Politicians Have Violated the Public Trust
Politicians have lost sight of their main responsibilities -- to serve the public interest, honor the public trust, and be faithful to their constituency. It's the latter that can get them into trouble as is the case with the current budget deliberations. The republicans are driven by conservative views and the Tea Party principles based on balancing the budget, cuts in spending especially from entitlement programs and no new revenues. If this is the Tea Party manifesto then it should start to drink caffeinated coffee. This is not the time to pursue a balanced budget amendment given the government has failed to deliver one for at least the last 14 years and we are still fighting two unwinnable wars.
The Democrats want no balanced budget amendment, limited cuts in spending programs and new revenues by raising the tax on taxpayers making over $250,000 in income. There needs to be changes in social security such as expanding the retirement date to a minimum of 65 years and a maximum 70 years. I would also recommend a slight increase in the 2.5% tax on Medicare which is low in comparison to the 6.25% rate for social security. We have an aging population that now lives longer than in the past and a slight increase in the Medicare rate is justified given the higher Medicare costs to the government.
'Cut, cap and balance' is predicated on the balanced budget amendment. These are laudable principles and ones that should be included in a national debate during the next 15 month election cycle. However, Rome was not built in a day. Let the voters decide in the ballot box. Politicians should make decisions based on principled behavior and serving the public trust and not motivated by satisfying lobbyist groups.
There should be a comprehensive audit of government programs to eliminate the fraud and abuse. For years we have heard about $500 million in Medicare fraud yet no one seems to have the political will to eliminate it. The Government Accountability Office seems unwilling or incapable of identifying abuse areas and eliminating it. I suggest calling in one of the Big-Four CPA firms to conduct an independent audit. They know how to examine documentation and ask the right questions. CPA firms must abide by strict ethical standards including serving the public interest.
There undoubtedly are other areas of fraud and abuse including in the procurement program, community-based funding, and the misuse of government resources by some in Congress including unsupportable reimbursement of trip expenses and payoffs to lobbyists.
Our country is at a crossroads. We are headed down a path that will make us the second largest economy after China. Our work ethic is declining perhaps due to not having the skills necessary to compete in the global environment and/or pure laziness. A malaise has taken over our society. If we put the same time and effort into our schoolwork and job performance that we do to social networking time, then much of the declining work ethic would vanish. Americans have gotten lazy and believe they are entitled to a certain standard of living provided by the government. I call it the "Greece-ization oif America."
Congress should be given sufficient time to get the job done right and not based on some arbitrarily imposed deadline. Going forward, we all must make a shared sacrifice and Congress should lead the way by setting a good example and insist on reductions in fraud and waste and reduce their own profligate spending to regain the public trust.
Blog posted by Steven Mintz aka Ethics Sage on July 30, 2001