“Americans in general want a clean, prosperous environment, with lots to do, good paying jobs, nice homes, good transportation, healthy food. But what are we willing to do to get there?” asked a friend. She mentioned that one way she is adjusting to the changes that the US is facing is by a 12$/month unlimited bus pass. I’m jealous! Here’s the rest of my reply:

First and foremost, I think that as Americans we need to pay more attention to the total costs associated with our actions. Your bus pass is partially paid by taxes, probably on some people who don’t use public transportation very much, if at all. But even though their tax money isn’t getting them from point A to point B, they receiving lighter traffic because you seek out alternative means of transportation. They are ensuring that somebody drives less and saves the environment. And they are keeping the bus driver employed, off the streets and earning money to be taxed by the local government. All in all, that sounds like a good cost!

The federal government also has programs that need to be paid for by taxes, but Bush recklessly offered tax cuts (favoring the rich) without cutting the programs those taxes paid for. This irresponsibility caused the budget deficit to rise higher than ever before. Just take a look at this graph, where the national debt (as percent of GDP) is clearly rising over the periods of Regan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr.

But both McCain and Obama know that raising taxes on people who are just scraping by will not help the economy. The difference is that Barack recognizes that there are some people who can afford to continue paying for the programs their representatives voted into place. He has not proposed raising taxes on the rich. Taxes for people making $250k will return to what they were when Bush took office, because Barack is just going to let the tax cuts expire as they are scheduled to do. The republicans have done a good job painting this as a tax increase, but in fact this is just the post-Thanksgiving sale at Bloomingdale’s expiring on Friday night.

What are the costs of the Iraq war? Ten billion US dollars a month, Four thousand US casualties and Twenty thousand Iraqi people dead. What are the costs of the Paulson bailout plan? Seven hundred billion dollars per year, non-reviewable, and non-recoupable by us, the tax payers.

You are right that we are going to have to make adjustments no matter who gets elected in November. But to me, the adjustments are in how we pay for these mistakes. We can’t just put it on our Chinese Express credit card and hope the problem goes away.

So the image I would like to see the United States follow is one of more intelligence. You know I was called “elitist” for saying that? (by my own mother!) Where else in the world can you elect a candidate because he’s not too smart, not too rich, and not too handsome? I think we should be selecting the best president we can, and right now that is Barack Obama.

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