Debt Wish: A Conversation Piece
Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today! It’s cold out there every day in Washington. And every day it feels like we’re waking up with the same problems, hearing the same excuses and having the same conversations about entitlements we’ve been having for decades. Whenever it’s time to take action, Washington gets scared of its shadow and Americans get three more months of spending. Maybe this Groundhog Day will be different…
WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING ON ENTITLEMENT REFORM
August 2012: Selection Of Paul Ryan As Romney’s Running Mate Will Lead To “Adult Conversation About Entitlement Spending.” “Mitt Romney’s selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate creates an opportunity to hold what Ryan likes to call an adult conversation about entitlement spending.” (Geoff Nunberg, “With Ryan’s Ascent, A Few Thoughts On ‘Entitlement’,” National Public Radio, 8/14/12)
August 2011: “We Need To Have A Real, Honest Conversation About The Amount Of Spending And Explosion Of Debt That We’ll See In A Few Years.” (Rep. David Schweikert, Op-ed“ Compromise Isn’t Enough,” Scottsdale Republic, 8/5/11)
February 2011: Obama Ready For “Adult Conversation” About Entitlements. “[President Obama] wanted the message of the press conference to be that he’s ready for an adult conversation with Republicans about reducing the deficit and taking on entitlement programs. … He used the word conversation 11 times in today’s press conference.” (Jake Tapper, “Battle Lines; Grim Forecast,” ABC News, 2/15/11)
March 2008: Use The Budget “To Start The Conversation About Entitlement Reform…” “By using the Budget to start the conversation about entitlement reform, we can show that this country is looking to secure the future well-being of all its citizens. If we address these issues now, rather than pushing them down the road, we can help Americans see that there is a promise of bright future for future generations.” (Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi, Press Release, “Tiberi: Families Struggling To Pay Bills, Not Time For Democrats’ Tax Hike,” 3/4/08)
July 2006: Sen. Barack Obama Said, “We’re Going To Have To Talk About Entitlements … Difficult To Have That Conversation…” Obama: “The — I think all of us are aware that at some point, in order to get our deficit under control, there are going to be revenue issues that we’ve got to bring up and there are going to be spending issues that we’re going to bring — and we’re going to have to talk about entitlements and we’re going to have to control costs and it is very difficult to have that conversation, particularly at a time when Americans are feeling squeezed and more vulnerable, if they think that the money is being wasted.” (Sen. Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok) Holds A Hearing On S. 2590, The Federal Funding Accountability And Transparency Act Of 2006, 7/19/06)
February 1998: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott “Welcome[s] The Conversation” On Entitlements Calls For Action. “So by all means, let’s talk about reforming social security. I welcome the conversation. But Americans want more than just talk. When it comes to entitlement reform, the president must close an enormous credibility gap. Actions speak louder than words.” (Majority Leader Trent Lott, Op-ed, “A real plan for Social Security,” The Washington Times, 2/2/98)
February 1996: Conversations About “Attaching A Large Entitlements Package To The Debt Ceiling Bill.” “A source added that during a meeting yesterday, House Speaker Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Dole ‘discussed the various ways to proceed in terms of what should be attached to the debt limit bill. … Most of the conversation revolved around the idea of attaching a large entitlements package to the debt ceiling bill.’” (“GOP Leadership Pushing To Put Entitlement Reform On Debt Limit Bill, Tax Cuts In ’97 Reconciliation Bill,” The White House Bulletin, 2/29/96)
December 1993: Conversations About Entitlements Took Place Almost 30 Years Ago. “Conventional wisdom says [former Rep. Marjorie] Margolies-Mezvinsky’s a goner in November. But she insists that ‘win or lose, I’ve won. My children will say she was only a blip on the radar screen, but she began a very important conversation.’ That conversation starts Monday and its focus is entitlements, the open-ended, ever-swelling federal programs for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, veterans, farmers, students, government pensioners – in short, the programs long viewed as the untouchable third rails of politics.” (Jill Lawrence, “Congresswoman Gets Her Payoff – A Day of Wonkery,” The Associated Press, 12/10/93)
Wealth is not Created at the Top: It is Only Devoured There
The UK has left the EU and we can argue about the minutiae of Wealth until we’re blue in the face. But the overriding factors are apparent and in one of the richest countries in the world it is shocking that so many people can’t even be sure if they are going to be able to eat enough today or provide for their loved ones.
These days, politicians from the left to the right assume that most wealth is created at the top. By the visionaries, by the job creators, and by the people who have “made it”. By the go-getters oozing talent and entrepreneurial-ism that are helping to advance the whole world – Opinion by Rutger Bregman
… across the spectrum virtually all agree that wealth is created primarily at the top and so entrenched is this assumption that it’s even embedded in our language. When economists talk about “productivity”, what they really mean is the size of your paycheck. And when we use terms like “welfare state”, “redistribution” and “solidarity”, we’re implicitly subscribing to the view that there are two strata: the makers and the takers, the producers and the couch potatoes, the hardworking citizens – and everybody else.
Bankers, pharmaceutical giants, Google, Facebook … a new breed of rentiers are at the very top of the pyramid and they’re sucking the rest of us dry
In reality, it is precisely the other way around. In reality, it is the waste collectors, the nurses, and the cleaners whose shoulders are supporting the apex of the pyramid. They are the true mechanism of social solidarity. Meanwhile, a growing share of those we hail as “successful” and “innovative” are earning their wealth at the expense of others. The people getting the biggest handouts are not down around the bottom, but at the very top. Yet their perilous dependence on others goes unseen. Almost no one talks about it. Even for politicians on the left, it’s a non-issue.
To understand why, we need to recognise that there are two ways of making money. The first is what most of us do: work. That means tapping into our knowledge and know-how (our “human capital” in economic terms) to create something new, whether that’s a takeout app, a wedding cake, a stylish updo, or a perfectly poured pint. To work is to create. Ergo, to work is to create new wealth.
But there is also a second way to make money. That’s the rentier way: by leveraging control over something that already exists, such as land, knowledge, or money, to increase your wealth. You produce nothing, yet profit nonetheless. By definition, the rentier makes his living at others’ expense, using his power to claim economic benefit.
But here comes the rub. Most rentiers are not as easily identified as the greedy banker or manager. Many are disguised. On the face of it, they look like industrious folks, because for part of the time they really are doing something worthwhile. Precisely that makes us overlook their massive rent-seeking…
The problems we face are that the politicians are firmly in the hands (pockets) of the uber wealthy. We live in a corporate plutocracy and those holding all the wealth and therefore power have no intention of changing the status quo, even if it isn’t sustainable. They remind me of bacteria (or cancer) devouring the host body more and more even though eventually it will kill them too.
Donald Trump Forgets Important Lesson From Grandad:
Harper’s Magazine reprints an interesting letter from US President Donald J. Trump’s own grandfather that may get you thinking. Here is it then:
The Emigrants – By Friedrich Trump – From a letter written in 1905 by Friedrich Trump, Donald Trump’s grandfather, to Luitpold, prince regent of Bavaria. Trump had been ordered to leave Bavaria for failing to complete mandatory military service and to register his initial emigration to the United States twenty years earlier.
Prince Luitpold rejected Trump’s request for repatriation; the family later settled in New York. Translated from the German by Austen Hinkley.
Most Serene, Most Powerful Prince Regent! Most Gracious Regent and Lord!
I was born in Kallstadt on March 14, 1869. My parents were honest, plain, pious vineyard workers. They strictly held me to everything good — to diligence and piety, to regular attendance in school and church, to absolute obedience toward the high authority.
After my confirmation, in 1882, I apprenticed to become a barber. I emigrated in 1885, in my sixteenth year. In America I carried on my business with diligence, discretion, and prudence. God’s blessing was with me, and I became rich. I obtained American citizenship in 1892. In 1902 I met my current wife. Sadly, she could not tolerate the climate in New York, and I went with my dear family back to Kallstadt.
The town was glad to have received a capable and productive citizen. My old mother was happy to see her son, her dear daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter around her; she knows now that I will take care of her in her old age.
But we were confronted all at once, as if by a lightning strike from fair skies, with the news that the High Royal State Ministry had decided that we must leave our residence in the Kingdom of Bavaria. We were paralyzed with fright; our happy family life was tarnished. My wife has been overcome by anxiety, and my lovely child has become sick.
Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family. What will our fellow citizens think if honest subjects are faced with such a decree — not to mention the great material losses it would incur. I would like to become a Bavarian citizen again.
In this urgent situation I have no other recourse than to turn to our adored, noble, wise, and just sovereign lord, our exalted ruler His Royal Highness, highest of all, who has already dried so many tears, who has ruled so beneficially and justly and wisely and softly and is warmly and deeply loved, with the most humble request that the highest of all will himself in mercy deign to allow the applicant to stay in the most gracious Kingdom of Bavaria.
Your most humble and obedient,
… Well then. Long ago, yes.. Still applies? You tell me.
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