Talking Heads: the Federal Budget

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“Talking Heads” is an ongoing dialogue among campus political groups that serves as an open forum for discussing major national issues. All political groups are welcome to participate in a respectful manner that is representative of their party’s platform. Each edition of The Point News will feature a new topic of discussion. This edition’s topic is the federal budget. Responses were provided by Brendan Benge and Simon Kolbeck of the College Democrats (D) and Ivy Radcliffe of SMCM Left (SL). Respondents were asked to voice their groups’ positions on the following areas regarding federal budget priorities.

1. Defense

D: The Democratic Party is fully committed to giving our nation’s service members the tools they need in order to continue meeting the evolving challenges of our modern world. This means investing in information sharing with our allies to stop potential threats before they can even happen, strengthening our cyber infrastructure to prevent the growing threat posed by hacking, and—an aspect of national security often overlooked—continuing our global aid programs in underdeveloped nations across the world to promote democracy while maintaining regional stability. Meanwhile, as we bolster our support for national security programs designed to tackle twenty-first century threats, Democrats also recognize that we must eliminate outdated programs found in our defense spending. During a time when our nation’s veterans are struggling to receive the adequate care they deserve and when foreign entities are able to successfully execute cyber attacks against our political institutions, pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into Cold-War era defense programs represents an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars.

SL: The United States has a rather notorious history of intervention and arms dealing in the name of “peacekeeping.” In the past the US has had great success in rapidly arming its allies, and that policy continues today. American Humvees are used from the Baltic to the Cape of Good Hope. We have military bases at the borders of our rivals, from Russia to Iran to the DPRK.

This quite obviously incurs massive expenditures back home. Maintaining a logistical network for this many holdings takes its toll on the American worker, and is reflected by our defense budget. The price is the equivalent of the next 15 budgets combined in order to continue acting as the “cops of the world.” It’s about time we scaled back and focused on alleviating suffering at home rather than perpetuating it elsewhere.

2. Social welfare

D: Social welfare spending represents our nation’s commitment to expanding economic opportunity and security to all Americans. From providing young children with meals so that they can focus on succeeding in school rather than whether or not they will eat dinner, to guaranteeing a family does not lose their entire life savings because of a sudden medical emergency, investment in social welfare immeasurably improves the quality of life for working and middle class citizens of this country. As a result, Democrats believe in expanding funding for federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SNAP, Earned Income Tax Credits, and the many other budget items designed to provide the vast majority of Americans with a hand up in life or insurance against the worst. With simple reforms for certain entitlement measures combined with a tax policy, which ensures the wealthiest among us pay their fair share, America can responsibly support greater social welfare investment in the people of this great nation.

SL: The transition from an industrial to a service economy has not been easy, and the transition is not yet over. The millions of jobs displaced by NAFTA and similar trade agreements have left a considerable skills gap for many Americans. Gone are the days where you could graduate high school and get a job at the local factory. Now college is almost a necessity for making anything above a poverty wage, and college hasn’t gotten any cheaper.

One is essentially forced into bondage before they have even entered the workforce. The impetus of student loans creates its own ball and chain that many will work their whole lives to be rid of. Some professors here at school are still working to pay off loans. So how can we address this incredible burden? One method might involve a basic income subsidized by the state. Another might involve public funding of all tertiary education (colleges and universities). Either way, we need to be free of this economic servitude if we are to progress as a nation.

3. Climate Change

D: The federal government currently spends 0.74 percent of the federal budget to combat climate change. However, once money allocated towards supporting renewable energy companies from President Obama’s stimulus package runs out, this already meager level of funding will drop to an even lower 0.33 percent. The grave threat to the livelihood of our country posed by climate change will never be solved with a less than 1 percent funding commitment from the federal government. The Democratic Party therefore advocates for an increase to at least a 1 percent federal funding level for federal budget items such as developing green energy sources, helping communities long reliant on coal, such as those in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, transition towards a more sustainable economic energy future, providing support for developing countries who limit their use of fossil fuels, and much more. Accordingly, beyond merely addressing the urgent need to combat climate change, funding these federal budget priorities will also help America’s long term prosperity by developing a sustainable green economy for the future while strengthening ties abroad with nations who have long seen our weak commitment to the global fight against climate change as an uncharacteristic leadership failure.

SL: Climate change is no myth. The Chinese did not fabricate it as a method of control, and it is not a conspiracy meant to deprive coal and petrol of their livelihood. Make no mistake; the planet is in grave danger, as are we. Continuing as we are, Miami could become a scuba attraction. The government of the Maldives has already planned an evacuation protocol. We are faced with one of two choices in this: a more responsible acquisition and consumption of natural resources, or extinction. There is no other planet we can run to, and Mars cannot sustain us. We must stop the great destruction of our planet and develop other means of energy.

4. Education

D: Democrats believe in funding a world-class public education system where every American can acquire the tools necessary to succeed in our modern economy. Beginning with Head Start, a program designed to expand early education opportunities for children in low-income families, to funding for Special Education and struggling school districts, the federal government must first guarantee, through greater spending, every K-12 student is prepared for the evolving demands of our modern workforce.

SL: Education is one of the noblest professions you can have, but we don’t treat it that way. Teachers are underpaid, schools are understaffed, and the importance of education in our type of economy is underappreciated. We have created a model reliant on the distribution of information. The marketer has replaced the door-to-door salesman, and the PR rep has replaced the factory worker. So if we’re to continue as a service economy, we need proper and affordable education, not the faux-equalizer that’s being funded by property tax. Under this system, only the wealthy can afford good education, which they pay for through taxes.

5. Taxation

D: Taxation is without a doubt a contentious issue. We Democrats acknowledge that the social programs we support are expensive; therefore, we support increased taxation for people in certain income brackets, more specifically those who occupy the highest income brackets. Contrary to information that is commonly promulgated by the right, Democrats do not support raising taxes on low and middle-income families. Instead, we believe that America’s richest individuals need to pay their fair share of taxes, which is currently not the case. While America’s working people pay their taxes diligently, many of America’s wealthiest citizens stash their money oversees in elaborate tax dodging maneuvers that are enabled by loopholes in the American tax code. We believe that these loopholes must be closed and that the tax rate on America’s wealthiest citizens should be increased. Increasing taxes on the rich would allow for expansions in government programs designed to assist middle class families and working class families in their pursuit of the American dream. Additionally, tax cuts for the super rich, such as the ones proposed by the Republicans, do not stimulate the economy. On the contrary, tax cuts for corporations and the rich do nothing but exasperate income inequality and increase the budget deficit.

SL: The burden on the American worker is great enough. The great class of international moguls and tycoons has taken everything from us. We pick the seeds for them and they sell us the seeds we took—at a higher price than it took to get them! It’s time for these people to answer for their part in perpetuating our misery. All the bankruptcies, all the financially-motivated divorces, all that’s been tearing us apart for years, is directly linked to the seizure of our labor-power. It’s time they paid us back our due.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “Talking Heads” when the topic will be reproductive rights.

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