As legislators returned to Washington from their two-week recess on Monday, the death of Osama bin Laden provided a rare moment of bipartisan collegiality. Even Republicans praised President Obama for a job well done.
Now, there are a budget, a deficit and a debt ceiling to hash out and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
A bunch of ignorant Republicans, some – but not all – of them inexperienced neophytes at governing say they are ready to vote against raising the debt ceiling risking, for the first time in the history of the republic, “the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.”
For many reasons, that should scare the pants off you. I’ll leave most of the unthinkable consequences for another day, but since this is a blog about getting old, let’s just mention two things it would mean for elders:
It wouldn’t be long before Social Security and Medicare payments would be drastically reduced or stopped because the government could spend no money except incoming cash on hand, and interest on the debt would necessarily need to paid first.
Congress is returning with two main budget proposals on the table. One of them, Republican Senator Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, calls for “shared sacrifice” to reduce the deficit by further reducing taxes on the wealthy. How does he do that? With some magical thinking (many economists have said his numbers don’t add up), and by all but eliminating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that help the poor.
Many voters, especially old ones, are not fooled by Ryan. He took a lot of flak for his budget during the Congressional recess at town halls in his home state of Wisconsin. Take a look at this one:
Scenes like that one occurred at many of the town halls Ryan (and other Republicans) held – so much so that Ryan refused to face angry voters in the parking lot, sneaking out the back door:
President Obama’s budget leaves Social Security alone, lowers Medicare spending by reducing growth partially by negotiating drug prices, but includes provisions that would increase taxes on many of the poor and middle class.
Neither Ryan’s nor Obama’s budget plan creates new revenue and both plans leave the defense budget largely intact: a $400 billion cut over 10 years years is chicken feed for a current $680 billion annual defense budget.
So while Obama’s proposal looks a bit better for ordinary Americans than Ryan’s, neither addresses the horrendous wealth and wage gaps between the rich and the middle class.
But there is a much better, third way. It is called The People’s Budget and was introduced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I could list its points and advantages here, but some other people have already done a terrific job of that with a couple of videos. Here is a short version which Jan Adams of Happening Here alerted me to:
If that went by a bit too fast for you Thom Hartman, building on Paul Krugman’s column ten days ago, took a little longer on his television show last week to explain the proposal with more detail and clarity. [7:23 minutes]
With the angry responses to the Ryan budget proposal at town hall meetings, there is the beginning of a groundswell for a different way. There is no reason The People’s Budget should not be discussed equally with the other two.
So pass this around. Post it on your blogs. Tell your friends. Write your Congress people and your local news outlets. Make a lot of noise about this.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson: My Ma Ma’s Cousin Wanda