February 11, 2005

Commentary

Holding the President to Fiscal Responsibility

By Hilbert Morales
El Observador

After some consideration I have decided that President Bush is always going for broke. And if we allow his form of management of the people’s business to continue, I fear we as individuals and our nation will be broke. I find it interesting that Former President Reagan, a Republican Party leader, ran up the national deficit just as has President Bush during his last four years. Major legislation, especially on taxes, have benefited the very wealthy and corporations more than they have the average taxpayer.

The terrorist attack on the New York World Trade Center on Sept. 11 has been used to rationalize a “wartime economy with related decision-making authority.” This has resulted in the elimination of a budget surplus left by the Clinton Administration with its replacement with the largest federal deficit ever coupled with this proposal for more Federal Government deficit spending.

I realize the Republicans want less government in our private and corporate lives, but I would hope that they will ultimately propose ways for our nation to live within its means. That means a balanced budget with plans to eliminate that deficit. Add to this the willful corporate mismanagement of Enron and WorldCom where many employees ended up with nothing. What is not commented on in mainstream media is that many retirement programs have been assumed by the 30 year old Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) which was established in 1974 after some bankruptcies left thousands of retirees without pensions. Recently, PBGC has assumed responsibility for pensions which cannot be serviced by the “older airlines.” In the past, PBGC took over the steel industry’s pensions and today it is taking over United Pilot’s pension plan and soon all of US Airways’ pensions. Now this agency’s $8 billion surplus in 2001 has become a $23 billion deficit in 2005. All this during the Bush Administration’s watch. And now a major item of his State of the Union address is his proposal to deal with Social Security programs. Well, the employed residents of our nation need to voice their opinions now. Frankly, I am not impressed with the Bush Administration’s management of the people’s business. I look in amazement at what has been done in just four years to relieve the wealthy and corporations of their tax burdens. One of these tax burdens is the payment of the company’s share of Social Security taxes, which is matched by the employee’s contribution. Today, both employer and employee pay 6.2% Social Security tax and 1.45% Medicare tax (added together: 7.65%) for a total contribution of 15.20% into these social safety-net programs.

After serious consideration, I suggest the following: 1) If it is not broke today, do not fix it for any reason. Social Security must be managed for the people, with the people and on behalf of the people. Manage the people’s business in the interest of the people, not corporations. Do plan ahead to establish alternatives which, in the future, may include raising taxes; reducing benefit (entitlements); or a combination of both. Hence, do not make any tax relief program permanent. 2) Encourage all who have employment to increase their level of savings which may be invested in a variety of ways (mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc.) to augment future retirement entitlements. Give the average worker a break by making these retirement savings tax deferred or tax deductible.

3) Begin to deal with the increasing corporate welfare programs such as the above Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and many other subsidies to corporations. 4) Think about death penalty legislation for any corporate executive which willfully and with malice aforethought, depletes a company’s pension and thereby willfully shoves a corporate pension responsibilities over to PBGC.

5) Reveal how much the Federal Government already has borrowed from the Social Security Trust Funds and make plans to pay back these obligations. These borrowed Social Security monies get transformed from “contributions to a pension fund” to taxes when borrowed and not paid back. 6) Since corporations have the resources to hire lobbyists, expert lawyers, and CPAs whose purpose is to take advantage of every tax loophole and the majority of individual taxpayers do not, establish legislation which permits public access to the level of taxes paid by each and every corporation.

I recall reading a Fortune Magazine article which reported that 350 of the top 500 corporations paid no taxes. Yet I am certain these same corporations benefited from the infrastructures –– highways, bridges, ports, airports, harbors, etc. –– supported, subsidized and paid for by the rest of us.

I recommend that all citizens communicate with their congressional representatives to express their opinions on the President’s proposals which affect our present Social Security programs. When President Bush put Social Security on the table, he set the stage for all of us to ask that he deal fairly with all of our businesses, both personal and business corporations. This President is going for broke at all times, and we need to assure ourselves that we will not become broke by his proposals. If he wants an “ownership America,” then let us all act as if we “own America.”

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