Monday, November 29, 2010

An Open Letter to the President

Dear President Obama:

Before I say anything else I’d first like to thank you for your hard work as the executive leader of our country and Commander in Chief of our armed services. I can only imagine how difficult your job may be and I appreciate your efforts.

I find myself in a difficult position, Mr. President. I’m fortunate to have full-time employment during a time when so many Americans are out of work. I pay my taxes and try to maintain a conscientious and informed opinion when it comes time to vote. I’ve sent letters to Congress and signed petitions. As much as I can, I try to limit my impact on the environment. Essentially, I try to be as responsible a citizen as you could ask for. Why then do I find myself in a difficult position?
My full-time job pays me about $38,000 per year: easily enough to live off of, despite the tough times. But after the rent, the bills, the payments on debt (including credit cards and school loans), and other general cost of living expenses I find I have very little left over to save for the future. If anything, I actually see the prospect of a comfortable future slipping further away, not getting closer, whether it resembles the American Dream or not.

Times are tough, I understand that. This letter is not to complain about how difficult it is to get by. The times are not only tough for me and citizens like me, but they are also tough for the federal government. With such an incredible deficit, the only options are raise taxes or cut programs or both. The way things are is not sustainable.
The trouble is that I feel either targeted or ignored. The solutions I keep hearing proposed either focus on cutting the programs I and citizens like me (or are worse off) rely on most or by increasing the wealth of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. This may simply be a failing on the part of the media to mention other solutions, but regardless, I have a few concerns I would appreciate hearing more discussion about.

Concerning taxes:

· It seems that regarding the Bush-era tax cuts the two options receiving serious discussion are either letting the top two brackets revert to prior levels or making them permanent (or issuing a temporary freeze to let someone else worry about them). Tax cuts are caviar, something to be enjoyed during times of prosperity but a waste of money when times are difficult. I know no one wants to see their taxes go up, but that is not really what is happening here is it? They are not going up, they are reverting to normal. I’d like to see more people addressing the language properly.

· Back when the 16th Amendment made income tax a permanent fixture of America in 1913, the idea of a “billionaire” was unheard of. Even millionaires were a rare breed. Given that Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and more than fifty other millionaires and/or billionaires assert that they should pay more in taxes, perhaps it is time for a new tax bracket to address the incredibly affluent.

· There has been some talk of federal sales tax. I would like to hear more talk of a financial transaction tax, similar to the ones instituted by Sweden, Brazil, Peru, and Columbia. With the trillions of dollars exchanged regularly, a 0.1% tax would raise a considerably amount of money without causing much of a burden at all on the individual. I’d also like to hear more talk about increasing dividend and estate taxes. Essentially, I think you should take a look at including non-payroll income in income tax before determining that people who already pay taxes on all their income should then pay anything else.

Concerning the military:

· The Cold War ended in 1991, yet America continues to maintain military bases placed around the world to combat this long dead conflict. Evaluating the necessity and closing many of these bases will free up millions of dollars to be used elsewhere.

· On January 22, 2009 you issued an order to suspend the military commission and shut down the Guantanamo Detention facility within the year. Your order is almost a year overdue. The longer the facility remains open the less moral high ground we can claim to hold without reeking of hypocrisy.

· The Bush administration violated International Law, both by launching a war of aggression against Iraq and by authorizing the use of torture techniques against prisoners. Our claim of moral superiority against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and any other “enemies” in the “war on terror” — again — reek of hypocrisy as long as we continue to ignore our own record of human rights abuses.

· Winslow T. Wheeler has already written extensively and critically on how budget increases in the Department of Defense have resulted in a smaller, older, less maintained military. For further clarification and proposed solutions, I recommend taking stock of his suggestions.

Concerning Wall Street and the corporation:

· One of the main catalysts for the financial meltdown and economic recession we find ourselves in was the repeal of the 1933 Banking Act, also known as The Glass-Steagall Act. In the interest of protecting the American people, either reinstate Glass-Steagall or pass any similarly proposed Act which effectively separates commercial from investment banking. Taking steps to pull America out of economic disaster is not enough unless you also make sure it does not happen again.

· Economist John Maynard Keynes cautioned that a large, robust economy needed to be matched by a large, robust government in order to prevent Capitalism’s natural inconsistencies from destroying the economy. Over the past 30 years, I’ve watched Economy gain traction over Government so that now the two are greatly mismatched. Regulation is not a bad word, it’s a necessary one.

· Many people make a big deal out of undocumented workers crossing our borders, and not nearly enough people make a similar big deal about the way capital can cross borders freely to look for the highest rate of return. Everyone wants to go where it is easiest to make a buck, but if people are serious about securing our borders it needs to go both ways.

Mr. President, I know that this letter will need to get past quite a few people before you will take a look at it. I know my concerns may seem more Democrat and less Republican, but I really just hoped to come across as a concerned American citizen rather than a concerned affiliated member of a political party. It just becomes so hard to remain hopeful sometimes when I read about proposed solutions that will cause nothing but harm for my economy but circulate plenty of cash into the economy of the wealthy.


Michael Drace Fountain