Grand Haven Tribune: Where is the moral outrage at our deficits, national debt?

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Where is the moral outrage at our deficits, national debt?

• May 15, 2019 at 3:00 PM

In March, our government's deficit was $234 billion — the largest monthly deficit in our history. The previous month was almost as bad.

Where is the moral outrage in our country at such deficit spending?

Certainly our president, who called himself "the king of debt,” is not outraged. Certainly the Congress is not outraged. The mass media rarely pays attention to this ticking time bomb. Moreover, those running for president shy away from the subject because sacrifice and fiscal responsibility are about as popular as promising to raise taxes or proposing spending cuts to make ends meet.

You turn to Fox News and the talking heads are always talking about the invasion of brown people into our country or the invasion of brown women into the Congress. You turn to MSNBC or CNN and all you hear are stories about Russian collusion, the Mueller report, or obstruction of justice.

But, we the citizens, are colluding with our government and the mass media in generational theft. I especially blame my generation, the baby boomers, the most selfish generation in American history. My generation is narcissistic and we gave to the world two narcissists running against each other for president in 2016.

Now there are even more members of my generation running for the prize in 2020. Not surprisingly, none of these Democrats, old or young, running for president are putting an emphasis on our deficits and our trillions of national debt. Most of this debt was accumulated under our recent baby boomer presidents, George W. Bush from $5 trillion to $10 trillion; Obama from $10 trillion to $20 trillion; and now Trump is holding the baton and may double it again at the present rate of our spending.

Besides the baby boomers' narcissism and lack of concern for our young people, there is the fact that 60 major corporations, including Amazon and Chevron, paid no income tax last year, although these companies made billions. There is the fact that Trump's tax cut made the wealthy among us even wealthier, and the fact that the corporate tax cut was largely spent on stock buybacks and higher pay for the fat cats.

Is there any person among us who will argue against the idea that our tax code needs total revamping?

I would like to see a progressive flat tax with no deductions, where every citizen pays something even if a few dollars, and the super rich pay more, much more, than presently. A billionaire was something that did not exist, to my awareness, in the 1950s. Now they are a dime a dozen.

My image of government spending is that it is like a vast river, like the Amazon River, and connected people in our society — think our politicians, bankers and CEOs — have tributaries running off this great river into their bank accounts.

Now we have 2 percent of our citizens owning 92 percent of our wealth. In other words, the government keeps on printing money and a few of us benefit at the expense of most of us.

The magazine The Week stated in its Feb. 1 issue of this year this startling fact: "The world's 26 richest people now own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity. ... The wealth of those billionaires increased by 12 percent in 2018, while the wealth of the world's poorest people fell by 11 percent."

In the recent April 13 issue of The Week, we read this: "The top 10 percent of Americans have seen their share of the country's wealth increase from 71 percent before the crisis to 77 percent today, while the bottom 90 percent suffered a corresponding decrease. The median lower-income household has just $10,800 in assets, down almost $8,000." (The crisis, of course, was the economic collapse of 2008.)

In my view, for the election of 2020, the two most pressing issues are deficits and our debt, and health care. These issues are linked. The rich get great health care, lower-income people largely get poor care, and many of us go bankrupt due to medical expenses.

The Russian Revolution took place because of great disparities of wealth in Russia before 1917. Hitler rose to power because he promised he could solve Germany's economic crisis. We must learn from history and address the inequalities in both income and quality of health care. The money is there in our society to do this if the government spends wisely and taxes fairly, and evaluates the fact that our defense department spends more money than the next 10 countries combined. America has military bases in more than 150 countries! The issue now facing us is how we set our priorities.

Such an evaluation of our spending priorities will only happen if we press our leaders and presidential hopefuls to address our deficits and national debt. We must demand that our Congress and president revise our tax code, evaluate our spending and begin to balance our budget.

Last month, we had 3.2 percent GDP. What would it have been if we had not gone $234 billion in the hole?

Our economy is based on generational theft, lies and our blindness as to what we are doing to our young people. The good news is that my narcissistic generation is dying off. Perhaps our younger generations will do better than we did in terms of fiscal responsibility and spending priorities.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune community columnist

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