Business As Usual

Despite being punch-drunk in love for the past two weeks in a whirlwind of a new relationship, I have still managed to catch all the news about the deficit flap. Republicans come up with a plan, Democrats shoot it down, Republicans ask Democrats for a plan, Democrats simply sneer. After eight-hundred-odd days of not having a solution to the debt crisis, talking heads claimed we were nearing a default on our debt. Republicans and Democrats alike scrambled to find something they could sign so they could all say, “see? We really are doing our jobs!”

Oh, gag me.

Rather than trying to get spending under control, the only thing either side has managed to do is make a bigger mess of things. While some of the finer points may be complicated, the general idea is still quite simple: you and I, John and Jane Q. Taxpayer, have to live within our means. We have to live on a budget. We write it all out usually, starting with the bills we owe, subtracting them from the amount of money we’ve earned, and delegating the remainder to different categories, usually simple things such as groceries, savings, and extra spending money. We know that if we don’t save up we may end up in the midst of a crisis with little to no money to help ourselves. When that happens, we may take out a loan or credit card to cover the crisis and pay it back over time as we can. When I landed in the hospital a few months ago in need of emergency surgery, my insurance covered all but $1800; if I’d had no savings, I would still be in debt.

Some folks don’t know how to manage their budget and end up with tens of thousands of dollars in debt on top of a mortgage that easily tops $200,000. They end up spending the rest of their lives treading financial water, trying to pay off credit cards and loans that they didn’t consider the affordability of when they took them out. Many end up declaring bankruptcy at least once, some of them multiple times (former MCSO chief deputy Dave Hendershott famously declared bankruptcy three times in his personal finances while nearly tanking MCSO’s budget). All of these people end up in serious legal trouble with creditors and government agencies alike. They don’t know how to live within their means, much less plan for the possibility of a crisis that can be costly.

The federal government lost the ability to live within its means right around the time George Bush Sr. took office.

The deal that was struck was not an argument about debt reduction – it was about deficit reduction. There’s a distinct difference. Debt is the amount you owe. Deficit is the damage done when you’re operating in the red; in other words, how much money you’re losing in a given year because you’re spending more than you’re getting. When Bill Clinton took office, his famous tagline was “it’s the economy, stupid.” Yet Clinton still managed to raise spending during his tenure by more than $520 million over Bush Sr.’s spending.

Bush Jr. was far worse – he raised spending by $1.6 trillion over Clinton, though it took him eight years to do it. Thus far, Obama has raised spending by a whopping $4.3 trillion over Bush’s spending in a mere three years. That means federal spending has gone up by nearly six trillion dollars since the days of Bill Clinton. There has been plenty of anger here at over Bush’s terrible fiscal policies, but liberals have far outdone Bush in less than half the time. The only thing they’ve offered is a cheap one-liner: “they drove the car into the ditch, now they want the keys back!”

Again…gag me.

If the government is pulling in $175 billion in revenue from taxes alone every month, that gives them $2.1 trillion annually (estimated). That’s just in taxes from you and I. Where is the money going? The government has a few essentials: immediate infrastructure (such as Congress), military, federal-level law enforcement and corrections, and federally-kept interstate highways. What else are we paying for? Medicare, social security, and a host of government-sponsored programs, most of which have a plurality (particularly education). We send billions to other countries annually, including to Brazil to do the offshore drilling that Obama doesn’t want going on near America’s shores.

Why are we spending so much money on non-essential programs? Well, that depends on who you ask. There’s not a liberal alive who is willing to call any government program expendable unless it has to do with the military. To a liberal, it is unthinkable to get rid of entitlements. Of course, we’re talking about liberals, many of whom have put Republicans to shame in the era of earmarks (which is saying something, because there are some Republicans who have managed some pretty silly earmarks). Why should the federal government fund a Woodstock museum? Damned if I know, but Hillary Clinton wrangled an earmark for it.

(As an aside, you can get a liberal to agree to an earmark for the Woodstock museum, but they’ll scream bloody murder if you start suggesting that the government pay for a few hundred kids to attend private religious schools. Not that I think the government should pay for that, but hey, at least those religious schools don’t churn out illiterate thugs the way government-run schools do.)

I’m an EMT-I currently going to paramedic school. I was told back in 2005 when I started my original EMT classes that it wasn’t a matter of if I’d get sued, but when. Eventually, no matter how good you are, you’ll get sued by someone who didn’t get the outcome they wanted. Did you c-spine a patient correctly while they still ended up paralyzed? Did you go to a child drowning and bring that child back to life only for them to be declared brain-dead at the hospital? You’ll still get sued, they told me, and I’ve seen friends who did everything right end up in court defending themselves from money-hungry lawyers and their clients who are simply looking for their lottery payment. That comes from the idea that the government has endless pockets. People really, honestly believe that the government has an endless supply of money that they can hand out at will, all they have to do is get in line. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The government can’t keep shelling out money like candy any more than you or I can.

Why in the name of Thomas Jefferson are we talking about reducing the deficit and raising the debt ceiling rather than going beyond that and reducing our debt? Both sides are being complete idiots here. There are tax-exempt organizations fronting as quasi-political organizations for both sides (i.e. the Heritage Foundation, Media Matters) that should have their tax-exempt status revoked. That status was created for charities, not for front groups who funnel money from elitists to certain political groups. As incentive, we should enact term limits and stop people from holding seats for entire lifetimes. The government should get out of the charity business and leave the charity to those who wish to offer it. Unemployment should not be unending. While we’re at it, I think those who accept government handouts should not be allowed to vote. Liberals need to stop labeling all conservatives as terrorists for simply wanting some commonsense rules to be applied to the Beltway.

Business as usual cannot continue or the government will end up in the same predicament as those people who continually take out new credit cards when they run out of money: destitute.

It’s the economy, stupid.


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