Do We Really Believe We Should Pay For What We Buy?

by Charles Bayer

Let’s be serious.  Do you really believe you should pay for what you buy?  Say you decide to purchase a new car.  The dealer says, “How do you intend to pay for it?”  You respond, “I’m already in debt.  My credit cards are maxed out.  I’ll let my grandchildren put up the cash a few decades from now.  In the meantime I want to borrow the money from somebody in China.”

Shocking?  It doesn’t take a genius to see that our nation is spending trillions more than we either take in or can afford.  Be careful.  Some debt is good for us.  If there is no debt there can be no credit, and without debt and credit there is no growth.  Debt is about the only way to create money.  It is mammoth uncontrollable debt that is the problem.  If you think that the Republicans in the House are the only ones on to this dilemma, you are wrong.  There are an increasing number of citizens aware that we can no longer spend what we can’t afford.  We are living far beyond our means, and we continue to buy things for which we haven’t a penny.  At the same time we refuse to generate additional revenue.  We are currently 14 trillion dollars in the hole.  When it runs beyond a thousand I’m already out of my economic depth.  Congress intends to trim the fat off this grossly overweight hog.  But their solution is to cut what we spend on education, human services and other programs focused on supporting society’s least advantaged.

Look at how we have managed to load ourselves—and our grandchildren—with this unconscionable debt.  Social Security is not the problem.  It is solvent for some time, even if we must eventually make adjustments in the age of eligibility and the top dollars that should be taxed.  Medicare is a problem, and we need to discover a better, more economically feasible solution to making available universal health insurance.  All other industrial nations have managed to do it.  Get over it, Republicans.  A single-payer insurance plan may be the only doable solution available.

There is even a larger issue no one wants to discuss.  Of the 14 trillion, almost 6 trillion is on our credit cards due to two—now three—undeclared wars and their aftermaths.  Nations do not go to war without a plan to pay for them.  War is expensive, and the pain of the financial cost, as well as the blood and social disruption, must be universally shared.  And NOBODY finances a war by cutting taxes, particularly on those most able to pay them.  What have these almost decade-long wars cost me?   Nada!  Let my great-grandchildren pay for them.  Don’t bother me with all this debt.  My guess is that if every family were saddled with the thousands of dollars a year it costs to keep soldiers in the Near-East and around the world— the wars would be over fairly soon.  Instead we pay nothing even as we continue to load the debt onto our Chinese credit cards.

The House of Representatives has made a timid effort to peel an infinitesimal slice of skin from the whale-sized problem.  But behind the wars, what are they continuing to budget each year without a blink?

11 billion Estate taxes for millionaires.

9 billion Mortgage interest for vacation homes.

6 billion The cost of estate planning.

4 billion Tax breaks for offshore operation of US companies.

2 billion  Write-offs for oil companies in drilling subsidies.

2 billion Ethanol fuel tax subsidies.

2 billion Tax loopholes for hedge fund managers.

And the list goes on.

And what do they want to cut?

11 billion Early childhood development.

9 billion Low income housing programs.

7 billion Nutrition for low-income families including (WIC).

6 Billion Teacher training and afterschool programs.

4 billion  Job training for the unemployed.

2 billion Energy assistance for the poor.

2 billion Community health centers.

2 billion Homeless assistance grants

And the list goes on.

Congress is playing around with peanuts when the huge reasons for the debt come from unpaid war expenses and a healthcare system whose costs are far in excess of those nations with fiscally responsible universal programs.  Sanity, not the scoring of political points, is a path unlikely to be taken by a House of Representative knee deep in tea bags.