The Debt isn’t the issue . . .your approach is!

By On

Every time I see the news, I hear people talking about reducing the deficit and the dangers of the growing debt. Clearly, our debt is an issue and the president, Congress, and all the numbers-people agree the country is on an unsustainable fiscal path.

Many House Republicans act as if there is a public mandate to reduce spending and, consequently, the debt. Their approach: Cut taxes and cut spending on everything but the military.

Wrongheaded, but predictable. But, then I found this statement from Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner:

"His (Obama's) administration has been burying our kids and grandkids in new debt and offered no plan to rein in spending," Mr. Boehner said in a statement.

The speaker reiterated his opposition to tax increases and said Mr. Obama was "sorely mistaken" if he believed tax increases would pass in the House. He vowed House Republicans would block anything that includes increased taxes.

Since the younger generation is being used as the poster child for debt reduction, I would like to use the occasion of my fast approaching 25th birthday to respond.

“No @#$%-ing thank you!” Why the hell now, when we are in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, would we want to cut off the federal dollar spigot? Now that my father’s generation has gotten its cheap education, good paying jobs, Social Security, Medicare, and good environment, you want to eliminate all that so that you can…what? Fix the debt? Excuse me while I laugh and choke at the same time.

Let me count the ways why this approach is ridiculous.

1. Where are our jobs? While private sector jobs have been growing a bit, public sector jobs have been shrinking, often at a rate that erases the private sector job gains. The Wall Street fiasco (not of my generation’s making) has ruined retirement funds, causing people who should be retiring to work longer, which means those in my age cohort lucky enough to have a job are not moving up. If you don’t believe Washington’s own unemployment numbers of 22 percent unemployment for 18 to 25 year olds compared to 10 percent for the rest of the working age population, use the tried and true anecdotal approach. How many people do you know between 18 and 25 who are gainfully, full-time employed, and how many do you know who are not? How many of them have college degrees and are not working in their field? Don’t forget me! With my Western Washington bachelor’s degree, I consider myself lucky to have a half time, professional job and I work a variety of contract jobs on top of that to make ends meet. I apply for the few jobs that are open in my field and so far, I’ve lost out to older and more experienced people who have themselves struggled to stay employed.

2. Work Experience. So in the absence of real jobs out there, how about work opportunities, on-the-job training, internships…anything that would allow young people to experience work, learn a few skills, and build their resume. Well, the private sector hasn’t increased paid internship opportunities and our friends in Washington D.C. believe cutting federal spending is more important. The summer jobs programs that the President’s stimulus act funded in 2009 and which provided 5,600 young people in our state work experience ran for one summer and then was not refunded by Congress. Other youth employment programs have either been cut or flat lined.

3. Tax policies. Interestingly, House Republicans who believe it's so damn important to reduce our deficit, have rejected any attempt to increase revenues (some arguing for even lower taxes) despite tax bills being the lowest since around the time my grandfather was my age. Well, guess what? If you’re in my age group, taxes are not an issue. If the economy is holding you down and you’re not working full time, you earn just enough to get by and income taxes (not to mention capital gains taxes) are not an issue. The biggest tax we confront is our state’s incredibly high sales tax. A tax that is high because we have no income tax in this state. If you really want to help our generation, PAY YOUR BILLS NOW! Raise taxes on your income while you’re still working the jobs that we can’t have because you’re not retiring.

4. Education. This one kills me. If you really want to reduce the debt for my generation, then why are you cutting funding to education, raising tuition, and making it hard to find genuine scholarships? You are taking the large public debt, and handing it to the poorest and most vulnerable through college loans. Even assuming debt reduction happens (a huge ‘if,”) we all will be saddled with so much college debt, it won’t freaking matter.

Let’s face it. The Republicans are using the U.S. debt (a problem that they were neck deep in making—admittedly with Democrat's help) as an excuse to tear down the government institutions that have made this country great. It’s been government institutions that have made it possible to get an education, it's been government infrastructure or subsidized infrastructure that has fueled our industry, and it's been government research and services that have taken care of us when we’ve been hurt or sick. It’s 10 years of war, a nasty recession, and some of the lowest income and corporate taxes in the industrialized world that are creating this debt. (Don’t give me that low tax rate/good economy crap. Germany with its 45 percent marginal tax rate has a rocking economy right now.)

Rather than using the deficit and debt as an excuse to demagogue against government spending, let’s talk about the issues that will build a strong economy: a good education system, a clean environment, a healthy population, and a progressive tax rate structure.

About Riley Sweeney

Citizen Journalist • Member since Aug 10, 2009

Riley Sweeney, raised in the Pacific Northwest, moved to Bellingham during the Bush years, worked on a cross-section of political campaigns during the Obama years, and then fled to the [...]

Comments by Readers

John Watts

Jul 06, 2011

These points are well taken. The National debt wasn’t created all at one time, and certainly not only by Democrats - or Federalists for that matter. Official Govt records show that a great majority of our national debt has been amassed, beginning under the aegis of the Cold War arms race, and accelerated by mainly Republican administrations - especially Ronald Reagan’s popular, but misguided philosophy.
But the question we face now is not about blame, but painful, effective solutions. Finger pointing and selective truth-telling won’t cure anything much-unless directed toward everyone’s mirror.

Two quotes by James Madison apply:

“All that seems indispensable in stating the account between the dead and the living, is to see that the debts against the latter do not exceed the advances made by the former.”

And, it’s remarkably exempt-from-examination corollary;

“Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.”


Michael McAuley

Jul 06, 2011

I’ve always wondered what the ‘real’ tax rate is for folks, and suspected it rivaled our more enlightened cousins.  I finally found this article on MSN - could be right, could be wrong, but it sure feels about right when I look at my yearly expenses.

The problem, as I see it, however, isn’t the rate it is what we all get for our tax investment.  I mean, taxes are collected to provide for the ‘common’, so how come the commons are in such distress?

“The average marginal tax rate on incomes between $20,000 and $500,000 is 40.3%, the median tax rate is 41.8%, and the standard deviation of all of those rates is 5.3 percentage points. Basically, most of us pay about 40%, plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.”


Dick Conoboy

Jul 06, 2011

The ?common? is in such distress because of the trillions of dollars that have gone into the prosecution of two wars for which we are all paying.  Two wars ?funded? by tax cuts during the first decade of this century.  We have squandered our national treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is there that we are truly burying our kids, however, those who survive and those who never went to war will eventually be ?buried?  by Boehner and his ilk who cannot seem to see the patently obvious.  You may want to take time to read the following on the tax situation today to see the picture in its entirety:


Craig Mayberry

Jul 07, 2011

Oh where do I even start on this one.  I realize in a very simplistic view of the world many of these arguments make sense, however, the world is much more complex.  I often hear, why cut spending now when the economy is the worst it has been in a while and we will lose all of these government jobs.  You are right, if spending is cut, then people will no doubt lose their jobs.  If we continue to spend like we have and run $1.5trillion dollar deficits then people will continue to be nervous and not spend and invest, both of which are necessary to create jobs and improve the economy.  Why is it that this recovery has been so slow, despite all of the money that has been spent, it is because of the very high deficit and people do not have confidence in the fiscal responsibility of the government.  The practical reality is until government gets their act together and better aligns revenue and spending the economy is not going to improve. 

Raising taxes as one of the ways to reduce the deficit sounds like a great idea.  If you want to know how effective that is going to be just ask John Kerry and U2.  Both are liberal stalwarts advocating for all of these great government causes.  Both do everything in their power to avoid paying taxes.  John Kerry parks his yacht in Rhode Island instead of Massachusetts because the taxes are lower.  U2 moved most of their business operations out of Ireland to more tax friendly nations and then when questioned about it claimed that they were simply trying to take action to minimize their taxes.  Frankly, I do not give a rip if you raise taxes on the rich, I am not in that class and they certainly can afford to pay more.  The reality, however, is that they will not pay more.  It does not make sense to tax the rich more when they will simply pay their accountants to figure out ways to pay less taxes.  People are not stupid and they are not simply going to hand more money over to the government simply because the government thinks they should pay their fair share.  This argument is absolute hypocrisy on the part of democrats in Congress, I bet you almost all of them fall into the higher income class and I bet you if you raise taxes on the rich not a single one of them will pay more in taxes (I do not see them writing out checks to the government now based on what they think they should pay). 

You are darn right that the Republicans are trying to use the debt level to tear down many government institutions, thank goodness.  The federal government is now so large and powerful that there is no governance structure in place to ensure checks and balances.  They have become so large and bureaucratic that there is now no hope that any problem can be solved.  You can complain all you want about the problems, but the federal government will not solve a single one, no matter how much you hope they will.  It is the simple law of organizations.  They are now more interested in preserving the status quo then creative solutions.  Frankly, you could shut down most of the federal government and we would all be much better off (start with the Department of Education and then move quickly to the Department of Agriculture).  I have been clear in early posts on this site that if you want the problems to be solved then you need to transfer the $?s and power down to the local level where they can be solved.  You are living in a dream land if you think that the problems will be solved if we just pass the right regulation, give the federal government more control, and spend a little more money.  My only frustration is the Republicans do not actually have the guts to do it and will eventually cave.  They are just as much a part of the problem as the democrats.


Rob Stratton

Jul 15, 2011

Sorry too much misinformation to attack at once. There is no such thing as a federal money spigot, the money is not the governments money it is ours. I say they over tax and over regulate and both republicans and democrats, the fake “left” and fake “right” parties (really they are one party of big government) are both at fault.

The power to tax is the power to enslave both those who pay the taxes and those who rely on them. Why are we giving our government so much power to step on our liberty?


John Servais

Aug 02, 2011

test of al