On a Straight Deal for America

In times of crisis Americans have looked to their leaders. More specifically to their President. It is in this single individual, this embodiment of the republic, that citizens have placed their aspirations. The results have ranged from the landmark precedent of Lincoln to a Square Deal from one Roosevelt and a New Deal from another. Examples of executive pilotage in national storms are many. Their destinations as varied as their courses through the consideration of history. Yet as this generation moves through a crisis which may see the undoing of the Pax Americana of the previous century crises in the country are met only by crises in Washington itself. The result is a momentum shifting from hopelessness to helplessness. Where is the inspiration of previous generations in need of a star to guide them through their long night?
The world needs America. America needs a light in the darkness. Both need President Obama to fulfill his promise of hope. His attempts at playing moderator to competing political interests have failed. In such dark days the American people do not look to legislative leadership but to executive action. The President needs to present a plan. America needs a Straight Deal.
The Straight Deal is a balanced approach forward. A combination of pain and gain. A pragmatic and honest course which anticipates a long voyage together wrought by rolling sea and unseen obstacle but with a better destination beyond.
The current crisis is unlike those of the past in several respects. Traditional Keynesian fiscal tools are not available due to burgeoning debt and credit issues. Indeed those who prescribe Keynes fiscal model forgot a key dimension. Such fiscal ideas are based on repaying the treasury in good times so as to maintain health for cyclical crises as they occur. Stimulus spending is limited simply by government having let its debt continue to build over decades. The dichotomy which exists in federal politics today is also unique to this era. The fiscal absolutism manifested in the Tea Party Movement precludes any tangible possibility of real compromise between Democrats and Republicans. It may have taken over two centuries but the warning of President Washington against the danger of political parties seems to have come to fruition at the very apex of his nations power and peril. The President can not therefore present a grand plan of spending and stimulus. He simply does not have the resources or the political capital to execute such a vision for government.
The Straight Deal must encompass several elements. It is absolutely paramount that it levels with Americans. It must be clear and honest that America's problems are immense but not insurmountable, and that no solution will be easy or quick or without sacrifice. It must be comprehensive and based in long-term objectives. It must first and foremost include a reasonable and immediate plan for reinvigorating a stalled economy prioritizing job creation. It must show near term progress on deficit reduction. It must include a real and sustainable fiscal solution for the national debt. It must include an aggressive vision for future national success. It must include spending cuts, revenue increases and tax cuts targeted at creating conditions for employment in private enterprise. It must provide stable economic conditions for at least several years to ensure predictability for business. Finally it must make a clear statement, once and for all, that wealth and employment are a product of the private sector.
Some general suggestions.

-A long-needed change in policy and posture to ensure the priority of strong national security, protection of vital interests abroad and fulfillment of alliance commitments and obligations with greater reliance on smaller, highly mobile and lethal forces
-Immediate large reduction in overall procurement including review of all current projects based on the priorities set out above
-End the troubled Fifth Generation fighter programs and opt for suitable Generation 4.5 alternative while concentrating resources on Sixth Generation development to maintain future advantage
-Massive reduction in overseas facilities, formations and deployments including reducing basing and staging assets to a handful of strategic locations, and firm removal of all regular forces from Iraq and Afghanistan by 2012 and 2014 respectively
-A greater emphasis on future warfare including a shift from large, offensive armored formations for high-intensity combat engagements to limited counter-insurgency, special operations, rapid reaction, lethality of force multipliers, strategic deterrence, non-proliferation, intelligence and most notably information security

Entitlement Spending
-Conduct a comprehensive review and realignment of all social insurance programs to ensure sustainability through and beyond Boom retirement
-Raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to 70 for those born after 1965
-Introduce immediate means testing for Social Security and Medicare benefits while ensuring that the benefit ceiling is sufficiently generous to discount only the wealthiest while providing for all middle and lower income Americans
-Consider consolidation of Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and Obama Healthcare provisions into a single more efficient joint national healthcare plan in collaboration with state governments
-Involve medical practitioners, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, state and federal agencies in a comprehensive and sweeping examination for reform of health care to ensure sustainability, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and positive outcomes for all stakeholders; Do not involve elected officials in this process
-Couple an extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits with reforms aimed at creating pathways to employment such as continuing benefits during training or skills development and continuing somewhat reduced payments for those who accept low-paying, part-time work to transition from unemployment to nominal employment to full employment to prevent falling further into economic despair and placing burdens on social welfare systems

Discretionary Spending
-Set a shortlist of federal spending priorities to ensure that critical programs are effective and sustainable and view all cuts through this lens
-Conduct a broad independent review of all federal spending programs to maximize efficiency and reduce duplication and costs
-Slash all non-prioritized programs
-Eliminate earmarks and similar pet projects which do not serve the national interest
-Place a freeze on the compensation of all elected federal offices

-Make tax changes effective until 2020 to provide a stable and predictable environment for economic growth
-Make changes based on the sound assumption that low taxes on the wealthy may create wealth but do not ensure distribution of wealth through job creation as evidenced from the current economic situation
-Reduce nominal tax rates for low income earners, stabilize current rates for middle earners and markedly increase rates for top earners ($500,000+)
-Tax bonuses at double the maximum rate for financial services executives as reparation for federal intervention
-Slash business taxes from 35% to 20% maximum rate and similar reductions at all rates from large to small to foster an environment for job creation
-Offer a two year exemption for all new business startups
-Offer a $4800 one time tax credit for any small business which hires a new full time employee and keeps them for at least one year, concentrating on every small business hiring one person rather than having fewer corporations hire many
-Create a lifetime personal capital gains exemption of $100,000 to ensure a positive investment environment for most Americans
-Tax investment income and capital gains at normal rates beyond this ceiling
-Simplify the tax code for personal and business applications, closing loopholes and allowing only limited exemptions for both
-Extend current payroll tax reductions

Strategic Investment
-Federal spending priorities for future national competitiveness must include serious and sustained funding for Infrastructure, Education & Training and Research & Development
-Create a National Infrastructure Fund to commence shovel-ready projects as soon as possible while offering a long term strategy and predictable funding process
-Create a National Innovation Scholarship to pay 100% of college tuition for up to four years for any math and science student in the top 10% by national standardized academic performance criteria
-Create a comprehensive GI Bill for the 21st century (GI21) to provide real opportunities for the heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan, including a similar benefit for families of the fallen
-Simplify regulation for patent approvals including FDA mandates on pharmaceuticals

Political Reform
-Pledge from caucuses in the House and Senate that rules will change to ensure that legislative procedure will reflect majority rule and not the super majorities which have evolved over time to entrench gridlock
-Comprehensive campaign finance reform must be included in any package which will have any meaningful consequence in returning political power of the people to the people

It is likely that even a sincere, long-term, balanced plan will be untenable given current political circumstances. It can form however a comprehensive program for a second Obama term. If a reasonable platform with promise for the broad middle of the American polity is in fact rejected by the opposition it can only have the affect of squeezing the extremist Tea Party elements out of the critical centre. A case can then be made that both executive and legislative control is required to end the gridlock in the capital; and the better use will be made of it this time.
Obama must do so in a manner which borrows from Republicans in a unilateral compromise which steals their political momentum. The current situation pits the President in a reactive position against fiscal absolutism. He must regain the initiative and force his opponents to deal with a comprehensive plan rooted in responsible centrist solutions. He must not forfeit his confidence. This is a political plan to be certain but not partisan in intent. A vision for tomorrow simply can not wait another day. America needs leadership in the here and now.
This will of course require the hitherto elusive unity of liberals and moderates within his party. Surely such a coalition can be built and sustained for one election given the crisis at hand and the Republican alternative looming large since the 2010 elections. If the President can chart a middle way and demonstrate clearly the support of his caucus the election next year can be fought and won as a single effort with a single message. One party with one plan led by one man. The President must find a new path for governing and leading. The crisis has been thrust upon us and the time for action is overdue. America needs a Straight Deal.
This page of history belongs not to Congress or candidate unknown. It is time for President Obama to claim his place as one of his predecessors did. The moment is come to put his feet in the right place and stand firm.

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