Lloyd Omdahl, Published December 06 2010
Omdahl: ‘Man up’ to debt crisisOK, folks, we’ve been challenged to “man up” to the national debt by the chairpersons of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission appointed by President Barack Obama. As we scramble on a fiscal precipice, it’s going to take some “manning up” to do the job. Every American will have to share the pain. We’ve all been at the trough too long.
On the table is a raft of painful fiscal corrections, including cutting general spending, eliminating deductions on income tax (including mortgage interest), bringing back the estate tax, cutting farm subsidies, raising the Social Security retirement age, discontinuing the Bush tax cuts, cutting Social Security benefits for the wealthy, and raising Social Security payroll deductions to $190,000. These proposals are being put before a pampered people, few of whom have had to tolerate pain of any kind, let alone in the pocketbook. It will be a hard sell.
Frankly, I’m ready to do whatever is necessary. They can subject all of my Social Security to the income tax instead of just 85 percent. They can raise my gas tax. They can even adjust my Medicare benefits or raise my premiums. (Besides, Medicare is a steal for everyone under the system. That’s why it is going broke.)
The first reaction to the Bowles-Simpson challenge was not about dealing with the deficit but about protecting shares of the government largesse. The conservatives don’t want to pay more taxes, and the liberals don’t want to look at entitlement programs. These “get it from somebody else” die-hards will be rearranging the deck chairs until the ship goes under.
When folks don’t like the message, they usually attack the messenger. If it is possible to discredit the messenger, the message itself is tainted, e.g., if Moses didn’t have hearings, the Ten Commandments are invalid. Often, these criticisms are thinly veiled efforts to sidetrack the whole debt-reduction effort. Well, the critics of the Bowles-Simpson proposals didn’t lose any time trying to discredit the messenger.
The first criticism to crop up was the use of staff members paid by interest groups harboring a conservative bias. So what? Actually, the point is irrelevant considering the broad options that the Commission put forward for consideration. These interest groups are not going to have the last word. There is still room for ideological balance.
Let’s admit it. Americans have been living too high on the hog for decades – cheap energy, low prices and plenty of money. Well, the hog is disappearing. It is time for this generation to pay its own way instead of passing the burden to the next generation. At least 90 percent of us can pay for a share of this debt without threatening our materialistic lifestyle. The rich and the less-rich can pay more. So can I.
America is a pretty good place. Even if we received fewer benefits and paid higher taxes, it would still beat out any other country in the world for privileges, rights and opportunities. So quit griping! The Bowles-Simpson Commission has given us fair warning that this place is in serious trouble unless we man up, and there is nothing in Scripture that guarantees the existence of the United States. When the country gets repossessed by its creditors, we will all wish we had done more. So will our kids.
Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor and a retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org