America has a problem with obesity. Not just in our population, but in our finances. We bit off more than we could chew over the last decade and now we have a big fat deficit. How did we get here from the Clinton era's healthy $236 billion surplus with projections made in January 2001 that this surplus would grow by a total of $5 trillion over a 10-year period?
Answer: Expensive Wars, Huge Tax Cuts during the Bush administration to the wealthiest 2 percent, and deregulation of Wall Street allowing reckless and arguably criminal behavior by financial institutions that plunged the nation into the worst recession since the 1930's and drastically cut income to the government. Obama's stimulus added to the bill, but without it, many economists say we might be in another great depression instead of coming out of a recession.
Perhaps the hottest major issue of the November election is the following: Now that we have a $16 trillion national debt and a $1 trillion federal deficit, what do we do about it? The president and his Republican challenger have two very different plans.
The Romney plan is to put America on a severe austerity diet: Romney wants to make extreme cuts in spending, though the only cuts he has specified are to health care and PBS. The Republicans have been talking about cutting EPA and subsidies to alternative energy as well. The only increases in spending Romney has discussed are to the military. Perhaps he is envisioning another war. Romney's jobs plan seem to rely on the theory of trickle down economics, which should be working by now since the rich are richer than ever and taxed less than ever. (Jackson Browne's observation about the demands of the 99 percent made at Occupy Wall Street borrowed from The Outlaw Josey Wales: "Don't piss on our backs and tell us it's raining.") Along with dramatic cuts, Romney wants to lower taxes even more, including those on the richest Americans and corporations that are making greater profits than ever in history, even as the income gap between the rich and poor, the bonus class and labor, is at an all time high.
Obama's plan to get us out of the hole is keeping taxes low on the middle class, increasing them on those who can afford it, and bringing back the New Deal Policies that helped bring us out of the Great Depression. Obama wants to put America on a big 'work out' to get us back in shape with a less extreme diet. The 'work out' means creating jobs like we did in the 1930's. New jobs would be created in new energy, health care, teaching, and infrastructure repair, for example. People who work pay taxes and stimulate the economy with purchases. Unlike trickle down economics, this plan has a proven track record, is already working to the extent it has been implemented despite Republican pushback, and was proven successful under Roosevelt. And today, Japan is experiencing huge economic growth because it is rebuilding its infrastructure after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The New Deal 2.0 invests in America by building up our crumbling infrastructure, increasing our educational fitness and protecting our environment with investments in new technology that will make us both energy independent and have better air, water, and health.
Now most Americans would probably agree that leaving our kids a massive bill for our spending is immoral. Most Americans would also agree that it is immoral to leave our children with an environmental crisis from increased reliance on fossil fuels. (Romney: "I love Coal!," I will drill in on our federal lands including the Arctic, I will reverse those pesky fuel standards, and I scoff at protecting the oceans. Doesn't Romney know the lesson of the Lorax about economic development that depletes our natural resources?) We must reduce our deficit, but not at the expense of our environment, and as Bernie Sanders writes, " not on [the] backs of needy." When Americans vote this November we are choosing between two plans to get America back in shape: a safe and proven 'work out' plan or an extreme diet that could leave the 1 percent fat while the rest of us starve.