We the People: The buck stops here

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president, kept a sign with that mottoon his desk through his administrations. His presidency was markedby danger, labor difficulties and economic upheaval. At the end ofhis last term, his approval rating (22%) was the lowest a sittingpresident experienced until 2008. However, he is properlyremembered as a hard-working and straight-shooting leader.

It is axiomatic that leadership can produce negative reactions frompeople. It is time for President Obama to lead the American peopleand the rest of the world by announcing the plan he intends toimplement to resolve the debt ceiling crisis. If he thinks thatRepublican legislators are adamantly opposed to action so they canpolitically embarrass him, or so they can somehow effectivelydefund Social Security and Medicare, then he should say so.

President Obama delivered a short television address to theAmerican people that hinted that policy was taking a back seat topolitics during the crisis. The American people need for him toselect the best plan available and then get behind it.

The so-called Gang of Six has a plan. Can the president supportit or a variation of it? He should have done so already. Any planwill involve pain and sacrifice for the American people. It is timefor us to pay the bill that Washington has allowed to be charged tothe nation’s credit card. The longer we take to adopt a plan, thelonger it will take to enact one. The time for talk passed monthsago and at this point, any plan is better than no plan.

We must spend less for our military and we must spend less for ourentitlement programs, but we must not eliminate programs that areneeded by the people just because it will provide an effectivesound bite in a political commercial.

Why can’t we reduce our military budget through selective programeliminations and across-the-budget cuts of 10 percent? This wouldproduce between $600 and $800 billion in savings over 10 years. Wecould reduce farm subsidies, health and welfare spending, and alldiscretionary spending by the same percentage to produce savings ofat least $1.4 trillion over 10 years.

The government could progressively apportion Social Security taxso that wealthy Americans contribute more for Social Securityprotection. It would be foolish to allow unfunded liabilities toincrease in proportion to any budget reduction. Every annual SocialSecurity statement is a reminder to us that the program will failif changes are not enacted. At this point in time, every workerwill only receive a 78 percent portion of his or her future benefitif funding is not changed.

If the legislature fails to produce a realistic plan, then thepresident should adopt one, make it his own and get the support ofthe people behind it. If Congress does not remember the spirit ofHarry S. Truman, then President Obama needs to invoke it now.

Brian Kieran is a community activist who works for the Stateof New York and is a Democrat.

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