Thanksgiving is our harvest festival. Originally, it was the day we set aside to recognize and appreciate the bounty of our land and the richness of the harvest. It is a good thing to do.
In this modern industrial era, however, we recognize and are thankful not just for God’s goodness but for the ingenuity of our innovators, the risk taking of our investors, and the productivity of our workers, as well as the farmer’s harvest. On those grounds, we have some problems.
Our economy continues to produce great wealth but a fair share is not going to the people who produce it. Total real output may be large ($13 .4 trillion) and more than twice what it was in 1980 ($5.8 trillion), but the the working people of America have seen very little of that $7.5 trillion increase. As a consequence, the working people of America are suffering a depression – a depression that the 1% and the politicians don’t seem to have noticed. That’s nothing to be thankful for.
Yet, there is good news, and I have much hope. The governing elite, the politicians and that 1%, have made such a mess of things that they have awakened the American people. The Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street are Americans, both right and left, who care about our country and how it is governed. Politicians beware, the citizenry is doing this outside the confines of our broken political system.
Both sets of protesters are having a real impact. We must be thankful that real Americans have shoved. As a result, the national dialogue has been able to move on from the fraudulent debt/deficit fandango to the real problems of jobs, income inequality and growth.
Neither the deficit nor the job crisis was the focus of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Debt Ceiling Deal). That deal was set up to absorb the political heat to cut spending and decrease the deficit. The politicians were afraid to choose between cutting entitlement spending and cutting taxes for the rich. Neither political party would yield and the Congressional super committee failed. So, hooray! That is something to really be thankful for.
The super committee was a bad idea, outside the rules and probably unconstitutional. Any instability in the stock market is more likely to be a response to the euro’s problems in Greece. The much feared Wall Street bond vigilantes are still willing to lend the United States government all the money it wants at the almost cruel interest rate of 2%, or less.
Be thankful, the failure to agree was the smart thing to do! Think about the options. Option one, if the super committee had succeeded, Congress would have agreed to reduce the budget by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. That was not a whole lot and it included no revenue increases.
Now that the super committee has failed, option two kicks in, setting up $1.5 trillion worth of automatic cuts that are supposed to occur over the next 10 years. If you really care about the debt, that is the better deal. Besides, half of that will come from the Defense Department budget while there are important exemptions for Social Security, Medicare and some other entitlements.
If you really, really care about deficits, and you want something to be thankful for, then go for the third option. Let the Bush era tax cuts expire as they are scheduled to at the end of 2012. That will cut the deficit and debt by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. And the cut will be in taxes which have minimal effect on jobs. Now that would be something to be thankful for.
For a lot of people, these are hard times. They, and we, can be thankful that we still have in place many of the New Deal measures that were created to soften the impact of hard times. Were it not for the 45 million Americans getting food stamps, we would see far more soup kitchens and sandwich lines. I remember the unemployed, hungry men coming to the back door of our house and begging for food. Sometimes my mother could give them a jelly sandwich – and sometimes she couldn’t. So be thankful that we now have unemployment compensation, the right to organize and bargain collectively and all those regulations that protect us in an industrial society.
Be thankful for Social Security, that crown jewel of the New Deal. And be thankful for Medicare and Medicaid, the modern additions. These programs keep 13 million elderly Americans out of destitution and provide otherwise completely unavailable health care.
Partisan politicians have little to be happy about this Thanksgiving. They are being called to task. Bankers are, unfortunately, still celebrating their profits and bonuses. A year from now an aroused citizenry should be thankful for the downfall of both.
Let us also be thankful for all our freedoms, especially the freedom of speech and the Lebanon Daily News.