Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'What Do We Do Now?'

Anyone who has been in politics for any length of time over the past 30 years will recognize this famous quote from Robert Redford’s great 1972 movie, ‘The Candidate’.

A long-shot candidate is convinced to run against a long-term, entrenched, seemingly unassailable incumbent senator from California by his political operative (sound like a Tea Party candidate?) and with a push from his wealthy father. So he runs on a platform of ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ and speaks his mind openly about the issues confronting the voters, good, bad and the ugly (again, Tea Party-like?)

But, without spoiling the ending, (he pulls off a shocking upset win), the Candidate and his political operative are confronted with the most basic of questions for any political candidate at the end of a campaign:

‘What Do We Do Now?’

Indeed. After this upcoming election in about 28 days: ‘What do we do now’ as a nation?

As long as we have vacuous campaigning on both sides of the political spectrum, 'Hope and Change’ on the left and ‘We Are Not As Bad As THEM!’ on the right, (the Democrats ran on that exact some platform in 2006 and 2008 as well), will we ever muster up the political strength to solve the truly massive problems we face today?

Just to remind you of the severity of the issues we face, in case you have not been able to discern what they are through the din and fog of recent campaigning, here's what are the real issues of the day:

-A $14 trillion national debt well on its way to becoming $24 trillion by 2020.
-$1.5 trillion annual budget deficits
-$1 trillion + in debt held by the Chinese and much of the rest held by foreign sovereigns
-A Social Security system that is now technically ‘bankrupt’
-A Medicare system that is 100% simply ‘unsustainable’ in terms of financing and cost
-Installation of a new health care program, ObamaCare, to the tune of at least $1 trillion in cost
-Potential threats of rapidly escalating rates of inflation
-Potential threats of explosive increases in real interest rates as a result

And these are just the basic fundamental nuts-and-bolts types of problems we are facing in terms of dollars and common economic sense. We have not even gotten to the problems of fixing our national public education system; fully protecting our borders through Homeland Security; what to do about Al Qaeda and Afghanistan/Pakistan or protecting the environment.

Have you heard ANYONE say ANYTHING about how they are going to deal with any of these major fiscal problems and get us to a balanced budget before we expire?

We are going to give the Republicans some credit, finally, for stepping up to the plate and saying this in their 'Contract for America' recently: 'Go back to pre-bailout, pre-stimulus FY 2008 spending levels and hold it below the rate of inflation going forward.'

That might be the best anyone can do in this day and age. It also might lead to a federal budget circa 2020 where 100% of the money goes to 4 things: Interest on the national debt, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid but more on that in a later post.

Here’s something that drives us completely stark-raving mad: Many Republicans are now running ads similar to the following one pointing an accusatory finger at the Democrats for supposedly 'taking $500 billion out of Medicare' to pay for ObamaCare.

The hope is that this ad will help stiffen the spines of senior citizens and get them to vote for the GOP candidate in their district or state against those ‘dirty dastardly Democrats’.

Well, the ‘truth’ of the matter is that the Democrats did gut the Medicare Advantage Part C Programs that the Republicans put in place in the early 2000’s which was designed to help more moderately wealthy seniors buy a better package of benefits and services than under the prior Medigap system.

But it was one of the very few ‘offsets’ they put in the bill to make sure the cost of ObamaCare didn’t top $2 trillion over 10 years, not ‘just’ $1 trillion! The Democrats in Congress just don't like the Medicare Advantage program at all. They love the Medigap program run by their old friends at the AARP.

Imagine that.

If we don’t ‘gut’ the Medicare Advantage program to the tune of $500 billion, then what do we do? Raise taxes by $500 billion?  Gut Medicare Part A and/or B by $500 billion? Something has to be passed to ‘pay’ for this deficit-reduction loss or else we will do what we always do…pass along $500 billion more in debt to our children to pay.

Here’s another thing that drives us nuts, sometimes in the same ad as the one you just looked at: The Democrats reverting to the same old and tired bromide that ‘Republicans will take away your Social Security checks if you elect those children of Satan to Congress!’

Can there be anything more childish or desperate? There is absolutely not one thing that is ever going to be done to the SS benefits of anyone who has already crossed the finish line and turned age 66 for Social Security. Your benefits are ‘safe’ and will always be there.

Any changes to Social Security will be imposed upon ‘future’ beneficiaries, all who are under the magic age of 66, namely Boomers about to retire and Xers to follow them. Which it should in the form of rapid rises in the eligibility ages for SS and Medicare and to stop paying entitlement benefits to any super-billionaire senior citizen of any sort and at least down to the $5 million in household wealth category.

It is just plain insane to pay ‘entitlement benefits' of $350/month for SS and a subsidy of up to $15,000/year per senior for every Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and their wives.

So ‘What Do We Do Now?’ as voters?

Try voting for the more adult-acting candidate in any race in November. It might be hard to decide but at least they might have a fighting chance to do the right thing when in office....like hold down the rate of growth in spending and not pass a bunch of expensive new programs we don't want to pay for with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere.

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