The hot button topic these days in Washington DC seems to be deficit reduction. I have followed this banter back and forth between the two parties for a long, long time in terms of spending and where to make cuts. It seems to flow in a cyclical pattern, as all political issues tend to do. Every 8-10 years we seem to have the “level of spending in Washington” as a primary issue and each time the leaders within the two parties pay lip service to the issue in an attempt to appease the voters just enough to get them to move on to some other issue that will require new organization and alignment. It has been a convenient plan for Congress. Let the issue build. Allow the “movement” to organize and rally to a level where something must be done. Then do as little as necessary and repeat the process with a new issue. There are probably a total of 50 or so “hot button issues” that just wax and wane in DC. And each Congress claims to have done something about each one each time they arise. What we rarely see from Congress is a true fundamental change meant to eliminate the issue from coming back up in the future.
In that way I guess you could give the Democrats over the last two years a modicum of credit. They were not looking to half ass some of these issues. They certainly sought to make fundamental change to some of the issues such as health care and so called manmade global warming. Of course their version of fundamental change was fundamentally wrong and flawed, but I do recognize that they tried to make wholesale change.
The most recurrent cyclical issue in Washington DC is spending. It constantly cycles back to the forefront and seems to always be in the mix of political debate. But the real problem for Americans is that neither side is interested in making any fundamental changes to the spending policies in Washington DC. The reasons are varying, but the bottom line is the same: Spending in Washington DC is something that neither side wants to really “fix”. And I say the reasons vary but they really don’t. Each side is only interested in creating more power for themselves and their like-minded compadres. On the conservative side they are interested in control through spending in areas that increase the power of government. On the liberal side they are interested in control through spending in areas that increase the reliance on government. At least that is how I see it these days.
But neither side is willing to consider the fundamental change that are needed to reign in government spending and the consistent increase in government control and scope. And THAT is the fundamental change that needs to happen. The control monsters on both sides of the aisle need to start looking at things in a whole new way. They need to start making cuts designed to scale back the scope of government. They need to couple that with a serious adjustment in the way that things are paid for in Washington. Let me start with that second part. I have an example or two.
Credit Spencer Hughes for pointing me in this direction. He shared an article last week that reported that the US House of Representatives spent $860,000 on bottled water last year. They spent almost a million taxpayer dollars on fracking bottled water! If I want bottled water while I am at work, I have to purchase that bottled water and bring it with me! My work does offer filtered water if you have your own container, which I imagine is far more economical. But not the US House of Representatives. They are spending a million bucks of our money a year to quench their thirst. Some of the most overpaid public servants in America (of which the majority are millionaires anyway) can’t even provide their own bottled water on that massive paycheck they get from us.
Add to that the fact that after serving only a single term in Congress, members receive that paycheck for life. Can you think of any other job in America where you can work two years in the position, leave the job, and still get paid your salary for the rest of your life? Is there any way to justify that? How ironic that these jackasses who get this wonderful compensation for life after running the country into the ground are the same people who decry executives who get big bonuses after running their company into the ground!
There are literally thousands of examples of government waste that we could share. Like the Department of Veterans Affairs spending $175 million last year on maintaining buildings that it no longer uses. Overall the federal government spends roughly $26 Billion annually maintaining unused or vacant properties. A GAO audit found that 95 Pentagon weapons systems suffered from a combined $295 billion in cost overruns. Health care fraud is estimated to cost taxpayers more than $60 billion annually. Fraud related to Hurricane Katrina spending is estimated to top $2 billion. In addition, debit cards provided to hurricane victims were used to pay for Caribbean vacations, NFL tickets, Dom Perignon champagne, “Girls Gone Wild” videos, and at least one sex change operation. Auditors discovered that 900,000 of the 2.5 million recipients of emergency Katrina assistance provided false names, addresses, or Social Security numbers or submitted multiple applications.
We could sit and complain all day about these relatively inconsequential amounts of money. When you continue to add them up, there are massive amounts of fraud, abuse, and waste in Washington DC today. And Congress doesn’t seem to be interested in fixing them. But these amounts are child’s play when compared to the overall budget and deficit. Sure they add up and they should certainly be looked at, but they are merely a symptom. They are a symptom of what happens when you empower a group of individuals to make primary financial decisions with OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY. They don’t ward it well, they don’t keep a firm tab on where it goes and what it accomplishes. Would any business in America allow themselves to hemorrhage cash the way that EVERY single government agency does now? Of course not. But since it is other people’s money, our government makes no marked attempt to fix the problem.
But here is the big thing. When spending other people’s money, they don’t bother to ask themselves if they should be spending it on that in the first place. They overreach. They dabble in areas that government has no business being in anyway. And they never, ever scale back significantly.
And now they are at it again. Spending out of control. The federal government spends nearly twice as much as it takes in. The federal budget is estimated at roughly $3.5 Trillion. The deficit created is roughly $1.5 Trillion per year. And with numbers like that the Republicans in Congress tell us that they are going to “aggressively” look to cut $100 Billion from the federal budget. They consider it aggressive to cut the annual shortfall from $1.5 Trillion to $1.4 Trillion. And they think that this is good enough. They think that this is making real change. They tell themselves and sell to the American public that this is what fiscal responsibility looks like.
What is needed in America is truly fundamental change to the way that the federal government spends money. We need REAL cuts in the budget. In fact we need, at a minimum, $1.5 Trillion in real cuts to the budget. Preferably more than that so that we can begin paying off America’s debt. And the only way that this is possible is through truly fundamental change in the scope and reach of government. Because the bottom line is that the people’s desire for a handout has greatly exceeded the amount the government has to give. And the only way to meet the constantly growing desire of the people is to consistently raise the amount of the fruits of our won labor seized by the government. And I am no long willing to accept that. I will staunchly resist increasing the amount paid to government by anyone, from Oprah to the homeless.
What this means is that we need to alter the discourse in America. No longer can we afford to have these conversations where we pretend to care about deficit spending and increasing debt. What we must do now is not talk about how the idea is to cut 10% off of the budgets of programs and agencies. NO! the time has come to have real discussions about cutting 100% of the budget of a great many things in the federal government. We don’t need a 10% reduction in foreign aid. We need to completely eliminate it when we are facing $1.5 Trillion deficits. That is just one example.
What we need is a reevaluation of what the scope of government is and is not. Because the vast majority of what the federal government does now is NOT within the scope of government. It wasn’t OK when we didn’t face massive debt. And it certainly isn’t OK when we are borrowing massive amounts of money in order to afford to do it. Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, Unemployment, Defense spending, Health Care, nothing should be off limits. The FDA, Department of Education, EPA, FCC, CDC, DHHS, IRS, SEC, no agency should be above scrutiny as to whether they are warranted within the scope of the Constitution.
It is time to stop paying lip service to fixing what really ails this country. And it is time to start getting serious about really fixing it. The size and scope of government as it stands today is unsustainable. But Congress will never get serious about addressing this problem until the people stand up and demand it from them. It is time to stop accepting excuses and start demanding results.
Articles I got information from: