Country needs a solid plan [UPDATED]Published 10:06am Monday, December 3, 2012 Updated 12:11pm Monday, December 3, 2012
Did anyone really think that Grover Norquist’s “no tax” pledge could be abided by with only half of the Congress willing to sign it?
It was just plain silly.
Norquist — the invisible man behind the Tea Party’s drive to be against anything resembling a tax increase — seems more interested in building his power than doing what is best for the country. The fact is, he’ll never convince the majority of Congress to sign the pledge. And that means that a debt deal would never have gotten done.
Here are my concerns about the federal government:
1.) China calls its loans, putting the country in a real financial crisis.
I have always been extremely concerned about debt, my own personal debt. The thought that I owe money to someone sends chills up my spine. So the fact that the federal government is over $16 trillion in debt — of which 8 percent is owned by China, a country which I just don’t trust — is particularly troubling.
China is a cheater when it comes to global trade, and treats its citizens badly, and because we owe them, there’s little we can do about it.
2.) Benefits such as Social Security and Medicare go away completely for myself, my child, and her children. You want to means-test me, fine. If I would have won the Powerball Wednesday or create the next IPhone and make millions, I would be more than willing to forego my Social Security and Medicare benefits.
If you want to reduce the amount of services I’m getting, fine. If I’m 95 years old, and the doctor tells me I need a heart transplant to keep living that will cost hundreds of thousands, I’d be OK with the government telling me I would have to pay for it myself. Change the programs, but keep them for the long term.
3.) The U.S. economy is strong for the distant future.
Call me any names you want, but I’m not sure the government can, or should, do anything about the economy short-term.
The Federal Reserve has done pretty much what it can in terms of interest rates, which are essentially at zero right now. And those low interest rates are hitting the pocketbooks of those who are hoping for a return on investments.
Have you checked the interest rate on a bank savings account these days? It is .05 percent. That’s 5 one-hundredths of a percent. That means if you kept $1,000 in the account for a year, your earnings would be 65 cents.
With earnings that low, it means that people need to get into riskier debt — translation: junk bonds — to get a return.
With all of this debt, what exactly is the government in a position to do anyway?
The other two things the government can do — create public jobs by spending more money, and cutting taxes — will only add to the annual federal deficit and debt. Both will only affect the short-term economy, and I’m under the belief it does little or nothing.
What we need is a long-term plan that produces federal surpluses, begins paying off the debt, and keeps Social Security and Medicare intact, and does so without putting everyone in the country in the poorhouse due to increased taxes.
Some tax increases are necessary, to be sure. We all need to share in the sacrifice. But let’s be clear: the sacrifice has to have limits. Rich or poor, business or individual, we deserve to know from our Congress and President what exactly the sacrifice will be, so we can plan for it.
Once we all know what that sacrifice is, and we can make the adjustments in our lives and our businesses, then I think the economy can get back on track.
Norquist doesn’t seem to get that.
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Despite the fact that it happened in my hometown, the place where I graduated from high school, the Thanksgiving Day shooting of two teens in Little Falls didn’t really hit home that hard. I didn’t know the victims or their parents. I hadn’t heard of the guy who shot them when they broke into his home. My parents haven’t lived there in more than 20 years, and I haven’t driven through the town since my class reunion a few years ago.
However, while talking with a high school friend the other day and reading him the story, I realized that the neighbor who was robbed a few days earlier was my high school English teacher. Seeing him on television confirmed it.
He actually was a great teacher, one who inspired me to eventually get into writing as a career. It was good to hear that he didn’t have a gun, and certainly would not have done the same as his neighbor had he caught the kids breaking into his home.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at email@example.com