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Playing Chicken with the National Debt
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Essay by:Garrett Nekuda
Emporia State University
In an egg farm, chickens that lay eggs are useful and help the business make a profit. Most chickens lose their ability consistently to lay eggs after about one year of life. This causes the company to have to pay more to feed it than it would gain from the sporadic eggs it might collect. At this time, the chicken is sold to a business that will kill the chicken, which would then be used for food. The business loses its non-productive asset and turns a profit from it. Do we want to follow a practice similar to this? The national debt already is a large problem and the challenges will become more intense if we wait.
Two of the largest outlays of the government are health care and Social Security. These mostly go to the elderly whose most productive years are likely to be in the past. Obviously, a smaller population of those eligible for programs like Social Security and Medicare would decrease the obligations of the government. No civilized society would engage in involuntary euthanasia; however, is it the same if society abandons the elderly?
The strongest are likely to survive and age is not the only factor involved. Some people remain active and are still part of the labor force well into their ninety’s and beyond... They could be some of the most productive people because of experience, wisdom, and healthy life styles. Rather it should happen for hopelessly incurable patients in either medical or psychological cases. If a person is brain dead, should we as a society prevent the family from immediately allowing him or her to die? Is not prolonging the process just a drain on resources and strain the emotional health for those still alive? As heard on 60 Minutes on November 22, 2009: “Last year, Medicare paid $50 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients' lives - that's more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education.”
If we made compassionate and realistic decisions, and everything else stayed the same, we could make significant progress on the growing the national debt in a matter of years. This is a purely logical and emotionless option; however, is it viable? Nobody wants to try to draw the line between who is productive and who is not, but does income effectively do this? No politician will ever propose this. Unfortunately, if the national debt continues to grow as it is projected, then this may be the ultimate course of action if we do not find effective solutions soon.
A much better alternative is to take care of the problem now. Everyone wants good government programs but few want to pay for them. This line of thinking is the problem. If people would realize that benefits have costs, there would not even be an issue. The majority of Americans do not want any programs to be reduced so the requirement is a higher tax rate. Unfortunately, all programs may be forced to diminish automatically due to the crisis that is unfolding. If there was more money to go around, the other programs wouldn’t have to suffer.
The United States has one of the lowest tax rates of the technologically advanced countries. Yet its citizens expect the most from the government. The expectations are good schools, beautiful landscapes, health care, protection, and so many more. Educational systems are already funded with far less than before and many institutions are getting less every year. The national parks, where millions of people go to every year, eventually may have to be sold because the government may not be able to pay to keep them. Even the costs associated with national defense will have to decrease because the American society is aging and soon a large percentage of the population will be entitled to governmental assistance.
The national debt already is a large problem and the challenges will become more intense. If America does not take a moderate course of action soon, such as raising taxes, then it will be forced to take an extremist course of action. When we seriously consider the alternatives over time, Americans probably prefer to pay for the benefits they receive in one fashion or another. Would we rather have a smaller increase in taxes now or a much larger increase in a few years? How long can we afford to play chicken?
»A new report finds the main problem in getting the public to deal with our fiscal problems isn't opposition to tax increases or spending cuts -- it's their lack of trust in the government to spend their money wisely.