Letters

Letters 11-28-2016

Trump should avoid self-dealing President-elect Donald Trump plans to turn over running of The Trump Organization to his children, who are also involved in the transition and will probably be informal advisers during his administration. This is not a “blind trust.” In this scenario Trump and family could make decisions based on what’s best for them rather than what’s best for the country...

Trump the change we need?  I have had a couple of weeks to digest the results of this election and reflect. There is no way the selection of Trump as POTUS could ever come close to being normal. It is not normal to have a president-elect settle a fraud case for millions a couple of months before the inauguration. It is not normal to have racists considered for cabinet posts. It is not normal for a president-elect tweet outrageous comments on his Twitter feed to respond to supposed insults at all hours of the early morning...

Health care system should benefit all It is no secret that the health insurance situation in our country is controversial. Some say the Affordable Care Act is “the most terrible thing that has happened to our country in years”; others are thrilled that, “for the first time in years I can get and afford health insurance.” Those who have not been closely involved in the medical field cannot be expected to understand how precarious the previous medical insurance structure was...

Christmas tradition needs change The Christmas light we need most is the divine, and to receive it we do not need electricity, probably only prayers and good deeds. But not everyone has this understanding, as we see in the energy waste that follows with the Christmas decorations...

CORRECTIONS & CLARIFICATIONS 

A story in last week’s edition about parasailing businesses on East Grand Traverse Bay mistakenly described Grand Traverse Parasail as a business that is affiliated with the ParkShore Resort. It operates from a beach club two doors down from the resort. The story also should have noted that prior to the filing of a civil lawsuit in federal court by Saburi Boyer and Traverse Bay Parasail against Bryan Punturo and the ParkShore Resort, a similar lawsuit was dismissed from 13th Circuit Court in Traverse City upon a motion from the defendant’s attorney. Express regrets the error and omission.

A story in last week’s edition about The Fillmore restaurant in Manistee misstated Jacob Slonecki’s job at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course. He was a cook. Express regrets the error.

Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · Bad start to a new...
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Bad start to a new beginning

Stephan Tuttle - November 22nd, 2010
Here we go.
The co-chairs of the budget deficit commission, former Clinton Chief
of Staff Erskine Bowles, and Allan Simpson, a former GOP Senator from
Wyoming, have created quite a stir with their preliminary report on
reducing the federal deficit. The report is both dramatic and
pragmatic. It is also a stark reminder of just how difficult this is
going to be.
Nothing the commission does has the force of law. It provides
recommendations and those already put forward by Bowles and Simpson
are nothing more than preliminary ideas. But illuminating,
nevertheless.
The proposals are both broad and specific – raising the eligibility
age for Social Security, massive cuts in defense spending (including
the bloated procurement process), a reduction in the federal workforce
through attrition, significant reductions in the size of federal
departments and programs that will result in additional federal
workforce reductions, a three-year wage and benefit freeze for all
federal employees except the military, significant reductions in
income tax rates, the elimination of Congressional earmarks.
They also call for premiums to be charged for Medicare coverage, a 15
cent per gallon increase in the federal gas tax, ending the home
mortgage interest tax deduction, ending the tuition tax credits,
ending virtually all tax deductions and credits for individuals and
reducing corporate tax rates.
There’s much more, of course, but you get the idea. About 75% of the
deficit reduction the commission proposes comes from cuts of one kind
or another and the other 25% comes from tax and fee increases.
The plan here is to try and stop a runaway train of deficit spending.
The commission’s suggestions, according to them, will reduce spending
from an unsustainable 24% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP – the
value of everything we produce) to 21% by 2015. That is still slightly
above historical levels but would at least be tenable. It would
reduce the deficit to just 2% of GDP in the same time frame, a level
that is manageable.
So, how did our new budget-slashing, fire breathing members of
Congress respond? Or the stodgy incumbents? No politicians seemed to
like it very much.
Republicans on the right howled at the notion of any kind of tax
increases for any reason. It seems even considering the Bowles-Simpson
plan is a violation of their sacrosanct no-new-taxes pledge. Never
mind that on balance the vast majority of individuals and corporations
would be paying significantly less in taxes than they do now. Doesn’t
matter. They believe they can cherry pick social programs with which
they have some philosophical issue, chop away at them and everything
will be fine. They are wrong.
As for the Democrats on the left, their howls of anguish were even
louder. Cuts to social programs? Oh, my God. What about the poor
children? No, no, we can’t accept any cuts to much of anything. They
believe they can fix the budget mess on the backs of the wealthy and
corporations. They are wrong.
The loudest whining of all came from the special interest groups that
have been feeding at the public trough in porcine splendor one way or
another for decades. They’ve already unleashed their lobbyist hounds,
40,000 strong, telling us there must be some other way.
But, if we’re serious about reducing the deficit, there is no other
way. None.
Unfortunately, Congress, having long ago lost touch with reality, will
do nothing but bloviate and then dislocate their collective shoulders
patting themselves on the back after making some insignificant cut
somewhere that doesn’t do much of anything. Like ending earmarks, an
excellent and necessary bit of political stagecraft that will be
popular but the impact on the deficit will be less than one-tenth of
one percent.
Nor can the Federal Reserve fix this by constantly printing more
money. In fact, they have been wrong on almost everything for a very
long time. They didn’t see the tech bubble coming, didn’t see the
housing bubble coming, assured us the entire sub-prime catastrophe
wouldn’t happen, didn’t see any problems on Wall Street and were quite
convinced that spending $2 trillion dollars we didn’t have for various
stimulus programs would fix everything. They were wrong on every
count.
The Fed has now flummoxed two presidents with their mystifying
economic gobbledegook and equally mystifying decisions or lack
thereof. It’s clear they not only don’t know what they’re doing but
their efforts have consistently made things worse. Sometimes their
actions defy common sense and include unsavory overtones.
Consider the following: The Fed, which controls the flow of money,
recently announced they are going to purchase $600 billion in Treasury
bonds. They will do this because they fear deflation and would rather
cause inflation which they believe will increase job growth. (Don’t
ask – the Fed and common sense are not related.) The treasury note
transaction will be handled by the New York branch of the Federal
Reserve. These notes can be purchased directly from the U.S. Treasury
Department at face value. Alas, we’ll be purchasing these notes
through Goldman Sachs and paying fees. Oh, yeah. The head of the New
York branch of the Federal Reserve? That’s right. A former partner
at Goldman Sachs.
With the Bowles-Simpson trial balloon we have at least a preliminary
proposal on the table that actually addresses the deficits. It
requires sacrifices from nearly everyone, as it should. It requires
political compromise in order to achieve a greater good, as it should.
Instead of working together, as the public wants, and embracing these
proposals as an excellent place from which we could start, both the
left and right have responded with great wailing and gnashing of
teeth.
We’re left with the same vapid polemics and opaque rhetoric that
befouled our airwaves and souls during the campaigns. Our “new”
Congress, even before they’re sworn in, is looking, sounding and
acting pretty much like the old Congress.
Our new beginning is off to a bad start.

 
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