European-style protests in store for US?

This sobering piece was in last Monday's USA Today. It makes one wonder where the courage is in our political system? Where are those leaders who will lead - who will cast a vision to the American people of a way out of our problems into a brighter future and who will inspire the people to walk that path, however painful it may look? Where is the grit, resolve, and pragmatism that once characterized the rugged American (or so we like to say)? Why are our political leaders more committed to ideological purity than to the common good?

Those are some of the questions that were bouncing around my mind after I read this article. These questions may be especially relevant with a national election on Tuesday. Selections below:

From this side of the Atlantic, the furious protests in France over raising the retirement age have seemed — well, petulant. After all, Americans already have to work to age 62 to qualify for early Social Security benefits and to 66 (eventually to 67) to get full benefits. Germany is also moving to 67. So the French government raising the age for a minimum pension to 62 and to 67 for a full one hardly seems cruel.

And France has no choice but to do something. Its pension system
already has to borrow to pay retirees, an imbalance that will steadily deepen as Baby Boomers age. The French protesters who took to the streets in violent strikes apparently think denial can make that reality go away...
...The sheer scope of Britain's spending cuts and tax increases is a pretty good road map for where U.S. politicians will have to go if they're serious about getting the budget near balance.
The hitch is that it took remarkable political compromise by Britain's coalition government to do this. Conservatives agreed to increase taxes and cut defense, while liberals agreed to slash government and cut entitlements.

It's almost impossible to imagine compromise like that here, where Republicans and Democrats keep digging themselves deeper into no-compromise positions. For example, it's hard to find any GOP member of Congress who hasn't signed a pledge never to raise taxes, and more than half of House Democrats have signed a letter to President Obama warning that they "oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits."

They are equally dug in on addressing spiraling health care costs in both the public and private sectors. Obama's health care plan didn't tackle them, and neither did his Republican critics. But the scale of the problem dwarfs Social Security's.

If only the current political campaign offered hope for a change after next week's elections. It does not. With only the rarest exceptions, candidates have refused to spell out serious spending cuts and are competing to see how much worse they can make the revenue side. Republicans would keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone, which would dig the deficit hole another $4 trillion deeper over the next 10 years. President Obama wants to end the cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Wow. That would only make the deficit problem $3 trillion worse.

It wasn't so long ago that Congress and presidents produced serious deficit-reduction plans that helped balance the budget from 1998-2001. That took courage and serious leadership, both of which appear utterly absent today. Before making fun of the French, Americans ought to take a hard look in the mirror.

The French are addressing their problems. So are the British. American leaders are not.

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Blogger Fr. Philip said...

"Put not your trust in princes and sons of men, in whom there is no salvation."

Not much more we can do it seems.

10:00 AM, November 01, 2010  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Yeah, that helps keep things in perspective. I think I preached on that text in June...ha.

1:39 PM, November 01, 2010  

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