We’re a Nation—Not a Family
I’ve listened as our powerful pundits and legislators assert that our government—like families facing difficult economic challenges—must ‘tighten our belt’ and stop out-of-control spending. I agree that there is much waste, fraud and abuse that could and should be addressed, but indiscriminant spending cuts are not the answer.
We (the unprivileged majority) have tightened our belts, and then done so again. We’ve absorbed the drop in our retirement plans, the devaluation of our homes, and the increased prices we are paying for almost everything—even though economic ‘experts’ assure us there is no inflationary trend. We’ve gone without pay raises, bonuses and COLA increases and some—perhaps many—of us have jumped on the current bandwagon of screaming about our collective ‘national debt crisis.’
When Congress received a mandate last November, what many of ‘we the people’ demanded was Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! But what Congress evidently heard from our collective voice was “birth certificates, abortion legislation, greedy public servants, ‘be-very-afraid-of-the-other” and NATIONAL DEBT CRISIS.” Obviously what we said was mis-heard or intentionally misinterpreted.
If the powers-that-be really want to use the nation/family meme, there are several important issues to consider:
When we’ve tightened our belts (as a family), cut back, cut out and then cut some more, the solution remaining is to raise revenue. Stay-at-home Moms enters the work force; Dads gets a 2nd or weekend job; teenage son, John, spends weekends mowing other people’s lawns; and little Susie opens a lemonade stand. New college graduates rush right out to McDonald’s and get themselves a job. The experience they gain there allows them to then take a second job at Burger King and they’re cruisin’ on easy-street (as long as Mom and Dad let them live at home.)
When cuts and conservation are not enough, added revenue is the solution to be considered before abandoning the comforts of home and moving into a cardboard box in the nearest alleyway. A family has limited resources–we can only hold 2 or 3 jobs at most; with a challenged economy, our formerly valuable assets—our homes, our collectibles, our garage-sale contributions, our college degrees—are not very valuable; and whatever nest-egg we had put away for hard times has been expended. Indeed, we continue to run out of money before we run out of month if we are the majority who live paycheck-to-paycheck. So you powerful people who cannot see beyond your own bloated wallets, THINK AGAIN! Don’t ask us (the nation) to do with less, recognize that it is time to increase revenue.
If you don’t—or for ideological reasons, won’t—increase revenues, then consider where ‘sacrifice’ should truly begin. In the family scenario, ask yourselves this: will belt-tightening be better served by asking little Susie to forgo her favorite brand of breakfast cereal ($4/box) in favor of the generic house-brand ($2/box). The ‘family savings’ over the course of a month (2 boxes/month) might amount to a whopping $4. On the other hand, if Working Mom or Working Dad sacrifices a morning Starbucks Latte and muffin ($5-$7 per morning), the ‘family savings’ would be on the order of $140-$180 per month. So leading-by-example would demand that Mom/Dad forgo the daily on-the-run breakfast before little Susie is required to sacrifice her morning bowl of FruitLoops. Let’s see that same sort of sacrifice from our leaders—those people who work for us, you know . . . Legislators (both federal and state) . . . doing the people’s business. Yeah, you guys! Lead by example. You’ve asked US to sacrifice. Well let’s see some sacrifice from you.
Let’s start with an across-the-board paycut. We (as a Nation) cannot afford to continue those bloated salaries you’ve legislated for yourselves. Fortunately, you are not unionized, so we won’t have to deal with any collective bargaining issues. When the boss says, “Take a paycut or take a walk” (didn’t that happen recently in some of our Midwestern states?), COMPLY.
Next we need to address all those perks—those entitlements that ‘come with the job.’ We don’t need to deal with no stinkin’ union to tell you that these entitlements—travel budgets, retirement and healthcare contributions, office staffing, franking privileges, Congressional dining rooms, banks, barbers and bottled water—are just not sustainable! WHACK! Gone! Tighten those legislative belts. You don’t want to be accused of welfare, do you? Why should we pay you lifetime retirement and healthcare benefits for what is oftentimes very limited and/or non-productive years of service. Allowing you to contribute to your own retirement and participate in a healthcare plan—paid for out of YOUR pocket, not ours—should be compensation enough, and would be a true expression of the wonderfulness of free markets. You DO want some skin in the game, don’t you?
Productivity is another issue that should apply to the goose as well as the gander. Statistics show that American ‘productivity’ increases year over year. The American worker produces more and more, with less and less, and his reward is being able to continue doing so. Wages have stagnated or declined; unemployment continues to rise . . . but the American worker is reminded how lucky he/she is to have a job. Let us so remind you. You work for us; you’re lucky to have a job . . . and we, your boss(es), the American taxpayer . . . want to see your productivity increase. We want you to work harder. If you work hard enough, we’ll reward you with the same two-to-three weeks vacation most of us receive (not the 12-15 weeks, or more, you currently receive). We want you to do more with less. Let’s see you reduce your office staff by 10-15%. You, personally, can pick up the slack . . . answer your constituents’ phone calls and e-mails yourselves—in the evening—after you’ve spent 8 hours doing ‘the peoples’ work’. You will still be allowed to use all your free time (between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and weekends) for fund-raising or campaigning. And please be grateful that all left-over hours can be spent with your family. Tell THEM (your family) to be grateful, too.
And finally, let’s talk transparency. We, the American people are constantly surveilled, as you use the boogiemen of fear and national security to enact restrictive legislation. From traffic cameras to assurances from our bosses that all e-mail and phone conversations sent or received while ‘at work’ may be monitored. We’d like the same transparency from OUR employees—YOU! We’d like to know who is offering you what in the paradigm of quid pro quo. We’d like to see what you really think about your boss(es). Are we sheeple? Simpletons? We don’t do ‘complicated’? Inquiring minds want to know how you portray us to your peers and your benefactors. We’ll add “attitude” to our criteria when it’s time to evaluate your job performance and consider whether we’ll re-new your (non-union, non-negotiable) contract. We’ve spent almost three decades awaiting the miracle of trickle-down economics. Now let’s try some trickle-down leadership. You want us to tighten our belts? Then lead by example. When your middle is so squeezed you look like an hour-glass, we’ll follow.
Until then, you might abandon your false equivalency that the Nation is the same as a family. Our Nation is tremendously wealthy—filled with both natural and human resources. You allow our natural resources to be exploited for the benefit of a few (selling OUR oil for a pittance to the extractors in exchange for some future perk of personal benefit to you and your ilk). You allow our workforce to be decimated, sending our jobs off-shore to the lowest bidder so your benefactors can garner even greater profits. You allow foreign interests to despoil our environment, and fail to punish them for harm done. You allow criminals (the banksters and their captured regulators) to empty the treasury, and then reconstitute them and reward them with our monies. You fail to nurture our abundance of human resources (our children, our middle class, our retirees who underpinned it all). You think by shouting loudly enough “OUT OF CONTROL SPENDING”, we will not recognize that demand (or lack of demand through austerity measures) is the only driver that will solve our fiscal crisis. Demand = jobs = revenue. What do you not understand about that simple equation?
You sit in your insular bubble, never truly daring to engage your boss. (Yeah, we saw how our federal legislators high-tailed it back to DC after the most recent ‘reform Medicare’ adventure as well as last summer’s ‘healthcare’ debate.) Until you recognize that every one of your wealthy benefactors still casts only a single vote in your behalf, you will not acknowledge that the anger roiling in the middle-class sea of voters will ultimately determine ‘Who’s the boss.” You think that we, the unwashed masses, don’t DO COMPLICATED.” Quite frankly, that is (or should be) part of your job description. Uncomplicate the issues and teach us . . . tell us the truth . . . give us enough information so ‘we the people’ can guide our democracy. Don’t divide us and swamp us with ‘talking points’ handed out by your handlers and ideologues. You do so at your own peril. We—the Nation, the people—are not the same as a family. Families are part of the nation. Individually, we’ll struggle and sacrifice and work hard to maintain our families . . . but the nation is greater than the sum of its parts. We elected you to handle these greater issues. But since you claim that we are part of the problem, we also demand to be part of the solution. We may have ceded to you the authority to represent us; we didn’t cede that power to the bankers and CEOs and former legislators-turned-corporate-shills. Remember from whence your power is derived.