"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders." --Samuel Adams

A Plea for Economic Sanity

Throughout history, two primary causes for the end of a civilization are external conquest and economic deterioration from within. Sometimes they have combined, but this has not always been the case. We do not need to fear conquest from external parties, but we should pay heed to the civilizations that have preceded us as historically significant contributors to the world at large and because of economic decline have faded into the past. We face a growing economic crisis that could prove devastating to our society and our role in the world.

It is a simple matter of economic law that you cannot spend beyond your income for prolonged periods of time. A growing debt weighs upon the economy, crushing the populace with an ever increasing burden. The current manifestation of our debt dilemma is a product of a failure of leadership on both of the major political parties. In the past, leaders from both major parties, in their role as President, provided visions of what we could achieve as a nation, whether that be President Eisenhower’s goal of a nationwide network of roadways or President Kennedy’s dream of reaching the Moon. These goals were not framed as the goal of one party or the other, but as something that help ensure The United States of America’s role as a world leader. For several decades now we have had no such leadership, from either party. Instead, we have allowed ourselves to fall into a deep political divide that pits citizen against citizen, each side catering to their most ardent followers, demanding payment in the forms of subsidies, protective regulations, and favored tax status, almost always to the detriment of the other side’s support base. This is not a viable path for our nation, and I challenge you as a leader to help restore a balance of civility to the political process, a sense of honor to the houses of Congress and the Administration, and a sense of shared purpose to the nation.

This is not going to be easy, because you must face, and quell, the extreme views from both sides of the spectrum. All views, even those from the extremes of our society should be accepted for discussion, but we must as a nation realize, and you must help everyone understand, that a democracy survives by compromise and working towards common goals, not from exclusion or persecution, whether that be economic or in other forms. 

Everyone must accept that the size and cost of our national government must be reduced, and that we must bring down the associated debt. I doubt that it is possible today to easily say what must be trimmed, but we can at least begin to agree on foundations, and both parties can then work within those foundations to further their respective views.

First, we must stop arguing over which administration has caused our predicament. This is not an issue of President Bush’s tax cuts, wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, or stimulus spending. All of those are but symptoms of the greater problem; a failure of both the executive and legislative branches to collectively understand and accept the limits of our federal structure and then prioritize what should be addressed.

Next, you, as the leadership, must, together, take the first steps in redefining our federal government and place it on a path that is both fiscally responsible and returns it to the historic role of ensuring equal treatment under the constitution of all citizens and peaceful commerce between the states and commonwealths that comprise the United States of America.

I strongly suggest that you address these tasks with the following thoughts in mind:
  1. A key role of the federal government is to maintain a military that protects the nation. Additional duties beyond our borders and beyond the need to protect our citizens, our ships of commerce, and any treaty allies should be curtailed. Falling under this precept would be foreign aid. We must reconsider to whom, and how we provide aid. There should be no sacred cows in these discussions.
  2. A key role of the federal government is to ensure commerce flows freely across the state and commonwealth boundaries. Beyond that, all other regulation should be reconsidered. We should decide whether it is the role of the federal government to allow agencies to establish regulations that have the weight of law and in so many cases oppress citizens. The press is filled with reports of how much the regulatory growth has changed the lives of our citizens and how it continually intrudes in ways that were never intended, but have now been taken to illogical extremes (e.g. children’s lemonade stands raided, people prosecuted for consuming “raw” food). I think a vast majority of the citizens from across the political spectrum would agree that the federal government has grown beyond all desire in these areas. We must consider that perhaps the federal role should be limited to establishment of broad food and product safety requirements for products that are transported across state and commonwealth boundaries, but that it is the right, and duty, of states to decide each and unto themselves what additional regulations they will enact as sovereign states to address their own unique needs.
  3. A key role of the federal government is to ensure that citizens who have fallen into the depths of economic despair do not needlessly suffer or in the most extreme, starve. Surely, none of us would envision a nation where our fellow citizens are so displaced that they starve on the streets. This support should be temporary and limited to providing basic housing and substance needs. We must ensure that we do not have a permanent underclass that relies exclusively upon the government for their basic needs. You must begin to address the ongoing, and growing, segment of our population that is becoming a perpetual class of citizens that rely upon the government for their basic needs. I’m sure there will be many discussions on how best to achieve this, but I would urge you to frame those discussions in the context of how this may be achieved while adhering to a plan to reduce the extent of the federal government.
  4. A key role of the federal government is to create an environment that ensures we as a society maintain leading roles in science, commerce, and the arts, for by doing so we ensure our place as world leaders, not just for our generation, but for the generations that follow. This does not mean that the federal government should take income from one group to incent or support another. Thus, absent a clear need put forth by the Executive Branch, and supported by Congress, there should be no subsidies for corporations, products, and business sectors (e.g. existing subsidies for corn or tobacco or oil production). Certainly, there will be times that a product or sector will be determined to be of key importance for the nation, but these should be clearly expressed by the President and then agreed upon by Congress, and subject to the below mentioned sunset provisions. The Federal Government should focus upon ensuring that key aspects of interstate commerce are facilitated through an adequate infrastructure of roads, rails, water, and air. We must also return to an expectation that all Federal Agencies and Entities operate apolitically as they fulfill their respective chartered duties and functions.
  5. A key role of the federal government is to protect the nation’s borders. A nation that fails to control its borders is a nation that places its future at risk. This is not a political argument; it is a simple historical fact. This applies to all aspects; illegal commerce, illegal immigration, and threats to the peace and safety of the citizens. This applies to threats that cross our border invisibly, such as corporate espionage, data theft, and other types of intellectual or technological attack. It is your collective duties as our leaders to ensure that you understand and address this issue.
  6. A key role of the federal government is to ensure that all citizens are treated equally throughout the land and that no group is oppressed through unequal economic treatment and certainly it is not the role of government to establish different classes of “rights” for citizens. All citizens of the United States of America are equally protected by our Constitution. Any group of citizens that desires to treat another group differently through law or regulation ignores the basic precept of our belief that we are all created equal. Thus, this endless drama and debate about“Gay Marriage” should cease. Leaders of both parties should help guide the nation to a middle solution that recognizes that it is not the role of government to meddle in religious ceremonies, but it is also not the role of government to use a religious ceremony to establish benefits and privileges for citizens absent an equal civil path for those citizens that do not partake of a particular religious ceremony or belief. Simply, a religious ceremony or belief should not be used by our government to establish different classes of citizenry. You cannot both believe in the separation of church and state and at the same time argue that government should use a religious ceremony for enacting laws and regulations establishing rights, taxes, or other measures, unless a fully equal civil measure is also adopted.
  7. It is our duty as citizens to support the federal government through taxes or fees for the services and support that we have determined the government should provide. The citizenry should not be pressed to pay for governmental agencies and functions that have not been explicitly created, and funded, by the Congress. You should consider enacting legislation that requires the automatic sunset of all Agencies and Departments on a regular and uniform basis (e.g. every 20 years) unless specifically authorized by Congress for continuation. To fund these governmental needs we as citizens should all pay our fair share and you as the political leadership must help determine how these taxes and fees should be allocated. I would urge you to consider that everyone save the most unfortunate must pay something to support the government, and that there should be few, if any tax reduction measures. Government through tax incentives, rebates, and targeted stimulus measures does not create a stable long term framework under which either citizens or corporations can plan. You must also begin to accept, and incorporate into the tax framework that a dollar of income in Kansas is not equivalent to a dollar of income in New York. A fair tax structure must consider and adjust for discrepancies in income levels among the states and commonwealths. Proposals that frame discussions around set dollar levels of “wealthy Americans” (e.g. income of $250,000 or more) immediately incorporate inequality at a basic level and should be rejected outright. Similarly, perhaps through a stair step implementation program all personal inheritance taxes should be eliminated. This tax is akin to asking a sovereign lord for permission to pass along an estate, and is often most damaging to small family businesses when market values outweigh productive values. Inheritances that are converted to market value through sale can be addressed through the income tax structure of those affected.
  8. It is our duty as citizens to support the country through service. You should consider that every citizen should perform some type of service (excluding political), be that military, work programs, social services, or in other ways, as part of their path to maturity. Perhaps, as a free society this should not be forced upon the citizenry, but may be supported through one type of credit that is incorporated into the tax framework and is carried forward throughout the lifetime of the individual (e.g. a lifetime 5% federal income tax credit for service to the country).
  9. It is your duty as the political leadership to act with the best interest of all citizens at heart, regardless of your individual political philosophy. It is also your duty as the political leadership to not set yourselves above and apart the citizens who have entrusted you with the responsibility of helping safeguard our nation and our constitution. You should immediately act to remove all special tax, health, and income privileges that Congress has taken unto itself. This is surely neither a Republican nor a Democratic ideal, and something that could serve as a first step in demonstrating to the populace that Congress can, and will, work to restore our economic stability.
  10. Social contracts between the government and the populace, such as social security programs, must, to the extent possible, be honored. If the government abrogates commitments now it will only cause further distancing by the citizens from their government. However, just as we as a nation are telling citizens of other countries that have spent beyond their means that they must adjust, so must we. Perhaps in phase with elimination of inheritance taxes or other structural changes, individuals with incomes above a certain point should receive lessened, or no, social support. Clearly, this is an issue that will require more detailed discussion and deeper thought, but one that should be considered in context of other broad plank concepts above so that the nation as a whole can move forward.
I have sent this letter to the President and Vice President of the United States, the President pro tempore of the United States Senate, The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leaders in the Senate and the House, my two Senators, and my congressional representative. I pray that all of you will collectively realize that only by working together can a real long term solution be found to the structural flaws that face our nation today.

Sincerely,

Jabby Lowe
Alameda, California