Ditch ideology and think about solutions


March 6, 2013
By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

Most of us worry about how much money we make and how much money we spend, so the current national drama about the budget cuts is perhaps something many Americans can understand through their own experiences.

The Washington Post has a great breakdown online of the president's 2011 budget that swiftly illustrates the problem. Total revenue for that budget was $2.57 trillion while total spending was $3.83 trillion, leaving a deficit of $1.27 trillion.

On the spending side there was $1.4 trillion on the discretionary side (defense and other programs) with $2.38 trillion on mandatory funding that included Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on debt.

So the cuts made by the sequester are on programs on the discretionary side and they are not enough to actually close the deficit or come close. They are, however, enough to have an effect on human beings, American citizens who are hoping to keep their heads above water.

The result will be an ideological victory for those people who simply believe the federal government needs to be made smaller somehow with little or no regard to the damage such a widely random act could make. Is that really the goal of the Tea Party or the Liberty Movement?

Should ideology trump common sense? The common sense is that we must make some cuts and we must raise revenue. The common sense is that we should further examine how we allowed the current state of affairs to take place. How does the erosion of American manufacturing over the last 30 years attribute to our current problems? What has been the effect of abandoning tariffs that both protected American jobs and brought in revenue? Has the power of lobbyists and corporations outstripped the importance of the electorate and what has that meant?

Why do people not want to acknowledge that a good percentage of our problem is that we had two wars financed "off the books" during the last administration?

We need some creative thinking and some compromise. The ideologues are getting us nowhere.

I really like the new proposal that would put a penny for every $100 tax on most non-consumer stock trades from Sens. Tom Harkin and Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio. Their plan could raise as much as $352 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. Is that enough to solve our problems? No, but it's a start at trying to do something that wouldn't include cutting jobs.

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Chicopee City Councilor Gerry Roy had recently suggested the city fly its flags at half-mast to honor the recently murdered former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

Taking a look at the federal rules governing the flag, one sees that as an expression of freedom of speech, an individual could fly his or her flag at half-mast to honor someone. The president and governors have specific rules about the circumstances that would prompt an order to fly the flag at half-mast.

The issue probably becomes not one of law, but one of the reasons behind a request. Personally, I think that flying the flag at half-mast has huge and deep meaning. It is an honor that should not be routine or subject to politics.

Now, if Kyle had come from Chicopee or was a resident of Chicopee, I could understand the motivation, but I can't see the city doing this for a person who has no connection here.

***


To the staff of WFCR: granted you will not be moving into your new Main Street downtown digs until next May, but let me be the first media colleague to welcome you to Springfield. I will be happy to show any of you the best places to eat – trust me I'm a fat man – advise you on the pitfalls of downtown – yes, they ticket illegally parked cars religiously – and identify the good guys and the black hats among the power players.

In exchange, let me audition as the host of the locally originated talk show there is buzz about – once a talk show host, always a talk show host!

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.




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