Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Where I Agree with Republican Conservatives and Vladimir Putin

In thier biograpy of Vladimir Putin, Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy note that one of Putin's earliest objectives as Russia's president was to reduce Russia's national debt.  He viewed the debt in nationalistic terms and believed that Russia's indebtedness to western banks limited the nation's latitude in dealing with the west and forced it to capitulate to to the dissolution of the Soviet state in the early post-Comunist years.  Hill and Gaddy report that Russia's debt to has been reduced considerably under Putin.  I don't approve of the Putin's "New" Russia, with its oligarchs, corruption and political repression, but I reconize the value of limiting your exposure to outside forces that do not necessarily share your interests.  That makes sense to me.  A large and growing debt puts a nation, even the United States, at the mercies of the debt-holders. 

Also making sense to me are fiscal conservatives in America who question the wisdom of funding routine operations and programs with an ever-accumulating national debt.  I know governments, especially governments of rich, powerful nations like the United States, don't operate at the same level as my household or even a business but I don't see where an increasing level of debt is sustainable.  The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) doesn't think so either.  So when I hear Republicans talking about reducing the deficit, I can agree with the idea ensuring that the federal govenment is sustainable.

Where I disagree with the Republican fiscal conservatives is on the scope of government and how best to finance that government.  I support social welfare programs that protect the most vulnerable Americans and believe that the nation is wealthy enough to support those programs.  That's the socialist in me.  The socialist in me is more than willing to take from the rich and give to the poor and society at large. I'm not an economist but I do understand how markets work and how financial incentives drive innovation so I'm not talking about expropriation.

What I am talking about is asking those Americans who have profited handsomely during the past three decades of Reaganomics and neo-Regonomics to share a portion of their wealth with the rest of us.  Wealthy individuals and profitable corporations benefit greatly from organized government, often more than the mass of taxpayers.  It is reasonable for the nation ask a greater sacrifice from the wealthy and profitable corporations to support the nation as a whole.  I like to think Americans are smart enough to figure out how to make this work.  We are supposedly a practical nation.  At least, we used to be.

Non-economist that I am, I do not believe that America must pay off its entire national debt or even eliminate all deficit spending.  Debt can be used wisely for to build and aquire long-term assets like infrastructure that serves future generations as well as the present.  Deficit spending can be an effective tool for managing the economy.  I am by no means a deficit/debt hawk but it does seem like a good idea to keep the national debt at a manageaable level.  At this time in America

So while I agree with the Republican--and GAO--concerns about fiscal sustainability, I don't agree with their "trickle-down" tax cuts and consequent demands for program cuts.  Far better to tax the rich.  They can afford it and still continue to live well beyond the means available to the average American. 

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