Our nation faces many political and human issues today, from gun control to immigration, that are crucial to its future.
One issue seems constant in today's political debate. That is the issue of debt and deficit. It imperils the ability of the United States to invest in infrastructure and education for the future. It puts our nation's economic future in jeopardy.
Of course, this is commonly known. However, what is not commonly known is why the debate rages on. Really, the political dialogue is dominated by many unrealistic and ultimately disastrous so-called solutions that an informed public would do well to steer clear of. Inside the Beltway, within the Washington bubble, these supposed remedies are thrown around by politicians and pundits, including such things as balanced-budget amendments, draconian cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare, ridiculous and irresponsible threats to allow the government to default on its debt and general opposition to even the most necessary of government spending; case in point: Hurricane Sandy relief delayed because tea party Republicans were so traumatized by the fiscal-cliff deal.
In the end, many proposals on the debt amount to little more than political grandstanding by Republicans or Democrats in red states, both fearing a challenge from a right-wing "fiscal hawk" who can propose even more foolish ways to destroy our economy.
Simple economic sense dictates that draconian cuts will have severe impacts on the economy. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance allow us to support seniors and the least advantaged of our country and are also crucial to maintaining a strong middle class. Middle-class consumer demand is the primary driver of our economy.
Furthermore, government investments in infrastructure and education, things that cannot be adequately provided by private markets alone, are crucial to ensuring our continued economic prosperity and leadership in the world. Therefore, though we must reduce the debt and deficit to sustainable levels, we also must be able to maintain investments in our country and our people.
A three-pronged approach is needed, and first is reducing spending in areas where we don't need it. Why are we talking about cuts to education when oil-company subsidies and wartime levels of defense spending are still in place?
Second, we need to balance cuts with a better tax code that is more progressive and yields more revenues. The wealthiest in this country have experienced massive growth in incomes in the past decades, and it is more than fair that they do their part. Prosperity cannot be achieved in a vacuum.
Last, and probably most important, is economic growth. With growth, government will have to do less to support the economy, and tax revenues will naturally increase; deficits will fall.
Ultimately, our debt crisis is a long-term problem that must be solved in the long term. Attempting to fully balance the budget within 10 years, passing a balanced-budget amendment or forcing a government default are short-term, knee-jerk reactions that actually will increase long-term deficits by ravaging the U.S. economy.
It costs the U.S. very little to borrow. There is a pittance of interest on our Treasury bonds compared with those of other nations because the U.S. is considered a very safe investment. It is important to utilize our borrowing leverage in order to achieve a sustainable long-term solution, as much as it is crucial not to jeopardize global confidence in our economy with manufactured fiscal crises.
The government is hardly any different from a business, though its business is to provide for the general welfare. No sane businessperson would neglect to utilize the borrowing capacity of their corporation to achieve the best results as long as debt remains sustainable in the long term. We should stop allowing our elected representatives to exploit this issue, which is crucial to our nation's future. We, the people, must tell them that this is not an opportunity to dismantle the social safety net. We must put everything on the table and show that we are not going to shield the wealthy from paying their fair share and put all the burden on the working class.
I urge everyone to consider true priorities and contribute to an informed debate rather than a continued debacle. Let's secure the future of our country so that we can reduce the deficit and maintain an economy that is first in the world.
Cyrus K. Poteat