1. Misunderstanding the Causes of the Deficit
Congressman Grimm was quoted as saying "It's not that we tax too little, it's that we spend too much."
Unfortunately the spending Congressman Grimm is referring to is not the true source of our deficit. The Paul Ryan budget ignores the actual causes of the deficit and therefore does little to affect the spending which has put us in jeopardy. Economists, non-partisan budget analysts and the facts agree that the four primary causes of our current deficit are: 1. The Bush Tax Cuts, 2. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 3. The unfunded Bush administration Prescription Drug plan, and 4. The current economic downturn.
2. Applying Solutions Not Related to the Cause of the Deficit
Failing to recognize or acknowledge the actual causes of the deficit the Ryan budget sets it's sights on ideological targets that can conveniently be attacked using the mounting deficit as cover. In Medicare they have just such a target.
Granted, Medicare is a significant portion of the federal budget, but scapegoating a program while failing to address the deficit's true causes is less than a serious approach. Regarding Medicare, Congressman Grimm said "the formulas did not account for the Baby Boomers or the fact that we are living longer" he went on to say "If we don't deal with entitlement programs, we are going to go broke."
If we are to understand the Congressman, the solution to our problem is to fix what isn't broken. Medicare and social security do not suffer from excessive spending as the Congressman suggests but rather that the baby boomers are simply a large generation. Of course, we have known this for decades, no one should be surprised. In a complex world, even with rising health care costs, the problem is simply the size of the baby boomer generation.
We have had time to prepare. In fact, just 10 years ago we had a budget surplus. We could have used that money to prepare for what we knew was coming. Instead, it was the Bush administration that decided to squander the surplus rather than pay down the deficit and prepare for the foreseeable healthcare and retirement issues relating to the aging baby-boomer population.
3. Applying Solutions That Are Actually Part of the Problem
Because Congressman Grimm and the Ryan budget don't acknowledge the actual causes of our deficit, they actually recommend more of the very thing that has increased the deficit, tax cuts. As noted above, one of our major deficit contributors is the Bush tax cuts. It has recently been reported that by simply allowing them to expire and essentially doing nothing else, our deficit will return to zero by 2019.
But the problem goes beyond the Bush tax cuts, in fact we have been consistently reducing taxes for 50 years. Since 1961, the wealthiest 10% have seen their taxes reduced by almost two thirds, while the middle class has seen their taxes reduced by almost one third over that same period.
When pressed on the issue of taxes, Congressman Grimm stated “what this is turning into is class warfare.” Again, the congressman has it all wrong. If you look at the "class warfare" of the last 50 years you see that the top 10% have received between 90% and 100% of all wealth and income gains over that period. Correspondingly, middle class incomes have remained flat. In addition, in the last decade only the top 10% have experienced any increases in income and wealth, while the middle class has actually seen their income shrink.
Congressman Grimm went on to claim that “if we lower taxes we will raise revenue.” His idea being that by decreasing taxes we'll create conditions for businesses to invest and hire new workers. Unfortunately, the facts are that businesses are already sitting on historically large amounts of cash yet they aren’t hiring. The problem is not one of supply, but one of demand. Flat middle class wages and high rates of unemployment are the problem, not a lack of supply.
Cutting taxes will only serve to make our problems worse.
4. The Ryan Budget Will Make the Deficit Larger
Now that the facts of the Ryan budget have been released and analyzed, it's clear that this budget plan won't cut our deficit, but rather add to it. Depending on which source you cite, estimates are that the Ryan budget will increase the deficit between $3 trillion and $6 trillion dollars over the next decade.
Fundamentally alter medicare and increase the deficit, what a bargain.
5. Citing Talking Points and Beliefs Rather Than The Facts
It's important to remember that the deficit, Medicare and the Ryan budget all boil down to one thing, people's lives. It's not about policy in the abstract, it's not about democrat verses republican, conservative verses liberal, we're talking about real lives of real people.
As members of this community we look to our elected officials to both represent our needs and listen to our voices. We also hope to engage in real exchanges with our elected officials. When we do so, even when we genuinely disagree, we at least want to hear the real voice and the real thoughts of our officials. Congressman Grimm seemed to only echo the same talking points we've heard repeated again and again by various talking heads and party leaders. We find ourselves wondering what it is that Congressman Grimm actually thinks beyond the talking points he brought to the town hall.
6. Not Listening to the Voters and Town Hall Participants
The citizens Congressman Grimm represents brought real concerns, and in many cases real objections based on real data. Not only did Congressman Grimm disregard the desires and the needs of his constituents, but more importantly he ignored the facts. After several citizens pointed out some of the data surrounding the budget and the deficit, Congressman Grimm said “it’s reprehensible to leave this level of debt to our children” a fact upon which we all agree. This is precisely why the facts matter, because the fact is that failing to address the true causes of the deficit will only serve to increase the burden we pass on to our children in the future, while simultaneously increasing the burden upon the elderly and the middle class now.
7. Adding Insult to Injury
We understand that we won't always agree, but we do expect to be heard. What's more, the size and scope of our problems demand fact based deliberation, not ideological votes devoid of critical thinking.
“I respect your opinions but I’m not going to apologize for my beliefs” the Congressman said. If only the issue were about our beliefs and not the hard facts. We can not solve a problem without addressing it's causes, and in the case of medicare, we can not solve our deficit problems by creating new ones with poor policy decisions. It's not about opinions or beliefs, it's about fact based, data driven decision making.
Congressman Grimm stood by his record, declaring “I voted for that budget and I would do it again.” Unfortunately, the decision was wrong the first time, and asserting you would make the same mistake twice only indicates a stubborn tendency to ignore the facts, not resolute leadership.