Americans seem to be in an ideological death grip: On one side are those who want to minimize the role of the federal government; on the other are those who see government intervention as not just helpful but necessary.
I happen to be among those who think a strong federal government is essential to a just and prosperous society.
So why do I have to accept any of the other side’s ideology? I know “compromise” sounds good, that many Americans find comfort in the concept. But I do not believe the country would benefit from a “deal” to avoid that “fiscal cliff” we’ve been hearing about.
I believe there is only one way to go if Americans really want to solve their country’s economic problems. It might seem weird- and drastic. But, hear me out. You might find I make sense.
Let’s start with Obamacare. The Republicans want it gone. So let’s get rid of it. And let’s “reform” Medicare while we’re at it. Medicaid, too.
No, I don’t mean slashing health benefits or raising the age of Medicare eligibility. And I don’t for a moment propose denying health care to all Americans. I mean expanding Medicare to cover everybody, thus making Obamacare – and Medicaid – unnecessary.
I believe expanding the Medicare base like that would cost nothing. Indeed, it would help keep Medicare solvent for the long term.
Now, let’s look at taxes.
Simply put, taxes cover the cost of the services government provides. If Americans do not want to pay taxes, they will have to do without services. Or pay a fee every time they use those services. There’s no other way of looking at it.
How about a referendum on the amenities the government provides – from highways, bridges and dams to power grids and electronic networks, from school lunches and food stamps to aircraft carriers and drones? Print out a long list with the cost of each service and ask the public to select those they’re willing to pay for – and how much.
You might even ask the public whether they want to pay taxes and drive on free roads or pay tolls when they use the roads. The same philosophy could be applied to public parks, beaches, even police protection. Do we want to pay every time we call the cops or pay up front in taxes? How about fire protection? I understand that in some rural communities, you have to pay to get the firefighters out to your house.
And isn’t that the underlying principle of the for-profit health care system we have now?
I bet the majority of the American people will be benevolent – not selfish. I believe they would expect the rich to pay a little more in taxes and the poor to pay a little less. I believe they would want the poor to have as much right to public amenities as the rich, to get the same care when they’re sick, to have the same access to roads and the same protection from law enforcement and fire departments.
I believe the majority of Americans would agreed that building highways and power grids is more productive than blowing up children in faraway lands.
Of course, cuts in defense spending would cost jobs. America is the world’s leading weapons manufacturer and is now a net importer of food.
Is that the country Americans really want? Perhaps we should find out.
My bet is that most Americans would rather have jobs in green energy industries, infrastructure-related projects, scientific research and technological development than in defense plants. I believe they’re ready to bring their loved ones home from Afghanistan and close those expensive – and redundant – military bases scattered hither and thither around the globe.
While we’re at it, we should find out how Americans want to be taxed. Most people hate the income tax; it hangs over our heads every year like the sword of Damocles. I think many of us would prefer to pay a consumption tax – add a few dollars every time we go to the store. To ease the impact on the poor, I would suggest taxing luxury items more than necessities – even exempting such items as food and children’s clothing. (Personally, I would prefer the government to collect its taxes at the source – through excise taxes and import tariffs. But I might be in the minority. And it might be too late to reverse globalism now.)
How about asking the American public to choose the method they like best (or, rather, dislike least)?
I know it sounds like a monstrous task, but we could do it. After all, we’re constantly hearing what Americans think about this or that. Polling is constantly going on. Let’s use the polls to do something useful for a change. And then do whatever the people really want.
It’s called democracy.
Of course – come to think of it – we already had a referendum and the American people have spoken. They re-elected Barack Obama.