Change before you have to. Oops, too late! 2017 cannot come too quickly.

“Change before you have to.”
– Jack Welch, CEO GE (Retired)

How sees the world:

I am not a dour pessimist. I am a pragmatic optimist — and this is about as optimistic as I can bring myself to be.

The economic pain of 2008-2011 will be looked upon one day with some sense of historical nostalgia.

It will be seen as the time of great change and the beginning of a very difficult period in American history. It will be both a tipping point and a turning point.

The challenges of 2008-2011 will be remembered as having far less turmoil and drama than will come within the next five years, 2012-2017.

And yet perhaps we didn’t need to be here at all. Now we find ourselves in 2011 living in the land of a Super Committee to negotiate our national budget woes, and having 18 competing Balanced Budget Amendments just two weeks prior to voting on having such an amendment proposed at all.

Not long ago, we were on the road to national financial solvency — just barely 10 years ago, in the late 1990s. Then we chose a different path.

So here we are at the end of 2011 and less unified than ever as our economic fuel tank sits on ‘E’. Although that is not necessarily so true; huge record setting profits have been recorded for the last five fiscal quarters despite those profits not being positively felt by the average American.

The answer to our economic issues will not be found on either the left or the right. We cannot tax the rich ever enough to pay for the black hole of expenses that we’ve run up and locked ourself into for the future.

The answer will come through a shared pain of experimentation and reflection. Americans will come to reject both the answers of the left and right, because neither have answers. Both are beholden to special interests that would only prolong our economic problems, while enriching their own supporters.

The answer will not come soon for the very reason that people want an answer ‘now’. The only answers available now are A) screw the poor/tax them more or B) screw the rich/tax them more. Neither are an answer.

So we will just have to survive the battle of left and right until we get past pride and ego. When enough of America moves to the middle only then will a grand compromise be found — after all, the very word ‘compromise’ is an impossible word to even consider using in public places these days without being set upon by ranting partisans.

Compromise will not come next year, or the year after, or the year after that. My bet is that a grand compromise will not arrive until possibly 2016 or 2017 — once American demographics have shifted and the complete folly of left and right has had a chance to run its course, several times over.

Grand Follies – we cannot continue to pretend that taxes are the ultimate evil. We cannot continue to embrace the empty promise of economic trickle down. Cut taxes and grow the economy is a broken promise too, at least where we are in time and place.

I believe in tiered flat taxes, but am not simple-minded enough to believe that everything would all just magically work if we just cut taxes and equitably taxed everyone at the same rate — which just ends up screwing the people that do the dirty, thankless jobs in our society — with them actually paying far more than anyone else as a percentage of their income. Yet, there is plenty of room for many Americans to have a little more stake in the game by seeing their taxes at work because they pay them.

Am not sure how it will all end up. Our history has had periods of higher turmoil in the past and somehow we’ve gotten ourselves to today still as one country. Yet I anticipate that the next five years will be among the ugliest in American history as left and right both battle for a vision that will not come to pass by either. We will make it all work out. It will be painful and traumatic, however. Very painful. Very traumatic.

Please fasten your seat belts as the fun is just about to really begin. Hello 2012!

I am not a dour pessimist. I am a pragmatic optimist — and this is about as optimistic as I can bring myself to be.



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2 responses to “Change before you have to. Oops, too late! 2017 cannot come too quickly.

  1. George S. Harris

    While I am not as optimistically pessimistic as you are, I think you are approaching reality. Your thoughts about taxes are correct–Americans have paid much higher taxes and we probably will need to again. If we look around the world, our taxes are pretty low. We can’t exactly tax our way out of this and we can’t lower taxes anymore without digging a deeper hole than we are already in. Social Security could be fixed now–at least for 50 or 60 more years–remove the cap on Social Security taxes. Means testing certainly has to be considered–should Bill Gates or Warren Buffett draw Social Security or even George H.W, Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter or any other extremely wealthy person you can think of. Social Security was never meant to be a “retirement plan.” The original act should be reviewed and all the things that have been attached should be removed and repackaged with their own tax base.

    We have to quit being the world’s police force, which means recognizing that we may no longer be the most powerful nation in the world. We are bleeding ourselves to death economically fighting wars and staving off actions that should be done by others. Why do we have NATO and the UN? We have to find a way to return manufacturing to this country–we cannot exist as a service based economy unless we are satisfied to be a second rate power. Part of solving this will be changing the corporate tax structure. Supposedly if we lower the corporate tax rate, corporations will return–the proof of that pudding will be in the eating. Int the meantime, I thinkwe should tax the crap out of their overseas profits. When they get tired of that, we can talk about coming back to a place with a lower corporate tax rate. The carrot is lower taxes for companies who do work in America–the stick–higher taxes for those who have moved out.

    We are going to get whacked by the mess in Europe–our financial institutions are up to their eyeballs in European debt instruments and they are going to have to learn to eat a lot of bad paper. Wall Street and the financial institutions are still a mess–CEOs are making fortunes while the average American can’t find work. The right kind of government spending could create jobs but in order to do that the government has to have money to spend. I don’t know how the WPA was run, but it seemed to work. Why is it so difficult to come up with a similar program? We keep trying toget the private sector involved and they don’t seem to be willing to do so.

    I am not a union person; however, the actions of corporations in respect to how they treat their workers gave birth to and continue to justify unions to some degree. However, unreasonable demands by unions have destroyed more jobs than they have preserved. How do you fix that? First you kill all the lawyers.

  2. A sobering analysis, but I tend to agree with you.

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