Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

How much would you pay to save him?
Perhaps the most obvious answer to the title question would be, "because he hadn't yet received taxpayer money to safely traverse it underneath".

As our country grapples with a severe debt, the in-your-face debate revolves around the question of where to cut spending. Politicians and pundits hand-wring while claiming to understand the angst of the American people in general, and the Tea Party in particular, pretending to understand that concern but not quite grasping the concept.

The Liberal reaction to our demands of less spending is to demagogue and vilify. "Why do you hate children?" and "Why do you want to kill seniors?" are common taunts, when any sane person realizes that they are ridiculous accusations. Yet, the easily shamed are quickly tamed, and acquiesce to the demands of more spending without question. And they are so easily fooled.

For example, it is common for politicians to claim a reduced increase in spending is a "cut". It doesn't matter to the average Joe - who garners all of his knowledge from thirty second sound bites on television - that spending of his hard earned taxes is still going up. If it involves a "cause" he's been conditioned to endorse, he'll only "know" that the bad guys "slashed" funding for it.

One must wonder if that same person would feel like he's getting a bargain if he had to pay more for a product he frequently purchases if the price increase was suddenly 50% less than the purveyor intended. For example, let's say that "Joe" buys a widget every week, and it's always been a dollar. One day he walks in and it's three dollars, but the store is having a half-off sale. Will he realize that since last week, the price tripled, or will he be happy that with the "sale", he's only paying 50% more?

Likewise, when talk of eliminating actual spending amounts to a paltry "few million" dollars, politicians dismiss the notion as meaningless, a drop in the bucket. But leave a bucket under a dripping gutter and see how fast it fills up. The leak responsible for that drip needs to be repaired, just as tax dollars spent on turtle tunnels and the like need to stop immediately. If someone has that much passion for the plight of turtles, they can raise the money on their own and dig the damn tunnels by hand. (The money would be needed for permits to dig on federal property, after all).

Earmarks, the "pet projects" of Congress people, continue for the very reason that politicians dismiss their impact on the overall debt and deficit. Each to its own, they seem insignificant, but add drops to that bucket that soon overflows. And they are wasteful, albeit very nice gestures for a genuine philanthropist. To steer precious public funding (confiscated earnings) toward them must end.

A little spending here, a little there...
Case in point: in 2007, amid debates in Congress over desperately needed infrastructure repairs on highways and bridges that were crumbling, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California secured $550,000 of transportation money to build a boat in Los Angeles that would never sail. In fact, it would never touch water. Known as "Noah's Ark",  it was part of a project called the Skirball Cultural Center, a private charity in Los Angeles. The charity's director, Uri Herscher, reportedly went to Waxman, and Waxman directed the funds in the form of an earmark.

No big deal, Waxman later countered, it was small change. “The amount of money that the Skirball got for this project was very, very small. It was $550,000," Waxman said. True, but Waxman is only one of 435 members of the House, and it is unknown how many other "small" projects like this he "gave" to through the unknowing generosity of the American taxpayer.

With all of that in mind, let's examine the actuality of the $38 billion in FY2011 spending cuts that Speaker Boehner is touting today. Shortly after the vote, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) calculated the true savings at $350 million, with an "m". That's right, million...small change in the eyes of Congress when it refers to spending rather than cutting.

Most of the cuts the CBO projects are from monies that were previously allocated but unspent, and relegated to remain that way. And the total savings do not take place in the remaining six months, but rather in the next five years, stretching out to 2016. FY2012 is only six months away. If Boehner and his members can't do better in the next round of budget negotiations, we are in serious trouble, and so is the Republican party.

I feel like the proverbial turtle crossing the road. Why do I do it? To get to the Tea Party.

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2 comments:

Edisto Joe said...

Woody,
If the Republicans don't follow through and push through meaningful spending cuts; if they choose to compromise and down grade their proposals, then they too will loose their seats. This recession has brought the budget front and center in the political debate. Never before has the electorate paid as much attention to this issue as now. No longer is it business as usual and the spending must stop.

Also, nice article on Cain.

Woody said...

EJ, it is incredibly frustrating how the government ignores the demands of the people these days. Worse, the arrogance and contempt we witnessed during the health care debates was infuriating.

Ben Franklin was right when he answered a question on the type of government the founders gave us. "A Republic, if you can keep it", he replied.

Those men must be spinning like tops in their graves.