or teacher.  A society needs people who are plumbers, hair stylists, mechanics, farmers, without them our society would cease to function just as we could not function without doctors.  When the vocational programs were reduced, the movement was about treating everyone equally.  Unfortunately we are not all the same.  Workers can be treated like equals, people can be treated like equals, yet they can still pursue different interests.  We all don't need an equal education, we just need equitable opportunity.

The government should terminate the war on drugs.  Through legalization of marijuana and its subsequent taxation and the cessation of our failed drug war, billions of dollars in revenue and savings would be realized.  The amount of incarcerated Americans is staggering - over 2 million, and the rate of incarceration of black American males is shocking and depressing.  Non-violent offenders have received the worst treatment in our prison system.  Rather than providing resources and assistant we have for too long focused on punitive measures.  Let's force our legislators to end these tragic policies.

Additionally, the American people must relinquish their conservative attitudes toward marriage.  We are spending too much time debating social policy that has no bearing on functioning government.  The two dominant parties have deflected our concerns back to us, which in turn has created a divided public.  A divided populace is a malleable and controllable group.  The citizens of America must unite to forge a better America that is concerned with raising the quality of health, education, safety, and transportation. 

These are just a few of the necessary austerity measures America must realistically face.  I fear that if we do not, in fifty years there may not be a United States of America.  It is not farfetched to imagine that secession could follow default or any other impetus, such as a massive social catastrophe.


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