Americans canít avoid the constant drumbeat regarding our countryís debt. Rex Nutting recently offered a contrarian view in Marketwatch/Wall Street Journal Online arguing unemployment, climate change, infrastructure needs, income inequality and the influence of money in politics overshadows the national deficit.
I disagree with his contention but when the safeties walk up to stop the run, someone is open deep.
After a four-year recovery, 18 million-plus Americans still want a job. Never in my life have unemployment levels been so high for so long. Unemployment tears at the fabric of society, like machines people left idle get rusty. Imagine the progress if Congress fought unemployment as hard as they fight about the budget. The No. 1 job of Congress should be to foster employment.
Yes Virginia, climate change is real. When more than 90 percent of scientists agree itís called a fact. While laws of men control our deficit, physics govern climate change.
Doubters should look to the east, BANG, the Apalachicola estuary has collapsed, taking along the countryís finest oysters. An ongoing drought coupled with increased demand from metro Atlanta urbanization and South Georgia agriculture caused the decline.
Climate change also increases the chances of more powerful tropical storms; Floridians, including Oysterman Rick, should pay attention.
We have to address our crumbling infrastructure; bridges should not fall in America. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates over the next decade our inadequate infrastructure will cost the economy more than $3 trillion or more than $28,000 per household.
Replacing infrastructure will reduce unemployment and energy investments can reduce greenhouse gases and fossil fuel demands. I like Audiís Super Bowl commercial but the third quarter power failure starkly advertises our third-world power grid. During the signature American event, the lights have to stay on; they did at The Red Bar.
Nutting may be on to something with his next argument-income inequality. According to the Congressional Budget Office, from 1979 to 2007 (essentially my working life), the average income for the top 1 percent increased by 277 percent. The 80 percent in the middle saw their income increase by 38 percent. Itís not that the middle class is slackers (or takers), while inflation-adjusted wages crept up 1/2 percent annually productivity grew three times as much. Retired neurologist William Bernstein argues inequality leads to higher social, medical and political costs. He also points out some data links inequality with lower economic growth.
Donít blast Bernstein as an income redistributor. His company, Efficient Frontier Advisors, will manage your money but requires a $10 million minimum.
Money talks and its increasing influence in politics bodes poorly for America. Unlimited, unrestricted and often hidden corporate donations allow business interests to shape debate and influence legislators. When America cranked the engine on this great experiment only white men who owned property (in those days wealthy) could vote. Since the beginning of our democracy, there has been an increase ó often sluggish but steady ó in participation at the ballot box. Now voting rights are under attack; people shouldnít have to wait for hours to vote.
Yes, the debt trajectory is unsustainable and we canít ignore other important problems either. Donít trust everyoneís motive, some use the debt crisis to advance their agenda-Social Security privatization, for instance.
Buz Livingston, CFP offers hourly financial planning and fee-only investment management to clients along Floridaís Emerald Coast. Contact him at 850-267-1068, Buz@LivingstonFinancial.netor www.LivingstonFinancial.net.