Last week I saw an elderly gentleman with a No Socialism bumper sticker. I had to smile, knowing that he is one of the primary recipients of socialism through Social Security and Medicare. The average citizen contributes a maximum of $125K in social security taxes over 40 years. This investment is increased by employer contribution and inflation…but even when making favorable calculations, after 13 years of retirement (and for most it is less), we are relying on Government Socialism. The average Medicare benefit we receive is 2 ½ times our contribution.
The point of this is NOT to advocate eliminating or reducing Social Security benefits, but it is to acknowledge them; and be open to extending this largess to others.
Helping others is a core agenda of the Democratic Party. And since the Democratic Party has won the popular vote in 7 of the last 8 presidential elections, it is clear that the country agrees.
Democrats owe their success to a coalition of youth, African American, Latina women, and college educated white voters. This coalition believes that the United States needs to take a larger view of America’s needs.
Today, the younger generations are shouldering a greater burden than we carried. College tuition is so expensive that many students graduate with significant debt. Affordable childcare and health care are hard to find. The Affordable Care Act eliminates pre-existing condition restrictions but remains expensive. The environment is under siege and this generation will pay the price for our refusal to act.
Due to discrimination, the African American population desperately needs changes in the criminal injustice system, social services support, and well-paying jobs in their neighborhoods.
The immigrant population requires compassion and legislation to get us out of this mess.
Good paying manufacturing and service industry jobs are not available to many, since most have moved offshore to take advantage of tax laws passed by Congress.
And everyone needs relief from COVID 19 fall out.
Sounds scary. Conservatives are justifiably concerned about Federal Budget deficits.
But it depends on how we ask the question. Rather than ask “Can we afford these benefits?” why not change the question to “What can we do to fund these benefits?” And equally important, “How can we prevent them from becoming entitlements.”
Using this perspective, it is easy to find opportunities within the Federal Budget. Elizabeth Warren proposed a tax plan that would impact only those with over $10M net worth.
Congress needs to pass legislation that incents companies to retain and return jobs in America; and legislation that rewards employers who improve the environment.
We can also get cost savings and revenues from thinking differently. Here are two: reform the criminal injustice system and decriminalize and tax marijuana.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, at 655 per 100,000 people (20% for nonviolent drug possession); while our Canadian neighbor incarcerates 114 per 100,000. Due to a racial caste system, this disproportionately impacts the African American population. Reducing the prison population could save as much as $60 B annually.
Here is another: legalize marijuana (now legal in 16 states) and collect $10B in Federal excise taxes on it.
See how easy this can be when we use a problem-solving mode rather than a “socialism for me but not you, perspective?”
But before I close, I would like to give a “shout out” to Republicans who recognized that the country was more important than their agenda and voted to bring back sanity to the Presidency. The nation is also indebted to Trump supporters who accepted the election results and refused to demean our electoral process. I want to sincerely thank you all for putting America first.
And Democrats need the conservative voice that recognizes the value of American business, fiscal responsibility, entrepreneurship, and the importance of financial markets.
I know that this is naïve. Both parties have legislative leaders who are more concerned about their party and their personal power than the country. Lobbyists are firmly entrenched.
But Democrats have promises to keep…and rather than make this a burden or an obstructionist Congress, wouldn’t it be great if we saw this as an opportunity. Democrats and Republicans, let’s roll up our sleeves.
We have work to do.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.