Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 11, 2012

Lion and the Lamb: Our nation's financial health

By Ted Braun
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — This past national election turned into a contest between the interests of the very rich and those of the middle class and the poor. Although this contest was won last month by the latter group, the underlying class war aspect of the contest is continuing today.

On the one side, the very wealthy are struggling to preserve their very low tax rates, and to reduce instead the benefits of Social Security and Medicare for the middle class and the poor. By raising the retirement age and eligibility age of these programs (if they can't privatize them), the wealthy hope that enough income can be raised so that they won't be forced to pay more in taxes. On the other side, the middle class and poor want desperately to protect these programs on which they are so dependent, and are leery of any "grand bargains" that may be discussed by the wealthy.

In a poll released Nov. 28 by the Washington Post and ABC News, it was reported that 60 percent of those asked stated that they would like to see higher income taxes on those in the higher income brackets over $250,000.  Only 37 percent were in opposition. The report also indicated that 66 percent opposed raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Only 30 percent supported such a raise. In each case the majority had hoped that the way the November election turned out would have settled those questions.

There are other aspects of this ongoing class war that deserve our attention.  The International Monetary Fund recently warned that high income inequality could damage a nation's long-term growth. A growing number of analysts, however, have come to the conclusion that the real menace to our long-term prosperity is not income inequality but wealth inequality. This been getting worse over the past several decades. In 1992, the top tenth of the population controlled 20 times the wealth controlled by the bottom half. By 2010, it was 65 times. If we had the wisdom to devise a way of taxing wealth rather than income, they believe that many of our nation's current problems could be solved.

Another problem that our nation needs to work on during the next four years is the tremendous cost of our current state of permanent war. Under President George Bush our nation entered into an unfunded "war on terrorism" in Afghanistan, Iraq and neighboring nations which has embroiled us in huge financial debt and a co-option of our national resources. There is not much hope of being able to solve infrastructure problems until we end that war.

It has become clearer that we made several mistakes after 9/11. The first mistake was in deciding that 9/11 called for a response of war instead of considering it to be an international crime and taking it to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. To pursue that war, we then made another mistake: we declared war on a tactic, "terrorism," and then used that very same tactic as our nation's official response. It gives one pause to discover that other nations regard our drones as instruments of terrorism. The choice we made in response to 9/11 cannot be changed, but is there a way we can now bring this massive drain of funds to an end?

These are some of the financial challenges before us today. What kind of possible solutions do you see in our future?

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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.