A wise Irishwoman once said, "Get to the heart of the issue, then all your problems will seem a lot simpler."
Though she gave this advice in relation to a romance gone sour I was reminded of her words when reading the competing budget ideas of Rep. Paul Ryan and President Obama.
Both offer starkly competing visions but buried beneath all the trillions was the simple issue, "What kind of America do you want?"
Why do we never have that discussion? Probably because from the moment our politicians gain office they're running for re-election and would prefer to deal with the immediate - like raising money.
Be that as it may, the deficit appears to be the main political talking point right now. Where did the damned thing come from in the first place?
Well, President Bush was handed a surplus of $231 billion on Jan. 1, 2000. Uncomfortable with this godsend he decided to reimburse us by giving an across the board tax cut.
To the man's credit, he did promise to do so during his campaign. So, if you voted for him - suck it up! And if you didn't vote at all, then what were you thinking? Democracy is not for wimps - it calls for commitment.
I didn't vote for the man because I'm partial to the idea of a financial cushion. I've watched too many unforeseen disasters come rolling down the pike.
But Republicans prefer less government and that's their right. President Bush, however, compounded matters by invading Iraq and granting a costly prescription drug Medicare benefit.
Trouble really arrived during the financial crisis of 2008 causing Mr. Bush to initiate the costly Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Then, in order to prevent mass unemployment President Obama added his own brick to the hod with his stimulus program. Which roughly puts us where we are now - hocked to the eyebrows to the Chinese Yuppie comrades.
Here's the deal! If we were to go back to the tax rates of the Clinton Administration we'd reduce the deficit by $800 billion over the next 12 years. Now I don't know about you but I was drinking top shelf in Bubba's days. It's been all downhill since W and Barry went behind the stick. Clinton's tax rates might have been a shade higher but I definitely had more shilling rattling around in my pocket.
Putting it baldly, the economy fared considerably better under Clinton's tax raises than under Bush's and Obama's tax cuts.
Of course for a politician to even whisper, "raise taxes" is akin to announcing to your nearest and dearest that you intend hitting the pub with the lads the next ten nights in a row. A veritable invitation to suicide!
Raising taxes alone won't bring back the Clinton salad days, entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid will need curbing; but hands off Social Security, for mere pennies a week from each of us that great program will run longer than Steve Duggan's painted greyhound!
The real issue is - do you want a pre-FDR country with little or no social safety net but where you'll definitely get to keep more of your hard-earned money?
If you're young, educated and feeling lucky, Paul Ryan's your man. He's earnest and affable but doesn't appear to have much of a grasp of economic history - harsh budgetary cuts in the midst of an anemic recovery is usually a recipe for economic stagnation.
Amazingly, by cutting entitlements while issuing roughly the same amount in tax breaks his plan will make no dent in the deficit but put a lot more people on the street! He ignores the fact that despite all President Bush's tax cuts the middle class lost ground and the national debt ballooned.
On the other hand, dear President Obama, raising taxes on the rich alone may bring a smile to Rachel Maddow's lovely face but will barely shave the deficit.
So, "what up?" as the rappers say?
Well, no one likes raising taxes but if we were to get real leadership and the full story, my guess is we'd all pull our weight. Most of us can handle reliving the 90s, going back to the 20s is out of the question.