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Adult conversations need some adults

A few weeks ago, Senator Kevin Cramer suggested that it was time to have an adult conversation about the national debt, noting that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security should be on the table.

Once again, initial thoughts of the “haves” is to shortchange the “have-nots.” The rich can get by without Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. For millions of people, these are not simply academic issues to be discussed casually in Washington but these programs are life lines.

Tax cut on table

Before we consider cutting lifelines, I would propose that everyone who benefitted from the big tax cut be asked to give it back. There were no adults having a conversation about the wisdom of that move. Nevertheless, we now want an adult conversation about cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

If the idea is to have an adult conversation means a screen for cutting critical programs for the “have-nots”, it does seem that it would not be a very adult conversation. An adult conversation should be wide open with everything on the table – inheritance taxes, the corporate tax rates, subsidies of all kinds, as well as programs for chronic dependents.

We should also look at the winners and losers in our present economic and social systems. What are the “have- nots” getting as compared to the “haves”? Maybe the whole system needs analysis and review.

Past sins exposed

The pandemic brought us face-to-face with the reality of past sins against African-Americans. Three to six times as many black people are dying in the epidemic because they are employed in service industries where they are over exposed to the virus.

They were holding low-paying service jobs because they never benefited from the schools and development opportunities experienced by white kids. The Civil War did not end slavery; it just reorganized it until today. We still have oppression in various degrees.

As a civilized society, are we going to keep punishing African-Americans for being black or are we going to accept responsibility for the past by doing better in the future?

Generations in perdition

These folks shouldn’t have to spend more generations in perdition. If we can suddenly find trillions of dollars for emergencies, it seems we could invest a lot of money in African-American kids so they can grow up being lawyers, scientists and engineers and live to an old age in the next pandemic.

God is impartial. He doesn’t see black or white and African-American kids are just as precious to Him as the kids next door.

In an adult conversation, we should go beyond today’s ledger and look into the future. In the long run, money invested in kids will return great dividends to the tax coffers in the future.

G.I. Bill

Some of us can still remember the end of World War II when millions of troops were mustered out in an economic system that didn’t have enough jobs. So the G.I. bill provided them with educational opportunities that fostered a fantastic prosperity.

In fact, the program worked so well that it has been continued for vets ever since, benefiting the economy as well as the vets.

Kids are present-oriented. Everything is today; tomorrow can take care of itself. Being an adult means we have passed that stage and can think in terms of months and years. But we see too much present-oriented policymaking to solve long term problems.

To participate in an adult conversation, we need to start thinking like adults.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

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