Sunday was the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. I had a lovely white Bordeaux last night with some extra sharp Cheddar cheese and it was quite lovely. I made it through the 40 days and here I am.
Am I different? Maybe. I know that I am feeling the need to comment on certain things...things I usually close my mouth about and trust that people who know better than I do will do the right thing.
My country is in a mess. Our government is divisive and would rather engage in pointing fingers at the other side than getting serious and really trying to fix things. People are so overwhelmed with information that they can't be sure who is telling the truth or what will help. Every paycheck I have less and less discretionary money as the basics in my world are costing more and more. I work for a quasi government agency, so the general public thinks I'm overpaid and have better benefits than they do. I may have better benefits, I will give them that. But they aren't free. I pay a portion of my premium. My out of pocket has increased. My co pay on prescriptions has increased and that's just my health care. I haven't had a raise, not even a COLA in 3 years. Food is more expensive. Gasoline is more expensive. Any day now, I expect my rent to go up - and then I'll have to move. Because I just can't do more.
There are a lot of reasons for the current economic state. You can look it all up. The Mortgage bubble, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, the Bush tax cuts, the Clinton tax increases, NAFTA, China, Medicare, Social Security, Boomers, children of boomers, Me generations, You generations...yours mine ours....So here's my take on it.
30 years ago, a man named Ronald Reagan was elected President. He promised to bring a new morning to America. He built his economic policy based on the Chicago School of Economics and a guy named Milton Friedman. It was called supply side economics. This was kind of how it was supposed to work. Give people more control over their money. Take less in taxes and people will use that surplus to buy more goods, but they will also contribute more to non-profit organizations that support the causes they care about. The government wouldn't have to worry about better schools, better hospitals and health care, better assistance programs for the poor. Corporations would support their communities with the vast amounts of money they would now have - and jobs - well jobs would be everywhere! And unions wouldn't be around anymore because those altruistic employers would take care of their employees - because at heart we all want to do the right thing.
30 years later, I think it's safe to say that those policies have failed. Investment and job creation has not happened. Prosperity is still for a few and those few are even farther away from the rest of us. The gap between the have and the have nots is as wide as I can ever remember it being. And those at the top are so out of touch with the rest of us, they can't even imagine the things we have to cope with.
Just look at a few celebrity blogs like Gwyneth Paltrow. She's out there telling young mom's it's possible to be just like her - all you need is a chef, a trainer, a nanny and good genes. Does she honestly even hear herself when she says things like "Pumpkin soup, grilled market vegetables. It’s good. I get my chef to cook it."
I know there are good people out there, people who do invest their time and their money in making a better world for all, not just for some or for those like them. I know that times are tough for small businesses. And I know that everyone is looking for a little relief. But I think it's time to look at some hard facts.
The poor DO pay takes and the rich DO NOT bear the burden.
No one lives tax free. Even if you don't pay income tax because you simply don't earn more than $9350 ( 18,700 for married couples) - there are still taxes; alcohol tax, gas tax, sales tax, property tax, etc. As for the wealthy, while the top 10 percent do pay a 38% tax rate, income tax is not the entire tax burden. Social Security, Medicare and unemployment are mostly paid by the rest of us. As for income tax, the wealthy have loopholes, tax shelters, and manage to look broke on paper - they actually pay little or no income tax.
Is it any surprise that since Reagan, the rich are the only ones who have gotten richer? Since 1980, the average income in America has increased 1%. Those at the top? Their income has nearly doubled.
Corporations? Well, they're people too. Corporate profits are up, but thanks to loopholes and tax breaks, their taxes are down nearly 23% since 2000. And the tax breaks there have not created jobs. In fact they have destroyed them. Imagine you're a corporation. You have a profit which you can reinvest in your company or you can hand it out in bonuses to your execs and dividends to your stockholders. If you tax rate is 23% less than it was last year, then why would you try to reduce your profits by reinvesting?
Quite simply - our government has failed us. They have failed to create a smarter tax system and failed to develop smarter spending policies. The average America works longer hours and have fewer benefits for their work than most other countries. While those countries arguable have higher tax rates than we do, they also get more from their taxes. They have national health care systems. Retirees are not unfairly burdened. Education is low cost or free and does not drive the next generation into debt before they are even employed.
It's time to develop a system in this country that benefits the majority, reduces risk due to illness or job loss, and provides universal health care.
I want our government to stop debating about who or what caused it and get serious about fixing it.