Our elected leaders are failing us as they refuse to deal with the biggest issue of our time -- the exploding deficit bomb. The media is also failing us by letting politicians brush aside, deceive or evade the hard truth of the numbers. False assertions are accepted. Call me naïve, but we used to welcome and deal with black-and-white facts. I don't mind if we disagree on solutions, but we can and should agree on the facts and the numbers for the big issues.
Here's an idea. What if big media and Americans continue to counter the lies with objective facts? Every time a politician makes a false claim, like one of those below, media should add a clause as follows: "Facts do not support this statement." The objective truth should be countered in every story where a politician gives the big lies below.
1. We Can Ignore the Federal Debt. (Obama and Democrats)
Or it is not a big problem ... or we will deal with it later or when the economy turns around. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that the debt was under 50 percent of GDP in 2008 and jumped to 69 percent of GDP in 2011. The CBO also says that if we stick with current policies the debt will reach 87 percent of GDP in 2022. The numbers don't lie: we must deal with this debt with radical change -- yet the new mantra is that those who raise the issue are "negative." President Obama barely discusses the deficit (see State of the Union) and in 2011 ignored the proposals from his bipartisan Deficit Commission. Last year, he also blasted the Ryan plan, put forward by Representative Paul Ryan (R - WI), the only real action by Congress to deal with cutting entitlement growth.
2. We Can Cut our Way Out of the Deficit. (Republicans)
Republicans, to their credit, talk about the deficit and push efforts to restrict it by the overall debt ceilings. But by their actions they have expanded the deficit by insisting on extending temporary tax cuts and joining Democrats to cut Social Security tax payments. More, they have taken revenue off the table by accepting Grover Norquist's interpretation that closing tax loopholes, reducing deductions or cutting credits are considered tax increases. Other than the Ryan plan, which would modestly reduce growth in future Medicare costs, House Republicans have done little to cut spending. The deficit keeps rising due to commitments on entitlements, defense and interest. All the talk about cutting "discretionary spending" will not solve the challenge, as it is only 40 percent of total federal spending. The Tea Party notwithstanding, we have not made any real cuts in present or future spending and even if and when we do we must also increase revenue to bring down the deficit.
3. We Have Silver Bullet Solutions Out of the Deficit. (Gingrich and Individual Politicians)
With Senator Santorum now out of the presidential race, more attention will shift to the last gasps of the fanciful campaign of Speaker Gingrich. I have been seduced by Speaker Gingrich's lofty rhetoric but appalled by his approach to the deficit challenge. As with almost every issue, Gingrich rejects conventional thinking. Discussing how Medicare and Medicaid are the fastest growing segments of the deficit, Gingrich has suggested that shifting focus from care to cure, particularly on Alzheimer's diseases, could save $10 trillion over the next 40 years. Even if Gingrich's shocking math is correct, an Alzheimer's cure will take years to develop and will not cut health care spending for decades. We don't have that kind of time.
4. Higher Taxes on Millionaires Will Solve the Deficit Problem. (Obama)
On April 10, President Obama, speaking to students at Florida Atlantic University, again repeated his mantra that the rich are not paying their "fair share," and said that unless taxes were raised on millionaires, the government would have to cut student funding. This is the 2012 theme that began at the State of the Union when he positioned Warren Buffet's secretary to sit next to Michelle Obama, setting a new bar for State of the Union theatrics. Just like the 99 percent movement his class warfare rhetoric inspired, it is devoid of a substantive base. In 2008, the top one percent of Americans earned 20 percent of the income and paid 38 percent of the taxes. Taxing the wealthiest Americans would barely cut the deficit, assuming (falsely) that they wouldn't flee the country or simply shift much of their income to non-taxable or non-income producing investments (like artwork, land, overseas investment). Indeed, one economist calculated that confiscating all the wealth from the 400 Forbes wealthiest Americans would produce a one-time gain of only $1.37 trillion, enough to keep the government going for 131 days. And it sure would kill a lot of jobs. According to the Tax Policy Center, the "Buffet Rule" would affect at most 217,000 American households: specifically, the fortunate Americans who have significant investment rather than "earned" income. If the Buffett Rule is made law, based on historic IRS data, these Americans would pay on average $190,000 extra in taxes each year, producing some $41 billion in additional tax revenue -- enough to cover less than 12 days of deficit spending each year.
5. Obamacare Cuts Government Health Care Spending and the Deficit (Democrats)
Under Speaker Pelosi the House passed the health care law because CBO said the law would cut the deficit over 10 years. Democrats still stick to this mantra even though it is patently false. For one, the CBO corrected the numbers within days. Second, the White House has now admitted that its big cost cutter -- the cost of long-term care -- is unworkable, and they suggest it be abandoned. Despite the facts now pointing to the contrary, the White house website still says the health care law will cut the deficit. Third, the $350 billion in Medicare cuts the law envisions through a special 15-member panel is viewed by most experts as mythical and non-achievable and indeed not one person has yet to be nominated to serve on the panel. Finally, the law has not met its cost cutting and revenue raising assumptions in many ways, from the sun tanning tax to state involvement in insurance pools. In fact, some believe the health care law will actually add $530 billion to the deficit over 10 years and even the CBO in March 2011 declared that its original estimate of the 10-year costs of Obamacare was $940 billion too low.
Our nation is heading off a financial cliff, and both major political parties are in deceptive denial. It's time we as Americans put on our adult pants and started confronting the truth: we have sentenced our children to poverty, and we are making it worse every day.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream."
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