The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

November 4, 2013

Biting the bullet: America must solve our difficult problems justly

By Jack Stevenson
Guest Column

— A young family I know lost pay because of the “sequestration.” Soon, they were again without a paycheck because of the deliberate government shutdown. But other people were not affected. Can this be America? Can we legitimately solve our financial problems by selectively dumping the burden on only some citizens?

The United States Constitution provides a process for addressing America’s political and financial problems. Closing the government is not a legitimate part of the process.

The government shutdown was about expenditures. Congress has exclusive constitutional authority to determine expenditures. In 38 of the past 42 years, the U.S. Congress has spent more money than it has appropriated in tax revenue. A $17 trillion debt has accumulated. Expenditures for the current fiscal year will likely exceed revenue by half a trillion dollars, thus further increasing the size of our national debt.

Our increasing debt coincides, unfortunately, with diminished tax revenue. The U.S. Congress allowed American corporations to send millions of jobs to foreign countries, thus forfeiting the tax revenue those former job holders paid. We are expecting a bulge in the number of retired people who, generally, don’t contribute as much tax revenue as younger working people do. A majority of the jobs created during the past five years have been low wage service jobs that generate very little tax revenue for the government.

Many different methods have been proposed to solve this government expenditure and funding problem, but one factor must be a part of any solution. We must share the burden equitably.

If America still exists centuries from now, it will not be because of our drones or nuclear weapons. It will be because we have a society that people want to belong to, because we solve our difficult problems justly, and because our government functions in a manner that earns our trust and respect.    

(Stevenson, of Houston, Texas, is a retired U.S. Civil Service employee, who also worked in Egypt for Radio Corporation of America. The Vietnam veteran reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary.)