It is easier to give things away to the people in a democracy than it is to take things back. Many of the world’s industrialized democracies are learning that now, so is America.
In Greece—with perhaps the direst threats to its economic existence of any nation — there were riots when the government tried to control the situation by cutting or withdrawing benefits that had been doled out over the years.
And look at the negative reaction Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) got when he tried to tamper with Medicare. We await the Democrats’ plan but it is slow in coming because, though they will cut different things, their cuts will be no less unpopular.
Neither party adequately prepared the public for what we face. Wringing hands about deficits has gone on for years, much of it nothing more than hand-wringing or crying “Wolf.” Serious discussions could not be heard through the din.
Besides, It is very easy to sit here in Washington, DC and learn all the serious facts about a situation like this and then assume your constituents are equally well informed. MISTAKE.
Average Americans are not given a staff, and full time work and the Library of Congress to help them know these things. They work at something else, they mow the lawn, weed the garden, pay the mortgage, coach Little League, save for their kids’ college and more. Of course, they learn about the deficit. They don’t like it but I doubt they understand it well which makes them sitting ducks for the demagogue who says he is going to balance the budget by eliminating “Waste, Fraud and Abuse.” (Incidentally, there are a lot of reasons for elimination abuse but what is it and exactly how much does eliminating abuse save?)
We will not balance the budget on that comfortable dream.
Besides, most citizens are not really aware of what various programs cost. I was told – repeatedly – by my constituents, when we went through all this during the Reagan years, that we could balance the budget by eliminating foreign aid. The facts were that foreign aid accounted of .6% of the budget. (Note where the decimal point is.)
I believe Americans will do what is necessary to keep our nation strong. They always have when war threatens. The trick here is to provide them with the information they need to see that our economic crisis is as potentially damaging as a war. You will not do that in one speech or while accusing the other party of being at fault. A concentrated, bi-partisan effort to tell our people clearly what we face could go a long way in preparing them for the sacrifices the solution will require.
There will have to be cuts in military spending. There will have to be added revenue (read tax increases). Sorry conservatives. There will have to be reform of Medicare and probably Social Security. Sorry liberals.
But I believe the public will go along, grumpily too be sure, but go along if we clearly explain the need before we try to pass the bills.
We are having trouble solving this deficit problem because we got the cart before the horse — again.