This will be a stretch for some, but stay with me. Suppose someone presented a plan that is guaranteed to achieve the objectives everyone (or almost everyone serious about such matters) agrees are necessary to create jobs, end our financial dependence on China, reform the tax code and repair Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so they not only continue to support people now, but ensure the health and welfare of future generations.
Would the politicians accept this gift from the political gods? Or would they prefer the dysfunction that characterizes virtually everything they do and prevents solutions, guaranteeing instead the continuation of the issue for partisan political gain?
This is the central question preceding President Obama's Thursday night address to Congress.
The problem with so much of Washington today is that no Democrat will accept a good idea if it comes from a Republican and, conversely, Republicans will reject any good idea that comes from Democrats. So here's a plan whose author shall remain anonymous until the end of this column in hopes you will read on.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, this author contends, "consumes 43 percent of today's federal spending." Most people might agree there is ample evidence the federal government is bloated, overextended and not living within its constitutional bounds, which has caused its dysfunction.
Elevators have weight limits. Put too many people on one and it might not run. The federal government has no "weight limits." Increasing numbers of us worry America may be overweight and in decline. We are mired in debt and government seems incapable of telling anyone "no" or "do for yourself" for fear of a backlash from entitlement addicts.
How about a plan that truly reforms these three massive social programs, protecting those now on them, but focusing in the future on the truly needy? I know, Democrats rejected the Paul Ryan plan, but this one goes further.
How many would endorse a plan that "encourages Americans to become more fiscally responsible" and eliminates the incoherent tax code in favor of an "expenditure tax" with a single flat rate? This could lead to more personal savings of one's own money, rather than handing increasing amounts to government to poorly redistribute. It would also promote stronger capital formation (the key to job growth in the private sector) and produce a more robust economy.
This plan, "substantially reduces the size and scope of the federal government, fundamentally increases the role of the states in choosing their own practices, and brings decision-making closer to the people rather than un-elected administrators."
The plan purports to have a "higher moral purpose" because if entitlements are not reformed, the next generation and future ones will have to pay punitive tax rates that will "end liberty as we have known it."
Do I have your attention now?
Humans have a tendency to live in the moment, thinking little about what those who have gone before have bequeathed to us and what we are passing on to those who follow. If we don't fix what ails us, including these soon to be bankrupt social programs (without reform, entitlement spending will consume all tax revenue in about 40 years), future generations will rightly condemn us.
Details of this plan are easy to understand and difficult to oppose for other than partisan political reasons. Read it at www.savingthedream.org.
Yes, it was written by the "conservative" Heritage Foundation, but good ideas come in all sorts of packages and this is one that should not be rejected out of hand by Democrats. If President Obama borrowed from it for his Thursday night address, rather than talk about "infrastructure" and more government jobs, he might actually achieve something and improve his prospects in the 2012 election.
Medicine can't work if it remains on the shelf. This plan is the cure for our "disease."
Open wide ... your mind.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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