Budget Talks Need Some Reality

Democracy Chronicles cartoon from Bob Jones

Those national budget talks need some heavy-dose shots of reality.

First, the GOP needs to stop talking about how it almost won the 2012 election. Losing by 3.5 million votes is not close. (In Hawaii, Republicans Linda Lingle and Charles Djou were put out to pasture, and Ben Cayetano, with a lot of GOP support for mayor, was soundly rejected.)

Second, the president has to back off his proposal to let him raise the debt ceiling. That’s the purview of Congress and would be an unpopular power grab just as he’s criticizing Egypt’s president for power grabbing.

Third, AARP should accept that changes to Social Security and Medicare are necessary, even if there’s some pain.

There really should be a means test for both programs. We could, with good conscience, deny SS to those with very high incomes and/or liquid assets. Just because you pay into this social program doesn’t mean a right to draw out any more than all we taxpayers have a right to draw on the state welfare programs we fund. And high-income/liquid assets people should pay higher Medicare taxes.

Both programs could easily start at a higher age – with current beneficiaries excluded. Seventy has a nice sound. Retirement at 65 is no longer the norm.

Obamacare will help because it trims some payments to Senior Advantage programs and demands online medical records so all doctors see all patients’ history and quit duplicating tests. I once asked a New York orthopedic hospital about a procedure and said I had current X-rays from my hospital. Oh, no, they said, we have to do our own.

We must rein in impractical procedures. If you’re 95 and want knee replacement or a heart or kidney implant, good. Pay for it yourself. That panel-of-procedure experts under Obamacare may be imperfect, but we should work to improve it, not scrap it.

The discussion about “fairness” in taxation is full of hyperbole. Yes, the rich pay the lion’s share of income taxes. They say “that’s not fair.” It is if society decides the wealthiest must contribute more than the poorest. Call it socialism if you like.

We had a time when if you made a million you paid 90 percent in taxes! That’s probably too much, but 39 percent would not be. You still get to keep $961,000.

The rich won’t quit creating jobs if they are taxed more. The rich like making money. If they give up, they won’t be as rich as their rich friends. That’s a big incentive in America.

Might we have to reconsider football as a school, college and professional sport?

A new Boston University study of donated brains of 85 people who’ve suffered hits to the head – most of them athletes – found that 34 with degenerative brain disease were NFL players. Nine others had played college football and six played only in high school.

The type of brain disease they found is called CTE, and it causes confusion, depression and eventual dementia.

Football has gotten increasingly violent, and head hits are a regular part of the game.

This study should make everyone take notice.