As the hours tick by the likelihood of a federal budget impasse shutting down the government increases. If a new budget is not approved approximately 4,400,000 federal employees will have no pay, social security checks will stop rolling out, medicare and medicaid payments will stop along with a long list of other services that will be suspended. Why is this happening?
I find most interesting that this budget was due in OCTOBER, 2010. I am not sure (actually I am) but at the time this budget was due weren’t BOTH houses of congress and the White House in the hands of strong Democrat majorities? If the Democrats controlled the entire decision making process, why couldn’t they adopt an acceptable budget? Simple answer – Democrats know how to spend, not how to cut. It was simple to see in October that the American people were not going to tolerate “business as usual” and the Democrats did not want to pass a budget with wild spending just before the election. Also, it allows the Democrats to try and blame the Republicans for any budget impasse.
Ok, now we understand the timing, what are the two parties fighting about? The Republicans have put forth a proposal that would reduce spending by $61 billion. That sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well, when you take into consideration that the spending under the current budget is $14 TRILLION, the $61 billion doesn’t sound like that much and in fact represents only about .04% of the total budget. Since the parties have “agreed” to about $30 billion in cuts, that means this impasse and potential government shut down is over about .02% of yearly federal government spending.
“Oh,” howl Democrats, ”it is WHAT you are cutting that gets us up in arms. ” According to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “six million elderly will starve to death.” Other Democrats have indicated that the proposal will “end health care as we know it.” First, both of those claims are ridiculous and the Democrats know it. Second, every time ANY program is going to be cut the Democrats howl to the moon and frankly Republicans haven’t been much better recently. Approving spending buys friends. Approve a big public union contract and you have the support of the public unions. Increase benefits to the elderly and AARP is on your side. Expand the federal government payroll to 4,400,000 employees and you create a captured group of voters.
Cutting spending has the opposite impact – you anger people that will take it out on electeds. Because of this dynamic, neither party has had the political will to stand up and say “Enough!” The tea party has now sent a group to Washington that has heard this message loud and clear. Even now the proposal is for an incredibly modest .04% cut in spending. The funny thing is that most Americans really do understand the dilemma. Spend money on a new washer and dryer or figure out a way to make it another month so that we can pay the mortgage. Choices like that are made every day. Yet when it comes to federal spending, people seem to lose track of the fact that there are limited resources.
Of course it is a great idea to require all buildings to have handicapped access. That isn’t the question. Is handicapped access more important that school lunches for impoverished kids, or higher quality health care for the elderly or prenatal care for mothers? Those are hard questions with no clear answers but we keep acting as if we can buy the washer and dryer AND pay the mortgage.
The real problem here is that we are putting all of our excesses on one huge credit card. The bank holding this credit card is China and Saudi Arabia and other foreign powers that control large portions of our debt. Sadly, I will probably not have to pay much of the “credit card debt” that has been racked up during my lifetime. The obligation to pay for this debt is going to fall onto my children and grandchildren. I know that this problem took years to create and will take years to correct – I would at least like to be able to look back and say I was there when America finally had the courage to start paying off the credit card.