Thinking Inside the Box

We are all, as American citizens, concerned about the fiscal
problems our government is experiencing. After all it is the people’s
government, our government and our fortunes rise and fall as the fortunes of
our government rise and fall. Right now we get the sense that we are all
falling. We also do not feel that all is lost. We believe we will somehow right
the “ship of state” and once again our country and its citizens will prosper,
but we also believe that our fortunes may depend on the decisions we and our
government make right now.

We have, through our recent election, discarded the notion
that continuing to make more money available to the wealthiest Americans will
solve our economic woes. We have also discarded the notion that we need to
adopt a “tough love” approach and push all of our poorest Americans out of the
safety net to fend for themselves. We have accepted that our safety net costs
are creating stresses on our federal budget, stresses that will get worse with
time. We have accepted that we will have to accept some changes in this safety
net it we are to keep it at all.

We would all like to contribute to improving the American
economy so that it meets our own needs and keeps us competitive with the rest
of the world’s economies. But many of us cannot afford, at this moment, to part
with any more of our money in the form of levied taxes. However, in times of
need, the American people often pitch in and help. Look at Katrina, look at
Sandy, or even look at the money Obama raised in his recent campaign from
individual donations. Perhaps we need to think outside the box and put a check
mark inside of a box.

You know how there is a spot on our tax forms where we can
contribute a few or many dollars to fund Presidential elections? What if we had
a similar spot on our tax forms where we could donate to a fund for health
care, a fund for Social Security, a fund for education, and a fund for
infrastructure? If people can choose where their dollars will be spent they may
be willing to contribute out of their own pockets to save or enhance programs
they favor.

We often raise a lot of money this way in times of disaster.
This time our disaster is our national economy. People may be willing to
volunteer their financial assistance, even though they might not be happy if
they were required to contribute. Health care dollars could be used to keep
Medicare and Medicaid functional and to prevent it from eating up our budget.
Social Security monies could be used to extend the life of the Social Security
program. Educations monies could be dispersed among the states and earmarked
for specific initiatives (like buying computers). Of course, if our wealthiest
Americans take on infrastructure we might not need a fund dedicated to that
purpose, but if they did not then we could also have a fund that would be
dispersed among states to upgrade infrastructure.

We still need to work on our safety net. There are people
who are able to scam the system. There are doctors who will sign forms that
ascribe a disability to people who don’t actually have one. There are people
with disabilities who could be trained to do a job that will work around their
disability. Our Congress can continue to look for ways to cut health care
costs. If we combine a bottom-up and top- down approach to our safety net we
may be able to keep it almost intact.