In the Know ; Opinion
The hour is late and the clock is ticking. We need bold action.
Let’s Fix Our Economic Mess By Peter Goldmark
I’m a 70-year-old not-really-retired person, and I want to talk with you about the grave economic danger
we face. If we were sitting down face-to-face, I would lean forward and say:
Our country is in danger of going off the
Deep trouble requires decisive action.
Congress in its wisdom is trying. But it’s
hardly enough. Even before we act, we
have to agree on where we want to go.
Here are the objectives we ought to be
1. We need to get many of the 20 mil-lion-plus unemployed people earning
again. Retail consumer spending and
housing bubbles will no longer drive the
economy, so we should accomplish this
goal with a large capital infrastructure
investment program. That will make us
more competitive, which will make the whole
economy stronger. And we can load up the infrastructure program with jobs.
2. Wealthy individuals and corporations
should carry a fair share of the tax load. We
need the revenue, and we need a tax system
that is not twisted to benefit the rich.
3. We need incentives for state and local governments not to lay people off. We want those
dollars and jobs pumping through our economy;
if we choke them off, that creates blockages in
the system, the economic equivalent of a stroke.
4. We need to reform
Social Security and
health care in its various forms so they serve
those entitled to benefits
but don’t grow faster than the economy. I said
reform, not destroy.
In sum: we should invest capital in our future
and create jobs, insist the rich carry their fair
share, size our benefit programs to our means,
and, as we put people to work, plan to erase our
operating budget deficit in five years.
I’m a crusty old budget director and I know
how to balance budgets.
Unbelievably, what we did last decade was
reduce taxes and increase spending—and then
shut our eyes and pretend everything would
come out OK. Now it’s time to pay the piper
and get back on track.
Avoiding a serious depression and carrying
out the steps above require higher taxes. There
is one, and only one, piece of good news in this
brutal fact: The amount we have to raise taxes
now to avoid a depression is much less than the
later increase we will face if we keep on digging
the hole into which we jumped through our
I’m not for abandoning the poor and the sick,
or putting more people out of work rather than
back into jobs. I won’t support tax cuts for the
rich while middle-class working
folks carry the burden. I support
Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security—but their costs cannot be allowed to grow so fast that they sink
the whole ship.
There are smart ways to implement
these objectives. But first we have to stop yelling
at each other and agree on what our objectives
are. The hour is late and the clock is ticking. ;
It’s time to pay
the piper and get
back on track.
Peter Goldmark was president of the Rockefeller
Foundation, publisher of the International Herald Tribune and New York state’s budget director.
; The Time of Our Lives By Tom Brokaw
Fast-forward to the gen-
erational conceit of my
age group: We think we’ll
be forever young. When my wife and I be-
came grandparents we were determined to
carry that attitude forward, to give that role
fresh meaning, however surprised we may
have been by grandparenthood itself. We felt
we were still young, and that would connect
us to our grandchildren in a new manner.