Posted tagged ‘US Debt’

A Social Contact’s Promises and What is Our Word Worth?

January 3, 2012

As Congress finds itself enthralled with re-election, I asked “What is the word of a politician worth?” and “What is the word of our country to our citizens worth?” There are two very different questions.  The latter is an institution I strongly believe in while the former are individuals who often have a self-interest in creating drama and gaming the institution for individual gain.

I question how we make decisions and do we backtrack on the promises of yesterday.  What spooks me, as I publish this article again six months later, is that very little has changed even after the debt downgrade by the rating agencies.  While much can be read in or dismissed about it, at its core, it is a grade on the financial trust other’s have in our government.

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As Congress looks at the three largest sections of expenses: Defense, Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security, I want to examine the process.  This shall not a commentary on what to or not to cut.  Rather I am more interested in how decisions are made:  for social security there are discussions on at what age do are reduce benefits offered?  Politicians are scurrying around the country with a tentative plan of reducing benefits to those currently 55 years of age and younger.  They are frantically trying to explain at town hall meetings to those aged 65 and older they will not be affected in efforts not inflame that constituency.

I asked about those aged 55 and less.  These individuals have paid into a program, without choice, with an understanding that after age 65, they will receive payouts based upon a publicly available formula and annual Social Security Administration Statements.  Suddenly the rules are to be changed because decades of neglect end with a frantic period of cramming before the known deadline?  Where has the fairness we highly value and built this country on gone?

Do we back out of a promise made?  As a country do we change the rules to the detriment of many to forgive the mistakes of some?  What is our word worth to our own people?

(A potential solution: two sets of formulas.  All contributions to a certain date, regardless of age, are paid benefits by the historic formula and rules.  From that date forward, contributions paid in and benefits paid out follow a new set of rules.)

What is frightful is that this pattern is repeating again with discussion regarding the debt ceiling.  There is drama and political wrangling but there is very little public disclosure, meaningful discourse, debate or solutions on how to solve the problem: the congressionally approved limits how much debt the country is permitted are almost reached.  The United States find ourselves in a position where we owe more than we bring in and, as a country, need to borrow money to pay our current bills.  It seems that instead of difficult, perhaps unpopular choices being made by politicians in the best interests for the country – what we as the people who elected these representatives to act on our behalf, are paying them to do, and do not seem to be holding them accountable for – are not.  Perhaps there is a difference between government and politics (the manipulation of government to suit ones own selfish ends).

I ask again what is our word worth?  What is the word of elected representatives to serve their country worth?  What is the word of our country’s promises to our creditors?

Will you as a voter objectively hold your incumbents and new candidates to account for misstatements, exaggerations, inactions, lies and broken promises?

Congressional Failure: Betrayal of Trust and Our Wishes

November 25, 2011

As I read about the unfettered drama and dysfunction of my country’s political leaders, I am aghast by one thing: collectively as the American people, we trusted these individuals to run our government.

The November approval rating for Congress is 13% according to Gallup. 1  That seems to hollow out individual congressmen rhetoric that the current woes and problems are principally caused by the sitting president.  While we may not be overjoyed with either, the President’s approval rating is more than three times higher at 43%. 2  To me that indicates the public resoundingly disagrees with that self-serving assertion.

What causes my disbelief is that our founding fathers designed a representative democracy.  The American people pay each congressman $174,000 a year. 3  Many commentators are predicting that politicians will not meaningfully revisit the hard issue of our country’s financial health until 2013, after the 2012 elections.

The individuals I am employing through my tax dollars are taking a year off at the expense of the American public to get re-elected?  This is after they have collectively been unsuccessful in accomplishing the tasks placed before them.

My taxes are hard-earned monies during difficult times.  Those unable to solve the problems before us are squandering it.  My elected official are not being paid more than four times the average national salary of $41,674 4 to be concerned about re-election; they are there to solve the problems left by those unwilling and incapable before them.  They are there to address new problems.  They are there to do so collectively in the best interests of the American people as a whole.  For me they are failing to fulfill their charges.

I ask: are your elected officials acting in what you believe to be your best interests? In that of the American people as a whole?

If yes Main Street, then we are to blame for entrusting those on Pennsylvania Avenue.  We elected them to reflect our values and further our wishes.  It is us, as much as them, acting like immature two-year olds on a playground insisting on our way or nothing.  Does this caustic rhetoric and inability to find partial resolution to difficult problems truly reflect the American people and values?  I hope not.  If it does, I believe we have profoundly lost our way.  We are not acting as a positive role-model for the world as its sole Superpower.

If no, talk with each other, find your voice, raise it and return responsibility and moderation to the conversation through your actions.  Give direction to your elected officials.  Hold your elected offices responsible at the polls.

The founding fathers did not promise that our way of life would be easy.  They gave us a government in which the ultimate responsibility lies with the people for we elect the government.  They preferred death to continued existence under a government that ignored their wishes.  Let us rise above the squabbling, noise, and drama, and move towards a different way.  I hope that Americans have not become so disillusioned as to believe that neither their vote nor their voice will change anything.  Our country was founded on quite the opposite, and it is only us who can cause the change again.

References

1. Newport, F. (2011, November 14). Congress’ job approval entrenched at record low of 13%. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/150728/Congress-Job-Approval-Entrenched-Record-Low.aspx

2. Gallup Daily: Obama job approval. (2011, November 21). Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/113980/Gallup-Daily-Obama-Job-Approval.aspx, ()

3. Longley, R. (n.d.). Salaries and benefits of US congress members. Retrieved from http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/congresspay.htm

4. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). National average wage index. Retrieved from  http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html