Reading the WaPo article on Obama's budget yesterday, a few thoughts occurred to me. First, Obama is to be lauded for shifting some of the tax burden toward the wealthy, who have carved off far too much of the pie during the last few decades. Much more shifting is needed, of course, but it's a start.
As for healthcare, any plan that doesn't address costs is doomed. The fact is that our current system doesn't work. Healthcare costs in the U.S. are an obscene joke. You can shift the burden back and forth between the government or insurance schemes, and the end result will be no different as long as costs remain skyhigh. Somebody somewhere is making far too much money for the services provided. Instead of wrinkling our brows as we try to comprehend the barrage of plans and schemes coming from each successive administration, Americans should invest in a trip to any other country with even a semi-successful economy. Healthcare costs tend to be minimal. People simply don't worry about getting sick and not being able to pay. Something's seriously wrong in the U.S. and no amount of tinkering will fix it.
One thing I liked about yesterday's WaPo article was the presentation of the discretionary budget in absolute terms. We saw all these little colored lines a few inches long up and down the side of the graph and this giant line that had to run the entire length of the page to remain in scale. As you guessed, the line referred to military spending. The fact that our bloated military budget was "kept flat" is being applauded as a great success. What a joke! We're in the middle of a financial meltdown, and we still, for some unfathomable reason, must outspend the rest of the entire world combined. I propose a short bill that simply says that U.S. military expenditures, both direct and indirect, must never exceed by more than 10% the expenditures of whichever country has the second biggest military budget in the world. This would bring our military budget down to a tiny fraction of what it current is overnight while encouraging whoever's number two to reduce military spending themselves. We could then expand all of our current discretionary programs and eventually balance the budget. Or we could have free universal healthcare. (What a choice, eh? Shall we spend a trillion each year in the fight over who sells us gas, or have universal healthcare?)
Somewhere in the WaPo article, there was also a for and against discussion, regarding the tax increase on the wealthy. In what is becoming de rigueur in U.S. media, the paper had to interview someone making over 200 grand a year who "did people's hair" and "worked six days a week" and was worried about what it would mean for her. Evidently Joe the Plumber has been replaced by Jane the Hair Stylist. I'm sure that the paper walked into a shop and interviewed the owner who happened to do a client's hair on a day when she was not hanging out with friends at the local spa. In the future, I wish the media would be more straightforward about their ideological convictions and simply say up front something to the effect that they believe that the extremely wealthy class has more right to wealth due to the virtue emanating from their noble birth.
In the end, the budget is a step in the right direction, but oh, what a small and timid step.