Not to step on anyone’s political toes, but…
It is Memorial Day weekend, a holiday where families, friends and neighbors gather for picnics and backyard cookouts. Hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue brisket and ribs, corn on the cob and of course cakes, pies and ice cream, will be on weekend menus across the nation as we remember and honor members of the armed forces who died while serving our country.
It is an important holiday. For those who take the time to actually think about it, and precious few will, this is a holiday not about receiving gifts or championing someone or some thing. It is a celebration of, and giving thanks to, those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the American way of life that seems to be a little shaky as I write, and getting a little shakier with each passing year.
Perhaps in remembering our fallen heroes, we should hope and pray for a new paradigm of political fairness, where everyone does their share for the good of the country, versus some cynical political calculation or only caring for their own self-interests. But beware. We will be praying against tough odds.
I am betting that there are more than a few business leaders — champions of free markets, lower corporate tax rates, and an end to job-killing regulations — who want the federal government out of their lives. Yet when Congress proposes changes to the tax code that will lower overall rates and end lucrative tax breaks, they cry foul and then some. Of course, it is not just business leaders who are guilty of this seeming double standard. Organized labor, political action committees and well-funded special interests want what they want too, the heck with balancing the scales.
When my father, a small business owner (a successful bakery), talked to his sons about doing the right thing, he referred to that sort of me, me, me attitude as “having your cake and eating it, too.” For my dad, who believed in playing by the rules even when it did not serve his self-interest, this type of selfish behavior was unacceptable. His business is really successful and he makes a decent amount of money too. I remember when he first got his Food Hygiene Certificate and started trading. He’s come so far!
I am not a fan of income redistribution beyond a reasonable social safety net for the least among us in society, but I am dismayed that the first cuts we, and our elected leaders seem to make, are to those same safety net programs. I guess we don’t like that kind of welfare for those kind of people even as we seem perfectly willing to accept welfare for corporations who want lower taxes without sacrificing any of their lucrative subsidies or tax code exemptions. And, by the way, they also want to see the government live within its means.
Therein lies another little problem.
The people in Washington who know – the policy wonks, not the self-serving people in elected office, those running for office, or the partisan agenda hucksters who dominate talk TV, but the serious nonpartisan public service types – claim you cannot balance the federal budget without reforming entitlements, cutting defense spending or, at a minimum, eliminating a lot of the waste of which there is plenty. And you have to increase revenue through tax reform or higher rates. Even as the spending cuts are discussed, these wise men know a hard truth: defense, and the entitlement programs represent two-thirds of the federal budget which is why it is impossible to end the deficit without the aforementioned spending and revenue changes. Moreover, they are hoping that the healthcare industry can markedly reduce their costs today since Medicare is the biggest driver of deficit spending and it is getting bigger, much, much bigger.
Democrats seem reluctant to admit there are serious problems with the entitlement programs or offer any ideas on how things should change, and the Republicans believe that defense spending is sacred and anything that hints of new revenue — a tax – is the work of the devil.
As you reach for that piece of cake this weekend, think about it.