A day before President Obama addresses the nation on the federal deficit the people already know how the Republicans plan to proceed: They say the only way to go is back to the early days of the 20th century when there were no sacred social contracts. They say destroy Social Security and Medicare.
Some Democrats, including those on the president's debt commission, say we should raise the retirement age for Social Security and that we should rework Medicare's deductibles and copayments so that most beneficiaries have to pay a bigger share of their regular bills.
To all the would-be cutters, whether they be Republicans with machetes or Democrats with scalpels, we say, "Back off!" These programs are not yours to play around with. Many millions of Americans work a lifetime to pay for these programs. The type of blade used in cutting these benefits is unimportant when you are cutting off either life or limbs.
No cuts are needed in Social Security because it pays for itself and it does not add a single penny to the federal deficit.
As for Medicare, it is already very well known that the best way to fix that already-efficient program is to wrench it loose from the grip of the private health care industry. That will save billions and make Medicare even more efficient to the point where patient co-pays could be eliminated altogether.
If you want to achieve deficit reduction in the short term you must trim the Pentagon budget and end tax breaks for the rich. Ending just the tax breaks the Republicans insisted upon earlier this year for households earning more than $250,000 a year would be one good place to start.
When you want to close a budget gap or a deficit you must take the money from where it is and put it where it is not. Common sense.
For the longer term, however, even cutting the Pentagon and taxing the rich won't solve everything. Long-term deficits will remain large until 30 million or more jobless Americans get good jobs that pay decent family-supporting wages. The government should be spending, not cutting, to help create millions of jobs, including public works jobs, on a scale even bigger than it did with the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Job creation on that type of a scale, along with taxing the super-rich and cutting wasteful military spending to pay for it, would reinvigorate the economy and eliminate the deficits, unlike the machete or scalpel cut proposals we have seen coming from Washington thus far.
Your senators and representative in Washington need to hear from you on this.