Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: (re)Defining top priorities |

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: (re)Defining top priorities

The $14 trillion in debt we currently have as a nation, whether you want to debate its source (pass the blame) to Obama, Bush, Clinton, the other Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc., is money we have already spent.

It has nothing to do with money yet collected or budgets yet to be passed.

We have three choices to pay down this debt.

1. Slash Social Security, Medicare, defense and every other program to the point that we suddenly develop a surplus (I can hear you laughing).

2. Increase taxes (I can hear you shouting).

3. A hybrid of both (I hear nothing).

There is, of course, a fourth alternative, but it involves passing the buck to our children’s children, and whoever puts that on the table needs to ask their lobotomy doctor for a re-do.

Concerning No. 1, any lip movement considering any reduction whatsoever in current Social Security and Medicare benefits will be shot down by both sides of the political fence quicker than Rick Perry can shoot himself in his other foot.

Whether cuts to either “should” actually occur is irrelevant to the chances of it actually happening, especially during election season.

Defense could, in reality, be cut but only if we are willing to drastically pull back from the two current wars that helped put us in this situation in the first place (taxes were always increased during times of war until Dubya).

The remaining discretionary programs account for less than 20 percent of our current expenses, so a slashing of them here and there, though popular on Main Street, would have the same net effect as Vail Resorts making snow at PHQ in April.

So at this point, a tax increase, such as the proposed $1.5 trillion from those making more than $250,000 per year (eliminating Bush tax cuts, limiting deductions and closing loopholes, etc.) is certainly warranted for the good of the country but will probably not become law because of the Republicans’ hatred for “all things Obama.”

Adding insult to injury, we now have to listen to all this “class warfare” nonsense. What a sadly ironic insult to our troops who are fighting in a real war. I don’t recall seeing a single wealthy American in a body bag or receiving a medal for valor for this class “war.” The “have-nots” have not been happy with the “haves” since the first caveman stole his neighbor’s dinosaur ribs off the grill, and it will never change.

The bottom line is that we have dug ourselves a tremendous hole, and the tweaking of our progressive marginal tax rates for individuals has historically been a tool to help get us out of holes since 1862. Returning to Reagan’s top marginal income tax rate of 50 percent, or hell, even just the Clinton rate of 40 percent, will certainly help.

If anything, lower the corporate tax rates because businesses create jobs, not individuals, and this will allow the free market to help put people back to work, thus creating more income and, of course, income taxes.

But (and this is a really big BUT) if any tax increase happens to actually pass, we should make sure it does so as a dedicated tax, whose sole purpose would go to paying off American debt.

As opposed to the dog whistle politics we’re witnessing daily, this should be our top American priority.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at

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