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Talking common sense

Mon, Jun 11th, 2012
Posted in All Commentary

Political party rhetoric is directed to appeal to a voter’s emotion rather than a careful, honest, reasoned use of common sense. Being somewhat of a political junkie, I read and watch a variety of opinion pieces. A few weeks ago on a May 27 program on CNN, I was treated to some very refreshing “common sense.”

The two guests were Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. Together they chaired the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform created by President Obama in early 2010. The resulting report was released in December of 2010. The bipartisan commission was able to gain a majority vote (11 out of 18), but not the super majority (14 out of 18) required to move their recommendations forward in Congress.

Simpson and Bowles have given many interviews recently in an effort to wake people and Congress up to the seriousness of the fiscal situation, especially at the end of this year if nothing is accomplished. They are thoughtful thinking men who have the country’s best interest at heart, not just their own political party or political future. Both understand government and the economy and the need in a republic like ours to work together. The two parties have been, in a sense, conducting a civil war, pulling the country apart, which if continued will destroy it from the inside out.

Former Senator Simpson (R) doesn’t pull any punches and says it like it is in his own folksy way. He doesn’t pander to anyone including his own party. The following are quotes from the 80 year old Simpson, who has grown wise over the years. “Common sense has escaped members of the GOP.” “If losing your seat means more to you than your country, you shouldn’t be in Congress.” “You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole, you can’t grow your way out of this hole, and you can’t tax your way out of this hole.” “If you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise and you learn to compromise an issue without compromising yourself.” Simpson also questioned how Congress could have voted for the Bush tax cut when we were in two wars.

Former chief of staff under President Clinton, Erskine Bowles warned of the $7 trillion storm of economic events that will hit at the end of 2012 if Congress fails to act, including the expiration of the Bush era tax cuts, alternative minimum tax, payroll tax cut, and these “senseless” across the board cuts that have come with the failure of last year’s Super Committee. Bowles insists that together they will have a two percent negative effect on GDP.

Bowles is optimistic that the lame duck Congress will manage to set up a framework to prevent this. He maintains it has to be balanced, including reform of the tax code which should increase revenue. Bowles warns if Congress fails to act, the stock market will fall, interest rates will go up and the country will experience another down grade of its credit rating.

Bowles said, “The only thing standing between the U.S. and sustainable growth is having a sensible, responsible, long term fiscal plan.” This will require a compromise between the parties. In a representaive form of government like ours, compromise is the only way to move forward. Dictatorships can manage without compromise.

Bowles stated, “We have the most inefficient, ineffective, globally anti-competitive tax code that man could dream up.” He insisted that we need to broaden the base and get rid of spending in the tax code (reducing or eliminating numerous tax code exemptions, deductions and loopholes). If nothing is done the debt will spiral out of control and the first trillion dollars of revenue collected will go to pay the interest on the debt by 2020.

I can’t agree with these two wise men more. Neither party has the courage to do the unpopular thing and take the leap. They need to jump together and quit the finger pointing. Some seem to be in Congress for the sole purpose of sticking it to the other side. It is our job to weed these people out with our vote in November. Our representatives are not in office to stand stubbornly with their own hardened philosophy. Once elected, a representative or senator represents all their constituents and is tasked with acting in the best interest of the country.

Congress needs to throw the tax code, entitlements, and defense spending in the washing machine and clean out all the waste, excesses, and give aways. Everyone will feel a pinch and that is as it should be. Congress has riddled the tax code with a break here and a subsidy there to direct behavior and buy political support. Democrats want to protect entitlements, but with the retirement of the baby boomers and longer life spans, they need to be reformed to make them sustainable. This is just a fact and common sense. Republicans want to keep revenue constant or reduce it, but still continually increase spending on defense. Cutting taxes and reducing domestic spending alone as the Republicans want to do will not bring in enough revenue to pay the bills. The idea that tax cuts always pay for themselves is a fallacy. If the tax code is cleansed and simplified, rates may be able to be reduced, but many will pay more due to a reduction of their deductions and exemptions. If Congress can enact a sensible long-term credible plan, it will provide certainty to business. Certainty in the long term will allow businesses to plan, expand and/or start up and thereby improve the job situation.

We need common sense and honesty from our representatives. When that candidate appeals to your emotion, look at the math. If it doesn’t add up, there is no honesty or common sense.

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