Thursday, March 31, 2011
The National Budget Fight -- "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"
There is no free lunch. If you want highways, schools, libraries, airports, prisons, bridges, public safety, parks, postal service, food safety, homeland security, crime fighting, social security and healthcare for the poor, disabled and elderly, protection of our freedoms, snow removal, disaster preparedness and relief, cyber crime fighting, airport traffic controllers, fish and game wardens, teachers for our children, agricultural extensions for helping farmers and ranchers produce the food we eat and export, prosecutors, judges, and public defenders, armed forces to protect our country, armaments and logistics to support our troops, military bases all over the world, border guards, enforcement of banking and finance laws, drug enforcement and prevention, rehabilitation facilities and personnel, veteran cemetaries and hospitals, a space exploration program, national laboratories, printing currency and minting coins, managing government agencies, collecting taxes and enforcing the tax code...ok, the list is endless. Government has been an important employer during this most recent recession. Laying people off has consequences in reducing the money available for spending within the private business sector. Cutting the federal budget means cutting off money to private business and increasing unemployment because private business will not expand or hire when there is no revenue.
Everyone has their own priority of what they want government to do and pay for. The fact remains that we are the largest and richest economy in the world, with the most expensive and largest military organization in the world. The modern "Know Nothing" political movement, including that loud and hyperactive minority called the Tea Party, are angry people who can't accept that American demographics have changed, that our diverse society has pluralistic values that are not defined by the formerly dominant mid-20th century social model of White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, and Straight. The conflict of social values often becomes so loud and strident that it dominates and sabotages political debate over how to solve our numerous economic problems. In our State Houses, our City Councils, our School Boards, and in our Congress, the battle over social values threatens our unity and our ability to fix our economic house.
Although I can agree that there has been waste and that too much has been promised without paying for it by both political parties, I also understand that it takes an extended period to reduce the national deficit and certainly it cannot be eliminated in one or two years. Especially given our high unemployment, fragile economic recovery, global unrest and insecurity, we must be strategic in our thinking and not use "slash and burn" tactics that may sound good as a soundbite or appease a highly partisan base. Most Americans want sensibility and moderation by their political leaders. The hyper-rhetoric on cable news and talk radio has most politicians avoiding using the word "taxes" as if it were the Plague. Most Americans have such a poor civics education, they unfortunately have little to no understanding at all about how laws are made and how we make sure they're paid for through a highly complicated budget process. Whacking $100 billion from the federal budget would completely shut down our country and lay off hundreds of thousands of workers. "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."
What we need in Washington are leaders who will stand up and do the right thing . We need legislators who have respectful negotiating skills and the will to compromise. Create a budget with both cuts and taxes to balance the budget with emphasis on reducing unemployment, fix the big things over time, and stop all the personal political bashing because we need unity of purpose in these difficult global times.