The U.S. cannot expect to pull itself out of the current debt crisis without raising taxes. That's an unpopular sentiment, and thankfully I'm not running for office anytime soon.
The painful reality is that in the last decade, we've been on a spending spree. The Republican Party would like to point the finger at the Democrats, continuing its penchant for being oh-so-good at labeling the Democratic Party as the party of reckless spending. Never mind that under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, we engaged in two wars of aggression and enacted massive tax cuts for the top earners in the United States, neither of which were paid for.
The logic confounds me; I can't understand how either side of the political spectrum could let this happen. Anybody with the most basic fiscal sense should have realized we were setting ourselves up for a crisis.
Now, under the proposed "Path to Prosperity" championed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Republicans want to get our nation's out-of-control deficit back into the realm of reason. Ryan's methodology, though, would be disastrous for the working class and for a great deal of the middle class. Medicare and Medicaid as we know them would be disemboweled. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent of American earners would continue to enjoy the lowest marginal tax rates for that bracket in modern American history.
Are we willing to follow Ryan in throwing the majority of Americans under the bus, stripping them of much-needed government assistance programs in order to ensure that the upper crust of American society continues to enjoy low taxes?
The U.S. is a great country for two reasons: first, our sense of self-dependence and individualism. No other country in the world fosters that all-important sense that an individual, with hard work and a little luck, can achieve anything.
Second, and more important in this case, is our sense that we are our brother's keepers. When our neighbors falter, we give them a hand up. When our friends lose their apartment because they can't make the rent, we give them a couch to crash on until they can find work again.
This is the part of American society that needs to be mobilized today. Millions of Americans are jobless; millions rely on the help afforded by programs like Medicare and Medicaid to live at a standard that's appropriate and expected in a country with a GDP as high as ours is. If left up to the Republicans and Ryan, those programs would be dismantled to pay for foreign wars and tax cuts for the wealthy. How is that patriotic? How is that American?
Thankfully, Ryan's proposal stands no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate. It does, however, show the direction the GOP would take the country were it at the helm.
Last week, President Barack Obama presented his long-term plan for economic recovery and debt reduction, recognizing both the need to reduce wasteful spending – defense spending included – but also the need to increase taxes on those who can afford them the most. It isn't Medicare and Medicaid that's bankrupting America, it's our incredibly low tax rates for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Raising tax revenues is exactly the way we will be best able to rid ourselves of our debt crisis.
America is one of the least economically equal societies of the world's richest states – a reality that needs to be reversed. We should expect the most fortunate among us to be most willing to sacrifice a very small amount of their income to assist the least fortunate and give them a chance to thrive. That mentality should be as American as apple pie.