Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Debt Ceilings, Budget Battles, And Mr. Y

Michael Tomasky's article in the latest edition of the New York Review of Books, on the various budget, tax, and debt issues that surround Washington like a cloud of crap threatening a shit storm makes it clear that, playing the Washington game by the rules as currently set forth creates a no-win situation for anyone, least of all the American people. Going forward in a way that manages all that needs to be managed, not least getting the economy moving again so jobs will be created - a really interesting yet unstated way to bring down the deficit! - requires not only political courage, which is always in short supply, but creative, imaginative thinking, which one might find in a fossil bed at the Smithsonian, but that's about it.

All the same, were President Obama only slightly different in character, only slightly less averse to calling the Republican's bluff, in particular on matters where he has the general if diffuse support of the American people on his side, using the general outlines given in "A National Strategic Narrative" as a guideline would be a good way, in essence, to rip it up and start again, "it" being the entire budget negotiation process with Congress.
Perhaps the most important first step we can take, as part of a National Strategy, is to identity which . . . resources are renewable and sustainable, and which are finite and diminishing. Without doubt, our greatest resource is American's young people, who will shape and execuite the vision needed to take this nation forward into an uncertain future. . . .

Inherent in our children is the innovation, drive, and imagination that have made, and will continue to make, this country great. By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young American - the scientist,s statesmen, industrialists, farmers, investors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow - we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social service to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth.

Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation's sustainable security - on our own soil and wherever Americans and ther interests take them. As has been stated already, Americans view security in the broader context of freedom and peace of mind. Rather than focusing primarily on defense, the security we seek can only be sustained through a whole of nation appraoch to our domestic and foreign policies. This requires a diffeent approach to prblem solving that we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distrubiton of our national treasure For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry write large, focusing intesnely on defense and proctectionis rather than on development and ciplomomacy. This has been tru ein our approach to domestic and foreign trace, agrictulre and energy, science and techomology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture. Security touches each of these and must be addressed by legeraging all the strengths of our nation, not simply those intended to keep perveived threat a safe arm's length away.

. . . Our third investment priority is to develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need to our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.
Rather than shred what little remains of the fabric of the social safety net, support for quality education, and defunding the ACA, the first thing that should be done is revisioning education policy and social welfare policy as linked together creating a stable, and one hopes eventually thriving, social infrastructure.

By calling on the service chiefs to draw up white papers on how they see the force structure best responding to the evolving threats over the next fifteen to twenty years (and the death of Osama bin Laden certainly changes the equation of much of our security thinking), it seems to me we might well have a basis for reconsidering the entire way we fund defense. Seeing terrorism as a legal, rather than military, matter would direct resources where they are needed, in particular tracking the flow of money to various groups. Bringing the Department of Justice in to reconsider the whole definition of "terrorist group" in order to direct law-enforcement resources toward those groups that truly pose a threat to the American people (rather than harassing groups that are merely funnels for money that goes overseas) would also be helpful. As would treating political parties such as Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others as political parties, rather than terrorist organizations.

Finally, by seeing our environment, and our productive, resources as existing on the same continuum, we can make better investment and regulatory choices; rather than, say, give billions of dollars in tax breaks and direct incentives to various corporations - oil and gas, the auto industry, sugar, - incentives should exist for sustainable industries for the future; environmental-friendly agricultural practices, rather than factory farming that damages the land, introduces abundant, dangerous chemicals in to the land, water, and food supply, and distorts the eco-system by demanding we reroute whole rivers, creating potential horrific flood conditions.

All of this could be done, offering an entirely different vision of who we are as a people, where we as a country wish to be in five, ten, twenty years. It would be a direct rebuke to the entire stale, tired, and dead-end back-and-forth over ideas and policies that sound the same today as they did 25 years ago. By starting fresh, at the very least, we have the opportunity to change the entire conversation in directions that are productive and positive.

Virtual Tin Cup

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