Opinion | Democratic and Republican economic plans shortchange Americans
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 22:09
With the national debt looming around 16 trillion dollars, it’s no wonder that the federal budget and deficit-reduction plans have been a primary focus of this presidential campaign.
Several hours of research on the subject in an attempt to decide which budget plan is better confirmed a previously held opinion of mine: I hate politics.
Both plans inadequately address the problem because each side doesn’t want to upset the population of core voters on which they depend.
President Barack Obama’s plan to increase taxes for higher-income households and limit cuts to safety-net programs and non-defense discretionary funds is clearly a strategy to preserve votes from the population of voters that elected him in the first place.
Similarly, it’s obvious that Romney and Ryan’s solution to the problem, which curiously involves spending even more on defense, cutting both marginal and corporate tax rates, and not cutting costs from either social security or Medicare, is designed to appeal to the older, wealthier population.
This is the group that the GOP needs if they are even close to serious about making a run at the White House.
In reality, both proposals are lacking because they are too stringent and misdirected to provide long-term stability.
Unfortunately, the best course of action would likely be unpopular enough to eliminate any chance of the proposing party to capture the presidency.
For reference, here are some numbers to consider.
Last year, the federal government spent about 3.6 trillion dollars, 24 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Tax revenue only covered about two-thirds of this total, accounting for about 2.2 trillion dollars. Except for 83 billion acquired from federal-reserve assets, the remaining balance of approximately 1.3 trillion dollars was borrowed.
And of course, future taxpayers will pay interest on that 1.3 trillion.
Last year our country shelled out north of 454 billion in interest alone.
So, the real questions: where does all of this money go, and how would it be best to allocate our resources?
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorites2, in 2011 defense (718 billion), social security (731 billion) and the three health insurance programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP; 769 billion), each accounted for about 20 percent of the federal government’s total expenditures.
The approximately 40 percent remaining was allocated toward interest on debt (six percent), safety net programs such as unemployment and low-income housing (13 percent), benefits for retirees and veterans (seven percent), infrastructure (three percent), education (two percent), science and medical research (two percent) and other places (five percent).
Although low-income voters are not the backbone of Republican Party support, it still makes me question the logic of Romney and Ryan if they expect low-income programs and non-defense discretionary funds to absorb the deficit.
We are talking about funds for things such as Medicaid, Pell grants, K-12 education, infrastructure and law enforcement.
Look back over the numbers in the previous couple of paragraphs and try to make ethical and financial sense of this.
It’s hard to.
If long-term productivity and well being of the nation is the goal, education, for one, certainly has to be a priority.
In 2011, the U.S. accounted for 41 percent of the total money spent on defense by the entire planet. Forty-one percent.
This is nearly five times as much as China spent, which accounted for about eight percent of the world’s total defense spending, the second most of any country last year. Is this necessary? Also, since when did healthcare become a right?
Access to healthcare is a privilege, and while I am not opposed to the government at least subsidizing it, the sense of entitlement to it that we have as Americans has to go.
Most of us live in affluence, at least in a historical sense, but it apparently isn’t enough.
Maybe the real problem is that we need to reevaluate our values and priorities before we expect politicians to draft sensible plans with well being at the forefront of concern rather than popularity.
One thing I commend President Obama on doing during his first four-year tenure is investing in renewable energy and resisting pressure to heavily tap into the United States’ domestic oil supplies.
This is not to say that it wasn’t necessarily out of attempt for public approval, but more emphasis needs to be placed on long-term solutions.
I look forward to the day when we are shown advertisements during political campaigns that laud the opponent for commendable efforts, yet explain what their candidate will improve upon.
The competitive political climate as it stands is a terrible thing for all of us.
In the meantime, however, I guess I will shake my head along with many of my fellow Americans and choose the lesser of two evils.