Thanksgiving usually marks the beginning of the Holiday Season in the US. Most look forward to various festivities at home, school, churches, community centers and other venues. It also marks the last few weeks of the year as we look forward to 2011.
For many 2010 was a mixed year. The economic struggles continued with marginal improvements across all sectors. Uncertainty is still prevalent. I am seeing this year as one more to chalk up as a tough economic year - part of the "Great Recession". So what happens next?
Recently, I was watching some political shows (the political junkie that I am) and I started noticing a pattern that I believe can provide one answer to our long term strategy. I noticed that in his recent trip to the East Asian countries, Barack Obama was pummeled by the Eastern Tigers on the economic front. This was not an easy trip for President Obama, but a brutal beating from the Eastern Asian Tigers that are waging a furious economic battle with the USA. We seemed like we were begging and pleading our Asian allies to help us compete with them and they are more than content to say, "why should we do that?"
I ask you to see where are we spending the most money in our deficit ridden budget and the answer is: Entitlement (Social Security, Medicare), Defense, and Interest on our Debt. We hear lots of talk about cuts, but until we can significantly cut in these three areas, we are kidding about solving our long term problems and becoming competitive in the new global arena.
Let's address each one very simply. Social Security and Medicare will absolutely need to be cut. We will need to reduce our entitlements to a mechanism of a safety net where those citizens that need it get it. The rest have to pass a means test where there is a sliding scale of your benefits. For example, those that make over $200K per year do not get any entitlements. Plus all income is taxed for Social Security. No exemptions after $107K per year. So what does this mean: effectively it is tax increase! Yes, Republicans need to get with it and accept this tax increase. And Yes Democrats need to suck it up and let go of their entitlements. And those Tea Baggers that repeatedly say, "cut everything, but do not touch my Social Security", sorry that has to go.
Medicare needs to do the same thing. Other than the cost cutting programs that are in place there needs to be means test and a sliding scale on monthly premiums for seniors that can afford it. Yes its not free and never should be unless for those that are in need of the social safety net. Oh and by the way you Doctors, yes, you will receive severe cuts as well. No more of the fat cat checks from Medicare.
Defense!!! Aaahh that industrial complex cash cow that every congressmen sucks at the tit and can never let go. I hate to sound harsh but the 9/11 event has made our country go berserk! We are spending crazy dollars on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to go after cavemen! Of course I am being a little facetious, but the reality is, these terrorist are making us go bankrupt from their caves in Pakistan. I mean, let's face it, we are spending trillions a year on defense, billions on security at the airports, billions on machines to have "body scans". Statistically, it absolutely does not make sense and more importantly it is absolutely asinine expenditures! Yes statistically we would save a lot more lives if we spent that money on healthcare in this country. For all practical purposes, these terrorists are wining the war by making "the crazy Americans spend like fools on chasing cavemen in Pakistan!"
Defense needs to be adjusted for targeted operations and updated to meet specific threats that make up the 21st century! I am no expert in how that needs to be done, but my guess is that spending billions on submarines, airplanes, and troops in the thousands deployed in these countries is not needed to take out a bunch of hooligans with AK-47's.
Well, the reality is none of my aspirations are going to come true. I can only wish and I can only try to see if any politicians will hear us. But the reality is, we will argue and we will "discuss", but the democratic and special interest forces of this country will make it very difficult to do anything proactively.
I am predicting that our economic system will continue to decline. We will be pushed to the brink of bankruptcy and then we will have to take austerity measures of the like none of our previous generations have seen. Do I have faith that we will be able to do it? Yes I do, but it will be more painful and more drastic. It will involve unprecedented action that will fundamentally shift the way we Americans live.
So this Thanksgiving as you sit around a table crowded with family and friends, give thanks to one more year that has past with the American life still intact. But at the same time resolve for yourself, that the era of consumption, living in fear of cavemen, and hiding behind the facade of security while we see our freedoms and our country go through a slow painful death is not acceptable. I will resolve to fundamentally work to help change this way and preserve the very ideas we have founded this nation on.
Happy Thanksgiving to All! Have a safe, happy and prosperous Holidays!