Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The spending-cut myth

As we move toward a business-as-usual finish to the phony debt-ceiling drama playing out in Washington, history will record that no one — not even the Tea Party members of Congress — ever got around to talking about specific, major spending cuts (other than defense spending). Isn’t that weird?
Everyone involved claims to be in agreement that the U.S. has to cut spending, but not one Congressperson has been willing to name a specific program or bureaucracy that should be completely eliminated. Even if Republicans had gotten their Cut, Cap and Balance proposal accepted, it wouldn’t have mattered, because “cut, cap, and balance” are nothing more than hollow words.
Cut and cap what? Which programs and agencies are you going to cut and cap, and by how much? In any event, the purported major cuts are always years down the road, while increasing the debt ceiling is immediate — meaning that out-of-control government spending continues on.
And, of course, balance simply guarantees American taxpayers that if Congress doesn’t make the necessary cuts — which it never does, and never will — their taxes will be raised in order to “balance the budget.” In fact, a cynic might say that balancing the budget is just a euphemism for raising taxes.
Again, back to my original point: No one in Congress wants to talk about making specific cuts. After all, when you cut a program or agency, you’re going to make the beneficiaries of that program or agency very angry. And since the main objective of the vast majority of Congresspersons is to get reelected, mad is bad. Thus, the reality is that cutting any program or government agency is unthinkable.
For example, as the debt ceiling circus has worn on, I’ve repeatedly heard media pundits say things like, “What happens to the guy who’s planned a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park with his son, only to find that the park has been closed because Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling?” The answer you never hear is: He takes his son somewhere else!
I don’t know how much you and I pay to keep Yellowstone National Park operating, but I do know that neither I nor any of my family or immediate circle of friends has ever visited Yellowstone National Park, nor do any of us have any plans to do so.
That being the case, why are we required to pay for the guy who wants to take his son camping? Is he willing to pay for my family’s outing to an Orioles or Redskins game? These are private corporations that charge customers enough to cover their overhead and, hopefully, make a profit. Government doesn’t have to worry about such mundane matters.
Just like all the other land it lays claim to, the United States government should sell Yellowstone National Park to a company like Disney or Universal Studios and use the proceeds to pay down the national debt. I’m talking about principle, not interest. Ditto all of the other national parks, which would cut billions from our bread-and-circus budget.
Speaking of Yellowstone National Park, what about the Department of the Interior? Do we really need it? On its website, it proudly states:
Question: Why does a bankrupt nation need a bunch of bureaucrats to protect its “great outdoors?” The government is supposed to protect people and private property, not the “outdoors.” I won’t even comment on “powering our future,” since it has no discernable meaning.
Beneath the Department of the Interior’s mission statement are the words:
Again I ask, why does a bankrupt nation need a bunch of bureaucrats to protect its “natural resources and heritage?” How in the world does the government protect our heritage? Again, no discernable meaning.
“Honors our cultures and tribal communities?” Why does a bankrupt nation need to honor American cultures and tribal communities? Sounds like an interesting thing to do if you’re rich. But we aren’t. Psst… we’re broke!
Finally, “supplies the energy to power our future?” Government doesn’t know beans about supplying energy. In fact, it does everything within its power to prevent the U.S. from using its energy resources.
A bankrupt nation that fails at everything it attempts to do should get out of the way so private industry can exploit our natural resources, beginning with oil, natural gas and coal deposits. The government has never produced a drop of oil, a cubic foot of natural gas or a single chunk of coal — and never will.
Trees, of course, are a natural resource that present no problem whatsoever, because, thanks to capitalistic forestry corporations, we have more trees today than we had 50 years ago.
You can go right down the list of government agencies and draw the same conclusion:  They should be shut down!
Do we really need a National Labor Relations Board to prevent Boeing from creating 1,000 jobs in South Carolina?
Do we really need a Securities and Exchange Commission to give a guy like Bernie Madoff a stamp of approval for 25 years while he bilks gullible investors out of billions of dollars?
Do we really need an Environmental Protection Agency to stifle economic growth in America and create ever-increasing unemployment? Closing down the EPA not only would save billions of dollars a year in operating costs, but would explode the economy and send the Dow Jones industrial average soaring. Who knows, we might even be able to compete with China someday.
The Department of Labor, the Commerce Department, Amtrak, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services (which runs 400 separate subsidy programs!)… the list is endless.
Message to the government: Stop protecting our resources, stop redistributing our hard-earned income and start focusing on protecting, not stealing from, the people you work for.
The truth is that no one — whether Democrat or Republican — will propose legislation to reduce, let alone close down, any of these government agencies. They will keep growing until their employees are paid in worthless dollars — or not paid at all. And there is a 100 percent certainty that when government employees don’t get paid, it will lead to protests… followed by “civil unrest”… followed by violence… followed by a government crackdown on civil liberties.
As everyone now knows, the government has plenty of money coming in each month to pay interest on the national debt, Social Security, Medicare and our current military obligations (all of which total about 70 percent of current revenues). It’s the other 30 percent or so of “scheduled expenditures” that need to be “prioritized” — meaning that some of them have to be cut.
But when you ask a politician which ones he would cut, he unfailingly skirts the question. That’s why the debt ceiling will continue to be raised — again and again and again (75 times since 1962!) — and the U.S. debt will continue to spin out of control until the only thing left of the U.S. economy is a (hopefully) thriving black market.
Russian historians can tell you all about the phenomenon of the black market when the government shuts down the free market. It’s the only thing that kept even more people from starving to death in the Soviet Union during the heyday of communism.
Of course, if you’re the adventuresome type, you’ve got to be excited thinking about what living in a runaway-inflation society might be like. Hint: Sieg Heil!

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