Take the Good with the Bad
By Patrick F. Cannon
Instead of making resolutions for 2018, let’s see where we are as it begins. How does the balance scale look?
On one side, Donald Trump is still president. Another interesting fellow, Kim Jong-un, continues to build big rockets and nuclear bombs instead of feeding his people, who seem to starve with smiles on their faces. He claims the recent United Nations sanctions are an act of war, but I guess he doesn’t realize that the UN has utterly failed in its stated mission to bring peace to the world, so they might as well declare war; on the other hand, they’ve managed to build a fine bloated bureaucracy, which we are pleased to pay for.
On a positive note, Robert Mugabe has been removed from power in Zimbabwe, although it remains to be seen whether the new folks will be any better. Oops! I almost forgot about Putin. I’m afraid he puts the scale far out of balance.
Despite what Nancy Pelosi and the other ancients in the Democratic Party like Dick Durbin are saying, almost everyone is going to be paying less income tax next year. Rich folks will indeed benefit the most because – wait for it – they already pay by far the most. As I think I’ve mentioned here before, the highest 10 percent of earners pay 70 percent of the income taxes. The claim that their reduced taxes will be on the backs of the poor is false and Nancy and Dick know it. Let me remind them that the lowest 45 percent of income tax filers pay no tax at all, and that nearly 20 percent actually get cash under the earned income tax credit provision, which has not changed.
My argument with the new tax law isn’t that it’s unfair, but that it will increase the deficit unless economic growth reaches at least 4 percent on a sustained basis, which is questionable. When is the national debt too much? If economics were an exact science, economists would tell you, but in fact they differ widely on its long term effect. But here’s something to consider: the Federal government is currently paying an average of 2.293 percent interest on the money it borrows. This is historically low – a more typical average would be more like 5 percent. What happens to the deficit if interest rates are doubled, a not unlikely event? Let’s call the tax reform shakily balanced for the moment.
(As an aside, if you watch the local and national TV news, you would think that the Republican congress had actually passed a tax increase. Why is this, I wonder?)
There is some good news. Unemployment is about as low as it gets, and people who had stopped looking for work are returning to the work force. Employers are actually having trouble filling some jobs, which results in increased wages (wage stagnation has been thought a problem for many years). Stock prices are rising, which benefits not only individual investors, but the many people who are in the market through 401-K and other retirement plans.
The poverty rate in the US has declined from 15.1 percent in 2010 to 13.5 percent in 2017. People living in abject poverty worldwide have decreased from about 25 percent in 2000 to 9.5 percent now. In most cases, hunger is more related to political upheaval than an actual lack of food. In our own country, childhood hunger is almost always caused by family dysfunction.
Another plus: Americans are the most generous people in the world. Not only do they help people in need, but they support medical research, education and the arts to an astonishing degree. And let me brag about our writers. The British Man Booker literary prize was only opened to Americans two years ago. Americans have won the prize in each of those two years! Last year’s winner, George Saunders (for Lincoln in the Bardo), is from the south Chicago suburb of Oak Forest.
In Chicago sports, the Cubs made it to the NLCS and the Black Hawks to the NHL playoffs. The Bears as usual disappointed; the White Sox did too, but at least seem to have some hope for the future. After a dismal start, the Bulls have come alive, but like the Sox it’s probably “wait till next year.” On balance, the year could have been better, but we live in hope!
Finally, it hasn’t been a good year for sexual predators, primarily in the arts, media and entertainment. Women (and men in some cases) now seem emboldened to blow the whistle as never before. This is all to the good, but lets hope the innocent – and there will be innocents – do not go down with the guilty as they did in the McCarthy era. In any event, men will have little excuse in 2018 for using their power to abuse women and young boys.
Taking all of this into account, not sure how the scales will balance in the New Year. Of course, if it weren’t for Donald Trump…
Copyright 2017, Patrick F. Cannon