Gridlock–Citizens Responsible? Dec 3, 2011

We’ve been disappointed with the disappearance of Center in American politics. It seems that the “wingnuts” on both sides predominate at this time. While we keep thinking there will be some compromise on major issues, such as debt reduction/stimulus, the report of the special congressional committee (“we cannot reach agreement”) is a ringing clarion of the trouble abroad in the land.

December 3, 2011

Here is one perspective on the issue: Maybe the problem is that we are a democracy. Political representatives certainly must listen to the people. Their failure to try to do that can’t be the problem. The problem must be that the voice of the people is not clear–the people simply voice frustration with the inability of Congress to agree. We don’t tell them what they should agree on. The voice of the people does not speak out a recommended solution. If we had one, they would have to listen. It isn’t helping that we complain, protest, occupy, because we are not clear in what we want. This leaves Congress an enormous amount of freedom to do as they individually believe–and the political lines are drawn on this one.

Maybe the problem is that this one is a complex issue and many of us do not want to take the time to develop an opinion as to the right solution–will tax reductions significantly stimulate growth and employment? This is a question on which highly educated economist do not agree. If we were to agree that they would, then wouldn’t we have to demand reduction in our entitlements? That’s not happening!

The answer certainly depends on the nature of the particular tax deduction. Given our highly complex tax code, most Americans don’t really know how any change would affect them individually. If we wanted their opinions, we’d have to provide everyone with an estimate of the impact of the tax reduction on them.

And, is debt reduction for the US more important than my entitlements in medicare and social security, to mention two of the at-risk budget items…? Maybe, but you’d better be clear as to the benefits to employment and growth to justify sacrificing your own wealth to make this happen. Most Americans are simply not sure those benefits would accrue to tax reductions and entitlement reductions. It’s as if Americans are pounding the table demanding a magic solution. We are enabling Congress to behave this way, because we have no intelligible voice!

So, is there any solution? Well, it’s not likely that the American people are going to take a good course in economics suddenly and make informed decisions about all these actions and effects. So, in the absence of that, why don’t we all simply demand a clear “no smoke and mirrors” 50/50. 50% of the $1.3 trillion comes in tax increases, and 50% comes from budget reductions, including medicare, social security, and defense. 50/50 always had a good ring to it. Let’s do it and get on with it.

The details follow–e.g., what tax reductions and for whom, what entitlement reductions affecting whom? Let’s Congress work out this detail–they can do that if we tell them we want 50/50.

If we’re not able to speak with a strong voice as to what we believe will be best in one extreme or the other, why can’t we just demand a compromise and get on with it?

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