After watching President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner debate over national television this week, many Americans must be wondering from where this crisis arose and how can we end this senseless game of chicken.
It’s worth asking a larger question: what kind of society do we want to build? A look toward Europe may be instructive as we ponder the question. Simply put, are we going to be Germany or Greece? Are we going to invest in education, our infrastructure, become known for high quality manufacturing, and work our way through uncertainty together, as Germany has tended to do? Or will we, like the Greeks, refuse to pay for what we have, attack our government and each other, and sink into chaos?
While the Euro zone troubles may limit Germany's options now, we in America have a choice. We are masters of our own destiny. We know the importance of being productive and the value of education and investing in our infrastructure. We know that the most pressing problem facing us is the high unemployment rate, particularly among the trades and construction sectors. We also know that health care is an unattainable need for many among us, particularly the unemployed, and that Medicare needs a rescue. And we know that fighting two wars while cutting taxes is a recipe for disaster.
Now we’re back to the question about who we want to be as a country. The debt limit debate is really about this question and not the mechanics of raising the limit. Here’s what this debate is really about. We can either continue to cut taxes, cut support to education, defer maintenance and infrastructure investments, and operate one of the most costly, ineffective, and uncompetitive healthcare systems in the world — or we can follow a different path.
This is the path of what I call "Social Capitalism."
Following this latter path, we can expand Medicare to cover every American and remove the insurance companies from the equation — saving the program because of the addition of young and healthy taxpayers. The system is already in place so very little would need to be done to fully cover everyone. Economic mobility would be enhanced because your health care would follow you. Businesses here would be on an equal footing with every other country in that they would not need to provide medical coverage with compensation. And since we already cover everyone via emergency room visits, an organized system of preventive care would cut costs in the system.
We can raise taxes on those most able to pay and begin paying down the debt while investing in our road, bridge, tunnel, and rail infrastructure. And most importantly we can make a full court press on education funding and reform. There are jobs out there now that we aren’t training our people to do. This debt limit debate isn’t even addressing this issue.
We as Americans have always stepped up to a crisis, and we need to find a way to come together now. But the crisis is not the debt limit — that has been manufactured by the Republican House wanting leverage. The crisis is about helping our citizens gain the skills they need to build a competitive economic model. And that means putting education, healthcare, and transportation back at the top of the list.
We have the wealth and the political system in place to take advantage of our opportunity. But it will not happen so long as people distrust their government and their industries. And that is why we need a new paradigm, Social Capitalism.