Resources 101

Published 10:30 am Friday, September 9, 2011

The recent flap about raising the nation’s debt ceiling clearly defined the two major factions of thinking in America.
One group of America’s lawmakers is attempting to consider the needs and wishes of the majority of the population by championing a “safety net” approach to budget allocations. This approach follows the reasoning that civilization is interdependent and that all members deserve a fair living circumstance.
The second faction wants to consider the needs and wants of the privileged few. This approach follows the idea that one should be allowed to “earn” or acquire an ever-increasing share of the nation’s resources. This second faction believes that its members are entitled to a much larger share of the resources, not just of this country, but of the world. Their position suggests that they are more valuable than the rest.
Our towns, cities, counties, states and nations have finite resources. No new elements are being brought here from the surrounding universe. We are stuck with the existing amounts of oil, coal, precious metals, trees and other materials.
Somehow the elite have been convinced that they have more of a right to these resources than others do. Sorry, but those resources don’t belong to any one person or group, they belong to all of us. Over the top, conspicuous consumption is a mean and ugly thing.
No one is worth more because their income is higher than that of the man who builds our cars. Nor is anyone more privileged because they are “smarter” than the woman who babysits children while they go out at night.
They don’t deserve more leisure time because they got a trust fund from their parents and the guy who hauls off their trash didn’t. They don’t merit better, more nutritious food because they have a degree from a prestigious university and the clerk at the local convenience store doesn’t. They shouldn’t get to decide all national matters just because they are a CEO at some company and the people who work at fast food restaurants aren’t.
They aren’t more important because their net worth is higher than those who are living paycheck to paycheck. Their existence isn’t more meaningful because they have more cash on hand than the thousands of factory workers out there who are producing much of what they are consuming.
They don’t deserve special treatment because the size of their portfolios is greater than that of the public servants who do our government’s paperwork, first response and labor.
They aren’t entitled to superior medical care because they are more useful (actually, they aren’t) than the teachers and administrators who are educating the next generation of American workers.
It is startling to realize that these wealthy individuals are allowed to continue to hold sway in a society that was founded on egalitarian principles.
Now they have convinced a committed gang of gullible politico-mercenaries to push their agenda through state and national legislatures, and have conned elements of the larger population into helping with the election of their cadre.
Those pseudo politicians are trying to resolve a huge national debt by heaping more fiscal responsibility on those least able to shoulder the load – the middle class and the poor. That debt has been largely accrued “protecting the interests” of the privileged few with wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and through tax laws and economic policies that favor the wealthy.
This top 5 percent of earners still fails to acknowledge that their earnings have increased drastically under the Bush tax cuts. They rail against paying the pre-Bush tax rate of 39 percent income tax even in these terrible economic times. After WWII the rate was 90-plus percent as the nation sacrificed to try to pull itself out of huge debt. They complain about the consideration of paying social security tax on income over $106,000, a small percentage of their holdings.
They don’t pay income tax on capital gains and stock dividends; they pay a 15 percent fee. How did they convince those politico-mercenaries that capital gains and dividends are not income?
That top 5 percent pays almost 60 percent of the taxes collected in America; however, if they are consuming much more of the resources, they’re still behind on their debt to society. Depending on which source you look at, they earn from 33 percent to 40 percent of the income.
Most Americans are tired of hearing their complaints about how tough things are for them.
The middle class and even the poor are also culpable in the current imbalance by not voting for representatives who will uphold the “safety net” in a responsible way.
Current representatives (and senators) have allowed the cost of social programs to spiral out of control in the past two decades. While needed regulation of financial markets has been partially reinstated, they have done nothing to evaluate and regulate social programs. They have extended expensive benefits to people who are here in violation of United States laws and who have made no contribution to the cost of the services.
Welfare and Medicaid/Medicare fraud continues unabated without obvious (or advertised) efforts to combat the problem. They can’t even estimate the extent of these problems. While the education of our children is falling further and further behind the rest of the world, parents are more and more involved in emphasizing recreation over academics. Liberal goals tend toward Utopia, but provide no assurance that future programs would be any better managed than these current sore spots.
The gap between these two opposed factions is dangerous. Failure to find workable middle ground is threatening to plunge the country into further economic calamity. Already the nation’s “credit rating” has been devalued. The stock market cycles wildly. International trust in America’s financial solvency wanes and puts world stability at risk. To be in this position is absurd. Solving the problems is certainly possible, but intransigence on both sides risks collapse in the form of deeper economic recession and/or depression.
During the Clinton era, the president and Newt Gingrich were able to put aside their personal agendas and do the work of the country. The deficits disappeared. There was a three-to-four-year period when the debt actually paid down a little. They found the right balance between taxation and social programs. The year after Bush was elected, tax cuts were put in place and it seems that a frenzy of greed has obsessed the nation ever since. We are now at a crisis point as a nation and our response will have profound effects both here and across the globe.
It’s time for both sides to commit to managing the resources we have access to responsibly.

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