Around our dinner table we have some very lively conversations and often the topic is around something we have read in the paper or came upon on the Internet. This morning was no exception. From the front page to the Op Ed page were a variety of articles about the looming fiscal cliff. You know, that January 1st date when all hell will break loose in our country because we have gone over a financial cliff in terms of dealing with a rising deficit and rising expenses; an unsustainable and untenable situation.
The Republicans who have a majority in the house (albeit a smaller one) are digging in again about raising taxes on the wealthy. The Democrats who have a majority in the Senate are digging in again about changing Social Security and Medicare. Nothing has changed from last summer. Nothing. So, folks, looks like we are going to take a white water rafting trip over the fiscal falls, or fall off a cliff into the abyss. Nothing can be done about it, right?
Many of the articles I have read say the American people are calling for compromise. Sure, that makes sense. Isn’t compromise the art of politics anyway? You give me this and I’ll give you that. But, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of negotiation there is something else that creeps into the conversation – ethics. Ha, you say, politicians have no ethics, and some days it surely seems that way. I think it is ethics that is hanging our congress and leadership up in their underwear.
The democrats are saying that to change Medicare or Social Security is putting the burden of debt reduction on the backs of the poor and the elderly while leaving the rich and the richer scott free and that is unethical. Maybe.
The Republicans are saying that to increase taxes on only the wealthy would be crippling the producers which would jack up unemployment, send more business overseas, cause a continuation of the recession, and be unethical. Maybe.
In some respects they are both right and both wrong. What if, we did both? I haven’t spoken to one person (including some very wealthy people) who didn’t feel that the richest Americans should not only pay more taxes, but in the case of corporations pay taxes period. I haven’t spoken to anyone who didn’t think that we all have to bear the burden of reducing the debt. No one (in the age group affected) has told me that that it would bother them if one wasn’t eligible for Medicare until age 70.
Similarly, there is not a whisper that an increase in the age one receives Social Security would be a disaster. In fact, most people under age 55 are skeptical about whether or not Social Security or Medicare will even be available to them if the system isn’t fixed. Years ago the contributions of 16 people supported one person on Social Security. Today, two people’s contribution support one person. This is unsustainable.
It would be unethical to take away from those who now have those benefits as they depend on that income. It is not, IMHO, unethical to tell younger generations that the pot will be half-full or even empty for them and they need to start planning some retirement savings right now because Uncle Sam was never intended to be sole support for them after age 65 or any age for that matter.
Surprisingly, most intelligent people that I speak to are in favor of a single payer healthcare system. Why not? The rest of the world is now on that system. I am old enough to remember that there were three basic needs that, on a humanitarian level, needed to be met – Food, Shelter, and Clothing. Today, there are four basic needs to be met – Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Health Care. This all comes under the cloak of what does a person need in order to survive.
Therefore, it is highly ethical for a government body (supported by all the people) to take on that basic need for medical care. Health care is no longer simple or inexpensive. Health insurance likewise. In my day we bought in-hospital insurance. We paid for everything else and it was affordable.
Today our medical system is so technologically advanced and so expensive that insurance is the only way to cover those expenses and that insurance today is so expensive that a large portion of our population can’t afford it. A conundrum that needs to be solved if we accept the fact that health care is a basic human need.
As a society we are living much, much longer lives than when the Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid programs were instituted. It is only ethical, not to mention fiscally responsible, to change the parameters of those programs as society changes. It is not unethical to advance the age one begins to receive those benefits from 65 to 70. And, it is not unethical to have a single payer healthcare system that provides for every single American citizen. It has worked for others it can work for us.
Finally, is it unethical for us to raise taxes on the wealthy? On corporations? On small businesses? I think not. To be scriptural about it, Jesus said in Luke verse 48: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” In this day and age when money is the basis of exchange (we don’t barter much anymore) then those with much money need to give back to those with less money in an equitable manner. In the Jewish tradition, farmers were expected to leave a corner of their fields for the poor to use to plant crops in order to feed themselves.
I am not for exorbitant taxation, but neither am I for obscene corporate/athletes/celebrities salaries and bonuses which is only one form of self-indulgence. The very rich must help the very poor because it is their system of overindulgence that essentially creates the poor. I am also not for a purely socialistic form of government, but there is a level somewhere in between that distributes wealth in a manner that is equitable and ethical for all. We cannot sustain an economically ethical country if the rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle class is shrinking.
Yes, my friends, it is more than time for our politicians to compromise. We all have to give in on something. Politics and ethics need to work together. Our citizens will support both approaches and who knows, we might even wind up with a surplus at the end of the Obama administration. Now wouldn’t that be nice?