by Ed Mattson
Those politicians who got the country into this mess are going to try to bamboozle the citizens into believing that they are going to “fix” the problems. From my medical experience, we don’t normally “fix” a sick patient, and the US is certainly a sick patient. The last time I looked, we “fixed” dogs and cats and you know what that means. For those who don’t…it means neuter.
Far less mischief can occur when a legislature is in session on a part-time basis. With this in mind, the last few articles I have written presented some ideas which are ways business would address the issues of having to cut-back and live with less income. The ideas I suggested were practical ways of addressing the problems, but politicians are not practical in their thinking. Their sole goal is to get re-elected, so the obvious way to do that is to hand out “goodies” to buy votes. I know that is harsh criticism, but any fool can see it.
So what will happen? My crystal ball stopped working several decades ago, but my best bet would be that not much will happen with the Gang of Twelve accept a lot of finger pointing supported by the media, with the big spenders appointed to the committee getting a free pass and the newbies being labeling “obstructionists”. Then, in the face of a last minute “catastrophe” when Armageddon is approaching, they’ll pull a lame-brain compromise out of thin air and the public is screwed. You see, if a deal is not reached to cut the budget, automatic, across the board cuts are triggered, and the nation will face “devastating results”, according to most observers.
In other words, if the government had to do what 90% of the American public has had to do in the economy they have give us (that’s WE THE PEOPLE), it will be disastrous. They act like it has been a picnic for us these past three years, as they spend us into oblivion, showering us with programs that do nothing more than spend our tax dollars to buy themselves votes. Every American (well at least 90% of us) has had to do with less, and those without jobs, have had an even a tougher time. The politician’s attitude has been, “we know it is rough on you, but shared sacrifice is what is needed today”. In effect “just get over it”!
The sad part is that our government, those claiming to have our best interests at heart, have destroyed the American manufacturing base, taxing business at the highest rates in the world, regulations and mandates that make it impossible to make a profit here, and then saw to it that jobs were shipped overseas to countries with lower taxes and less restrictions. The politician’s accomplices in the media cheerfully applauded free trade, open borders, and how good all this was for us. Is it good when just a few short decades ago (the Sixties) manufacturing jobs accounted for more than 50% of all the jobs in this country and today only account for 9%. Those jobs are gone and will not come back until the government gets out of the way.
As the saying goes, “we are in a recession where the other guys don’t have a job, but when we lose our job, we are in a depression”. That is the attitude of our bureaucrats.
Lobbyists are already circling their wagons to protect the status quo, most hopefully believing the Gang of Twelve will be successful in making compromises. Is it in the public’s best interest when the lobbyist’s issues take precedence over the general wellbeing of the regular citizen because they have the money to buy influence?
Bigger defense cuts triggered by failed deficit reduction negotiations would have “devastating” effects on the nation’s security, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. True, it would, make prioritization a real part of the discussion, but most recent words of concern is the call for altering military pay and veterans’ benefits to more closely align with private sector employment. Panetta said the Pentagon is prepared to make $350 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, as agreed by Congress. But he warned of dangers to the national defense if bigger reductions are required. If the majority of the budget savings were to be placed on the backs of the veterans and military pay, the entire debate should be off the table.
The need for meaningful discussions is a foregone conclusion because if an agreement cannot be reached or if Congress rejects what has been worked out it would trigger some $500 billion in additional reductions in projected national security spending. “This kind of massive cuts across the board — which would literally double the number of cuts that are now being confronted would have devastating effects on our national defense and would have devastating effects on the State Department”, Panetta said. In my way of thinking, that would kill the ideas I laid out last week to work with NATO and others (South Korea, Taiwan, Japan,, and the Middle East), to pony up to the bar and start paying for more of their own defense.
According to Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton preserving the nation’s military strength is essential in that the nation’s security interests and allows the State Department’s to engage in its role in diplomacy and development. She suggested that the political stalemate over spending cuts has put that in jeopardy. “It does cast a pall over our ability to project the kind of security interests that are in America’s interests,” she said. “This is not about the Defense Department or the State Department … This is about the United States of America. And we need to have a responsible conversation about how we are going to prepare ourselves for the future.” HEY…this is just one of the areas I brought up in my last couple of columns, which was for the need to totally reassess our security interests and involve aggressive conversations with our allies over taking a greater part in their own security…Thank you Madam Secretary!
When Secretary Panetta was asked about news reports that the Pentagon is considering reducing military retirement benefits, which, along with military health costs, he said they are looking at a number of considerations. What they have looked at so far is not complete and it is non-binding but, the high level planers are recommending the retirement programs be scrapped and replaced with a 401K-type defined contribution plan, grandfathering in the disabled and retirees. This is dangerous thought.
Military and veterans are not your usual “run-of-the-mill” civilian or government employees. They have earned far less than others(income) in pursuit of keeping America free, and along with the related stress posed by emanated life-threatening tasks, multiple deployments, family stress far beyond what one would consider normal, the real danger of becoming physically disabled and a life-long affinity with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), exposure to toxic chemicals (i.e. Agent Orange) and anyone in their right mind would see that the military deserves a far better retirement plan, more in tune to the lavish benefits Congress bestows upon itself. “It’s the kind of thing you have to consider,” Panetta said, and quickly added that it must have a grandfather clause so the government does not “break faith” with the military force.
A private sector advisory panel last month drafted a plan to eliminate the current system under which those who retire with 20 years of service get immediate, lifetime payments of some 50 percent of their salaries and those with less than 20 years get nothing. Do you realize that a simple job with American Cancer Society allows an employee to become vested after just 10 years of service? And I don’t believe this a situation exclusive with ACS. Being vested, an employee can draw down a small retirement to supplement their Social Security at retirement (my first wife’s retirement with 13-years service was $350/month), 401K Plan, and other planned retirement benefits. The greatest danger a normal employee faces is driving to work or spilling hot coffee on themselves during their coffee break, not dodging bullets and IED’s.
Holly Petraeus, wife of Gen. Petraeus, a longtime financial advocate for the military was tapped to lead the new Office of Servicemember Affairs. “It is very personal,” said Mrs. Petraeus “I’ve lived in this military community my whole life; I have a real heart for these people. They’ve all raised their hand to do what they do, often at the risk of their lives.” The Office of Servicemember Affairs officially opened its doors this week as part of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It’s designed to protect service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls through education and enforcement of state and federal laws.
Having grown-up in military life, she’s familiar with many service related financial issues, but has made a point to meet with service members and their families across the nation to find out about their challenges firsthand. Mortgages and spouse employment top the list of concerns, which isn’t surprising in light of the struggling economy and housing market. She is the kind of voice which needs to be heard on any issues dealing with military and veteran’s financial matters…not bureaucrats in Washington DC, or a select panel of know-it-alls who have not experienced the military.
Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism
Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina.
Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.