Halfway measures don’t solve problems

Hal Sundin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I see it

Never have – never will! Solving serious problems requires serious actions. And we do have serious problems: a failing health care system, Social Security and Medicare programs facing bankruptcy, rash behavior by Wall Street and bank managers, continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the threat of climate change, all compounded by a stumbling economy. The days of throwing money at problems and hoping they will go away are over. In the first place, we no longer have the money, and in the second, that tactic seldom works.

What is going on in Congress on “health care reform” isn’t even a halfway measure. It is essentially an effort to please the extremists of both parties by doing pretty close to nothing, and the results will show it. What is needed is a total overhaul of the entire system with a single-payer plan similar to what most other industrial nations have successfully adopted, eliminating the 20-percent health insurance industry “surcharge.”

Social Security and Medicare are on a collision course with insolvency, which if unchanged, will bankrupt the country. The answer is not to keep wringing more money out of workers and their employees, who are already stretched to the limit. Instead we need to bring these programs into balance by cutting their costs. That can be accomplished only by a major action reducing benefits on a sliding scale in proportion to income above a certain level, for example, $100,000. It is unconscionable to heap insurmountable debt on present and future generations of workers in order to continue paying out billions of dollars to those who don’t need it all. Current retirees and those approaching retirement are far better off than those who are struggling in the current economy.

Pasting together a few trifling “regulations’ on Wall Street and banking practices has little chance of preventing a recurrence of the kind of excesses that brought down the economy. What the government really needs to do is break up the big financial institutions into pieces that are not “too big to fail.” With only halfhearted efforts at reform of the health care system and malpractice in the financial industry, it will still be pretty much business as usual for both industries. Obviously they have accomplished this by simply buying Congress.

It is time to end the financial drain of the unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been going on longer that any war in our history, except the equally foolhardy, Vietnam War. History is full of examples of counties whose finances were depleted by wars they had gotten into that they could no longer afford. It’s time we realize that continuing a desultory effort in these ill-governed counties will accomplish little lasting benefit, and is not worth the cost in both blood and money.

And finally we come to potentially the most serious threat facing the future of our country and the entire world – climate change. There are those who do not accept what scientists are telling us, and argue that if the scientists are wrong, a costly program to reduce the burning of fossil fuels would be a waste of money and would be harmful to the economy. But what if they are wrong and the scientists are right? The consequences for the world’s population and economy from major increase in temperatures and the resulting rise in sea levels, inundating the world’s seaports and displacing hundreds of millions of people, will be the greatest catastrophe in human history. Is that a risk we can afford to take? Is that a scenario we want to visit upon future generations? We don’t expect our homes to burn, but we plunk down money every year because we can’t be sure that ours won’t. Isn’t it prudent to invest in efforts to prevent serious global warming? Besides, within the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find replacements for the finite fossil fuel resources on which we are now so highly dependent. Once again, all we have done so far are halfway measures, like florescent light bulbs, recycling, and more efficient appliances, buildings and vehicles.

We need to get serious about our future starting in 2010. No more halfway measures.

– Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent

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