Fiscal Cliff: Education is the Answer

A Guest Chat by Sean Aherne ’14

The country is currently in a clear financial crisis, which is greatly impacted by the current economic conditions in the country.  Now we confront the “Fiscal Cliff”, the product of a suicide pact made by Republicans and Democrats in the summer of 2011, which would result in steep increases to tax rates and spending cuts. This combination of increases of taxes and reduced spending would devastate a still fragile economy. It is important that partisanship be put aside during the  “Fiscal Cliff” discussions. That is not to say that either party should abandon its core principles. Instead both parties must work together to find compromise. No matter what deal is reached in the coming weeks, the most important objective of the country as a whole will be to grow the economy both in the short term and the long term. Often our government seeks instant gratification by spending money on costly projects or irresponsible tax cuts. This desire for instant gratification in the pursuit of job creation and financial security leads both parties to seek small, ineffective, and usually costly ideological political victories.

Bipartisanship has been considered taboo in Washington for far too long. There needs to be responsible cuts to entitlement and military budgets coupled with an increase in revenue through the closing of tax loop holes and increasing of taxes modestly on the top half of the top tax bracket on a conditional basis relative to the national deficit. The tax increases should remain in place until the deficit becomes a lower percentage of the United States Gross Domestic Product. As to budget cuts, Defense Secretary Leon Penetta, a man renowned for his budget cutting ability, made a public plea to Congress for a more careful approach to cutting the military budget. According to a White House report released in September, if the nation goes off the “Fiscal Cliff,” the Army would lose $7 billion and the Navy would take a $4 billion hit next year alone.  The New York Times has reported that “under the terms of last year’s budget act, veterans’ programs were exempted from the cuts. Mr. Obama used the latitude granted by the law to also shield military personnel.” However, this much needed protection of our soldiers both present and past resulted in more extensive cuts to the remaining military budgets.

The government must not only find a fair and equitable solution to the “Fiscal Cliff,” but also invest in future ways of preventing this scenario from reoccurring. Education is the answer. We as a society both publicly and privately must make a greater investment in our collective future as a nation through the support of education. Republican Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could do for themselves.” The long term solution to our country’s recurring deficit problem is an improved education system and job retraining programs. As well as stronger assimilation programs for soldiers returning from abroad and a hybrid private sector and public sector job finding program. According to a CNN report there are currently 3.5 million unfilled jobs. Some may consider the conservatives’ argument that at a time when the nation’s deficit has never been greater we cannot afford recklessly spending on massive stimulus packages. They are correct in their assertions and their beliefs about reckless spending. However, what this country really needs is a focused effort to improve the education level of our youth in areas of importance to our re-surging economy and to retrain skilled workers whose industries are shedding jobs so that our economy’s growth is maximized. The 2012 Global Innovation Index ranked the United States thirty-first in K-12 education. The internationally respected index cited the United States low level of expenditures compared to other first world countries. Education is the key to the future of our nation and the answer to our debt crisis in the long run.

Sean Aherne is a Junior political science major, and business studies, history, and public administration minor.

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