Real leaders needed to unify, create solutionsSo here’s the current plan: I don’t care who you support, Barack Obama and the 40 percent or 50 percent of America who pay absolutely nothing in income taxes and shouldn’t ever have to, or Mitt Romney and the rich blowhards on the yachts they’ve somehow deducted as a business expense.
By: By Mike Nichols, Superior Telegram
So here’s the current plan:
I don’t care who you support, Barack Obama and the 40 percent or 50 percent of America who pay absolutely nothing in income taxes and shouldn’t ever have to, or Mitt Romney and the rich blowhards on the yachts they’ve somehow deducted as a business expense.
First thing we all need to do is vilify or maybe even maim David Walker. Accuse him of smoking something hallucinatory and pungent, of being deluded — of having the audacity to say aloud that he believes in things like sacrifice and thinks most of the rest of us do, too.
Not that the hopelessly old-fashioned Walker, former comptroller general to two presidents — Clinton and George W. Bush — is a Pollyanna exactly.
Instead, he’s on a tour of America pointing out that the debt in this country, if you include unfunded obligations in programs like Social Security and Medicare, is $70 trillion with a “T” — and is increasing by an astounding $10 million more every minute.
I listened to Walker speak to a packed room at the Waukesha County Technical College the other day. Just about everybody there loved the guy — although many Democrats and Republicans alike will quickly find things to hate. Walker stressed that 40- to 45 percent of Americans pay no income tax. More people, he says in an eloquent way Mitt Romney could learn from, need to have “skin in the game.”
But he also says we have to do away with many of the deductions and exemptions that lower taxes for the well-off. And we need to spend less on everything from entitlements to defense.
Our problem is “three parts spending,” he said, “and one part revenue and we ought to get the revenue through comprehensive tax reform.”
Yeah, OK. But what about the 350 or so members of the U.S. House of Representative who are from districts that are either deep blue or bright red? They say this sort of stuff aloud and they’ll be eaten alive. Whatever’s left of their carcasses will be unemployed.
“No,” he told me after the speech, “the people are smarter than the politicians realize. They can handle the truth. They are willing to accept tough choices as long as they are part of a comprehensive package that they deem to be fair.”
That’s not what the polls say. They say we don’t want more taxes or fewer entitlements. We want bonbons and retirement at 55, and we want it for nothing.
Walker shakes his head.
“You know when you ask people, ‘Gee do you want to have to work longer?’, ‘Do you want to pay higher taxes?’, ‘Do you want to get less of a Medicare premium subsidy?’ what do you expect them to say?”
You have to lay out the “base case,” as he calls it. Put things in context. Show people we can’t continue on the current path. Assure them that a “comprehensive” plan means sacrifice by everyone, together.
We need — and here’s where Walker, given the current state of our vitriolic and polarized politics — really sounds like a sentimental fool – “leadership.”
Leaders don’t vilify the rich or mock the poor. They don’t stir up resentment. They nudge people to do things in a new way. Convince people that the family across town is, deep down, concerned about all the same stuff, especially sticking their kids with the bills.
“I think what I’m talking about could become law with more presidential leadership — whoever the president is — and more pressure from we the people for our elected representatives to work with the president to solve problems,” said Walker.
He’ll tell you, in other words, that we can solve our problems because we’re in this together.
Unfortunately, they only thing we’ve done together so far is ignore him.
It’s time for a better plan than that.
Mike Nichols is a syndicated columnist who spent 18 years writing about Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is now a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. This column represents only his personal opinion. Contact him at MRNichols@wi.rr.com.