Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Budgets, Deficits, and Bull@^&%

"The Republican Party is the party of fiscal responsibility."
"American families balance their household budget, why can't we in Congress?"
"Democrats are the party of big government."
"Earmark spending is out of control"

I don't know about anyone else, but I am sick of hearing false statements. I'm sick of the unified and totally made up message of the Republican party. I'm also sick of the Democrats who don't know how to unify any real response. So now I'm just going to respond to these four Republican mantras that drive me insane.

Let's start by talking about fiscal responsibility:
"You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Do you know who said this? Dick Cheney. That's right the figureheads of the party of "fiscal responsibility" said "deficits don't matter". And does anyone remember the only president in recent history who balanced a budget and left office with a surplus? That would be Bill Clinton. Then along came George W. Bush. Need we say more about Republicans' "fiscal responsibility"? Well okay, I'll let this image say one more thing.

Now let's talk about balancing budgets:
I will admit I have never actually balanced a family budget before, so I could be wrong, but don't most families consider problems by trying to decrease expenditures AS WELL AS increase income? If you can fit in a couple of extra hours overtime, and make some more money, don't most families consider that option? Yet Republicans insist we have to ONLY cut spending, and we can't raise taxes at all. And no Democrats have ever suggested we can only tax our way out of the problem. There are definitely places to make spending cuts. But this rhetoric went out of control in Wisconsin, where the governor passed MASSIVE tax cuts to various special interests, then said I have a budget problem, and we need to cut union pay, only to further suggest that he couldn't just cut union pay, he also had to take their collective bargaining rights away, which had nothing to do with the budget. There is such a thing as PRACTICAL budget solving, but Republicans instead use the budget as an IDEALOGICAL tool. Have any Democrats really ever used a budget deficit to suggest the ONLY solution was more taxes? Most Democrats admit to needing to cut some wasteful spending as well as increase taxes. But why be rational when you can be an ideologue right?

Furthermore, it is IMPOSSIBLE to balance the budget through cuts without touching military spending, medicare, and social security. People on both sides of the aisle know touching any of these is general electoral suicide, but its the source of the budget problem. You can't be the party who wants to solve the budget without a plan to deal with these three problems, and frankly neither party can solve these problems alone. The only way to face the electoral suicide is with true compromise aimed at solving a real problem, and accepting mutual responsibility, credit, and blame. (please see West Wing episode: "Slow News Day". It may be a fictional show, but it makes a valid point.) But I guess that just wouldn't be as electorally useful as prolonging the problem and using it to accomplish idealogical goals under budget auspices.

Anyways now onto the big government debate:
Capitalism is not perfect. Capitalism has the goal of producing the maximum possible wealth in the system overall. It makes no promises that the wealth will be distributed in a logical or fair way, and it does not take into consideration costs to health and general well-being (which some could argue is far more important than wealth). That is why we have government. They clean our water, and protect us from poison in the food. Are some regulations unnecessary and wasteful? Undoubtedly. Should government just let capitalism completely off the leash? No way in hell. Government is designed to protect the people. That's it's job. It needs to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. People without the ability to get health care are without life. When income inequality skyrockets, and social mobility nosedives, the pursuit of happiness is no longer being protected for most Americans. This is not big government, this is what government is DESIGNED to do. Big government IS bloated military spending so that we can try and wage two wars at once for little gain to safety, but incredible cost to human life. It's the government in our phone lines via the PATRIOT Act. It's the government inside a woman's body telling her what she can and can't do. It's the government giving me the option between doses of radiation and an incredible intrusive pat down every time I want to get on a plane. That's big government doing things, it WASN'T designed to do.

And lastly my personal qualm, the earmark:
Earmarks are good. Yes, every so often, one earmark funds a small bridge to nowhere (which the 200,000 some odd passengers a year who flew through the airport in "nowhere" a.k.a. Gravina Island, Alaska, probably appreciated). But for every earmark that does there are 99 really good ones. My stepdad started a non-profit organization called SouthCoast Connected designed to deal with the high drop out rate in high schools in the area of our home, New Bedford, MA. It was a program that would help fund middle school sports teams specifically basketball to help keep kids away from the gangs and in schools, which is a major problem in New Bedford. Senator Kennedy had gotten the funds via an earmark. This past year, the program nearly folded because they had to find a new source of funding, now that earmarks had become a pariah, and there was no Ted Kennedy to fight for it. This is what most earmarks do. It is small amounts money that simply go towards helping people in very specifically defined ways. And you could get thousands upon thousands of earmarks, at the cost of building one less obsolete jet that is still being built for the military because it's produced in five different states, whose representatives, don't want to see those jobs lost. Earmarks can't solve the deficit. Opposition to earmarks is simply not about practical budget control given the tiny percentage of the budget they take up. It's about painting an idealogical picture of fiscal responsibility that distorts the reality of the situation.

If Republicans decide they want to be fiscally responsible and solve the budget, good for them, but if that's the case, they better be ready to man up, and actually do something PRACTICAL and difficult, rather than waste all this time doing something IDEALOGICAL that leaves us tired of arguing and still in the same exact place with our budget that we have been since Clinton left office.

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