My Republican senator, Rob Portman, is soliciting public input for the congressional supercommittee in charge of cutting the federal budget and (mostly likely) ripping our economy to shreds in the process. Channeling Don Quixote, I wrote him to say what I’d do if Empress Sungold were put in charge. It’s more wonky – and more earnest – than is typical for Kittywampus. If you get through it without snoozing, I’m interested in what you would do as a member of the supercommittee. (If you’re an Ohio resident, you can give Senator Portman a piece of your mind, too.)
Here’s Empress Sungold’s plan (edited to add a few links):
In a word: Jobs. Reviving our economy and stimulating employment has to come before austerity.
Our economy is still stagnating. Unemployment remains very high, both in Ohio and nationally. It would be a dire mistake to introduce spending cuts right now. In the short run, we need revenue increases. Please listen to Warren Buffett and Bill Gates when they say that the very rich must pony up; they’re right! There is no excuse for tax breaks for corporate jets when Medicaid and school funding are being cut.
In addition to closing loopholes and raising taxes on those who make at least a half-million per year, we need targeted stimulus. There’s much still to be done for our conventional infrastracture (just check out the potholes here in Athens sometime). We also need a massive forward-looking investment in non-conventional infrastructure, including renewable energy. We already have great solar and wind companies right here in Ohio, but the sector needs to be vastly scaled up, with your S. 1000 being a good start, but only a start. We need investments in our schools. We need to fully fund Medicaid, Head Start, and women’s health services such as Planned Parenthood, because an emerging generation of sickly and ignorant Americans will not be able to build a strong country – and because short-term cuts too often lead to greater expenses in the long run, when diseases are diagnosed and treated only at a later stage. These are just a few of the areas where investing in our country through a second stimulus program will both address structural weaknesses in our economy and society, and put people back to work.
We need to bring unemployment down not only because it’s right and humane, but also because our economy requires a kick-start. As Henry Ford knew way back in the early 1900s, workers are also consumers who will drive demand. Without a rise in consumer demand our economy is doomed to years more of stagnation.
To address the crisis that brought down our economy in the first place and prevent a reprise of it, we need more stringent controls on Wall Street. Unbelievably, the big firms are more deeply invested in derivatives now than they were in 2008! At the same time, we need relief for homeowners facing foreclosure, helping them refinance their mortgages and possibly also write off part of the mortgage in cases where they’re underwater. This, too, would enable consumers to spend, helping stimulate a recovery, while also reducing the burden of toxic securities on the banks.
Plans should be made to control the deficit over the long-term, with deficit reduction taking a backseat to recharging our economy. An aggressive short-term policy of austerity would kill any chance at recovery; this is basic macroeconomics.
Deficit reduction must be done through a combination of revenue increases and selective cuts. Revenue should come primarily through raising taxes on the rich (as described above) and through the increased tax receipts that will come with people being back to work. The current payroll tax cuts should be maintained past January for their stimulatory effect; once the economy is growing again, the regular rates should be reinstated, and the ceiling above which income is exempt from FICA should be raised, perhaps to $150,000.
The main area where we can cut without harming our citizens is military spending. No country in the world spends anywhere near what we do on “defense,” which has become a code word for empire. We need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to scrutinize which military expenditures really help keep us safe within our borders, and which ones predominantly allow us to project our power.
Thanks for listening to my ideas, Senator Portman! I wish you luck with your difficult task.