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Grace Ross: A New Year’s Resolution for the Nation

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Imagine if New Year’s meant the turning of a page in the history of the United States. I would like to propose a New Year’s resolution for what is supposed to be the leading democracy in the world.

Let’s make a commitment the leaders of our constitutional democracy are to agree to – no matter what side you’re on: stop lying.

In a democracy, the people are supposed to be able to make informed decisions about their leadership not just in the voting booth, but every day that we have to interact with our government, our laws, and certainly in advocating for our rights and needs as a free people.

This is a general resolution to shift behavior – for those elected leaders who actually want our democracy to function.

In case anyone needs specific examples, lies I would recommend should stop immediately:

Both sides will agree to stop saying that we’re about to fall off a fiscal cliff. There is no fiscal cliff. There is an ongoing big financial deficit that should be part of our planning process, but no horrible specific thing happens on January 1, 2013 or January 2, or January 20 if Congress and the President don’t stand by an artificial deadline that they themselves created.

In fact, we’re about to head into a discussion of another big lie I’d like to see us not repeat again: the “debt ceiling” conversation. Congress created a ceiling on how much money the federal government is supposed to borrow. Certainly a good thing to have a red flag drop down when we get beyond a certain point; however, there’s no absolute dollar deadline. The idea was that we didn’t want to be carrying more than a certain amount of debt because our debt payments would eat away so much at our ability to function as a society.

However, unlike the last several decades, this is a fabulous time for the U.S. Government to borrow money; given its good faith and credit, we can get lent money at a better rate than the massive financial institutions that our government keeps bailing out – at like 0% interest. Then we need a real economic plan that will turn the economy around.

No rating agency looks just at whether a business’ books balance. They also look at whether a business is likely to fail tomorrow. If a business balances its books by selling off the machinery to make the product it sells and firing all the workers capable of production then they don’t get a good credit rating; they don’t have a good financial future even if they balance the books today. The same is true of our government. If it slashes everything necessary for regular people to have decent incomes so that our spending can drive the economy, then it’s going to fail economically down the line anyway. So they balance the budget, but they destroy the economy. That doesn’t work.

Third piece of truth: economic reality is economic reality. Wealthy folks having more and more money does not create more jobs. It’s been true since at least the beginning of the United States. The greater the economic divide between the very wealth and the rest of us, (like in the time period leading into the Great Depression), we get fewer jobs per dollar. Simply true.

Agreeing to end the disinformation about the greatest financial burden for our federal government and local governments is key. Most of the money – in the many trillions – has gone to bailing out the biggest financial institutions that got us into this mess in the first place; much of that money they are using on CEOs salaries, continuing the same illegal practices and lobbying for the right to continue those same illegal practices.

The next biggest cost is not what we are told: jobs, healthcare, etc. It is spending on foreign occupations and wars that the people do not want. In fact, our leaders have put in for money for expenses even the Defense Department has not asked for. So don’t say they’re necessary when the Defense Department doesn’t. If we’re supposed to be a democracy and the people of the democracy don’t want us, for instance, in Afghanistan then our government – whose supposed to be us – shouldn’t say that.

Next lie: Social Security and Medicare that we as workers pay into and pay for. The cost of Social Security and Medicare are not part of the regular operating expenses of the federal government; cutting them does not help us address the deficit. Cutting them will lower the spending capacity of huge numbers of people who have already paid into the system: our seniors. Such cuts therefore will probably hurt the economy and our neighbors but they have nothing to do with the “fiscal bluff”.

It would also be great if our various enforcement agencies at all levels would stop saying they’ve come to settlements with the major banks such that they’re going to stop robo-signing documents and stop doing other illegal activities. We’ve had two – and apparently there’s a third national one they are promising next week; those have not brought the banks’ foreclosure procedures into line. And certainly the federal government should be smart enough to stop accepting what the banks say as true; none of the rest of us do.

If we could stop referring to the official unemployment rate as the actual unemployment rate, that’d be great. The number of people who are unemployed is continuing to rise. If we could stop calling things like “clean coal” clean when it might arguably be cleaner than other forms of coal, it is still not clean.

If our state could go back to the real definition of homelessness (that is not having a home) then we could admit that there are, by conservative estimates, at least 7,000 homeless families that are being denied shelter because of regulations finalized for this Thanksgiving! Then we can make real policy decisions given temperatures in the teens and might actually house children and their families.

There are many more but perhaps the most critical, biggest lie to stop saying is to claim that we are living up to our national heritage of being a democracy until we get back to honestly being a government by and for the people. Our courts want to pretend that corporations are people for the purposes of who elects our government. Too many of our elected leaders seem to think it is optional to properly inform the people, – the actual flesh and blood ones, so that we can make informed choices not only as voters, but as day to day advocates in our lives for the best of our families, children and communities.

Let’s imagine that the New Year’s resolution of the elected leadership at least of the United States and all of the federated states of which it consists, commit to telling the accurate truth and then allowing us to engage in a real debate about how we solve the problems in our society. One set of laws: if you’re HSBC bank or you’re the guy down the street laundering money for drugs, you lose your job, you get thrown in jail, you have your assets taken, fine. One set of rules: If you lie and cheat on a legal contract, defraud the other side of hundreds of thousands of dollars, you get stuck holding the bag even if you’re one of the mega banks. If you get up in front of the people of Massachusetts or of the United States and ask to be elected: you answer questions a constituent asks you directly without running and hiding; you stop trumping up the standard disinformation to get elected.

Instead, you’re honest about who pays for your election to get elected; you’re honest about the real economics affecting real peoples lives; and you stop blowing smoke so that none of us can solve the real problems that as a society in serious trouble, it not only needs to face, but can and must face and resolve together.

Here’s to a truly happy New Year. 


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