Be Relevant

Relearning everything we've forgotten.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

“Making Our Future Win-Lose”

The future is ours to win.” [1] I imagined that Stephen Covey winced at the President's words. This is a clear violation of Habit #4 in the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Synopsis: Genuinely striving for mutually beneficial
solutions or agreements in your relationships. Valuing
and respecting people by understanding a "win" for all is
ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one
person in the situation had gotten his way.” [2]

Certainly our President is a highly effective person. Certainly we want to be a nation of highly effective people. So why are we starting from a premise of winners and losers? “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” [1] This mentality means that for America to win somewhere else people have to lose. Who will have to lose next? Who is after Iraq and Afghanistan? We are 5% of the world's population but we consume 25% of the world's resources. How much more can we take?

Al Qaeda is evidence of what happens when a populace is relegated to the losing side. A population that is grossly under educated, under fed, impoverished, and downtrodden is a seed bed for the kind of fanatics that terrorists are. Just look at how Hitler took power and you'll see some scary resemblances.

“We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook.” [1] Is this truly how we want to be seen by the world? A country that is simply driven by production and reliant on sales. “We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business.” [1] Apparently so.

The President opened the speech with,

Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever
known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate
profits are up. The economy is growing again. But we have
never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We
measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs
they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer.”[1]

Though I disagree with the way he sees us measuring progress (GDP anyone?) I agree that progress should be measured by the success of our people. But not at the cost of others. So I disagree with this idea that “the future is ours to win.”[1] Don't get me wrong, I found many things to cheer about in his speech.

The President is correct we have to tackle our national debt. It is over $14 trillion and growing. [3] Restructuring the government is a great start. Freezing domestic spending for the next 5 years is a great start. But let's get real about the tens of billions of dollars that the Department of Defense is cutting. It's not even going to make a drop in the bucket. The 2010 DOD budget was over 600 billion dollars. This means if we completely cut the Defense budget to $0 and directed all that money to the debt we could pay off the debt in 20 – 30 years. Kind of like our own national mortgage. Yet there is no way we are going cut Defense completely out. If we only took half of that budget it would take us between 40-50 years. But with half the DOD budget and the savings from capping domestic spending (till the debt is paid off please!) and the idea of restructuring the government, we might just pay-off that national mortgage in 20-30 years.

Simplifying the tax code. Yes please! I'm all for lessening some taxes for corporations if the product they are producing is of value, and their operations directly provide benefits to the community they are in. This isn't to be confused with “free lunch” concessions some states make to attract businesses by shifting all the tax responsibilities on the citizens of that community. By all means come start a business and enjoy fair tax rates. But you better come ready to be a part of the community and ready to bare your portion of the community's tax burdens.

This leads to another quite sticky issue. I'm just as guilty of trying to find every single legal way out of paying my taxes that there is possible. Nearly half of Americans didn't pay federal income tax in 2009? That's incredible. I hate income taxes. I find them burdensome and debilitating to the American people. I am a huge proponent of a graduated consumption tax. This way everyone pays the amount they want and no one escapes their civic duty to pay taxes. Illegal immigrants and all.

Onto illegal immigration. Yes we need to solve this issue. But creating legislation that effectively creates a semi-police state attitude isn't the way. Nor is hate mongering about said legislation and thinking violence is the answer. Illegal immigrants have been stereotyped into this sect of people who take the low-income jobs and live off welfare. Surely this image has those that live up to it or rather down to it. Which makes you wonder how the “illegal immigrants are taking our jobs argument” holds up. But half of the illegal immigrants in this country are in the middle class range and pay taxes. What? They pay taxes? Yes. It is a reality that you have to have a SSN to get a job in this country. So many of them purchase SSNs and pay taxes for years. Never filing for a tax refund because they don't want to draw attention to themselves. What happens to that money?

Our country needs a viable worker program. It also needs clear and concise ways to apply for citizenship. Making applying for citizenship much more appealing than risking their lives to get into the country. Lastly, we need to look at the reasons (NAFTA and corn subsidies are just a few) why people want to get into the country in the first place. Could it be they're just trying to get on the winning side?

Another issue that is always attached to illegal immigrants is health care. Instead of going down that rabbit hole lets talk about health care for US citizens. The Republicans want to repeal the health care law. Well at the least the insurance companies who got the Republicans the majority in the House want the health care law repealed. The President said he'd be willing to talk to anyone to make the bill better. Mr. President the American people deserve health care free from profit driven motives. We must provide government health care to all our citizens. Maybe it will increase our taxes but I have a feeling if we had a consumption tax that everyone paid, and we cut spending as talked about above, there would be plenty of tax dollars to fund national health care. Besides even if you had to pay an extra $100-200 a month in taxes its still better than the $500 a month most families pay for insurance. At the very least it'd cost the same as the cut-rate insurance that doesn't even pay half the expenses.

So we have a ton of work to do internally. But how does that translate to more jobs and a win-win environment for the US and the rest of the world? By focusing on the green technologies and creating the partnerships with other nations. By getting ourselves out of Iraq and Afghanistan and stop creating worthless wars that kill people and tarnish our morality as a country. By lessening our dependence on oil. But stopping tax dollar subsidies to companies earning record profits and polluting our world. Investing in companies who invest in our communities. We need to invest in education and not allow higher education to be another means of social stratification. We do need to innovate but with the rest of the world. The global financial crisis has shown how interconnected we all are. We can't go it alone in the world any longer and trying to take more of the global pie isn't the answer.

But I can't help feeling that it will all be just rhetoric unless we stand up and hold the President and Congress accountable. In this age where the Supreme Court – unjustly - upheld a corporation's right to free speech thereby allowing corporate campaign contributions, it can feel down right daunting to make a difference. But we can!

There are two fundamental truths. The first truth is there are 3 resources that you have that the world covets. They are (1) your vote, (2) your money, and (3) your capacity to produce money. The second truth is that you control all 3 of those resources. We all need to become more informed and take a stance on something. This national sense of apathy abdicates our control over the government. We need to wrest control of our government back.

Now it’s our turn.” [1] Yes it is Mr. President.

[1] State of the Union Address 2011, Retrieved from Scribd 26 January 2011.
[3] The US National Debt Clock, Retrieved 26 January 2011.

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