Maroon Bells on a Rainy Day in July
Maybe we can agree on one thing right now: the economy of the United States of America and most of the Earth is not doing very well today as compared to how it was performing in the year 2007. Of course there are some exceptions in individual cases for some people and possibly some countries. How have we come to be in this situation in this modern world full of advanced knowledge? How can we move ahead such that everyone will be well off? I will try to answer these questions.
Prior to 2007 many of the world’s economies were booming or doing quite well. However, many people and countries on Earth were not in sync with this boom, and were certainly not feeling cheery and full of satisfaction. Europe, the US, China, Japan and some other nations were kind of cruising along with the US spending billions on war. The Europeans were creating more and more egalitarian benefits for their citizens, and the US gave the wealthy a hefty tax cut with boasts that this would make the economy even better. The bulk of the rest of nations on Earth and the vast majority of Earth’s people were struggling for sure.
The Europeans especially believed that they had done enough to create a better world for everyone, and the US was not much different in its thinking. Our influence had not created much positive leverage for the people, but had instead created leverage for special interests and despots. If anything we were allowing if not outright encouraging exploitation of these peoples and their nations. So long as we were better off, we didn’t really care. It was showing. Our sense of freedom and laissez-faire were imperiling many. These nations didn’t have the infrastructure and maturity to deal with the negative externalities that wealthy, powerful nations and corporations forced upon them. Divide and conquer was an easy game theory scenario to impose. The prisoner’s dilemma has been overused for exploitation as well.
Then, the US and many European nations decided they could wage a very expensive military campaign without adjusting their revenue situation. The wealthiest Americans were extended a tremendous bargain in tax breaks, which put the US into an irrational deficit position. Europeans continued to be aggressive at egalitarian social welfare, but they did not adjust contributions to make up for the extra guns they were buying for use at home and abroad. Irrational debt flooded these countries, and we have the current sputtering economy. It didn’t help that there were widespread unethical and bizarre business behaviors in the deregulated US economy. The US administration had promised that tax breaks for the rich and less regulation of business activity would improve the economy; the results of these policies was disastrous for all but a relative few oil families of the world.
How do we get out of this mess? The solution isn’t really very complex. To start with the US needs to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Not only should the tax cuts be eliminated, but the wealthiest Americans should start paying their fair share of taxes. The wealthiest Americans have been kings of the free ride. While demanding the most in government goods and services to take care of their every need including military, law enforcement, courts, transportation and much, much more, the wealthiest Americans have been making the rest of the Americans pay for these goods and services by claiming that they, the rich, don’t need them. That is an obvious and ridiculous position. The wealthiest Americans would not even be nearly as wealthy without the protections from the federal, state and local governments that they have been given. They have even abused these powers in many cases.
Two, the US needs to stop going in debt for goods and services that do not have long-term capital value. Infrastructure and homes have long-term capital value, if built well. Education has long-term capital value at all levels. Proper health care has long-term capital value. Most government services need to be run as lean as possible during a low tax revenue cycle, but with excellent customer service delivery expectations. Enriching a few special interests is not rational.
Three, the world needs to rethink intellectual property rights. People should be able to make reasonable gains from their inventions and unique art – not excessive returns. They should be able to own their art, if desired. They should be able to own their patents for a prescribed period of time making reasonable royalties without creating negative externalities.
Four, Europe needs to work a little harder and a little longer. Many Europeans will need to work slightly longer work weeks, with a little less vacation and retire a few years later. I cannot complain about their vision to have a better life, but at present it is at the expense of many others worldwide. This can be turned around with better, truly fair policies toward imports, exports and foreign affairs.
Fifth, all of the people of the world need to be included or vested with a good life – the right to pursue happiness. Of course there are examples of good people and some short-run success stories in many parts of the world. However, the concept of sustainable design has not been utilized successfully in the vast majority of cases. People, non-profits and governments with good intentions have not been successful. Often they have chosen the side of a budding repressive regime or family to support, which leads to horrible long-term problems for the rest of the citizens of that nation.
Sixth, robust minimum health care, education, child development, welfare, retirement and other services need to be available to all people throughout the world. We need to be willing to pay for these things with taxes that are more like social security than general funds that get exploited by special interests and reactionaries.
Seventh, we need to work on better regulations for drugs and other problem behaviors. The current regulations are creating more crime and addiction than they are preventing. Corruption rules this war on all sides of every border. Let’s design and implement more reasonable policies and regulations, and free the millions of people oppressed by the current failed approach.
Finally, higher education needs to be much more affordable. We all benefit from good education, not just those that work hard and sacrifice to obtain it. In the US it is all too often that a person must also take on the burden of excessive debt to pay inflated tuition and fees to attend school. This super counter-productive system needs to be turned around. Acquiring knowledge and skills is not easy to do. In fact it is quite difficult. When we discourage people from becoming educated we do a disservice to every child, woman and man living on this planet. This system of high priced education is costing us every day, and it is plays a significant role in slowing our recovery from recessionary economic conditions.
It is a good thing to “keep hope alive” for everyone. Most of us need to work harder at creating more hope for everyone. We need to be willing to cooperate and collaborate to improve our governments. It is not that difficult to make this planet a much better place to live and prosper, but we must eliminate the short-term profiteering that creates tremendously negative externalities for the rest of us. The wealthy create tremendous demands on our governments, but have the means to successfully argue against paying their fair share. I am arguing that not only should we pay our fair share, but we should pay more if we have the means to pay more to at least try to make up for the mess they have put us in.
Daniel A. Jones, September 4, 2011