Monday, September 19, 2005

The Time to Act is Now

This past Thursday night, President Bush gave a speech promising that the federal government would foot the majority of the bill for expenses to rebuild New Orleans and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. He also pledged to work to overcome the forces of racial discrimination and poverty that made this disaster even worse that it might have been. (Here's a link to the full text of the speech) The amount to be paid by the government is expected to be around $200 billion.

Yet, the very next day, he said that he would do this without raising taxes. He expects to pay for these expenses by cutting spending in existing programs.

It's just not possible. We've already been watching the administration bleed as many organizations dry as possible. Social services are more hard-up for cash than they've ever been, as many of my friends who work in such services will attest, having seen their resources dry up to the point where they are understaffed and underfunded to do even a fraction of the work that needs to be done.

And the President wants to ask the government to cut spending even further? In case he hasn't noticed, $200 billion is a huge number! And that would be on top of all of the cuts that have already happened over the past several years! Just how does he think he's going to find that much money without breaking his promise (a commitment restated in his words after Thursday's speech, quoted in the CNN news article linked above) to cut the deficit in half by 2009?

It's simply not possible. Unless, of course he wants to eliminate a bunch of agencies entirely, which would of course exacerbate the very problems of poverty and racism he committed to work to overcome in Thursday's speech.

I'm not a fan of tax increases, myself. I already think that the government takes too much of my meager income, and uses it in many ways that I do not wish to see my money spent. But there's simply not enough money available in the government coffers to pay for the hurricane recovery efforts without raising more resources. I do, however, have a possible solution. 1) Simply not to drop the existing taxes. It is well known that Bush has been lobbying to have the estate tax (often called by him and others a "death tax," even though it really is no such thing) eliminated in the near future. In light of current needs, this is an even worse idea to do now than it ever has been before. 2) I would propose a temporary tax increase. Say, for example, 1/2% on all incomes over $1,000,000, scheduled to expire after two years have passed. Part of the reason Bush asked to have recent income tax cuts "made permanent" is because the cuts were made to last only temporarily (unless extensions, such as Bush asked for and has gotten, were made). This is the same principle, only for a targeted tax increase, set to expire at a predetermined time, to be used for the particular purpose of disaster recovery. The rich might not care for this on the surface of it, but if it were made clear up front that such an increase was intended only temporarily, and for the specific purpose of funding hurricane recovery efforts, most people (even many of the wealthy) would support such an increase. Such a proposal would work wonders on Bush's reputation, proving that he's actually serious about combating poverty and helping the disaster-stricken area.

Of course, I don't expect Bush to find this kind of proposal on his own. I would therefore ask that any of you who think that this (or anything similar) is a good idea to please write your local congressperson or senator, whether they be Republican or Democrat, to suggest positive ideas that will help those in need, without ballooning our federal deficit or cutting needed programs. If we, the people, don't act now, the problem will only get worse in the not-too-distant future.

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