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A centrist, in search of balance and a good stew


Fri, Oct 19th, 2012
Posted in All Commentary

By Karen Reisner

When I look at so-called party platforms, it is clear that there is no clear choice. However, voting is more complicated than simply the party line. Many of us when choosing who to vote for have to look beyond political party. Besides picking the candidate that most closely conforms to your views, look at the individual candidate’s personality traits. Consider the candidate’s ethics and character as best you can, and most importantly support a candidate that is thoughtful and open to considering other points of view and open to realistic compromise; these are absolutely necessary traits in our form of government. Don’t misunderstand, open to another point of view does not equate to jumping from one position to another to gain favor with the current voter pool. A good centered politician maintains core principles while working with those who disagree to find a suitable middle ground which will move the country forward.

Democracy is like stew. The more ingredients cooked into the stew, the better the flavor. Our country faces some hard decisions to avoid a significant blow to our economy, the so-called fiscal cliff. We enjoy a government that makes decisions by a majority vote or in the case of the US Senate, often a vote of 60 percent. We are a government divided almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Of course, hard core Democrats and Republicans are more nearly 30 percent each. Those of us in the center have to truly set the course for our nation and state. Most of us in the center lean to one side usually because of one or two issues most significant to us. Party platforms or philosophies are a starting point like beef and potatoes, not the ending point for good stew or legislation. Don’t forget the other vegetables, especially the onions and seasoning, or in the case of good legislation, the center; this gives it flavor and makes for good stew and good law.

When you enter that voting booth and you don’t really favor either side, think about honesty, fairness, and the candidates ability to find a consensus that best serves our country and state. The candidate that wants to dictate one point of view only without considering the ideas of the other side and those in the middle is in the wrong country. This is not a dictatorship. Once elected, a candidate serves all of the voting constituency which elected him or her. The elected official does not serve himself or herself first or a party first, but the whole of the voting constituency.

Our Greatest Threat Comes From Within

In a country politically divided such as ours there will be “no mandate” to the victor. A Congress that seems intent on sticking it to the other side has failed us for some time now; that has to change. We are facing a $7.7 trillion economic bomb at the end of the year if Congress can’t come together. Economists say this will have a very negative impact on jobs, future growth, and the stock market. If Congress fails to act by the end of the year, the Bush tax cuts expire, the payroll tax holiday expires, the AMT patch for the middle class will fail, and the across the board spending cuts enacted last year when Congress failed to agree on anything else will go into effect.

A satisfactory, long term, balanced, budget solution would most likely act as a stimulant to the economy. The plan should have a gradual implementation so as to avoid a harmful jolt to the economy, which doing nothing will most certainly do. A good plan will not and should not make anyone entirely happy. Compromise never does, but it will be a way forward and most probably the best way forward for the country. Our country’s growing debt needs to be reversed. We borrow 41 cents on every dollar spent. We have fought two long and expensive wars on a credit card. My hope is that when the next election is at least two years away (after November 6), politicians will finally have the courage to do their job, make the tough decisions, and resolve the country’s financial woes. To keep all options on the table those politicians, that have sworn away their ability to negotiate by signing the “no new taxes pledge,” need to open their eyes and see the mathematical realities facing them.

There need to be efficiencies made in both entitlement spending and defense spending. A long term, realistic budget will be a stimulant to growth. So far, Congress has missed the opportunity to give the economy a boost by putting a budget plan forward that addresses the $7.7 trillion jolt facing us at the end of the year. To do nothing will be a barrier to growth and may put the country back into recession.

Revenue must be increased through a reformed tax code. Congress needs to take a tough look at subsidies and deductions. I do not buy into the philosophy that we can grow our way out of this mess with just some spending cuts here and there; that is a fantasy. On the other hand, I do not believe we can leave Medicare and Social Security untouched. But, I don’t see how the “voucher” idea can work without weakening Medicare to the point of collapsing the system. Maybe the destruction of Medicare is the true intention for some politicians.

Raising taxes on the wealthy alone will not nearly cover the projected growth in Medicare. But, a 20 percent across the board cut in tax rates doesn’t seem like it can be made revenue neutral, let alone increase revenue, without wiping out most all deductions and credits for most income groups.

The only way to save these popular and needed programs is to impose some efficiencies and gradually increase payments being made into the programs. Most recipients get many times the benefits from these programs than what they paid in. The United States spends way more on healthcare than any other industrialized country. Healthcare cost increases have to be slowed. Changes will be unpopular, but the alternative will be much worse.

Defense spending also needs to be reined in. We spend more on defense than the total defense expenses of the next seventeen countries with the largest defense budgets.

Our government still has to have funds to invest in infrastructure, research and education. Without these kind of investments, America’s position in the world will deteriorate.

The greatest threat to our country is extreme partisanship which is impairing growth and making the United States a weaker player in the global economy; it weakens the American image in the world. The definition of insanity is Congress doing nothing before the end of the year. If we can’t unite and work together for our own best interest, why would other countries take our lead on the world stage. Both parties are at fault, especially those on the extreme wing of each. It is only common sense for Congress and the American people to compromise and unite to resolve our financial problems.

More energy is expended on cutting down the other side than making tough, realistic decisions to benefit us all. Playing politics puts up a wall built with distrust; making it hard to come to a fair consensus. A good long term plan will include a combination of fair, progressive tax reforms which will broaden the base and gradually increase revenue, plus reasonable and necessary spending reductions; both will lead to increased growth. Increased growth stimulated by a long term plan, in turn, will continue to help provide needed revenue to cover growing expenses.

Vote

All of us as citizens have an obligation to pay attention, get involved and to vote. When you exercise your right to vote, ask yourself if this candidate can work with the other side, if he or she can put party politics aside and look for the best solution for everyone. Apply this test to all candidates at all levels of government.

One last note: Our state and local governments will have one less strain on future budgets if they aren’t being forced to finance the Voter ID amendment. Vote NO and save. This amendment is unnecessary as there is almost no evidence of voter fraud. It will only serve to reduce voter participation and increase the cost of government.

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