It is fascinating to see the Speaker of the House, John Boehner and the soon to be Majority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell exclaim with supreme gall, how they're going to end the gridlock in Congress. It is even more incredible to see that them claim that their priorities are the same priorities of the humble middle class American all dressed up in their professed humility. Yet there they are, telling us that they're going to make it all better once they assume a greater position of power in the House and the Senate.
As I read the article, I could not help but begin to formulate a response to their seemingly sincere, yet misguided attempt to convey the goodwill they purport to hold out to the middle class of America. So, an alcoholic and a paranoid schizophrenic have offered to all of us a set of priorities in a nice, easy to read, bullet point list. I will review them here today, and one by one, offer a constructive course of action to accomplish each of their goals.
But rather than using the usual extreme conservative solutions that could have only one possible goal, enriching the millionaires and billionaires even more to, you know, encourage them to let their prosperity trickle down on everyone else, I am offering a more populist solution, one that would benefit all of us more equally.
Here is the list that they offer with my suggestions for solutions:
• The insanely complex tax code that is driving American jobs overseas - Actually, that is not what is driving jobs overseas. What is driving jobs overseas is the strong dollar. Remove the strong dollar, weaken it by at least 15-20% relative to other currencies, particularly Asian currencies, and you will find demand returning to our economy.
If the trade deficit were eliminated, it is estimated that 6-7 million jobs would be created here. But don't expect Republicans to consider such a solution, for that would remove the profits from the wealthiest corporations who take advantage of the the strong dollar to shift production across our borders. I maintain that no matter how much fiddling you do with the tax code, you won't bring jobs back unless you bring the dollar more in line with other currencies.
Janet Yellen is the current chairman of the Federal Reserve, one of the most powerful central banks in the world. She could do more to create jobs than any Republican Congress. Ms. Yellen, I hope you're reading this or something like this.
• Health costs that continue to rise under a hopelessly flawed law that Americans have never supported - This point is an allusion to the Affordable Care Act, aka, "Obamacare". Boehner and McConnell hope to use the midterm results as a referendum on Obamacare, but nothing could be further from the truth. Americans still support Obamacare and in March of this year, polls indicated a new high of support for the law.
It is also worth pointing out that health care cost projections have been falling since the passage of Obamacare. Health care costs rose at the lowest rate in decades in the previous year due to Obamacare. Don't believe me? Ask Bloomberg News.
If conservatives are serious about reducing the cost of health care, they can start by increasing the supply of doctors. I mean, they do believe in a free market, right? You know, supply and demand? There are 7 billion people on the planet. Surely, we can find more doctors from around the world to service our aging population.
We can do so by globalizing health care. We can fund the education of doctors living in other countries, but who wish to work here for less money just to get started. They will in turn pay a tax that will fund education programs back in their homeland. But don't expect to see this from Republicans since that might offend one of their favorite constituencies: doctors who support free trade agreements that thrust the middle class in competition with the rest of the world while protecting their own profession from international competition.
• A savage global terrorist threat that seeks to wage war on every American - This global terrorist threat has a lot more to do with conservative American foreign policy that relies upon the use of force rather than diplomacy. The entire focus of this foreign policy is to get the Middle East to change rather than for us to change our energy policy.
If we continue to bomb and occupy Muslim countries, as we have done for decades and will continue to do, is there any reason that we could not expect a global terror campaign to be leveled at US interests at home and abroad? If Boehner and McConnell truly wish for the terrorism to stop, the buck stops here by making changes at home in energy and foreign policy. Start with the olive branch rather than the sword. Then see if the weather changes. Perhaps they might seek counseling for co-dependency.
• An education system that denies choice to parents and denies a good education to too many children - This is a veiled attempt to support charter schools, as if they've really been doing any good. The facts show that they are neither better nor worse than public schools. Perhaps the "choice" that Boehner implies is one that allows white parents to segregate their children from black or brown students.
As far as looking for a good higher education opportunity, Germany, Finland and Norway are among 7 countries that offer a solution: free higher education for all. It has been estimated that the cost of the entire public higher education system in the US is about $62 billion a year, a mere 0.02% of the entire federal budget. That means everyone in the country who wants a college education can have one - without going into debt, all for a tiny fraction of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The networking effects of such a policy are enormous considering that there is more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. When people get an education, they get a raise and they in turn will spend money. But they can't do that if they're paying off loans that are already insured by the federal government at a high rate of interest. Again, don't expect Republicans to consider offering free education as a solution. That'll just piss off a bunch of bank executives loading up on the interest accrued from those loans. 6% of $1 trillion? Who wouldn't be happy skimming from that?
• Excessive regulations and frivolous lawsuits that are driving up costs for families and preventing the economy from growing - If Republicans want to stop frivolous lawsuits, they can start with the patent system. Software patents in particular have cost the economy some $29 billion in direct costs per year and that number will increase until we get a court system that will listen to the Supreme Court and a patent office that will stop issuing silly patents on methods and processes that move from brains, pencil and paper to "being done on a computer".
I don't see Boehner and McConnell bemoaning corporate regulation, too. For example, if you work for a large corporation, the company policy says that you better watch what you say or you could face reprimand or termination. Corporations can be slow to respond, too, just like government. Since corporations are making significant dark money contributions to political candidates like Boehner and McConnell, they have a heavy hand in public policy. Therefore, if regulation is the problem, we need to stop dark money from getting into politics.
But you won't hear that from Republicans. Why? It's easier to convince a few people to make really big contributions than to go door to door, convincing thousands to donate. For them, big money in politics is not just here to stay, it's a requirement for political survival. The solution to the problem? Create a superPAC for the sole purpose of eliminating big money in politics and force our candidates to go door to door for support.
• An antiquated government bureaucracy ill-equipped to serve a citizenry facing 21st-century challenges, from disease control to caring for veterans - This is a matter of opinion, as there are many signs that governments at all levels have been leveraging new and existing technology to serve the public. One only need to look at unemployment benefit distribution. In the old days, we had to go wait in line to get benefits. Now we can go online to register and collect benefits.
Oddly, Boehner et. al., have no problem lavishing more money upon the Department of Defense, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. I guess they're doing a really great job serving all of us. Boehner must consider them to be 21st century agencies using state of the art technologies in a highly efficient manner with the utmost respect for Americans. Puhleeeeze.
Perhaps Boehner is thinking of a comparison in his own mind, of government versus private efficiency. Let's dispense with that comparison right now. Comcast is a private enterprise, a cable and internet access company that is the most hated company in the country, that just happens to have a government protected monopoly wherever it does business. Entire cities are saying NO to Comcast. I seriously doubt you will find many people who hate the government more than Comcast. Unless you're a Tea Party Congressman. No, wait. They might be getting fabulous political contributions From Comcast. Okay, they might be an exception.
• A national debt that has Americans stealing from their children and grandchildren, robbing them of benefits that they will never see and leaving them with burdens that will be nearly impossible to repay. - Actually, no. The current national debt is about 100% of the current GDP. In Japan, that number is more like 213% of GDP. Yet, Japan still has a strong economy and they still make products that kick butt on American products. I offer Honda as an excellent example in support of this point.
I doubt very seriously that Republicans want to pay off all of the public debt, anyway. Why? That debt allows foreign countries to buy American debt, in the form of bonds denominated in US dollars, to keep the dollar strong. This currency manipulation is used to maintain the trade deficit, and allows the largest corporations to send production offshore, depressing wages here. That all works together to increase profits and executive compensation relative to everyone else. It's a brilliant strategy.
The debt will remain for as long as the Republicans want it to. Remember, these same Republicans didn't seem to mind the debt when they got the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started. Nor did they mind when they passed that wonderful expansion of Medicaid, Part D, without raising taxes. Republicans didn't even flinch when it came to bailing out the banks, you know, their best buds. Say, didn't they pass unprecedented tax cuts without offering any way of paying for them in the first place?
If Republicans are serious about paying off the federal debt, they need to start by eliminating the trade deficit. But doing so would offend their greatest benefactors, the 1%.
The hypocrisy of the Republican Party, soon to be in control of both houses of Congress, is nothing short of monumental. This is what we need to remember whenever they spout off about gridlock. What they really mean to say is that they're going to dictate terms to everyone else, whether they like it or not. Since 90% of the seats in the House are safe seats, it's going to be mighty uncomfortable for progressive populists like myself for awhile. That's why I wrote this blog post. I wanted my fellow progressives, no, strike that, liberal populists, to have a set of talking points that can reframe the debate over how our government should be run.
Take it for what it's worth to you and see if you can embarrass a few conservatives (Democrat or Republican) at the next town hall.