President Obama can reduce deficit in beneficial ways

By Darryl Lorenzo Wellington,

We just had an election where the two parties laid out their plans for the budget. The Democrats campaigned against cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and for increasing taxes on those at the very top. The Republicans campaigned on cutting domestic programs and keeping tax breaks for the rich.

The Democrats won, the GOP lost, but now the Republicans are insisting that Obama accept the same proposals the voters rejected at the polls.

Republicans should accept the fact that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are a luxury the country can no longer afford, while Obama should listen to the will of the American people — and insist upon the humane solutions that are available for bringing the budget into line.

That means no cuts to Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid.

But we should cut the deficit in a myriad ways that increase the public good.

First, we should impose a carbon tax penalizing greenhouse gas emissions, which could generate $80 billion dollars a year and provide a powerful incentive for companies to clean up and avert catastrophic climate change.

Second, we should close corporate loopholes. We should prohibit companies from parking their profits in offshore tax havens, and we shouldn’t give them tax breaks to ship jobs overseas. Closing such loopholes would save us up to $100 billion a year.

Third, we need to provide drug treatment instead of incarceration to many prisoners who are in for drug crimes. This would save the country billions in prison costs.

Fourth, now that the Iraq War has ended, and we are committed to reducing our forces in Afghanistan, the military budget can be safely reduced. Many analysts agree that we can and should reduce our strategic nuclear arsenal, for instance, and there is no need to keep making Cold War weapons systems.

Finally, those at the very top should have to pay their fair share of taxes. During the Eisenhower years, the marginal tax rate on the highest earners was 91 percent. Today, it is 35 percent. Eliminating the Bush tax cut would raise that rate to only 39 percent, and the wealthy can certainly afford that.

There is a fair and decent way around the fiscal cliff. And Obama should insist on it.

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and journalist living in Santa Fe, N.M. He can be reached at