What is the American public supposed to think after the reckless federal budget battle last week? Up to the very last minute doom and gloom of every description, including a government “shut down” was forecast if a compromise could not be worked out. All that drama in an effort to intimidate and misdirect the public so that what should have been accomplished during scheduled budget discussions could be pushed through with little or no public scrutiny.
If nothing else, this method of operation may have caught the attention of a few more drowsy members of the public who routinely ignore our government’s shenanigans and even if that is the only known outcome, then we are still at least a little better off. The actual results of this last minute scramble may never be known as back room deals in Washington are still the standard for politicians just as they often are in local governments.
One fact clearly remains. Our federal government is up to its eyeballs in accumulated debt. Similar to our local situation, the federal government has a ceiling it cannot breach when it comes to determining just how much debt can be carried on the books. For the feds that number is $14 trillion. To keep going, this number will soon have to be adjusted upward. Too bad our personal budgets are not so flexible.
Fourteen trillion dollars is a hard number to imagine, it is easy to lose count of all those zeros. Out of the drama of last week’s budget crisis came a last minute agreement to cut the budget by nearly $40 billion, certainly a figure still loaded with zeros, but more to the point is that it represents less than three-tenths of 1 percent of the overall deficit spending.
Our government is dependent upon spending in arrears. Politicians have opened the door for our needs, many of which are more aptly described as wants, to feed the federal government’s dependence on deficit spending the way an addict feeds his every increasing need for more drugs. Such an addiction inevitable leads to greater dependency and if long term commitments are not made to withdraw from this type of budgeting we will be forced into more last minute challenges with even less ability to control the outcome.
There is certainly nothing wrong with demanding spending cuts but last minute scrambling without reasoned understanding or public debate of what specific areas of the budget will be affected as a result of those cuts is not the way to accomplish the goal.
Last week we heard threats over what would occur if a budget deal was not worked out before the deadline. We were told the IRS would not be able to issue tax refunds, small business loans would be suspended, mortgages backed by the federal government would be halted, federal parks and attractions would close and, most importantly, our troops would not be paid until the matter was settled.
There must be a behind the door agreement between politicians at all levels that when confronted with a demand for budget cuts they will immediately threaten to cut off the activities sensitive to taxpayers in order to frighten them into accepting a continued need for more and more spending. We see this philosophy played out locally every year when our county budgets come up for review.
Yet we never see politicians proposing to suspend or cut their own salaries or benefits, we never see them deferring needless grants that flow out of Washington like water over Niagara Falls or curtailing the redundancy in agencies and personnel. Spending like drunken sailors is an understatement.
It is hard to comprehend that they would even consider not paying our troops while continuing to pay themselves their full salaries and outrageous perks. Instead of seeking longer term solutions to really fixing the budget they nitpick issues based on how politically beneficial it will be to them. This latest budget crisis has proven no different.
Our country is in a sensitive period of recovery. Granted it would not be good to impose overly aggressive budget changes that would work to slow a much needed economic recovery but there is something that can be done now that would aid in increasing the public’s confidence during this recovery and actually strengthen America.
Unfortunately it is an election year and as such every action is weighted based not on what is best for America, but what is best for the politician seeking election. That mentality is what needs to be suspended. Our economy strengthens when Americans have confidence in their government and to get there we need to know there is a long term solution worked out to cure our massive debt. That solution can be accomplished by ignoring partisan politics and forming a long term plan that addresses our deficit spending.
That will not happen if we are always divided and the American public knows it.