As Europe forces austerity on debt-ridden Greece, our leaders hesitate to force austerity — and fiscal responsibility — on debt-threatened America.
Talks in Washington last week focused on how to avoid the fiscal cliff and it’s forced austerity, not how to use it as leverage to pass a painful, long-term solution to our staggering debt crisis.
Republicans talked about avoiding tax increases and cuts to Pentagon spending. Democrats talked about taxing the rich and avoiding cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other social programs. Corporate CEOs talked about cutting corporate taxes and avoiding the fiscal cliff because it may affect profits and hiring.
Let’s wipe out the debt and curb deficit spending with no pain for anyone.
When first elected to the Senate by Kentucky, Tea Party hero Rand Paul called for freezing federal hiring, cutting federal employment by 10 percent, and reducing federal salaries by 10 percent.
“The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year,” he said. “The average private employee makes $60,000 a year. Let’s get them more in line, and let’s find savings.”
You don’t see that idea in any of the deals being promoted by Democrats or Republicans, even though personnel costs are one of the major factors in federal spending.
The Bush tax cuts added trillions of dollars to the federal debt and took thousands off the federal income tax rolls. Nobody argues to let all those tax cuts expire to reduce the deficit and expand the tax base.
While Medicare and Social Security are paid for by payroll taxes, the long-term projections for these programs show they will add significantly to federal deficits. The talk in Washington, however, centers on whether to continue the current 2 percent cut in payroll taxes, not how to make these programs fully funded.
Then there are those subsidies for agriculture, oil and whatnot that add to the deficit but whose supporters demand they continue.
Everybody wants somebody else to bear the cost and the pain of fiscal reform. What this inevitably means to our politicians is “let’s kick this can down the road again.”
“I think there will be something, but it will be very temporary,” said retiring deficit hawk Congressman Ron Paul (Rand Paul’s father). “It won’t restore confidence and fix the problem.”
The recent meeting of top leaders focused on a “framework” and with specifics pushed to the future. If that’s what Washington is about to try, Americans should bow up. Going over the fiscal cliff would be better in the long run.
You see, it’s going to take pain to fix our fiscal problems, either terrible pain from going over the fiscal cliff or sustained pain from a long-term solution.
Kicking the can is the easy, futile fix Greece tried for too long. Shall we become Greece 2?
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.