Stannard: We’d all love to see the plan

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Bob Stannard, a lobbyist and author. This piece first appeared  in the Bennington Banner.

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for friends and family to come together. It’s about the only thing we have to look forward to in these times of very short days and very long nights.

Presumably, you’ve been enjoying these past few days, but if not, our collective hearts go out to you. For most of us it is a wonderful time of year; for others not so wonderful. This year could be even more tragic. As you are hanging around tonight sipping your eggnog you would be wise to keep in mind that you might be like the person who haplessly hops on a toboggan and sails down the steepest hill around having no clue what’s at the bottom. If you can hold this image in your head and meditate on it for a while you might be able to see into the mind’s eye of any member of Congress.

Yes, as 2012 thankfully draws to a close we find ourselves right back where we were during the now famous (or infamous) Debt Ceiling Debacle; or more commonly known as the DCD, which unfortunately doesn’t spell anything, which is appropriate on many levels. As the minutes tick away we are soaring to the edge of our self-imposed fiscal cliff. Congress has this wonderful idea to create a self-imposed deadline, complete with life threatening consequences knowing full well that they’ll never deal with the issues on the due date of their setting. And they set the due date for New Year’s Eve.

It makes one wonder if there is some grand plan behind all this hype. There was a time when we only had three TV stations from which to choose to watch our favorite shows. “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son” are long gone and thanks to our congressional leaders caving into the wishes of the cable TV corporations, they’ve been replaced with hundreds of options, maybe too many options. They wiped out the “rabbit ears” and TV antenna rotor. We’ve gone from three channels (yes, if you were lucky you might get an UHF station that had poor reception and resulted in a fuzzy screen) to hundreds of channels. The days of free TV to end users paid for by sponsors are over.

So what is Congress to do to compete with 800+ TV channels? No need to worry. They know media manipulation better than any Third World dictator. They know that they can spend more time pointing fingers at each other than they possibly can resolving their differences.

And therein lays the problem. Just what are their differences? We have a deficit that’s too large. We get that. How did we get this deficit? Two major things happened; we spent way more money than we were taking in, then we reduced the amount of money we were taking in. In addition, we went to war, unnecessarily, with Iraq and kept the costs for this war off budget, which means we put it on our credit card. Then we went to war in Afghanistan and did the same thing again. This is not that complicated, dumb maybe, but not complicated.

There are those who have despised programs like Medicare, Social Security, welfare programs, etc., since the day they were created and have worked relentlessly to eliminate them. Perhaps they see the current contrived fiscal crisis as their opportunity to disembowel these programs while hiding behind austerity.

It might not even be dumb if the larger plan was to put us right where we are today. There are those serving in office today who want to drastically reduce government spending, at least as far as programs for people go. There doesn’t seem to be much appetite for major reductions in our military spending even though we spend billions more than most other nations combined.

There are those who have despised programs like Medicare, Social Security, welfare programs, etc., since the day they were created and have worked relentlessly to eliminate them. Perhaps they see the current contrived fiscal crisis as their opportunity to disembowel these programs while hiding behind austerity.

There’s a musician I’ve admired my whole life, John Lennon, who said it best: “You say you want a revolution; we’d all love to see the plan.” Just what is the plan? Let’s spell it out and see if it works for all Americans. Defeated presidential candidate Mitt Romney sort of made it clear when he declared that he wanted to increase military spending above and beyond what even the military was asking for, while simultaneously cutting social programs.

Perhaps it’s time to have a genuine conversation about just what it is we want to see happen. Do we want to raise the age of eligibility for Social Security from 65 to 70? Do we want to cut back on what people receive? Do we want to cut back on Medicare, and if so, let’s lay out what that means? Could we reduce our deficit by putting Americans back to work, and if so, how do we do that? Do we want to live in a country where the people get shortchanged while the banks and corporations get bailed out? Can we stop the drama of 11th hour lame negotiations that don’t really do much and decide where is it we want to go, besides over a cliff?

We’d all love to see the plan.

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  • Ann Raynolds

    We need to raise the cap on Social Security, meaning someone making a million dollars (or more) a year would pay the same percentage of their income as I pay as we work. That does not mean when they retire they get more, maybe even less than what is paid by Social Security to top earners.

    And then if this doesn’t bail out Medicare, we should means-test Medicare. I NEED Medicare, but does someone still making over 200,000 thousand a year really NEED practically free insurance?

    Come on now, let’s look at other areas for spending reductions such as Congress’ pensions. Where is a recent study on this? For a 2-year term in Coingress you reive a pension of — how much? for life? Even for a tour of duty for 6 years? While our veterans can’t even find jobs? At least many of these pensions could be reduced given the wealth of our Congresspeople. There again, a little means-testing?

    The lowest level of Social Security pay-outs, if the recipients live long enough to retire, hardly cover a non-poverty income. Let’s raise those hard-working people who never made much money when they worked, but possibly worked harder physically than any of us.

    When are we going to take apart the plutocratic oligarchy which holds this country in thrall?

  • Jim Barrett

    You wouldn’t be talking about social security if it weren’t for the very young signing up for disability. The government which knows nothing has run the SS into bankruptcy because they are giving the money to people in their twenties …………………while the elderly wait in the back room. A complete sham while the elderly now work until they are 80 to stay ahead of this ripoff. Social security is broke because people like the three stooges think it is their personal piggybank.

  • Tom Haviland

    I have an antenna on my roof getting free over the air TV. Just got a rotor for christmas

  • walter moses

    Tom, tell us more. I’m dying to get rid of Directv.

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