Tuesday, September 20, 2005

September 20, 2005

Oh to be..
King For a Day

I don't think you and I would have to agonize for weeks or months over what needs to be done to fix the biggest problems that face the nation right now. Oh, if we only could take charge right now! As ordinary folk we would arrive to the task unencumbered by campaign promises made in secret to large contributors or whack-job ideological constituencies. We'd just take stock of current needs, prioritize them and get about the job of fixing what's clearly and unarguably broke.

Too bad that's not about to happen. Those we put in charge during better times are still there. When we elected them life was pretty good so we figured, "What the hell, how much damage can they do in two or six years? Anyway, it's not like we have much of choice. The other candidate is equally needy, smarmy, blindly ambitious and/or clueless. So, enny, meeny, miney, moe..."

Then the shit hit the fan; 9/11. Afghanistan, budget-busting tax cuts and Iraq. And then Mother Nature was forced into premature menopause by mounting greenhouse gas emissions. Now She's having hot-flashes, which maker Her really cranky, so she wipes out a coastal US city or two..

The accumulated cost of these problmes has mounted into the trillions of dollars.

So what to do?
Clearly the folks we sent to Washington are not up to the task. (But then, we knew that when we sent them) Out-of-power Democrats don't seem to know whether to shit or go blind, so they mostly stand around with one-eye closed farting.

Which is actually better than what the Republicans have in mind. They want to raise the $250 billion needed to rebuild the Katrina damaged cities by cutting the new senior drug benefit instead of the alternative, raising taxes. That would only save $40 billion, so they want to cut additional social programs as well. To the GOP taking medicine away from poor seniors makes more sense than repealing tax cuts for the wealthy.

Republicans also want to revisit the highway bill. Admittedly that bill was so full of pork Jimmy Dean could feed the entire Third World with sausages made from it. But they won't stop by just cutting the "Alaska bridge to nowhere," the dozens of "Senator Blowhard overpasses or the Rep. Nicelady skating rinks. No. Republicans are ready to do whatever it takes to avoid repealing a dime of the Bush tax cuts.

So, once they start picking apart the highway bill they will also cut large public works projects that are actually needed and long overdue. America's infrastructure is crumbling. We keep hearing that, and we keep ignoring it. Then something happens to remind us. Remember those levees in New Orleans? Well that's just a preview of what's just waiting to happen across America. It's not just levees, it's bridges, dams, roads, even our national electrical grid which is a relic of the early 1900s. Much of our critical infrastructure was built during FDR's years in office. That makes that stuff even older than me. And, like me, it shows it's age and is in desperate need of expensive attention. Ignoring that fact already cost us $250 billion down south.

The highway bill also provides money for much needed blue collar jobs across the nation. Those jobs would come at the moment they are most needed and by those who need them most. (And they can't send those jobs overseas.)

Nevertheless, that's what "they" have in mind. Cut domestic programs, keep wasting our money and lives in Iraq, and let Bill Gates keeps his tax cuts.

So, what we do if given a crack? If we could take the reins and run the show for, say, the next six months? As I said above, I don't think we'd need to discuss it long before we passed the following legislation:

The Law: Order that our troops begin pulling out of Iraq on January 1. This January 1, with total withdraw completed no later than the end of 2006.
Our Reasoning: The Bush administration maintains that we can't leave until the Iraqi troops are trained and able to fight on their own. Ah, hello. They already know how to fight. After all, who trained the insurgents? They seem to be doing just fine. Since most of the insurgents are Iraqis, clearly Iraqis already know how to fight. All that's missing on US-supported side is the will to fight. Such a will may or may not exist, but we will never know until Iraqis have no choice in the matter. It's time to test Bush's oft-stated belief that, if given a choice Arabs will chose democracy. Well, they have a choice. So give a chance to chose. A chance to fight and defend their budding democracy, or not.. Because we're done doing it for them.

The Law: Repeal the Bush tax cuts on the top 1% of earners.

Our Reasoning: The tax cuts allotted to already overly comfortable Americans totals over $477 billion over the next nine years. An argument can be made -- and I would be delighted to make it -- that those folks would never have reached such a lofty income bracket without America's taxpayer-funded infrastructure. Their company trucks run on its highways, cross its bridges, use its dammed waters, cut and use timber from public lands, defend its patents in its courts, etc. Now that a whole lot of that infrastructure that helped make them get rich is broken, or about to be, it's only right that they chip in to fix it. Duh.

The Law: Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment.

Our Reasoning: I know, a balanced budget amendment is a fiscal straight-jacket. But both parties have, and will continue, using public funds as reelection chits. One way to short circuit that process is to slap enforcable limits on them -- a budget. No not the kind of phony baloney, dot-com budgets they pass now, but a real one. A budget that requires they first fund critical domestic needs and cover existing entitlement programs. Then, once they've funded a society worth defending, the military is next in line. Finally start paying off the national debt credit card balance -- the national debt -- at 5% a year of the outstanding balance, until it reaches zero. If there's not enough money for all that, raise taxes. Deficit spending would be allowed only to fund a war that has been formally declared by Congress. (And no, no, no, that does not include illegal "resolutions," or passive aggressive "authorizations to use force." A war is either just that, war authorized as required by the Constitution, or it doesn't get a dime.)

The Law: Presidential Vacations would be limited to 4 weeks a year.

Our Reasoning: When we elect a President we are not voting for a national CEO who cuts brush and rides horses far from the office for nearly a quarter of each year. The US Presidency is the most important and complicated job in history, and is only getting more so. So, henceforth we order that whomever holds that office rise early, work late and show up at the office at least 48 weeks out of 52.

Okay, our job done, we can return Washington to it's regular denizens and go home. Good job, guys! Look what we accomplished by just applying good old fashion common sense:

* We paid for Katrina by repealing tax cuts the wealthy should never have received to begin with,
* We ended a war that should never of been launched to begin with,
* We set the national checkbook on course to be balanced,
* We began paying off our national credit card balance,
* We passed a law requiring that the President of the United States of America show up for work more often than not.

Each of those laws is a no-brainer. But the folks in charge in DC now seem to be even beyond no-brainers these days. Their solutions to the national emergencies we face are different:

* Safeguard tax cuts to the rich at any cost,
* Stay the course in Iraq hoping a miracle will bail them out,
* Borrow $200 billion to rebuild the Gulf
* Take granny's heart medicine away to make up the difference,
* Democrats want to wait until 2008 hoping things will be so bad by then we'd even consider voting for Hillary.

But, they are in charge, not us, at least for the time being. Come November 2006 we will have a chance to shuffle the deck in the House and Senate. So, keep your powder dry. While we're waiting ask your elected representative why it is that, since we out here seem to know what needs to be done to fix these problems, why he/she/it doesn't. I know it's kind of a rude question, but then, whatya have to lose?

And if you pose that question, get ready for the inevitabe Washington response:

"Thank you for your letter. Your thoughs are important to me. Unfortuately it's not that simple. You don't know what we know. It's more complicated than you portray in your letter."

It's the same old burecratic dodge. It's what FEMA officials told the poor, suffering people in Louisiana and Mississippi when they could not do the right thing at the appropriate time:

"We can't just drop water and food to thirsty, starving people. We can't just bring trailers to house the homeless. We can't just provide medical care to the sick and injured. We can't just do the right thing quickly like you people out there demand. There's paperwork that must be completed first, you know."

Yes, just doing the right thing, quickly, is very complicated... for them.

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