published Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Shutdown threat averted

It was just March 2 when Congress passed a short-term spending measure to keep the federal government from shutting down.

But that bill provided funding to keep government operating for only a couple of weeks. So this week, Congress was back where it started: Democrats and Republicans were trying to reach agreement on what to fund and what not to fund in the federal budget for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Once again, they could not agree. So once again, the House and Senate passed a stop-gap measure to keep federal agencies functioning at full capacity — but only for three weeks more.

That means sometime before April 8, members of Congress will have to try yet again to fund the operations of government for the rest of the current budget year — while also reining in wasteful spending.

There were a few cuts in the latest stop-gap spending bill. They come to $6 billion — which sounds like a lot until you consider the fact that this year alone, our government will run up a more than $1.5 trillion deficit.

It’s hard to imagine $6 billion being “small potatoes,” but in this case that’s exactly what it is.

So what’s the problem?

Well, there is a difference in viewpoint among members of Congress.

While there are exceptions, Democrats tend to believe that the government ought to be spending more money — arguing that would create lots of economic activity and pull the United States out of the economic crisis.

Republicans generally think government — which, remember, is more than $14 trillion in debt — has taxed, borrowed and spent far too much money already, and should cut back.

What do you think? Do you consider it reasonable to spend more borrowed money when Washington already collects more than $2 trillion annually in taxes — and borrows more than $1.5 trillion beyond the revenue brought in by our too-high tax rates?

To put it another way, when our nation is already trillions upon trillions of dollars in the red — and has a weak economy to show for it — is it rational to claim that we’ll see serious economic recovery if we pump more money into the federal government?

Or do you think it would be more sensible to begin slashing many billions of dollars in unnecessary, unwise and often unconstitutional spending from the federal budget?

We’ve tried to spend our way to prosperity — with measures such as the $862 billion economic “stimulus” — and it plainly didn’t work.

Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to try being fiscally responsible for a change?

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