Diary

Tough Choices Now for a Fiscally Stable Future

The Tea Party movement, rank and file Republicans, Libertarians, conservatives and even, shockingly, Democrats are united behind one rallying cry: fiscal responsibility. Of course, it’s easy to pay lip service to such a nebulous concept. What Joe from Mississippi calls fiscal responsibility isn’t necessarily going to match how Bob from Vermont defines the term. And we really don’t even want to know what Cindy from California thinks about the whole thing! (Relax Californians, I know there’s a great many of you with sound financial sense. Sadly, you never seem to elect a majority of like-minded people to state or federal office.) The real test of a party, politician, or voter’s dedication to reducing the national debt and moving toward a balanced budget is: how much pain are you willing to suffer? Are YOU willing to give up YOUR pet project?

There are items in the Federal budget- and just as many in the oft overlooked state budgets- that any reasonable person can agree do not belong. The so-called “bridge to nowhere”, funding for a Coca Cola museum, and the proposed purchase of a National Historic Park in the US Virgin Islands, are just a few examples of well publicized “pork”. There are literally hundreds of such projects in the federal budget every year and more are added into individual spending bills before they are passed by Congress.

The pain in balancing the budget, and reducing spending, comes not from elimination of such easy to spot luxuries, but in the elimination of all those pet projects and earmarks that can realistically be justified by someone, somewhere. There are things we do absolutely need in our Federal budget. There are many more things that we would very much like to have funded. Congress and the President are all too willing to play the over-indulgent parent and give in to voter’s repeated pleading for cookies. The Cato Institute’s Liberty blog recently reported on our supposedly conservative representatives and Tea Party activists who asked for stimulus funds.

Given that those responsible for managing our money are doing such a bad job of actually being responsible, the voters have to take charge and put our collective foot down. We have to be the adults in this situation and stop asking for that tantalizing piece of the pie.

We have to fund our military so that they can continue to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, patrol the world’s oceans, and secure the airways. We have to fund and support the services that aid our military families, veterans and disabled veterans. We have to provide money for border security, air marshals, federal law enforcement and immigration enforcement. We have to provide funds to maintain and protect interstate trade routes: railroads, waterways and roads.

We do NOT have to fund the following items from the President’s proposed 2011 Budget:

Build on the historic $8 billion Recovery Act down payment for high-speed rail with another $1 billion, creating jobs and sparking transportation innovation across the country. When we aren’t facing double digit unemployment and a debt to GDP ratio of 90%, then we can talk about spending billions of dollars on shiny new trains. Put this in household economic terms: You cannot go out and buy a brand new car when your old car works perfectly well and you already have $43,00 in credit card debt.

$5.1 billion for the Department of Energ’s Office of Science, including $1.8 billion for basic energy sciences to discover novel ways to produce, store, and use energy. You aren’t going to go out and buy a windmill for you backyard to see if you can generate wind energy while your house is being foreclosed on- are you?

$73 million – a $14 million increase – to build agency capacity to review and permit renewable energy projects on federal lands. The Interior Department has set a goal to permit at least 9,000 megawatts of new solar, wind, and geothermal electricity generation capacity on Interior-managed lands by the end of 2011. I hate to belabor an allegory, but really: your house is facing foreclosure and you have all this land available. A cattle baron comes to you and offers to rent your land if you’ll let him raise cows on it. Would you spend money hiring people to review the plan, or, worse, say “No, no, let me pay YOU to see if my land works out for you!”?

In barely an hour’s research I found dozens more examples of spending that makes no economic sense. If you stop and think abou the politically active organizations you are a part of I’m sure you can think of projects they have asked to be funded recently, or in the future, which we just can not afford. Think about this: the national debt translates into roughly $40,000 for each person in this country. That is not each tax payer or each worker- that’s every single person from the newborn infants to those lucky few who have supassed 110 years in age. Take your household budget and add $40,000 in the debt column for each person in your house. Can you reasonably say that you will EVER be able to pay off that amount of debt?

We cannot afford new tax cuts. We cannot afford to cripple the economy with higher taxes either. We cannot afford to forgive un-paid student loans after 20 years. We cannot afford to pay for weapons systems the Pentagon says they don’t need but the owners of the local defense contractor assure us will bring jobs to our town. We cannot afford speedy new trains, shiny new windmills, billions to “help” big banks provide credit, or thousands to preserve newly added historical sites. We cannot afford to buy that big new library in our town, add that airstrip to the local field, or spend billions on“incentives” for cable companies to provide broadband internet to rural communities.

Yes we would very much like new books for the library, to preserve the birthplace of the local town founder, to hire a new park ranger, to better monitor wolf populations in Yellowstone, to put a man back on the moon. My three year old son would very much like a new train set, too, but the mortgage payment comes first.

Scarlett Says: put your foot down. Stop holding out your right hand for stimulus money while shaking your left in anger. Buckle in, hunker down, and be ready for the lean years. Cotton’l go sky high in a few years- but you won’t see a dollar if you lose Tara.

**Budget line items taken from http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/

 National per person debt estimate taken from http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/