I got another email from a Republican I love complaining about the USA becoming a “socialist” country. So, I had to respond…I don’t want the USA to be a “socialist” country with uber high taxes…that isn’t the country I want, but it’s not the country we have?! That’s the part I don’t understand. It’s a disconnect from reality. I also realized that people confuse the definition of “socialism” all the time – are they talking about our economic system? Or, are they talking about our government? They are different. So, I decided to address both in rambling email fashion.
I started my response with tax rates, because that is what the right always seems to rant about. Compared to effective tax rates of yester year, we are at the lowest rates in my lifetime - yes, lower than under Reagan. For comparison purposes, I randomly looked up the tax rates of other countries that seemed like nice places to live – except China (I picked them because everyone is freaking out about China and I was curious about their rates). What I found is that our federal income tax rates are really low, even compared to China’s. And, given all the banter on both sides, we are going to be lowering corporate rates, too. So, I’m not sure HOW LOW Republicans want it to go? When is enough enough? Why aren’t Republicans happy – rates are at historic lows? Democrats are disappointed because the Bush tax rates should have expired after 10 years. That was the deal. (It had to do with time limits when forcing through legislation in the budget reconciliation process, meant to limit deficits, blah blah blah – it’s was a big GOP coo that grew the deficit.) We cut taxes and increased our defense spending, expanded entitlement programs and diminished regulations that spiraled our economy out of control. We decreased the money coming in and increased the money going out. And, we are fighting over fixing that dynamic. So, I guess no one is getting what they want? Things just need to be simplified – no loop holes. No one wants higher taxes, but sometimes we need them to pay for our national priorities. Why not have a thresh-hold per se – if our treasury has a specific % of $ to GDP, we get a tax cut? If our treasury is bare, we get a tax increase? If we go to war, volunteer to serve or pay a tax? I bet our elected officials would manage our money a little better if there were actual and immediate consequences.
Regardless if our tax rates go up a few percentage points or not, we will never be a socialist country. Never. But, we are social people with social programs to take care of each other – the hungry kids, the poor & elderly, our vets. We are the wealthiest nation on earth and, in my opinion, we have a responsibility not to turn our back on them. We also have a committment to our communities – our schools, our parks, our transportation and water systems, etc. 10 years ago, we could afford it – we were paying our bills and our country was humming along. I didn’t think I was paying too much – did you? We were doing well. Today, our country’s struggling to get out of a gigantic hole, but we’re doing it. We can come together to build great things and accomplish great things – we have created amazing technologies and infrastructure that only our government can provide. Our government is not in the business of making a profit, but they can and do make the initial investments to create things – big things. Then, businesses come in and make those things specialized and more efficient and charge more money, so they can make a profit. Access vs. efficiency. Our government provides services for all the people for as cheap as possible. Businesses provide specialized services that are typically quicker and more expensive. It is a ying-yang that differentiates our country from others. Our economy is a hybrid of social-capitalism (free markets regulated by the government). It always has been and always will be.
Striking the right balance is really the nuance we argue about day-to-day. Where it gets tricky is when government wants to regulate/compete in an industry that makes a lot of money (healthcare) or government is the only one who can infuse cash into a dying industry (auto) and then the debate heats up – as it should, because we’re a democracy. But, those cases are not the norm, they’re the exception. Government is the last resort. The healthcare industry is making a lot of money off of people who are sick. We can’t be a country who denies poor people coverage or old people dignity or sick kids access that you and I have when it comes to their health, can we? It’s not like other industries. It’s a very personal and desperate situation that affects peoples lives and loved ones. It doesn’t feel right to me that insurance companies make such large profits at the expense of people’s lives, so I think we should fix it. Not to change what you have, but to give people (like your daughter) other options. Basic care that is not about making obscene profits. It shouldn’t be a whole scary thing for people – Obama wasn’t advocating socialist medicine, just a public option for basic coverage at an affordable cost. But, he didn’t even do it. He walked away from that approach, but his policy was still twisted and distorted for political reasons. What he implemented was Mitt Romney’s plan, which is a variation of Nixon’s plan that Newt Gingrich made millions lobbying in favor of the individual mandate – all REPUBLICANS?! And, now Obama’s accused of being a “socialist.” It’s a joke.