Monthly Archives: November 2011

Priority Number One

North Philadelphia is the hood. As someone who has worked and lived here for two years, I can tell you that things are not well in this part of the world.

There are almost no jobs, schools are horrible, and in many areas violent crime is pervasive. So I have one question to ask supporters of the Bush tax cuts: when are the rich coming here to shower us with their tax windfalls by opening businesses, investing in the local economy, and allowing their growing wealth (or urine?) to trickle down upon us?

What I’m saying is that it doesn’t take an economist to realize that cutting taxes for the rich does not result in widespread economic benefit. Instead, it is outright fraud.

Things are bad around here, and they have only gotten worse since the right-wing turned the tax code into a perverse social-engineering experiment. To those who say the fate of North Philly was sealed by American deindustrialization, I point to the formerly middle class and rapidly stagnating neighborhoods of Northeast Philadelphia and the inner-rig suburbs on both sides of the Delaware.

There, home values are flatlining or in outright decline, solid middle class families are sliding into poverty, and income is disappearing. There, we see the true implications of starving government programs and handing tax cuts to the wealthy.

And, even in be midst of the destruction of the middle class, which is the very thing that makes the US great, renegade GOP operatives and complacent Democrats focus on austerity and belt-tightening. Make no mistake – this only threatens to drive the economy further into the toilet.

As the poorly devised Super Committee fades into history, it is time for all people who do not make substantial income from capital gains to tell their federal legislators and President Obama that the number-one priority is defeating any push to make the high-income Bush tax cuts permanent.

Defeating this perverse legislation will ensure much-needed revenue for important government programs, infrastructure investment, and making a down payment on the national debt.

This must be the top priority if the US is ever to recover from the nightmarish right-wing alternate reality that began in 2001. Otherwise, America as we know it, is finished.

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A Glimmer of Hope

(Philadelphia, PA) – The debate over our national debt has dominated Washington, D.C. for months.  In doing so, it has put a strong magnifying glass on the dysfunctional nature of our government.

Congressmen, Senators, and Obama Administration officials simply cannot come together to compromise on anything, even issues on which there is great consensus among Americans.

One after the other, stories of failed legislation, gridlock, and toxic public discourse have done little to engender confidence in the work of the Congressional Super Committee.

This bi-partisan group of 12 Senators and U.S. Representatives is tasked with proposing some sort of plan for deficit reduction to the full membership of each chamber by Nov. 23rd.

If they fail to develop a plan containing a combination of cuts, reforms, and revenues of at least $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, then massive, across-the-board cuts will hit the federal budget.

My own lack of confidence in this process and our government has lifted slightly over the past few days, mainly because of the work of the Simpson-Bowles group, which produced a comprehensive, bi-partisan deficit reduction plan at this time last year.

While neither Pres. Barack Obama nor GOP House Leadership embraced the $4 trillion plan during the summer debt-ceiling debate, I believe portions of their framework are attractive and could form the basis of a “Grand Compromise” between Republicans and Democrats.

Some of the most attractive proposals include: tax reform that would eliminate $1.1 trillion in loopholes and tax giveaways to corporations and individuals; Medicare reform that saves the program via means-testing, coverage reform & simplification, and continued research into moving away from the faulty fee-for-service system; a broader, fairer, progressive tax system; and tax hikes on the super-rich.

Simply put, the members of Bowles-Simpson and other bi-partisan groups have received very positive receptions during presentations to Super Committee members, who seem genuinely open to many of these suggestions.  This gives me a small feeling of hope that the Committee might get their act together and hand down some real reforms.

Besides blind hope, there’s another reason to believe that these people may finally get a handle on this country’s existential debt problem — the very fate of our nation.

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