To all appearances, the debt limit crisis is over. The compromise legislation that was finally minted through backroom deals and negotiation has passed the House, and, pending a vote in the Senate, will be signed into law by the president.
The only problem: while Congress has finally reached a compromise that it looks like both parties may be able to agree on, real solutions are still forthcoming.
Over the past several weeks, America has been treated to a nice bit of political theater, but even before this compromise legislation has become law, two things are abundantly clear: First, even after all of the angst, the hyperbole, and the seemingly never-ending news cycle of the past few weeks, America's problems will go unsolved, and second, even after all of the talk of avoiding default and protecting the "full faith and credit" of the United States government, America is still on the path to a downgraded credit rating and even tougher financial times.
With this crowd, political theater is likely the best we're going to get. There are too few standing up for real solutions, and too many willing to sacrifice our nation for the sake of politics.
Even though Congress and the president have reached a compromise, all they have managed to do is to kick that old proverbial can down the old proverbial road. They have raised the debt ceiling, but the spending cuts in the compromise bill have been so watered down that there is no way they will fix the real problem: our debt.
After all, for all of the dire talk about what consequences America will face if we don't raise the debt ceiling - default, downgraded credit, and depression, the debt ceiling is only a symptom of our debt problems. Raising the debt ceiling will only give the politicians the ability to spend more of our money. The only problem this extension will solve is the Democrats' political problem: they don't want the debt ceiling to be a campaign issue, which is why they have been so adamant that we must
extend the debt limit until after the election. It solves the political problem, but leaves America's real debt problems unsolved...and from the looks of things, our debt problems are only going to get worse.
The real question is, what can we do to solve America's debt problems? After all, if we don't rein in our debt, our financial difficulties will only get worse. Despite the compromise, the credit agencies are still threatening to downgrade America's credit rating, because the cuts in the compromise plan just aren't deep enough to do any good. So how do we fix the problem? All we would need is to follow these six simple steps:
**READER BEWARE: While what follows is most commonly known as conservatism, most of the values expressed herein have been defined by the Vice President as terrorism.
Step 1: Cut, Cap and Balance
I know, according to Harry Reid, Cut, Cap and Balance is an evil, slimy, degenerate piece of legislation that never should have seen the light of day. But if we truly want to keep America solvent, we need to do something about our debt - something more than the pathetically small spending cuts found in Obama's compromise solution. And we don't just need to cut spending, we need concrete guidelines that will keep Congress in check. Because if American politics has taught us anything over the past several decades, it is that most Congressmen are scumbags with no morals...okay, that, and it doesn't matter which party is in charge, politicians will always find a reason to spend more money.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the politicians always have a good reason why we need this welfare program and that spending bill. Never mind the fact that the money is coming from the Chinese, we want it, we need it, we gotta have it...and anyone who stands in the way of a Congressman and his spending bill will have to face smear campaigns galore. Just ask Congressman Ryan - if you can catch him as he wheels that old lady toward the cliff.
Step 2: Reform The Tax Code
Our progressive tax system is sadly outdated. These days, it is less a tool to generate revenue, and more a tool politicians use to curry favor with whatever group they favor at the time.
The biggest problem with our tax system is that it is unintelligible. An entire cottage industry has grown around gaining enough understanding of the tax code to be able to help people fill out their returns every April. The tax system is manipulated to favor political allies, to villanize the rich, and to smear the political opposition. When the untaxed poor get tax refunds and the ultra-rich play the system and pay no taxes, you know it's time for a change.
It is high time that we simplified our tax code. We don't need our nation's primary means of generating revenue constantly being tweaked for the sake of a political agenda. Flat taxes have been implemented
in several Eastern European nations, with great success. Besides being good for the business climate, flat taxes make nations competitive. With a flat tax, America could dominate the global business world once again.
Step 3: Reform Entitlement Programs
The Democrats seem extremely attached to their entitlement programs. Whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, or any of a dozen other programs, the Democrats refuse to give up these money hogs.
The Left is so wedded to entitlement spending that they refuse even to allow these programs to be reformed. Without significant reforms, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will all be bankrupt within the next two decades or so - if not sooner. The irony is, the Democrats defend these programs so virulently they will eventually cause their demise. If we have a moral obligation to keep these programs funded, as the Democrats so piously bellow, does it not stand to reason that we should keep them funded beyond the first quarter of the 21st Century?
It is a simple truth that America cannot afford the increasing burden of entitlement spending. We can either reform entitlement programs now, or they will cease to exist in a few years. It's not "balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly and the poor," as the Left always fear-mongers, it is just reality.
Step 4: Bring The Boys Home
What was our original mission in Afghanistan? Why are we there now? After ten years, our war in Afghanistan has suffered from a large amount of mission creep. We originally went in to root out the Taliban. We've done that, and now we're in the midst of a continuing nation-building campaign. How about Iraq? We cut the head off of the snake. Hussein is dead, his government overthrown. Why are we still there, again?
And now we're involved in an illegal "kinetic action" in Libya - that's right, Congress still has not authorized ur military presence there. We're involved because our old buddy Gadhafi is a bad guy...but from all appearances, we'll be back in Libya a few years down the road fighting the same rebels we are now supporting.
The Democrats keep saying we need to cut defense spending, but that would be foolish. We don't need to cut the funds used to defend out nation, we need to bring our troops home and stop fighting wars that do nothing to further our national security. While Iraq and Afghanistan started out with worthy goals and good intentions, it's time to say "enough is enough." We must be willing to go to war to defend our nation against evil. But we also need to have the wisdom to see when it is time to finish the war, and bring our brave soldiers home.
Step 5: Privatize, Privatize, Privatize!
There are so very many aspects of our government that could be successfully privatized, it truly is a shame that we continue to waste money on them.
One of the best examples is the Post Office. The Post Office truly is an amazing organization: for less than one dollar, I can send a letter across the United States in just a few days. But as great as that is, the Post Office has become a drain on America. Union contracts and pension liabilities have sucked any possibility of profitability out of the Post Office, and they can't seem to raise the price of stamps fast enough to keep up. Add to that the prevalence of email and text messaging, and the Post Office becomes even less relevant. Here is an organization that is expected to fund itself, yet cannot set its own rates or control its own future. The Post Office loses billions of dollars every year, and the only recourse left is to cut services...and they cannot even do that without garnering widespread condemnation. So on we go, pouring our billions into the USPS black hole.
Or we could just privatize the whole thing.
And why not? Companies like UPS and FedEx already do a lot of the same work done by the Post Office, and they maintain healthy profit margins. The Post Office is a good thing gone wrong: the once great organization has become a vacuous money pit. Dissolving the Post Office and allowing private companies to take up the mantle would add jobs to the private sector, and free up billions of dollars that could be used to pay down our debt.
Or how about the national parks and monuments? Our national parks never seem to make the news until a budget impasse hits Washington - and then, national parks and monuments always seem to be the first things to be shut down, because then those politicians on the other side aren't just being evil SOBs, they're ruining your vacation!!!
Like the tax code, the National Parks just become one more tool the politicians use to keep their coveted spending increases.
There are so many areas in our federal and state governments that could be privatized, it would be impossible to cover them all, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention that icon of inefficiency: the Department of Motor Vehicles. Here in California, the DMV is entirely state-run. The lines are always long, and while they undertook a campaign several years ago to improve their image and operations, in the end they were just putting lipstick on a pig.
But when I lived in New Mexico several years ago, I was introduced to a company called "MVD Express." This is a private company that handles many of the functions of the DMV. It was fast, it was easy...it was everything that the state-run DMV is not. At the time, I needed a New Mexico driver's license, and new registration and tags for my car. Within half an hour of walking through the door, I had my license, my registration, and my license plates, and was on my way - a feat that would have been impossible here in California (When I came back to California, it took me hours to get my license plates, and I had to wait weeks to get my driver's license in the mail).
Time To Think Outside The Beltway
There are so many possible solutions that would help our nation to grow economically, yet so few that we can implement due to the political situation in Washington. This debt ceiling debate is only the latest, most revealing show of absurdity that should prove to America that the political class in this country cannot be trusted with our future.
We don't need to think "outside the box." It is outside the box thinking that gets us crisis after crisis so the politicians can find yet another way to get in front of the cameras and show off, and then screw the American people yet again because they refuse to actually solve anything. We need to start thinking "outside the Beltway." We need to get away from the same old political games, and do what is right for America. Hard times are coming, and our future is in the hands of the peanut gallery. They have nothing better to do but yell at one another, and all the while nothing gets done.
When will America finally say enough is enough