We are all, as American citizens, concerned about the fiscal problems our government is experiencing. After all it is the people’s government, our government and our fortunes rise and fall as the fortunes of our government rise and fall. Right now we get the sense that we are all falling. We also do not feel that all is lost. We believe we will somehow right the “ship of state” and once again our country and its citizens will prosper, but we also believe that our fortunes may depend on the decisions we and our government make right now.
We have, through our recent election, discarded the notion that continuing to make more money available to the wealthiest Americans will solve our economic woes. We have also discarded the notion that we need to adopt a “tough love” approach and push all of our poorest Americans out of the safety net to fend for themselves. We have accepted that our safety net costs are creating stresses on our federal budget, stresses that will get worse with time. We have accepted that we will have to accept some changes in this safety net it we are to keep it at all.
We would all like to contribute to improving the American economy so that it meets our own needs and keeps us competitive with the rest of the world’s economies. But many of us cannot afford, at this moment, to part with any more of our money in the form of levied taxes. However, in times of need, the American people often pitch in and help. Look at Katrina, look at Sandy, or even look at the money Obama raised in his recent campaign from individual donations. Perhaps we need to think outside the box and put a check mark inside of a box.
You know how there is a spot on our tax forms where we can contribute a few or many dollars to fund Presidential elections? What if we had a similar spot on our tax forms where we could donate to a fund for health care, a fund for Social Security, a fund for education, and a fund for infrastructure? If people can choose where their dollars will be spent they may be willing to contribute out of their own pockets to save or enhance programs they favor.
We often raise a lot of money this way in times of disaster. This time our disaster is our national economy. People may be willing to volunteer their financial assistance, even though they might not be happy if they were required to contribute. Health care dollars could be used to keep Medicare and Medicaid functional and to prevent it from eating up our budget. Social Security monies could be used to extend the life of the Social Security program. Educations monies could be dispersed among the states and earmarked for specific initiatives (like buying computers). Of course, if our wealthiest Americans take on infrastructure we might not need a fund dedicated to that purpose, but if they did not then we could also have a fund that would be dispersed among states to upgrade infrastructure.
We still need to work on our safety net. There are people who are able to scam the system. There are doctors who will sign forms that ascribe a disability to people who don’t actually have one. There are people with disabilities who could be trained to do a job that will work around their disability. Our Congress can continue to look for ways to cut health care costs. If we combine a bottom-up and top- down approach to our safety net we may be able to keep it almost intact.