July 22, 2011


The debt negotiations in Washington look like a train wreck. In slow motion. They have a certain balletic quality to them, like the train wreck scene in the movie Super 8. Unless one of those five-ton pieces of twisted metal happens to land on you.

In a sense, it’s our fault. Nature abhors a vacuum, and politics abhors a policy vacuum. Since the 112th Congress took office, there has been a policy vacuum among the Democratics. The Republicans are trying to fill that vacuum, with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Maybe we should try to fill that vacuum. I’d like to see us concentrate on helping the 23 million Americans who can’t find full-time work, the 50 million Americans who can’t see a doctor when they are sick, and the 15 million American families who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their homes.

The other side only wants to talk about the deficit, the deficit, the deficit. It’s what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has called “deficit fetishism.”

But as I said a couple of days ago, if you did feel compelled to save $2 trillion over the next ten years, there’s an easy, painless way to do it: PEACE.

And that’s not the only way. Off the top of my head, here are a few other things, each one of which would save up to $1 trillion, or more, over the next ten years:

We could let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. (“No! No!” shout the Koch brothers.)
We could let Medicare negotiate the price of drugs, the way that the VA and private insurance companies already do.
We could require the rich to pay the same percentage of their income toward Social Security and Medicare as the poor and the middle class do. Not a higher percentage – my God, that would be progressive taxation! Just the same percentage.
We could impose the same alternative minimum tax on giant corporations that we mere humans must pay.
We could reduce U.S. military spending to a paltry 40% of the world’s total, from the current 48%, which would still leave us spending four times as much as any other nation.
We could make Warren Buffett pay the same tax rate on his income as his secretary pays on hers, by eliminating the long-term capital gains tax break, the great majority of which goes to the hyper-rich.

What do you think? How would you save the money? I’d like to hear your answers.

Do you see that button below that says “Tell Alan What You Think”? Go ahead and click it. I swear to you that it is not connected to any type of electronic shock device. Who do you think I am, Dick Cheney?

Whatever your answer on how to reduce the deficit might be, I’m pretty sure that you won’t say that we should cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. You wouldn’t throw Grandma from the train. Unlike some people.

Unlike the 235 Republican House members who voted for the Ryan budget in April, for instance.


Alan Grayson