Sonny's Corner: Democracy

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By Eugene T. Glock

I think most citizens of our great nation are aware that we are facing some very difficult challenges—the soundness of Social Security and Medicare, our inability to balance our budget and the growing deficit that results from this failure, as well as a multitude of lesser problems. I submit that only a few probably agree with me that those problems are relatively minor in comparison to what I perceive as our greatest challenge. I believe the challenges I first mention are the result of the bigger problem, which the elected officials of this nation, from both parties (or three or four parties, depending on your point of view) refuse to address. This is partially because the citizens too often forget, as do the officials, that the founders of our great nation recognized that they did not want a governing entity like the one from which they had tried so hard to get away. That is, a monarchy or similar form of government that gives the full authority for governing to one individual or a small group of like-minded individuals, who then use their authority for their own selfish purposes. That is why, after long and often heated discussion, our Founding Fathers chose democracy, a form of government that utilizes the best ideas of all the people and groups to address problems with solutions that, while not pleasing any one group of individuals, allows the government and the nation to move forward in addressing issues. This very often requires compromise on the part of everyone, but it also allows for adjustments in the future if the compromise solutions are found to be lacking.

The current attitude in Washington, and in increasing numbers of the citizenry, seems to be that there is only one solution to any problem and that solution is the one that they have devised. It is my opinion that none of the parties currently fighting for superiority have all the right answers. I have heard what I consider to be good ideas from Republicans, Democrats, the tea party folks, libertarians, etc., but none of them have the entire solution to the problems we face. Too many of the proposals are based on the wrong premise—that the laws are to be used for the benefit of individuals or political parties, not for the good of the nation as a whole. If we worried more about what our actions, and the laws we promote, mean to the good of our nation and its citizens, we would likely find that we benefit individually from those same unselfish laws.

An example is the financial crisis that faced agriculture in the 1980s. We, and most of our neighbors, found that we could not cut expenses enough to balance our budgets. After you cut beyond a certain point, you greatly impact your revenue. We had to find ways to increase our revenue as well as cut expenses. We did this in many innovative ways, taking jobs off the farm where possible but also by improving the quality of our production or producing a product that was wanted by the purchasing public. I submit that our nation must do the same. Unnecessary spending must be curbed, but I believe this will take an approach founded in democracy, using the best ideas of those who wish to cut spending and those who wish to increase revenue. The argument over tax rates fails to recognize that when tax incentives are built in to try to bring about greater activity in one sector of the economy, it means that someone else is disadvantaged. It surprises me that those who want government out of their businesses strongly support some of the tax incentives, better described in my opinion as tax breaks. This places someone who may want to start or expand a competing business of similar nature at a disadvantage. We would all be far better off if those tax breaks were eliminated and people could only deduct a reasonable amount for each person and legitimate business expenses from their income. Then have everyone pay the same tax rate. This would eliminate the current argument of who pays their fair share of taxes. Those in the lower income levels could not point fingers at those in higher income levels, as they would pay the same tax rate as the lower income folks. Also the higher income folks could not complain that they were paying too much in taxes. They would only be paying their fair share based on the fact that they have benefited from their own initiative and the benefits of living in our great nation.

I feel that a similar approach needs to be taken in dealing with Social Security and Medicare. These programs were designed to help provide for the less fortunate in our nation. To me that means that those who are more fortunate should pay a higher level by paying on their total income. This is far more complex than can be addressed in this commentary, but it takes me back to what our Founding Fathers envisioned. We need to act as a democracy and have thorough discussions of the problems, at all levels, and then act upon them. If the outcome is not satisfactory to some, they can have another chance when the issue comes up again. Until the president, Congress and the Supreme Court once again act in the best interests of the nation, not themselves, the citizenry will become more disenchanted than it currently is with all the governing bodies. Even the Supreme Court, which when I was growing up was considered a totally nonpartisan, unbiased body of last resort, is now distrusted by many citizens. This is in some measure the result of rancorous challenges of appointments made by presidents for those striving to gain, or maintain, a political advantage. This holds true for both parties. Due diligence is required in the questioning of these justices when their appointments come before the Senate, but it is increasingly an exercise in character assassination.

I hope this will give you some reason to think through your own positions and actions in what has become a perpetual battle for political control of our government. To me, the problem is exemplified by the words of Senator McConnell when he stated that the job of the Republicans was to see that Barrack Obama was a one-term president. I have found no one, Republican or Democrat, in this rural area that feels it is the duty of our elected representatives to attack one individual or organization. Their job is to govern our nation in a “democratic” manner. They might be surprised to find that their popularity would soar and reelection would come more easily to those who really govern instead of fight for political advantage.

Immigration in Nebraska