The election is done, but our problems remain. None are bigger than the spiraling debt and deficit. Finally, our backs against the wall, we get real. Simpson-Bowles again rears its ugly head. According to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the report isn't what it's cracked up to be. It seeks to prove its "badge of courage" by:
- Eliminating tax loopholes.
- "Having employees pay taxes on their health benefits," which in turn "increases costs to middle-income families," and/or threatens coverage altogether.
- Proposes corporate tax reform which would eliminate taxes on profits earned overseas.
- Achieves long-term solvency in Social Security (mostly) by cutting benefits; seventy-five years out, the ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases is 4 to 1. For future retirees, all these changes taken together reduce the average annual benefit for middle-income workers -- those with annual earnings of $43,000 to $69,000 -- by up to 35 percent.
- Targets Medicare and Medicaid by shifting rising costs to patients, providers and employers. To start, Medicare beneficiaries, seniors and disabled people, are asked to pay $110 billion more out of pocket.
By now, we're well practiced at pointing angrily at the lazy poor or the greedy rich, each side convinced who of our brothers and sisters are the greater drain on the economy, but we're all going to have to suck it up now. Well, perhaps not all of us. There is a third class of people we're not currently asking to make any sacrifices: the politician class.
We have a window of opportunity to change that.
Republican and Democratic voters share common ground where our politicians can't. Cursory digging on Google reveals that, in 2011, Congress allocated roughly $4 billion to pay itself, but before one thin penny is extracted from the American people, shouldn't we expect significant contribution from our politicians also? After all, they're the ones who got us into the mess, why shouldn't they have skin in the game? No, not their staffers, who everyone agrees are already underpaid and overworked, but the politicians themselves.
Most Americans agree that the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) is attractive, especially since so many of our representatives come to Washington with significant wealth already, so why are we footing the bill? Who among us ever thought public service should become so philanthropic?
Public service, to hear a politician talk, is about service. We are asked to respect men and women who regularly extol the most disrespectful utterances in our national discourse, and then allow them to turn us against our neighbors. How many relationships did the latest election season destroy? How much money was spent? Was it worth it?
Yet, it is the politicians who carve out the talking points, not you, and not me. "It is the rich who must pay more in taxes." "No, it is the poor or middle class who are not contributing enough."
Stop the noise. I humbly submit a third way: Make public service about public service.
Congress Works for Minimum Wage
It's simple, and healing. Congress works for minimum wage. It isn't enough in itself, to reset the debt clock, but it needn't be. Do this, and restore the trust deficit in governance. Do this and inspire the people again. Do this and ease our sacrifice.
America, we have an opportunity. There is a fiscal cliff fast approaching. It's a loaded gun to our heads. We're all bracing for our share of the burden. All of us, except our politicians.
Congress, in order to prove its badge of courage, seeks to dig into your pocket before its own. If you're rich, it's coming. If you're poor, it's coming. If you're middle class, it's coming.
But if you're "serving" in Congress, it isn't coming.
America, you've recently cast your vote -- but is your mandate front and center? I humbly submit mine, maybe it will catch on: Congress for minimum wage.
Share this post like there's no tomorrow, and maybe it can happen. Sound off in the comments below -- let your voices be heard. Economists lend me your help. If we're asked to chop funding for education, the Arts, or PBS, and we're asked to take that seriously as a tightening of the belt measure, isn't Congress working on the cheap going to pull down more? Project it out by seventy years and see how it looks.
As a symbolic measure, this one could send a powerful message to the world.
Please press share -- and repeat after me:
"Congress for minimum wage. Congress for minimum wage. Congress for minimum wage."