How the COVID-19 recovery is structured will determine America’s future
Trillions of dollars are being poured into keeping people and companies financially afloat during coronavirus shutdowns. Before long, expect Congress to engage in an epic battle over how the government is going to pay for this bailout and related national programs.
Despite what many would like to believe, there is a limit to how much the Federal government can spend. The national debt is not a bottomless credit card. Over the past two years, tax cuts and extraordinary coronavirus expenses have increased the national debt by trillions of dollars. Interest payments on that debt means less money is available for other government programs.
And most of the states are now financially underwater as well. Unemployment and healthcare expenditures have drained their coffers. They too are looking to the Federal government for bailouts.
So how will Congress resolve these funding needs? Which existing Federal programs will be reduced or cut to free up money for massive recovery efforts?
A Restructuring of American Priorities is Necessary
The coming congressional battle over national priorities will determine the course of America’s direction for the remainder of this century. In a Congress inundated with lobbyists and big money, we ordinary citizens have a daunting battle to make our voices heard. Will our health-care system continue to be defined by Big Pharma and insurance companies? Will the defense industry continue to gobble up massive funds? The coronavirus has drained the treasury and is forcing us to look anew at how the national budget is allocated.
It is clear that our current health-care system leaves much to be desired. COVID-19 has shaken this tree and found it to be wanting. Its archaic structure is designed to benefit everyone but consumers. For example, it is ludicrous for Medicare to forbid competitive bidding or foreign imports of pharmaceuticals. And the insurance companies have a byzantine payment structure that no one understands and even they have difficulty explaining! Yet an army of lobbyists prevent any tampering that might impact the profits of these corporations.
Also, as a 75-year-old Baby Boomer and Vietnam veteran who has grown wiser over the years, it saddens me to see the grip that the military-industrial complex has on our nation. President Eisenhower’s warning never rang more true. There is something just plain crazy about spending more on national defense than the next seven industrialized countries (China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and Germany) all together. Defense spending accounts for 15 percent of all federal spending and roughly half of our discretionary spending. Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups roaming the world? When did military action become an acceptable answer to crises instead of the last choice of action? Why do we get involved in endless wars that suck trillions of dollars out of our economy?
Boomer Voices and Resources Count!
The outcome of the coming budget battles will determine the course of America for decades to come. Will Social Security be curtailed to avoid rolling back tax breaks for the wealthy? Will we continue to play the world’s policeman? What about our crumbling highways and bridges? How are we going to overcome what may well be another Great Depression? And what about the specter of unfathomable devastation that is expected to be wrought by global climate change?
There is no dodging these issues. Financial havoc wrecked by the coronavirus is forcing our nation to weigh priorities. How will we prioritize expenditures going forward? What new revenue contributors can be implemented to increase available funds? In short, we are at a real “come to Jesus” moment in history.
Our Last Rodeo
Is America to become an oligarchy where the wealthy and big corporations call the shots, or are we going to make our voices heard and galvanize action to take the country in a new direction?
My fellow Boomers, for many of us this will be our last rodeo on the national stage. Please look into your hearts because the fate of our children and grandchildren is at stake. Let us find the courage to stand up one more time, to leave them with a nation structured to address the needs of all its citizens, not just those spreading money within the beltway. This can be the greatest accomplishment of our generation. It would be a shining legacy bestowed to those who follow us. Let’s get this right!