Friday, June 24, 2011

Where is our leader?

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has just issued a declaration that the country is headed toward a massive deficit explosion if we don’t cut spending and raise revenues.  Not a surprise, of course, but this official governmental declaration puts teeth in the obvious.

The main culprits of runaway spending, says the CBO, are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare.  The quickest way to raise taxes, they note, is to repeal the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy AND the middle class.  Both parties are dealing with this, the biggest crisis of my time, as complete idiots.  There is a kind of stupidity that only smart people are capable of, the stupidity of entrenched ideology.  And both parties are deeply entrenched in ideologies that are obsolete and toxic.

The Republicans have taken an idiotic blood oath to never raise taxes.  The Democrats have taken an idiotic blood oath to never cut entitlements.  This puts the country on the Greek path to financial and economic doom.

A dear friend has pointed out that we are dealing with a failure of imagination.  I believe that what people cannot imagine is the sincerity and decentness of  their political opponents' positions and values. 

Democrats can only see the Republicans’ desire to cut spending as the caricature of Republicans that they carry in their ideologically twisted minds – as greedy and uncaring pawns of the super rich.  That way, Democrats don’t have to confront the terrors of a government that is too big to succeed.

Republicans can only see the Democrat’s desire to maintain and expand entitlement spending as a caricature of Democrats that they carry in their ideologically twisted minds - as catering to the special interests that have kept them in power since FDR and attacking the golden goose of capitalism that lays the golden egg of prosperity.  That way they don’t have to confront the terrors of an aging, middle class and poor populations trapped in poverty, mediocrity, and hopelessness.

None of this is going to change without remarkable leadership, and the only position in the country that has the ability to lead the country into the deep and painful direction that it needs to go (cut spending and raise revenues for goodness sake, it's not that hard to figure out) is the presidency.  But, Obama is missing in action.  He seems remarkably passive in this drama being fought out in the House and the Senate.  His VP, Biden, is trying to bring the sides together, but it is all inside baseball.  And inside baseball is not going to get it done.

The terrible truth is that politicians on both sides of the isle are probably correct in thinking that if they raise taxes as Republicans or cut entitlements as Democrats they will be voted out of office.  So, they do what the most cynical observers of politics say they will do: anything they need to do to stay in office.  And, if they do what is needed to rescue the country from financial Armageddon they will be voted out.

So, who needs to demand that they come together and do the painful things that are needed to save the economy and the government is us.  The people need to wake up and realize that we are all Greeks now.  And we shouldn’t shame ourselves by metaphorically doing what the Greeks are doing, which is taking to the streets to demand that nothing change and the gravy train continues for them.

Only when the country decides that we need less government and more government taxes will the deficit explosion be successfully dealt with. If we don't, the debt and deficit explode and the interest on the debt wipes out all of the rest of government anyhow, and all that is left is paying off our debt.  

I think this is possible. I think most people have made that very change in their own lives by realizing that they were spending more than they were taking in and have made personal changes to live within their means.  I think a very large percentage of the voting populace will accept the same formula for our government to take those same steps.

What they need is a credible leader to make the case of the government doing what is needed to live within its means.  The first step has already been taken by the Simpson-Bowles Commission laying out the spending cuts and revenue increases needed.  The next crucial step is now needed – a leader to forcefully and persistently and persuasively to make the case to the voting public. 

Obama could have been that leader, but he has ducked.  I don’t see him or any Republican contender taking that message to the people for the 2012 election, both sides are singing to their own choirs, neither is leading to make the case to do BOTH cut spending and raise revenues. 

Where is our leader?