Balancing Our Priorities and Our Budget

President Barack Obama, delivering his 2012 State of the Union Address earlier this year, is working hard to balance the country's budget. White House Official Photo: Pete Souza
President Barack Obama, delivering his 2012 State of the Union Address earlier this year, is working hard to balance the country’s budget. White House Official Photo: Pete Souza

Inside of the Washington, D.C. beltway media bubble it is common to make a false, half true or misleading statement, repeat it over and over again and make that statement acceptable.  My fourth grade teacher would not let me get away with that, yet our highly educated media elites accept untruths regularly.  One such untruth is that the federal deficit is being driven by out of control spending not a lack of revenues and “entitlements” are the biggest spending problem.

This mantra of “entitlement spending” has rolled off the tongues of conservative politicians  so much that the media has accepted it as truth and the left is responding to it as if it were at least partially true.  It’s not true at all! Our situation is a bit more complex, but I can make it a lot less complex by characterizing our fiscal problem along two axis. One is budgetary priorities or what we spend our money on and other is civic responsibility or are we all carrying our share of the load.

The United States military budget of almost $711 billion dollars in 2012, was greater than the defense budgets of China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Australia, Canada, and Turkey combined. At what point is the defense budget large enough?  Who and what are we defending ourselves against?  During the fiscal year 2012, the Defense Department awarded almost $300 billion in contracts to American and foreign companies for various support services.

Are these services just as critical in reconstructing the West Los Angeles area between Tennessee Ave. and Overland and Sepulveda Blvd., as they are anywhere else? It’s a matter of priority.

When Slick Willie Sutton, the 1950’s bank robber, was asked why he robbed banks, he said, “That’s where the money is!’”  In order to get our budget back in balance, we need a balanced spending and revenue plan.  In order to raise the tax revenues we need, we have to go to the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and the corporate treasuries of the large financial institutions – Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, et al – and the multinational corporations – Wal- Mart, Exxon-Mobile and others.

The tax code is an abomination that is overflowing with special preferences that allow the rich to pay less than their fair share of taxes.  Leona Helmsley, the famous New York Hotel magnate was once heard to say, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.’”

The little people are the rest of us who are not rich enough to hire lobbyists and gain access to our congressmen and senators to pass legislation to exempt us from equitable taxation. This is why Exxon Mobile paid federal income taxes of 3.5% on income before depreciation of $90 billion last year and Goldman Sachs was allowed to make a 40% return ($5 billion) off of the little people’s money they borrowed from the federal reserve for almost nothing.   It is time for the preferences to end.

The rich will still be rich even if they pay their share going forward.  “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” — Luke 12:48. With regard to entitlements spending, social security is not an entitlement; it is paid for through payroll taxes.  Secondly, Medicare is not an entitlement, it is a subsidized benefit that is partially paid for through payroll taxes.  Medicare spending by government (the subsidy) is driven by the cost of the private for profit health care system which is a nineteenth century anachronism in the 21st century.

The cost of medical services will not decline until we move to a universal single payer system in which all those who want to participate can and the system costs will be fixed by the available resources.  Doctors who are paid $300,000 annually can perform just as effectively as doctors who make $3 million a year if we have enough of them who are well trained and want to provide services, not get rich.

Individuals who are rich enough to hire their own doctors can and should. The rest of us will have what we have now, just cheaper.