If you had to choose between the advice of successful investor Warren Buffett or political hack Grover Norquist on how to fix our nation's fiscal ills, who would you trust? For most Americans, that's an easy question, because taxing the rich rather than bankrupting America sounds like a good idea to most of us.
This is precisely the dilemma facing 12 members of the newly appointed SuperCongress: taking a balanced approach that raises revenues (while also cutting valuable public programs) or taking a ceaselessly stubborn no taxation approach, such as supported by the Tea Party.
Warren Buffett, a well-respected American businessman, has publicly come out in favor of this more balanced approach. As a member of the wealthy few himself, he believes those who reap the greatest rewards of American prosperity should also pay their fair share of the public burden.
As it stands now, through a series of loopholes and legislative graft over the years, the wealthiest few take in the majority of American gains but pay some of the lowest tax rates in our country. As Buffett is fond of saying, he shouldn't pay a lower tax rate than his secretary; that's just wrong. Many fellow patriotic millionaires have signaled to Congress that they agree.
In the opposing corner, Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, a group created at the request of Ronald Reagan to stop all taxation and starve the government of revenue (or "drown it in a bath-tub"). Central to the mission of this group is to get public office holders and candidates to sign a pledge never to raise taxes, ever, even in times of war.
97% of Republicans in the House of Representatives have signed this treacherous pledge.
This is the reason for the debt-ceiling gridlock, the S&P downgrade, and the continuation of the self-immolating unpatriotic Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest few. The time has finally come for GOP members to ask themselves which is more important: the oath they swore to our country when they took office or the pledge they signed to some political megalomaniac.
Because nearly every Republican member has signed this pledge and they control one chamber of Congress, the conventional wisdom in Washington is that we must cut somewhere and cut big. Well, the Democrats say we should make smaller cuts, but still really big cuts (it's confusing, I know).
And if taxing the rich is not on the table for the SuperCongress 12, then those cuts can only come from one place: Grandparents. In suggesting significant cuts to the social safety net, this simply becomes the sequel to the much maligned presidential debt commission, meaning this committee is just another cleverly crafted guillotine for the New Deal.
For the record, the earned benefits of Social Security & Medicare (that we all paid for) are completely irrelevant to the discussion of the debt, deficit, or fiscal policy. These are self-funded programs that are fully funded for the next 25 years, and no changes here have any impact on our current economy. Put simply, cutting Grandma won't create jobs.
But if past performance is any indicator of future behavior (and it is), then this inconvenient truth does not matter. Without vocal opposition, the SuperCongress 12 will naturally gravitate toward the perspective of Grover Norquist, just as the debt-ceiling debate did a few weeks ago.
Congress will inevitably keep cutting valuable public services without raising revenues, because those elected cannot muster the courage to ask the wealthiest few to pay their fair share. At the end of the day, the vote may come down to a 7-5 split with one "bipartisan" defector, but it is nearly guaranteed that the Judas in this story is a Democrat. Be forewarned, he will be the one pushing millions of Grandparents off a cliff this time around.
This radical experimentation with the social safety net and our economy is far outside of the mainstream for most Americans and highly unpopular throughout the country. Even 74% of Republican voters do not support a cuts-only approach to our current problems, but not surprisingly, it looks like politicians in Washington are just not listening.
Perhaps this is really just one big false dilemma, which reaches far beyond Grandma & Grandpa.
America wouldn't need to keep cutting to the bone in all our social services if taxed wealth at the same rate we tax work in this country. We wouldn't be forced to cut teachers, firefighters, nurses, and cops if we made corporations pay their fair share too. Apparently, following this simple logic toward legislative solutions is completely inconceivable in the current political climate, so we're stuck in the box of cut more or cut less. Cut you, cut me, & cut us.
It would be amazing if the SuperCongress 12 stood up for us, the American people, and stopped the viciousness of all these cuts, which will affect you and me more than they will ever affect the wealthy few. However, until they admit that you must raise revenue to run a government, the "shared sacrifice" will unfortunately continue to only be shared between the working and middle class alone.
Still, somebody should ask each member of the SuperCongress 12 whose side they are on: Grover Norquist v. Warren Buffett. It would be interesting to see where each of them stands, especially if someone recorded their answers on video and then shared it online with the rest of us.