As it turns out, when defaulting on maturing Treasury debt could put the world’s financial markets into a state of chaos, $38 billion is nothing. The real issue is what happens when Congress has to vote to increase the current $14.25 trillion federal debt ceiling, an action that could become necessary in the next five weeks.
What are the men’s issues at stake here? Social Security (roughly $5 trillion is money the government has borrowed from other accounts, mostly from Social Security revenues, according to federal figures), the trillion-dollar cost of sending our men into wars in the Middle East, education reform, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance that resulted from the “he-cession.”
A bipartisan committee appointed by Obama to study the problem of the deficit came back last December with recommendations that included tackling social security, raising certain taxes, and simplifying the tax code itself in an effort to take $4 trillion out of the budget over the next decade. But it’s unclear whether anyone in either party has the guts to do anything but dance around the real problem.
Just speaking as one guy—a businessman raised by Quakers—here is what I would like to see both parties have the courage to address:
- Fix social security and stop playing the Ponzi scheme—really no better than what Madoff did—whereby we make a specific commitment to future retirees when taking their money, then use it to pay our bills for non-related federal programs, leaving us completely unable to live up to financial commitments made at the outset.
- Exclude all U.S. military personnel from political squabbling. Pay them no matter what. While we are at it, greatly increase the resources spent on treating PTSD and brain injury resulting from wartime service.
- Go to a flat income tax that eliminates the massive complexity and unfair loopholes of the current IRS code. Make sure that the vast majority of government services go to those who need it at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, but stop fighting over a set of supposed incentives so complex that even a guy with an MBA from an Ivy League institution can’t understand it.
- Bring our men (and women) home. We need to rebuild America, not the Middle East.
- Build more schools, not more prisons.
- Restructure Medicaid and Medicare to make them fair and sustainable.
What do you think? We need all thoughtful men and women thinking about this—that’s for sure.
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—Photo Michael Kamber