Leadership crisis on economy is a call to action for citizens

(Regarding column “Bailout backlash,” Dec. 16.) Clearly a desire for fairer treatment of American taxpayers exists. But besides deciding whom to elect or which legislation deserves support, what can we do? Greed and self-protecting, self-serving rhetoric among those in control of “our” economy seem likely to be the last things sacrificed.

Most of us aren’t as versed as our elected officials at playing the game to win results. But I imagine there are viable ideas that meet the people’s common sense and the tests of law. The best of these ideas are probably not popular with our leadership, as their boat would be the one most rocked. Is there someone brave enough to popularize such ideas? Anyone knowing a viable way to meet this thing at the pass should step forward with a loud voice.

My own mind considers things such as state legislation to effectively tax those receiving bailout funds at a level that would repay taxpayers for their forced investment in this “economy.”

Taxpayers should have access to home and land ownership if they are paying to support home values and prevent foreclosures.

Which part of “For the People” have we let fail? Not the “For the Rich” part, apparently.

I hear of the printing of money. I hear of the capital injections for raising confidence. I hear of the joblessness. I read the projections for the deficits.

A blank slate seems better than a blank check.

We have lost confidence and patience with our leadership. Our faith is not in their notions of importance.

Our faith is not in their ability to determine our currency’s worth. This nation of consumers, workers and taxpayers may have to vote the good old-fashioned way: Say no. Say no to credit. Say no to banks. Say no to poor salaries. Withdraw everything. Our nation’s resources aren’t going anywhere without our will.

Billings, Mont.

Time to tackle Social Security

From James P. Rudolph, esq.

Your Jan. 8 editorial “The spending side” raised one of the most important economic issues facing our country: the impending funding gap within the Social Security system.

A look at the numbers tells us that Social Security takes in 5 percent of GDP in revenues and pays out about 4 percent of GDP. This is how it should be: taking in more than you pay out, like any solvent business owner would tell you. However, most economists have warned that by 2018 the system will take in 4.5 percent of GDP and pay out 6.5 percent of GDP. This, as we’ve heard many times, is not sustainable. Nor is it the real issue.

The real issue, of course, is whether Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress have the political capital and courage to tackle this impending fiscal shortfall. But this belies the question of solutions. How, exactly, are they to solve the problem?

The final report of the Social Security Advisory Council, which was issued in 1997, failed to reach anything resembling a consensus. But the council did at least raise some interesting solutions. Increasing taxes and slightly decreasing benefits, for example, was one obvious response. Raising the age at which benefits kick in was another. Or some combination thereof.

Encouraging private savings, however, seems always to get short shrift. One criticism of Social Security, among many others, is that it discourages private savings. Thus, another sensible solution, which wouldn’t require tinkering with expected benefits, would be to pump up the rate at which Americans save, which currently is alarmingly low. This could be done through a series of tax credits or by raising the rate of return on investments — anything to tempt more Americans to put away more of their money, which would have beneficial consequences all across the economic landscape.

Whatever the ultimate solution, the point is that this is a serious economic and political problem requiring the full attention and commitment of President-elect Obama, the Democratic-controlled Congress and the American people. As Mr. Obama has said so stirringly on numerous occasions, this is our moment, this is our chance.

Washington