Friday, October 21, 2011

Help Yourself?

The 32nd President of The United States was the legendary, by some accounts great, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was affectionately known to the masses as “FDR.” FDR became President during a horrible economic time for America.  FDR took office in 1933, immediately following the stock market crash of 1929.   From 1929 to 1933 the economy had basically hit rock bottom.  FDR was faced with a very tall task.  During his first 100 days in office, FDR introduced "The New Deal." One of the key initiatives of the deal was to provide relief to the poor. As a result of this new deal, many social programs were introduced  and government spending drastically increased.  Times got better, but people were still out of work. Unemployment was horrible. It made some believe that more spending had no direct relation to more jobs. Opponents of the new deal believed that the government should not be spending such large amounts of money on social programs.  Does this sound familiar?  Should the government spend money to stimulate the economy, or should the government lessen the tax burden on wealthy individuals allowing them to hire people and invest money back into the economy? Let's look at both sides of this debate.

In today's' America, the top 1% of Americans basically control most of the wealth. Sit down and think about that for a minute. Some of these individuals want the government out of their pockets, and want to cut social programs.  Why not? The rich don't want you in their pockets. They have worked very hard for that money. Social programs do not promote work, it can be said that it promotes laziness. Those individuals need to carry their own weight. 

Logically speaking, this country was founded on principles of shared sacrifice.  The top percentage should not have an issue with paying more in tax. It would also seem logical that these individual would care about the less fortunate, elderly, disabled and children in America.  Taxing the rich and cutting government spending creates class warfare.  It would be crazy to expect a family of four, making $50,000, to pay the same amount in taxes, as a family of four making $500,000 a year.  That seems a little unbalanced, biased, and “un-American.”  We need social programs. We need health care; we cannot have a sick society. We need social security; we want our seniors to live a good life. We need welfare; every person does not have the same opportunity. FDR once said, "Help the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid."

In 2011, many Republicans and conservatives feel the government should cut back on spending and lower the tax rate on wealthy Americans.  Herman Cain and Rick Perry, both Republican primary opponents, have discussed the adoption of a flat tax.  A flat tax basically requires every American to have the exact same tax rate. Our current tax system is progressive, meaning the wealthier American pays higher rates.  A flat tax will lessen the tax burden on wealthy individuals and decrease government spending on so-called “worthless” programs. In a nutshell the wealthy American will keep more money in their pockets.  This money will trickle down to the poor without government interference.  This will allow the Government to cut programs such as welfare, pensions, social security, etc.  These programs will become unnecessary because the wealthy American will put people to work.  A decreased tax burden will allow employers to hire and pay more.  This will eliminate deficit spending, and the country can become safer by allocating that "spending" into protecting our borders, technology and our infrastructure.  Defense spending makes money.  Is that not smart?  During World War II, unemployment decreased because factories were built to manufacture weapons used during the war.

This is a good one.  I promise you will hear similar rhetoric in the upcoming Presidential debates. Occupy Wall Street v. The Tea Party.  No matter what side you are on, at the end of the day we as Americans need to support each other.  Should the wealthy business man be trusted to create jobs without government interference?  Or should the government should step in an ensure that wealth is distributed equally? Was the government created to assist the poor? Or, was the government created to assist a free enterprise society?  These arguments have caused nasty debates throughout American history.  Who is right? Who is wrong? Where is the middle ground?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who Has The Power, State Your Rights

Benjamin Franklin once described the concept of popular sovereignty by saying: "In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns!"  Franklin served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and signed the United States Constitution.  If you read the constitution, particular Article VI, Clause 2, it reads (in part):
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
I will not bore you with historical, but back in the day there was a huge issue regarding states rights.  The source of this argument between the states and the federal government was, whether states entering the Union would be slave states or free states.  There was a doctrine called the "Missouri Compromise", yes compromise. It was sort of a one for one deal, one state slave state, and one state free.  I guess you can say that our country was actually working together, the problem was slavery. I will save my slavery Dred Scott blog for another day.  Today, let us talk about Medicaid.
Medicaid is a program funded jointly by the federal and state governments, and administered by the states.  The program is designed to provide health care for low income families, seniors and person with disabilities.  Ok, you see the problem already. How often do you think that states and the federal government will agree on any issue? As mentioned earlier, states and the federal government have been at odds for centuries over who has the rights and power to making certain decisions. If we go with Big Ben's philosophy the power lies with the people, right?  Yet, reading Article VI, it seems that the power lies with the government.
In a current case before the Supreme Court, Douglas v. Independent Living Center ,the United States has banded together with California against health care providers that sued to stop the state from cutting its Medicaid program.
Whoa, the states and the federal government actually working together?  Yes, we are at a dire economic time and the federal and state governments are slashing spending wherever possible.  The state of California decided to cut rates medical providers were charging under the Medicaid program, and the United States backed them.  This will help out the recipients of Medicaid.  Medicaid recipients are usually low income, senior, or disabled individuals. We want our poor and senior citizens to have access to affordable health care, don't we? We want to make sure the big insurance providers are not taking advantage of these individuals.  And in this economic environment, the government (state and local) does not have the money to pay these high rates. Good job United States, good job California.
Oh but wait, the other side of the argument.  The unintended consequence of states cutting Medicaid funding would be that Medicaid recipients would actually lose their access to health care.  Health care businesses and insurance companies would totally back out, and return to the private market.  What could be worse, small health care businesses would go out of business, which would result and firing plenty of workers.  Medicaid was started to provide access. If rates are high shouldn't it be up to the government to continue to pay the rates for the people, despite the cost?  The government (state and local) should cut other programs, or gain revenue in other ways to ensure that Medicaid is properly funded.
Wow, this is one for the books, the US/State versus The Chamber of Commerce/American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The chamber representing the business interest, the ACLU representing the interest of the individual. Democracy at its finest. Yet we still have a problem.
Both sides have very compelling arguments, don't you agree?  Is Ben Franklin's statement correct, and government should look to the will of the people at any cost?  Or should we read Article VI which gives the government the decision making process? Who will sacrifice here? Where is the middle ground? I am not going to answer that, I am here to argue bother sides…until next time, be impartial.