Generation here and now

by Stephen Seufert, The Seufert Papers, December 21, 2012

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale_1800

“We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.” Thomas Jefferson

 

The Democratic Party’s obsession with protecting entitlements is nearly as fanatical as the Republican Party’s obsession with tearing it down. The safety nets put in place during the New Deal and Great Society era is what we base the entire foundation of modern government around. ¬†Over the last few decades, the Republican Party has chipped away at these entitlement programs, while the Democrats try desperately to hold the pieces together. The only way Republicans could combat Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid was to make them fiscally unsustainable by repeatedly lowering taxes. Thus, the Federal Government, whether it be controlled by Democrats or Republicans, kept on spending while at the same time taxes were gradually cut. Problem is Republicans gave no viable alternative to these popular safety net programs. The end result was tremendous debt and popular domestic programs critically underfunded.

In my opinion, the government is supposed to be a stabilizing force in the lives of its citizens. Simply put, government should provide for the common defense and general welfare of the nation (Common Defense General Welfare). Current leadership in Washington has questioned the stability of this nation and their ability to solve even basic problems.

Both parties are missing the real issue at hand, and that is job creation. While the government can’t provide jobs for all 12 million unemployed, it can jump start hiring in the private sector by instituting a long-term public works program (Bring Back The WPA). The Stimulus bill of 2009 was too spread out and disjointed in its goal. While the Stimulus totaled $787 billion, only $111 billion was allocated for infrastructure improvements. Yet, keep that $111 billion infrastructure spending in perspective. In 2011 alone, the Defense Department spent $680 billion. A much larger margin of the Stimulus was devoted to tax cuts, which totaled $288 billion. So when conservatives say the Stimulus failed they must mean tax cuts failed. Tax cuts were the largest part of the Stimulus so therefore tax cuts are to blame for high unemployment and slow GDP growth. Of course taxes are not the reason for high unemployment or slow economic recovery because taxes, whether low or high, have little to do with economic decline or growth (A future worthy of our people). Conversely, spending has a tremendous influence on the economy. Unfortunately, Stimulus spending fell short of providing the boost that the economy desperately needed. While the Stimulus may have saved jobs, it added too few.

If Republicans spent more time and energy on job creation and less time on destroying the welfare system then I may be more inclined to vote for them once and awhile. As far as I’m concerned Republicans are short sighted and reactionaries. Their inaction due to ideological stubbornness does more to hurt the economy then what they fear the most: raising taxes and domestic spending. Democrats, however, share blame for our current stagnation. For years, Democrats have tried to eat their cake without paying for it. Democrats thought they could pretend to be Republicans and promise tax cuts coupled with more spending. That mindset doesn’t bode well for anyone. Furthermore, Democrats speak in bold, high minded terms yet have no unified voice. Ultimately, Democrats lack direction because they promise so much to so many that after elections they have an overburdened, confused agenda. Democrats are not the same Democrats of the New Deal or Great Society, yet their link to the past is what most clearly defines them. That in itself is a serious problem.

Thomas Jefferson said that each succeeding generation, much like an independent nation, must choose their own path forward and therefore not be tied down by past generations decisions. I share that advice with Democrats and Republicans in the hope that they live in the here and now. Recognize our shared burdens and address them accordingly. If the two parties can come together and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the nation, we may very well see shared prosperity in our lifetime.