By nature, I’m a capitalist. I believe in a free-market where low prices are the result of competition and free trade. I believe that businesses – not the government – should be the driving force behind the redistribution of wealth; that employees benefit from higher wages that result from profitable business; that customers benefit from competitive pricing; and that ancillary industries such as shipping, consulting, and constructing benefit from business growth. I think employees and employers can find a natural balance between living wages and a good day’s work without government intervention. In short, I believe that solid business growth helps everybody – and that greater restrictions by the government hurt businesses more than they help them. I believe that all of these things work perfectly – right up until the point that they don’t. We’ve reached that point.
Somewhere in the system, we have a leak that has corrupted the natural flow of money. If money is blood, and the economy is our circulatory system, we’re hemorrhaging somewhere and it’s hurting the entire system.
So where are the leaks?
1. The Government. Let’s give the conservatives a nod and agree, to some extent, that the growth of the government under the Bush administration has siphoned a great deal of money out of the system. Earmarks and pork account for $18 billion, but this is the equivalent of less than two months of fighting in Iraq. It costs the American taxpayers an average of $10 billion per month to continue this war, and we’re no better off than we were five years ago. The middle east is less stable than it was when we invaded, and we’re no safer from the terrorists than we were in 2003. Regional instability and a substantial increase in demand have caused oil prices to skyrocket. It’s time to shit or get off the pot.
2. Cost of Living. Let’s give one more to the GOP and confess that protecting the poorest among us has gotten more expensive. Republicans may argue that laziness and a poor work ethic are to blame for the crisis of the working class, but I would suggest that the working class is the first to feel the impact of a drop in our economic blood pressure. Substantial increases in the cost of basic needs such as gas, health care, housing, and food have paralyzed our working class. These industries are showing record profits, while small businesses are dying because the working class no longer has a disposable income. The poorest among us need only one small crisis – perhaps a broken arm or a broken car – to thrust them permanently into poverty. Like a million little paper cuts, people in poverty create a one-way economy. They take, but cannot return. If our answer is to blame them for their own demise, they will drag us down with them. Without government assistance to alleviate or offset fuel prices, health care costs, mortgage payments, or the cost of food – we will permanently paralyze a growing poverty class.
3. Banking. To whatever extent, we’ve lost a lot of money to the banking industry. If we need to infuse $750 billion dollars into the system, it’s because somebody (or lots of somebody’s) got rich. This may or may not be a short term problem (maybe more like a sudden nosebleed than an open gash), but it sure doesn’t help.
4. Energy. Now we’re getting closer to the root of the problem. We are hemorrhaging cash to the tune of $700 billion dollars every year. Many argue that offshore drilling is a great solution, and it is – kind of – in the same way that stumbling upon a bottle of prescription painkillers is a great solution for a pill-popping junkie. Our nation doesn’t need new sources of oil as much as is needs new sources of energy. We’ll always need oil for things like plastic and other petroleum based products, so let’s reserve our domestic production for these things, rather than creating a direct pipeline to our gas tanks as a short term fix.
5. Greed. Look, I’m in favor of working hard to make lots of money. I get it. I support it. I love it. But we live in a nation where 10% of us own 70% of the common wealth. That leaves 30% of our common wealth for the remaining 90% of us. It’s here where we start to see that capitalism often works better on paper than it does in reality. Instead of creating a fluid system where money circulates evenly throughout the system, we’ve allowed a disproportionate amount of our resources to pool somewhere within the system. I’m not saying that we need a 1% to 1% solution, but I’m not shy about using taxes as a way to stimulate the economy. If we don’t artificially pump some of this money back into the bloodstream, we’re risking a lot more than just losing a philosophical argument about punishing people for their success.
So what’s the answer? If we are to achieve the sort of free-market fluidity that allows all Americans to prosper through hard work, we need to make some tough decisions:
1. Shit or get off the pot in Iraq. Our hesitance to withdraw is based on a very realistic fear of the repopulation of terrorists in Iraq, so let’s kill the Hydra instead of watching two heads grow back for every one head we kill. Hint: the Hydra isn’t in Iraq.
2. Tax the rich. Sorry folks, I know how hard you’ve worked to earn all of that money, but it’s time for everyone to make patriotic sacrifices. Don’t think of it as punishing your success, think of it as planting seeds for a healthier crop of customers. Without them, you’ll eventually be one of them.
3. Phase out domestic oil as a source of fuel, and phase in renewable energies. Sun and wind and water are free – so let’s rebuild our economy by capitalizing on these free resources. Our growth in this century won’t be driven by fossil fuels, but by major investments in green technologies that we can export all over the world. No other country is better positioned than us.
Well, at least it’s a start. We’ve got to fix the leaks before we can fix the system.