Monday, August 15, 2011

Return to common sense?

So what does my layman’s opinion of a responsible budget look like?

Well, what does a private citizen’s responsible budget look like?  A list of spending priorities would probably look like this:

1)      Bare-bones necessities
2)      Debts
3)      Privileges

Just like ours, the national and state budgets begin with revenue, or income.  As individuals, we understand it is set for us by a range of factors including our qualifications and the availability of positions we qualify for.  The government has a tad more control over theirs, which primarily takes the form of taxes and fees.

Unfortunately, like the individual addicted to plastic and practically living on credit, our government seems to be trying to operate largely on money borrowed from other nations.  So, while Suze Orzman tells us it’s utterly irresponsible to carry excess credit and to pay off even those necessary loans as soon as possible, our leaders have decided that said rules don’t apply to their management of our nation’s finances.

Wouldn’t it be prudent for them to mirror their budget on those of the people?

Here’s what I propose (and I know I’m not the first):

Flat rate tax, with exemptions only for those falling below the poverty bracket.  Let’s just make sure there is a definite distinction drawn between small businesses and individuals, shall we?  My husband and I have had the – erm, “joy” of paying self-employment tax even when we fell well below the poverty line.  It is because of this that I understand why self-employed individuals are so worried when the Democratic Party speaks about raising taxes on the “rich.”  “Rich” and “poor” are highly arbitrary concepts.

Reduced government spending.  America used to be strong because communities supported their own.  And, as I mentioned in prior posts, government officials were motivated by their passions for the people, not reimbursement, to represent.  So my slashes would include:
1)      Pay cuts for government officials (including a return to a seasonal congress).
2)      Transition to community-supported food and housing programs.
3)      Reduction in federal funding of public education (yes, I know I’m going to get slammed for this on – remember what I said about local community?)  In other words, reduce the federal education budget to educational necessities.  Frankly, it doesn’t impress me that most American high school graduates may have stellar sports programs yet can’t pass a general history test.  Get it back to the 3 R’s and the classics (science, technology, poli-sci, literature).  Let the communities draw together and labor to provide extra-curriculars such as sports and fine arts.  Chances are greater love and pride will be poured into the effort that way.
4)      Medical … well, I’ll address that shortly.

Eliminate international debt.  I’m sorry, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  We need to quit borrowing from Peter to pay Paul … the sooner we’re debt-free, we can quit whining about never having any money.

Regarding health care:  those who know me have heard my opinions on so-called health care.  I honestly don’t know how our current president came to the conclusion that it was logical to penalize anyone who didn’t carry health insurance … when insurance is exceedingly costly and unemployment is at an all-time high.  Shouldn’t we be addressing the problem at the source?

Lawyers.  We are a sue-happy nation.  Something goes wrong, and we want someone to pay.  Because of a few irresponsible doctors who committed legit crimes of malpractice, now all doctors and hospitals are required to carry inexorbinate rates of malpractice insurance.  The trickle-down effect is crippling not only to our medical practitioners, but to us as patients.  How much do you really think your doctor takes home from your $5000 surgery?  Less than you think – truth is, it’s his or her insurance company who gets the bulk of your money.  Meanwhile, it’s these same insurance companies (both your “health insurance” and his “malpractice insurance”) who are dictating the care you receive – not your doctor with his 12+ years of postgraduate education.  Have you ever felt like the medical community is schizophrenic?  Guess what: it is.  But not because they don’t know what they’re doing.  Some just have better insurance lawyers than others.  Of course, “better” is in the eye of the beholder.  Don’t believe me?  Then ask yourself this: why do you think c-section rates in America are highest in the world (despite our state-of-the-art prenatal care) … yet hospital birthing centers across the nation are being forced to shut down on account of being "too costly"?

So what do I think?  I do propose that Uncle Sam step in on this one.  That is, to cap malpractice lawsuits and related insurance rates.  Let’s bring down the costs that have absolutely nothing to do with health care.  I suspect that, were it handled properly, you’d see a 50% reduction in cost to the patient.  Meanwhile, give the patients a bit more control of their own care.  Then, perhaps, individuals might be able to afford their own health care without government aid or intervention.  One less bill for Uncle Sam altogether.  In the case of the truly poverty-stricken … well, I’d group it back with the community-supported food and housing programs I proposed earlier.

But then … “community supported” puts the effort and sacrifice back on us, the people.  And I get the distinct impression that the bulk of America, while wanting to “fix” Washington, aren’t particularly interested in putting the effort in themselves to do so …

Tell me, would you?

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