By: Wayne Brown
“Honey, would you mind calling the credit card company and asking them to raise our credit line just once more?” The wife asks as her husband walks to the door to head out for the daily grind at work. “We are just so out of money and all the bills are due and there is the dress that I just so have to have that is on sale and will only be there for a couple more days.” This might be a typical conversation that you would hear in a household in America if we ran our household like our politicians run our government today.
Some of you probably cannot grasp that it is just that simple. The reason you cannot is because those who populate elected office in Washington have complicated it to the point that no one can see anything. All we seem to really know is that we owe a lot of money, we are at our credit limit, and the bills are due. Oh, we have the Office of Management and Budget which tracks and accounts for government spending. But the key word here is “tracks”. It does nothing in terms of “qualifying” that spending or weighing whether or not we are wasting our money in the process. That comes back to the Congress…the folks who decided to spend it there in the first place. It seems that once we decide to spend money in Washington, we never contemplate as to when or where we will quit spending it. It seems like a logical consideration but it does not fly in WashingtonD.C.
So, our scenario above, of the housewife’s dilemma that the credit card is overspent does not seem so wasted on our pathetic situation in the nation’s capital. One faction says that we need to simply raise the debt ceiling as we have so many, many times in the past and keep right on spending as we have in the past and that money moving about in the economy will stimulate jobs, etc. which in turn will create more revenue for the government and tend to alleviate our problems. The other side of the aisle points out that immediate relief needs to come in the way of reduced spending and reduced deficit growth. In other words, maybe we need to pay off some bills and forget about that new dress that is on sale.
Certainly, we have varying opinions as to how to solve these issues which are rapidly reach a proportion that no longer allows us to leave them unaddressed and in the filing basket. Just like in the real world of business, “cash flow” is becoming king to a government that has too much debt, too many bills, too many dependents, and too little revenue stream. As complicated as it all seems to be in terms of the red tape of government, it really just comes down to the fact that there is too much month at the end of the money, plain and simple.
Now, let me ask you what you do at your house when there is too much month at the end of the money? Do you call the credit card companies and attempt to increase your credit limits so that you do not have to address the problem for a while? Do you look about and decide what it is in your household that you can do without and thus use that money to relieve the pressure in some other area? Do you ever stop to consider that the source of the whole dilemma is simply that your household spends more money than it takes in on a regular basis? Do you give rational thought to possibly setting up a budget, reducing spending, or attempting to make the best of the cash you have coming in to slow things down in terms of growth or do you simply put all your effort into getting a new credit card and continuing down the same path of behavior?
These may sound like silly, simple questions to some of you. But, honestly, are they not the same questions which we should be asking of our elected officials on a regular basis. Are they not the same questions our President would ask of Congress in confronting the issues and compiling a plan to eliminate them? Indeed they are exactly that. They are the exact questions we should be asking over and over and over until we get answers that start to make sense to us. This is not rocket science and beyond the scope of our comprehension. Hell, if a lawyer can understand it, so can we! But we have to understand it and we have to ask the questions, otherwise, we are not going to get any answers out of Washington.
Now some say that taxing the rich is the answer. Others point out quickly that there are really not enough rich people to make that a realistic alternative. Still, others argue that the rich should just pay more on principle that they have made money and accumulated assets therefore they need to pay more taxes. Amazing, many of the rich people tend to agree with them but they throw in a caveat to qualify the agreement that goes something like this, “I don’t mind paying more taxes but first I want to see you change your behavior about spending.” That’s right, the rich man is saying that he will ante up but we need to change our behavior first because there is this little gnawing sensation in his gut telling him that the extra money that he pays in under the present condition is simply going to be wasted like the rest of it was and the situation does not change as a result of his contribution.
That makes sense to me. It does not make sense to many in Washington. Spending cuts and reductions are things they don’t want to deal with at all. It robs them of power; takes away their international junkets and fact-finding tours; causes the lobbyist to spend their time with other people and the list goes on and on. If we cut spending and the government has surplus money, we might have to reduce taxes…..oh God! What a horrible thought! How will I buy votes for my re-election? How will I sway the unions? How will I show all those folks back home that I am the Daddy-Long-Legs when it comes to bringing home the bacon? Oh yeah…you can bet all of those considerations come to mind.
Solutions in this country no longer come about on the basis of how good they are. They come about on the basis of who benefits from what. Ultimately, they are compromises to say the least and in the end those compromises tend to either undermine the effectiveness of the solution or completely negate it. The elected officials want you to see them going “through the process” but not so much paying attention to “what the outcome and benefit might be.”
We saw a recent example of this behavior beginning with the campaign cycle for the 2010 midterm elections this past November. On the conservative side of the aisle, whether it be Republicans or Tea Party types, so many of the candidates were quite sure there was at least $100 billion dollars which could disappear from the 2011 budget once they were in office to do their magic. Given the opportunity, they came back with a reassessment that the real figure was about $ 60 odd billion dollars in reduced spending. Then, in the interest of getting the budget passed, and avoiding a potential government shutdown, the compromise yielded a paltry $ 38 billion dollars in cuts. Later, we find that the $38 billion was mostly pie-in-the-sky and according to the Central Budget Office amounted to less than a half billion dollars in real cuts at best. This is what I mean about “watch us go through the process” but don’t pay so much attention to “what we achieve”.
Personally, I think the conservative side of the aisle drank the Kool-Aid. I think they left their constituency with their mouths gaped open and saying, “we sent you up there to do this?” Their actions on this item undermined the conservative credibility for the 2012 election process and did it great harm. The conservatives drank the Kool-Aid, sang “Kumbaya” and repeated that often asked Rodney King question, “Why can’t we all just get along?” That’s the way I see it.
How do you reduce spending? If you do that will it not cost jobs? Isn’t that bad for our economy? No doubt, there are a lot of questions that come with real cuts in spending. They are not easy questions but they are questions which need to be addressed. Let me say this right here. I am conservative in my view point. I do want spending reduced. I do want the deficit reduced. I do want the national debt paid down to more manageable levels relatively to our GNP. At the same time, that does not make me a monster or a bad guy. I don’t want my 83 year old mother to have her Social Security taken away or her option for medical care assistance. In my mind, she had paid her dues and earned that privilege regardless of what our elected ones did with the money to fund it. And yes, I know that type of spending is a large portion of the problem and eventually must be addressed before it reaches total insolvency. I understand those things.
I also understand that people in many sectors gain their livelihood from a government job and they need their job to pay their bills and provide for their family. I understand all of that. I have seen jobs cut in the private sector and it’s not pretty but it is a reality of survival of the business. In many cases, the companies have held on as long as they could without letting any employees go because they do have a heart and they want to try to provide for those people as long as possible. But, there comes a time when the company has to choose to fail and cause everyone to lose their jobs or to cut some jobs in order to allow the others to survive. In the end, the latter becomes the more rational thing to do. Ultimately, jobs exist for one and only one reason…there is a business need for them.
So, on the basis of the above reasoning, I expect, as a citizen of the United States of America, that our elected ones will sit down and put their party differences and political leanings to rest and have a productive discussion on where the most immediate fat exists in the budget and spending process and start to eliminate some of it. Certainly there are cuts that can be made which will not affect jobs to a great degree early on. Certainly there are programs out there which have supported organizations for many, many years. Those programs have gone on long enough to either allow those organizations to stand on their own or to pass from existence. If a concept is not viable over a long term, it likely will never be viable. One does not have to read very long to realize that Planned Parenthood has long since gained enough viability to exist on its own without government assistance yet we continue to throw money their way as they build large buildings like the recent one erected in Houston. Maybe this organization would have a different face if it had to subsist on its own merits.
Beyond the scope of those initial cuts has to come some agreement to continue in that process to identify the fat and trim it out; to identify the waste and eliminate it. This is not something that can be done every now and then. It must be an on-going vigilance. The entire budget process must start from scratch each cycle and question, question, question, until we get to that point where we have eliminated wasteful spending and redundant effort within our government. Then, we can start working on those big ticket items. Maybe by then, with the changes that will occur in the budget, those items will not look quite as bleak and insurmountable as they do now.
At this point, we have officials on both sides of the aisle telling us that Social Security and Medicare represent 70% of the budget outlay by the government on an annual basis; therefore, there is little or no room for cuts. I say nay! I say we start small and work ourselves out to the larger items. We can gain agreement on the smaller stuff more quickly and accomplish it more rapidly. No, we don’t cut earth-shaking amounts of money but we do eliminate waste and redundancy. That is the basis of a good house-cleaning to start. Who knows, some of these folks might actually find out they can work together on the little items and find avenues that will help them to communicate on the big ones. The effort is what we call synergy and it is what a good leader attempts to achieve when he / she brings people together to move forward for the “common good”.
America is one country for a reason. It is one because at the basis of the simplest model which explains it we can claim that we are here for a “common purpose”. That purpose is certainly not to milk it for all its worth and feed our own greed. That purpose must be about the fact that we are a free people who want to remain free to expand and grow ourselves and our families in terms of knowledge, assets, safety, and positive experience in life. It says that we care about the welfare of ourselves and others to the realistic extent that we are capable. It says that we are still one nation that celebrates our birth, our principles, our flag, our allegiance, and our liberty but not at the expense of our fellow American. We have to look deep to find those things but we should all have them. If we do not, maybe we should cease to be a country and a people. It is our choice.
Think about it a bit. If you have to sit down and cut your spending in your household, your only real choice is to start small. Sure you have a house payment and a car payment but you are not likely going to risk the roof over your head and your only ride to work at the git-go. No, you are going to look at the small line items first and question their validity. As you do, your budget begins to make more and more sense and become less and less complicated. The same will hold true for our elected officials if indeed we can get them to sit down and actually do some work. It is our choice. Let’s pay some bills and not ask the credit card company to raise our limit.
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