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Michael Waldron: Are Occupy Wall Street demonstrations harbingers of things to come?

Published 10:09pm Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two very serious things are happening in the United States.  One is our national debt crisis and the other is the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrations.  My purpose in this column is not to characterize the OWS demonstrations. My purpose in relating OWS to the debt crisis is to wonder what will happen when politicians finally become serious about reducing entitlements. What will Americans do when changes are made to taxes, Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, etc. that may affect them adversely?

The United States must deal with the debt crisis in this country and deal with it quickly.  The national debt has surpassed 15 trillion dollars.  In 10 years, the debt will be at least 21 trillion dollars, probably a lot more.  After that, estimates of our national debt become inaccurate.  As I write this column, the deadline for the Super Committee to report out a budget deal hasn’t passed. It really doesn’t matter whether the super committee succeeds or fails. Suppose the Super Committee succeeds and suppose that future congresses adhere to the deal made in 2011.  In 10 years, this country will be seven trillion dollars deeper in debt! Suppose the super committee fails, then an automatic sequester of $1.2 trillion will happen. Keep in mind future congresses can vote to void the deal or stop this sequester. Then we will be at least $8.2 trillion deeper in debt. We’re just tinkering around the edges of our debt problem.

Governments around the world are spending more money than they take in taxes. The United States has the world’s largest economy, but it cannot be immune forever to the balance sheet. The economic tsunami that began in Greece and threatens Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and possibly all the countries of Europe will wash over our shores if we don’t change our spending habits. One common factor to all these countries is that they are democracies. More on that later.

Our debt is based largely on entitlements. There is no way to reduce the budget deficit seriously without touching entitlements.  Even if we reduced our defense budget to zero, our growing entitlements will drown us eventually. At some point in the future, we must change entitlements or raise taxes to European levels. The only other options are to continue to borrow to support current spending levels or print more money. If the government prints more money, the dollar will become correspondingly worthless. I hope the government does not do that because that’s a form of national suicide. The only correct course is to modify entitlements. By modify I mean cut. We must cut fairly. One place to start is to mean test benefits and tax deductions. There is no fairness in Bill Gates receiving Medicare and Social Security. There is no fairness in millionaires and billionaires taking deductions on million-dollar home mortgages. Raising tax rates during an economic downturn is stupid. The government, however, can close loopholes.

So what happens when entitlements are cut? Will each American shrug his or her shoulders and just carry on? Given the current OWS demonstrations, I doubt it. My pessimistic prediction is that some section of our society will take to the streets to demonstrate extreme displeasure. That section of society may be encouraged by politicians, who see a political advantage dropped in their laps. Even now, President

Obama and Nancy Pelosi have made statements supporting the OWS demonstrations.

If politicians try to use the mob, our democratic government will suffer because political power will pass to the streets.  It boils down to the question of whether people can govern themselves.  Can we tell ourselves that we must do with less or will we listen to someone who promises everything in return for granting him authority to make it happen?  That has happened many, many times in history.  It could happen here as well.

In the next few years, we may see whether our founding fathers were correct. Can man govern himself or is an authoritarian government required?  If our politicians exercise maturity and vision to discipline ourselves, we will make it through our debt crisis. If politicians give in to baser instincts of political self-interest, our future looks dark. In the final analysis, we’re to blame for this because we elected them. Every four years, people speak of the presidential election as the most important event in a generation. Surely, the 2012 election will indeed be that event.

It will determine whether the United States will be more like Europe or whether we will remain a democracy where freedom is prized.  In case you have a doubt about whether we should become like Europe, consider that the European model isn’t working.

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  • Username75

    In the Progression of time Societies go
    from the primitive, to the more Complex.
    history demands that when a society Learns
    from it’s history it must change to overcome
    the mistakes of the past.
    It is a Natural thing that a society Changes
    to do so.
    We cannot live the way they did in the 1770′s
    no matter how nostalgic for the past, you are.
    to get your nickel loaf of Bread, you must get
    rids of motorized transportation, and more than
    90 % of Your population.
    You must also ignore the very Lessons of your
    Own history.
    If you did indeed duplicate the government of
    the 1770′s You wouldn’t like it.
    Even if you did know how to shoot that “Hog Leg”
    Colt , you wore on your hips.
    our government must Evolve for it’s own good, and the good
    of it’s citizenry, and the society they desire to be indeed a
    government of the People, and not a Nostalgic view of yesteryear.
    to maintain the status quo is to Ignore what is Reality.
    That is why We Have gone back to the “Trickle down” philosophy,
    that has ALWAYS led to tragedy in the past.
    and to say that the OWS is a Mob is foolish, as they are real
    people not Paper people like corporations are.
    when did wall street dictate to Us, instead of serve Us
    We actually bailed Wall Street Banks out with not just
    750 billion dollars, but more than 9 trillion dollars, if
    you actually knew the cost.
    Maybe we should have let them fail, then we all Would understand
    the real tragedy of Voodoo Reaganomics.
    Yet blame the poor for being poor, and needing Help, is our real
    Christian values, that can easily forget the words of Christ.
    our society must war against the unjust Parity between the highest
    and the lowest Earnings to actually offer Equal Protection of all
    it’s citizenry.
    A nation that wants to return to the status quo always stagnates
    and dies, and those whom forget the Lessons of the Past are
    doomed to Repeat them.
    Sam Taylor

  • bz24md

    “The only correct course is to modify entitlements” Yes, entitlements need modification; however, this is not the ONLY was to correct the problem. Like it or not, taxes also need to be raised. Suck it up!

  • Username75

    Which etitlements are You talking about?
    the Entitlements given to Agriculture?
    The Entitlements to Corporate bodies to
    Subsidies their moving jobs Overseas?
    Military Research Entitlements for Weapons
    that don’t work very well, like the Osprey?
    Entitlements to Insurance Companies?
    Entitlements to Milionares for Water?
    or the least expensive entilements to
    the poor, or the most expensive Entitlement
    Free Money to the banks, as long as they only
    have 10% Collateral in their portfolio?
    or the entitlements to Wall street bankers,
    like the Capital gains taxation, or Hedge fund

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