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Raise the Debt Ceiling Now

Letter to Congressman and Senators:

Right now I feel that there are only two people in Washington who have my best interests at heart, as a middle class citizen — Elizabeth Warren and Ben Bernanke.

The fact that big business is so opposed to Elizabeth Warren indicates to me that she must be doing something right for average citizens. Normally, Ben Bernanke, as the head of the Fed would be the tool of big business interests, but I think he is genuinely concerned about average people, too. His low interest rates and QE2 are boons to big business, especially big banks, but they are the only tool he has. I think he really is trying to pursue policies that trickle down to ordinary people, even if most of the benefits go to big banks and industries.

If Congress were serious, it would raise the debt ceiling now, if only by a small amount. The fact that it is playing chicken with the debt ceiling indicates that it does not have the best interests of the United States at heart. Failure to put the full faith and credit of the United States behind our bonds will mean higher interest rates for everybody and probably a return to a deep recession. Conservatives, playing the hand of big business and big banks, will use the crisis to get spending cuts without tax increases, generally hurting average people, and particularly benefiting the very rich.

To reduce the problem with the national debt and the fiscal deficit, I would propose to cut all Federal salaries by 10 percent (including yours) and all Federal pensions (including mine) by 10 percent. Perhaps you could cut all Social Security pensions by 10% above a certain level, say $1,500 per month. For Medicare and Medicaid, perhaps you could cut payments by 10% for all procedures that cost more than $1,500.

I would propose removing the mortgage interest deduction as a start for raising tax revenues. This deduction had a very perverse effect during the housing crisis. Before sub-prime mortgages, when people still had to make a large down payment, the deduction was not so bad. But with no down payment and mortgages allowing interest-only payments for the first few years, buyers basically became renters, who are now walking away from their homes. Real renters got no deduction, but sub-prime buyers had a big Federal subsidy. It was not fair, and it encouraged an unsustainable housing bubble. It’s bad policy which creates economic dislocation. Get rid of it. You could start off limiting the deduction to $10,000, and then reduce it $1,000 per year.

I don’t really expect anything to happen. This government is dysfunctional. I lived in Brazil for several years as an American diplomat during its bad years, and saw people who wallpapered some rooms with the old Cruzeiro currency. That’s where the dollar is heading. Brazil shows that you can recover from that, but only if you get serious. The US is not serious, yet. People used to say that Brazil was not a serious country. Now that epithet applies to the United States. After the game of chicken we just played on shutting the government down, the new game of chicken on the debt ceiling, and the decision during the Congressional lame-duck session not to raise taxes on anyone, especially the very rich, I have become one of those in the recent poll who has a very dark view of the American economy and even of America in general. As a Vietnam veteran, a retired Foreign Service officer, and a former attorney for the Veterans Administration, totalling nearly 30 years of government service, I am very disappointed in where the US is heading.

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