There’s a terrific new solo LP out by Pat Metheny called What’s It All About. Even though the music is not political, it got me thinking about the purpose of government and the latest bickering between Congress and the President. Here’s what the preamble to the U.S. Constitution has to say:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We the people. Who are the people, anyway? Voters? If that’s the case, given historical voting patterns, congress represents only about 100,000 people. That’s a small USA. So when Congress ignores the will of the people as expressed in polls, they must be thinking that people who respond to polls don’t vote, or don’t live in their congressional district. And that may be true, but it is a risky strategy that may backfire.
Are all Republicans against raising the debt ceiling and raising taxes on the wealthiest? Do all Republicans believe that big business should pay no taxes at all and even receive subsidies to ensure maximum untaxed profits? Do all Republicans believe that billionaires are the only job creators? I believe the answer is no. I believe Americans regardless of party affiliation are far more moderate than the Republican leadership would have us believe. And I think the 2012 election will be proof of that.
Promote the general welfare. This does not mean corporate welfare. It means the well-being of its people. Human rights: health care, education, housing, nutrition, clean air, consumer protection, police, fire, the arts and employment. Without these basic elements in place and protected, there can be no perfect union, no justice or domestic tranquility.
In order to preserve these basic government functions, it is the responsibility of Congress to levy taxes. Congress must bear the blame for turning a government surplus when Clinton left office into a massive debt crisis when Obama took office. It was the Bush tax cuts combined with two senseless wars and the systematic refusal to regulate financial markets or anything for that matter that got us into this mess. That and an unpaid for prescription medicare plan for seniors. For those who say Obama is making the mess worse, consider that the Republican leadership to date has refused to negotiate on the question of revenue enhancements because so many have taken a silly ideological pledge not to raise taxes. They have been highjacked by the extreme right who would like nothing better than to see the country go into more of a downward spiral so that they can blame the President and try to grow their numbers. I think the voters won’t fall for this and will put the blame where it rightly belongs.
If Congress can’t reach a compromise on the debt ceiling, their salaries should be frozen until they come up with a plan to ensure the country does not default on its financial obligations. Notwithstanding the outcome of the negotiations, we should do the following: Raise taxes. Close corporate tax loopholes. For example, tax American the overseas profits of American based companies. Reform and simplify the tax code; it’s way too complicated and nuanced. Pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Cut defense spending significantly. For troops who can’t find civilian employment, create a Build For America program where troops and civilians work on domestic infrastructure projects. And do we still need the U.S. Postal Service? I know it employees a half a million Americans, but it runs a big deficit and this may continue as gas prices stay just below $3 a gallon. With e-mail, on-line shopping and social media, fewer people send bills, letters and packages by USPS anymore. And those postal trucks are not the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road. I would imagine that USPS workers could find employment with Federal Express or UPS, or else be redeployed on local infrastructure projects.
Stop the bickering and put the We back in People.