ALPERN AT LARGE - It’s hard to figure out where “the average American” stands on key issues such as our local, state and federal deficits and accumulating debts, considering how many opinions, talking points and canards are being thrown out there to divert from the main issue: we’re getting swallowed up in debts both locally and worldwide, and we’ve GOT to do something about it.
The biggest problem in solving this issue: both increased tax revenue and decreased spending will be necessary to accomplish this debt problem, and neither side of the red/blue chasm is using the right talking points to address that.
Fortunately, we’ve got a two-party system; unfortunately, we’ve got both major party leaderships under the collective thumb of what appears to be the same power brokers.
Fortunately, we’ve got the Tea Party types (and those that sympathize with them) to scare the hell out of the Republican Party leadership and make them more accountable to the grassroots voters; unfortunately, we’ve yet to really see a liberal counterpart to the Tea Party movement (I’d like to see a modern-day "Muckrakers Movement", but that’s for a future CityWatch column), so there’s yet to be a force for change within the Democratic Party as well.
Fortunately, we’ve got our financial problems accelerated with the housing/loan/debt problem crash of 2008, which is forcing us to confront the problems now; unfortunately, it’s uncertain whether the Spirit of America can overcome the self-interested-at-any-cost forces who have been entrenched in power for the past few decades (and who don’t appear too keen on giving up that power).
So what should both sides do? FESS UP...and GROW UP!
First, the conservative, reddish part of America needs to acknowledge and accomplish a few things:
1) We’ve got roughly $2 trillion or so (and the tab keeps rising) for our foreign wars, and regardless of whether as individuals we agree with these wars it remains true that this is the first time in our history that taxes didn’t go up to pay for foreign conflicts; spending cuts MUST be tied to paying down the debt from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that means increased tax revenues sooner and not later
2) We don’t have the Wall Street perp walk that we expected after the 2008 crash, with creepy lenders and manipulators arrested and dragged to justice; instead, we bailed them out, and despite the fairly successful TARP program the best we’ve done so far is the Dodd/Frank bill to clean up Wall Street (which is as credible as any theoretical Bush/Cheney bill to clean up Big Oil’s excesses)
3) We don’t have enough rules and laws in our tax, pension and benefits codes to ensure enough middle class participation in the financial benefits of our nation’s top income-earners; by law, all top-level bonuses, stock options and golden parachutes should have a percentage spread to even the lowest workers in a corporate tier—because EVERYONE should benefit in a business’s profits and/or cost-cutting
4) We nailed Bernie Madoff because he tricked and effectively stole from the big wheels, but who is getting nailed for hurting the ordinary Jane/Joe American? We need to have conservatives acknowledge the corrupt results caused by the excess of influence too few have on too many. (Link)
Similarly, the liberal, bluish part of America needs to acknowledge and accomplish a few things:
1) We’ve got to admit we’ve got a spending problem, with too many people with their hands out and not enough people willing to really move outside of their comfort zones and behave differently, work harder and retire later in order for the math in our local/national budgetary system to achieve a sustainable balance
2) We’ve got get past the screaming headlines about how the very rich are being taxed less than ever (link), which do not fairly distinguish between the wealthy-by-birth and those who work their tails off to achieve wealth, or between the very rich and those who earn six-digit figures but where cost of living is so high that they are more akin to the upper middle class, not those living in the lap of luxury
3) We’ve got to distinguish between the very poor and helpless, and those who claim to be poor and helpless but need to change their spending habits and lifestyles to become more financially independent—the greatest sin associated with our safety net is that too few resources are available to the former group because too much is being devoted to the latter group
4) We’ve got to admit that—as with our capitalist culture—our union culture is venerable at its core but rotten in how it’s currently being practiced, and the leadership of both cultures need to be dropped by the millions of Americans being betrayed by those self-interested and/or extreme individuals who are driving our nation into the ditch; whether it’s Detroit, our public unions or any other union—we should focus on productivity and profit-sharing, not self-defeating power plays
To conclude on a positive note, there are answers that each and every one of us (regardless of where we stand politically), can achieve success (link) through investment and self-control, and there is the example of outgoing LAUSD Superintendant Ramon Cortines who accomplished a great deal in a toxic atmosphere through his sincerity, courage and tenacity. (Link)
To both the red and blue sides of our nation’s political divide, the time is NOW for them to admit the shortcomings of their talking points (FESS UP!) and to do the adult and courageous things (GROW UP!) for our nation to succeed and prosper in the Brave New World of the 21st Century.
(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently cochairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) -cw
Vol 9 Issue 31
Pub: Apr 19, 2011