Senator Graham had a room full of people who didn’t vote for him on Saturday, March 25th, in Columbia. He asked early-on how many people were Democrats. He made a prepared statement and then he listened to questions read off cards people had submitted while waiting in line to enter.
Lots of concern around Russia: Would he propose a special prosecutor to look in to Trump campaign ties to Russia? What does he plan to do about the FBI investigating the Trump administration for ties to Russia? He said he’d let the FBI do its job and the investigation run its course.
Lots of concern about education. He said he supports charter schools as an alternative to the current under-performing public school system. He slipped the word “vouchers” in there which had people booing.
Here’s the thing: he’s not wrong.
The current system has been in place for a century and it’s antiquated and it’s failing our citizens. I’m not convinced charter schools and vouchers are the way to fix it, but we need to try something. Schools are funded on a per-student basis, so their resources will not be totally lost. Schools with failing performances will lose students and close their doors.
The transportation issue is what concerns me. How do lower-income kids get across town to better schools? Like I said, though, we have to try something.
Lots of concern about healthcare and this is where it got ridiculous. Senator Graham asked who in the room would like to see Medicare made available for everyone. Tons of hands went up. Then he said, Well, Medicare doesn’t provide pre-natal care, so it’s not exactly designed for everyone. (not a direct quote, just the gist)
The healthcare debate is not a healthcare debate. It’s an insurance debate. The two camps are those who believe they should have free healthcare and those who know someone has to pay for it. Healthcare is available to anyone who can get to an emergency room. They cannot turn you away. In that sense, it is secured as a “right.” But healthcare is expensive.
When Senator Graham asked the room how to pay for things like Medicare expansion, someone shouted, “Tax the rich!”
Since that’s exactly the opposite of what’s going to happen when Trump tax reform goes through, let’s talk about that. For a long time now the Democratic party has run platforms on Robin Hood economics. Take from those that have too much to give to those who have too little.
Robin Hood economics is responsible for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was put in place in the 70s to catch the top 1% of Americans who were making over $100,000. Every year, the AMT catches more Americans. Middle class people, because we can all admit now that $100,000 really isn’t that much anymore. Congress won’t repeal the AMT because it’s a cash cow.
Robin Hood economics imagines that the rich are sitting on their money like Scrooge McDuck, diving through gold coins as if they were water in a swimming pool. Except they’re not. The rich are investing their money so that it earns money for them. There are three ways to get money: steal it, earn it, and let it earn money for you. The rich are doing the third. Yet, every time we cry, “Tax the rich!” what we mean is find out how they’re getting rich and try to make it harder.
When we make it harder for rich people to invest, they stop investing in us. They put their money elsewhere, in overseas markets for example, where they can make higher returns. What we need is a system that encourages investment because it’s the right thing to do. We should identify the influence investment has on our daily lives and celebrate the buildings and innovations investors are part of.
We need Wall Street reform. Demystify the money-moving and show us how the rich are helping us all out. Then we’re less likely to think of them as Scrooge McDuck and more likely to think of them as partners in progress.
Not all wealthy citizens are benevolent. But forcing them to be never works.
We don’t want to end up like Greece and we’re already well on our way. We spend more than we earn and we borrow more than we lend. Our government is top-heavy and unsustainable. Austerity measures hurt, but we have a wealthy citizenry that can be implored to help if properly motivated. Stealing from them to give to the poor won’t solve the problem long-term. It will only hasten their exit from the system all together.
Democracy requires participation. What’s encouraging about the galvanization of the public that we’ve seen since Trump’s election is that more sides are being heard. What’s concerning is that a lot of the voices are interested in two things: 1) a government solution to everything, and 2) an immediate resolution to these problems.
Senator Graham made a great point when talking about education. He said the reform of our country’s education system is not about us or our children. It’s about the generation after them and the jobs we’re preparing them for. Identifying the skills they’ll need and then equipping them with those skills should be our primary concern.
It’s hard, Senator Graham, to think that far into the future, when today’s uncertainty could mean being out of work, out of insurance, or out of the conversation all together.