2011-05-13 / Columnists

The Progressive

Commentary By John Paul Culotta

As I begin to consider my latest missive, my thoughts are on so many issues. I feel inadequate in addressing any one particular issue. I am also angry, as many of you are, at the state of political discourse. We are all in a state of confusion. Most Americans see some value in the positions of both major parties and, as in all times of severe economic distress, in some extremist viewpoints expressed! Fortunately, in American politics generally extremist viewpoints are not expressed by major party political leaders and possible presidential candidates. This is not true today. Many GOP presidential candidates are expressing and advocating ideas that are dangerous to our already frayed economic system.

This nation has suffered from the disastrous deregulation of our financial institutions and the Republicans are advocating weakening our already inadequate regulation.

This begs explanation and our political commentators need to grill these advocates of unregulated financial institutions. The Democrats also should be confronted with the almost incestuous relationship the Treasury secretary has with the corrupted miscreants and malefactors of Wall Street. Why can these men and women of Wall Street be so corrupt and incompetent and still be rewarded? Why weren’t there major indictments and possible convictions? Why is the Obama administration behaving in a similar way to the moderate Republicans of years past? Is there anyone besides Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaking for working Americans? Our society is in dire straits when the answer is to take away collective bargaining rights of unionized labor and the continued and harsh abuse of undocumented workers is allowed! It is a sick society that allows American children to be separated from their parents because they were born outside our borders and do not have authorization to reside here.

Some would change our revered constitution in order to read that birth within our borders does not ensure citizenship. American businesses and citizens have profited from the labor of these workers – we allowed our borders to be porous and, in effect, invited these people with our willingness to hire and exploit their labor. These people are not taking employment from Americans! Our corporations desired their labor in order to depress American wages and ensure antiunion success. Corporations shipped jobs overseas – not undocumented workers.

Americans, including this writer, were elated over the demise of the mastermind of the horrific attacks ten years ago. At the same time our rejoicing should and must be bittersweet if our foreign policy is a contributing factor in recruiting and justification of such violent evil acts by some outside our borders and homegrown sympathizers. This nation can ensure security and peace only when justice is a component of military and foreign policy tactics.

We need to address the confusion and misinformation regarding social security and Medicare. Paul Ryan’s budgetary ideas are not courageous or thoughtprovoking. The proposals would be similar to a family that is struggling to make ends meet, deciding to continue buying premium cable and luxury restaurant meals twice a week and not to buy pabulum for their infant child. The proposals are inhumane and a source of additional revenue to insurance companies that in the past has increased the cost of health care in this nation. All families when faced with financial shortfalls reduce expenditures and attempt to increase income by seeking additional employment, asking for raises, taking in boarders in the spare room, and selling valuables.

Our nation cannot continue cutting expenses and not increase revenue. Taxation of the more affluent in times of such economic misery is appropriate.

This nation needs to strengthen social security. Our social security system is solvent and strong and a valuable and essential vehicle of social cohesion and stability. Without a government program most disabled and elderly people would live in abject misery and indignity. We are too great to allow this to happen. America is great but can also be great and good! According to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare: “When the economy went into steep decline in 2009 pensions and other retirement savings such as 401(k)s lost as much as half of their worth. Housing values plummeted and food, bread, and energy costs rose. Social Security has remained the only financial security in these chaotic economic times for millions.” To fully fund Social Security we would have to spend 1.3% of Gross Domestic Product.

Again, according to the abovementioned organization: “The cost of fixing Social Security is about the same as the cost of making permanent the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%” and people are lead to believe the solution is to cut the amount and increase the retirement age for future recipients.

Privatizing Medicare for future recipients is a dangerous concept. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the additional costs to seniors would be greater under the voucher system proposed by Ryan and greater than Medicare under current calculations. It is time the political debate changes as to the nature and role of government. Government cannot abdicate the communal responsibilities of a nation in order to be solvent. Solvency entails hard decisions but should not be only for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many.

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