Thomas Jefferson said, “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” Certainly, our current unhappiness as a nation can be partially attributed to the fact that for at least the last 38 years we have allowed government at all levels in the United States to rack up enormous debt in the name of providing for the needs of the American people. The $400 billion national debt in 1971 has ballooned to well over $11 trillion today. Our national debt as a nation has gotten so bad that the ratio between debt and GDP will soon be one to one. Most sane Americans agree that the lunacy must end.
The President, however, doesn’t see things quite the same way. He has proposed a $3.5 trillion budget for fiscal year 2010. Besides being the largest budget proposal in the history of the republic, it is filled with items the President claims the American people need. You know — the same kinds of expenditures which have traditionally produced huge deficits and sent our total debt into the stratosphere — more for college loans, worker retraining, nutrition, health and housing programs.
But, this article is not about the President’s insane budget proposal. It is about the response to it by the opposition party, the so-called conservative party of the two major parties in the U.S., the Republican Party. This week, responding to a challenge by the President to propose cuts in his budget, the House GOP acquiesced and submitted their recommendations for lowering federal spending. They proposed spending cuts totaling $23 billion over the next five years. You heard right, spending cuts averaging $4.6 billion a year for the next five years. That amounts to one ten-thousandth of a percent of the total Obama budget! House Republicans must be joking.
Now, the Republicans, led by House GOP Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, are right to propose elimination of federal spending on building sidewalks and bike paths and hiring crossing guards. But, in a $3.5 trillion budget this is the best they can do? What about slashing the budgets of various federal departments by half? Take the Education Department for instance. It’s unconstitutional and doesn’t educate one kid. If we cut its budget by half, we could save another $23 billion a year. Then there are the extortionists over at the Transportation Department. $73 billion a year is given to this bureaucracy so they can take state funds, attach strings to them and send them back to the states as a gift to them to improve our highway structure. Why not let the states keep their own revenue and decide how best to spend it locally? We would save billions a year just in salaries. How about the Energy Department? Aren’t we still dependent on foreign oil? A slashing of fifty percent here would save $13 billion. Lastly, there is plenty to be cut at the Commerce Department. Do we really need a federal agency to promote American products abroad? Isn’t that what the weak dollar and advertising budgets are for? Obama’s budget has allocated $7.4 billion dollars to Commerce for the 2010 Decennial Census. If we could reduce the census to its original format, simply counting heads for congressional apportionment, and not bathrooms and outhouses on properties for God knows what, we could save billions. The total savings, just from cutting these few departments’ budgets in half, comes to $80 billion per year. Now we have a start toward fiscal solvency.
In any event, like the mantra that Obama represents real change, the idea that the current Republican Party would have the courage to do the rights things as the opposition party is a pipe dream. Eric Cantor, one of its leaders in the House, is emblematic of this. Cantor served in the House through the Bush years and voted for almost all big spending schemes. He consistently voted for Bush budgets which nearly doubled the national debt in eight years. He voted for Bush’s defense authorization bills, lavish federal department appropriations, the $150 billion stimulus bill of February 2008, and the $700 billion TARP (twice). It’s no wonder the best he could do was come up with a total amount of spending cuts that doesn’t even deserve the title “infinitesimal.”
Sadly, as our day of financial reckoning approaches there are still no real leaders in charge in Washington to put an end to the lunacy that is federal spending. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are more interested in helping their own cause than in doing what is right for the country. Ultimately, doing what is right for the country is what Americans really need.