As the American general elections approach, the choices facing voters are coming into focus. It seems to me that the paths we are being asked to follow lead in entirely different directions. And how we mark those ballots will decide where we go from here.
We must be very careful because I don’t think we can turn back once we pick the path we want to follow.
Obviously, America’s available resources cannot meet all its needs.
The way we invest our scarce resources will determine our future. And the choices we make will depend on our priorities.
To Republicans, the way to solvency is through preserving a robust entrepreneurial class at any cost. If that means slashing social programs and letting children go hungry, that’s just too bad. If some old folks have to eat cat food, why, that’s what they will have to do.
If we must let the schools deteriorate and layoff thousands of teachers…
If we must turn the mentally ill loose to starve on the streets, and leave the sick to die if they cannot afford medical care…
If we must go without adequate police protection and firefighting resources…
If we must bring back child labor, eliminate trade unions, drive down wages to the level of the overseas competition…
If we must allow the entrepreneurial class to make its own rules, exploit workers, consumers and small investors, and pollute the environment at will…
If that’s what it takes, the Republicans are prepared to accept it. Apparently, they see it as the price they must pay to keep the “job creators” from abandoning America in a global economy.
The way President Obama and the Democrats see it, there is a better path to follow.
Their priorities are different. They put the American people – the 300 million-plus who are not entrepreneurs or financiers – first. They believe they can find a way to manage the nation’s debt and generate economic growth without caving in to the draconian demands of the so-called “job creators.”
They believe they can generate economic revival from the bottom up, by helping ordinary Americans with extraordinary skills and innovative ideas develop new sources of revenue, and by investing in the infrastructure that regrowth requires – new roads, new bridges, a new electric power grid, alternative energy and more efficient means of transportation, for example.
To do this, they must gamble on the American people’s ingenuity and resourcefulness because it will mean deferring action on deficit reduction. The national debt will have to go on the back burner for now – alarming as that prospect may be.
And to prime the economic pump, millionaires and billionaires will have to pay a little more taxes.
Admittedly it’s a gamble. Some of the super-rich could take their money overseas, as the Republicans fear.
But if the gamble pays off, if the American people rise to the challenge, there would be more than enough to handle the debt. Enough to do without the defecting “job creators,” enough to ensure a vibrant and compassionate society.
If not… I don’t want to go there.
But I don’t think the Republican alternative is a better bet.
The entrepreneurial class has so far been unable or unwilling to solve America’s problems. The vast majority of the jobs they create have not been in America. The money they’ve made has gone to themselves and their friends; it has not “trickled down” to the rest of us. If we follow the Republican path and sacrifice our children, our sick, our old and our mentally ill on the altar of their greed, how do you think they will repay us?
Do you think they care about the national debt? Or the deficit? Or the welfare of this country?
I wouldn’t bet on it.