Today, in Macon County and throughout America, debate is under way regarding two basic principles: (1) the size, shape and responsibilities of our federal government; and, (2) the composition of our shared responsibilities in financing governmental operations.
While most of us tend to dislike government in the abstract, we all appreciate what benefits government provides. Most of us, regardless of political party, believe we must have a strong military and strong defense. Most believe we must invest in the education of our youth and in preparing them for 21st century jobs.
Most believe it is essential to continue and expand our medical and scientific research. Most want good roads, well constructed bridges, railroads and shipping facilities for travel and commerce. Most appreciate having a minimum base of financial security at retirement, and believe that government must help when disaster strikes, a crippling illness occurs, or when jobs are lost and impossible to find.
But, what is so hard for all of us, is that those benefits must be paid for and that all of us must share in that responsibility.
As far back as the 1980’s America started massing debt at alarming levels. To meet that challenge Democrat and Republican leaders came together three times during the 1990’s to reduce our nation’s deficits. All three times they forged historic agreements which called for shared responsibilities and shared sacrifice while largely protecting our middle class and our commitment to seniors.
During the 2000’s, however, we once more lost our way toward fiscal discipline. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an unfunded prescription drug program, large subsides to American oil and gas companies, trillions of dollars in tax cuts for every millionaire, and a slowing economy, forced our government to borrow an average of five hundred billion every year.
Once again we are having to find a way to meet a fiscal challenge. History has shown that this can’t happen with cuts in governmental services and programs alone. A serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table. However, only so much of the recovery burden can, or should be shouldered by our lower and middle income folks.
In the last decade, the average income of our bottom 90% of working Americans dropped significantly. Meanwhile, the top 1% saw their incomes rise by an average of a quarter of a million dollars each year. This top 1% must share in this recovery and have their trillion dollars in tax breaks eliminated. When these tax benefits were passed during the Bush Administration, it was with the declaration that these resources would assist in generating over 5.5 million additional jobs. History has shown those jobs never materialized, and those breaks for the wealthiest 1% have become a burden upon of our nation.
Only through shared sacrifice can we solve our debt crisis and resulting job losses. But, in that process, we should never forfeit investments in our people, in our country, or our ability to remain a strong economic influence in the world.
(Ben J. Utley is the chairman of the Macon County Democrat Party.)