Juanita Williams: Guest opinion | AspenTimes.com

Juanita Williams: Guest opinion

Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

“I place the economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labor and in our amusements. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labor of the people, under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.” – Thomas Jefferson

The absurdity with this so-called fiscal cliff is that it is hard to fall very far when we are already in a pit so deep that it is difficult to see any light above. The term “fiscal cliff” is a misnomer on so many levels and for different reasons and is used to give the feelings of crisis and fear. The important thing to consider is what it means for the general public. Forgive me if I dispense with all concern for those in political office who have placed us in such a precarious position.

This is not a partisan problem. The problem is that the system is broken. We are so far removed from the foundation of this country and the economic reasoning of our founders that there is little if any resemblance to the brilliant path they began. Apathy and a lack of understanding, whether by accident or design, have brought us to the brink of economic destruction.

Some politicians are rejecting the GOP’s proposal of closing loopholes in the tax codes enabling the wealthy to sidestep paying taxes and thrusting the burden on the rest of us who do pay taxes. A Dec. 18-dated article in the Wall Street Journal, “Of Liberals and Loopholes,” explains the politicians’ self-preservation instincts extremely well and is worth your effort to read. Do you think the politicians are looking out for the middle class?

A Dec. 12 article by James Pethokoukis and published in AEIdeas, the public-policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute, notes that ending mistakes, fraud and duplication in Medicare and Medicaid could save us $720 billion through 2022, according to figures reported by the Government Accountability Office, coupled with those from the Congressional Budget Office. That is almost the exact amount of revenue that would be gained through raising the top two income tax rates to 39.6 percent and 36 percent from 35 percent and 33 percent and by raising capital-gains and dividend rates to 20 percent from 15 percent.

Letting those rates revert to Clinton-era levels would raise $759 billion, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

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Working Americans were forced to pay for both Social Security and Medicare. These were enacted to protect the future for Americans. These are more than mere entitlements; the money belongs to the people receiving the benefits. The government folks decided that they should take care of the people because the folks were incapable of taking care of themselves. Then the government stole the money from the payers and has the nerve to cry about its obligation to these seniors.

What we need is a 180-degree change of direction in tax reform, spending cuts and cuts to some entitlements. These lifelong pensions that Congress has approved over the years are an area that can be retroactively stricken. The people didn’t get to vote on these – throw them out! The same with any raises, as they have failed to truly represent the people. The lack of a budget in the past few years says they aren’t doing the job. They like to say they feel our pain. Really? Let’s see to it they do.

Even if we are successful by loudly voicing opposition to the raising of taxes in any form, as well as loudly demanding deep spending cuts, it will mean the end of freedom and even average lifestyles as we know them. There will be rampant inflation. It is unavoidable that groceries costing $100 today will be $400 to $450 in a year. Utility costs will rise, and gasoline, medical and dental costs will increase. Will your paycheck keep pace? This is unlikely, as more businesses will be forced to close their doors or cut back on labor costs. More unemployment and reduced services will be the result.

Americans must find a way and be prepared. Don’t count on the government to do the right thing. If you cannot afford to have your living expenses increase fourfold, you’d better be searching for options. During all economic downturns, there have been those enlightened and ambitious who rose to the top and thrived in spite of the conditions. Who it shall be this time depends again upon the individual – not the government.