'Somebody else's problem'

'Somebody else's problem'

March 8th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Why can't our federal government get its spending under control?

There are lots of reasons, but one of the biggest is that we seem to think excessive federal spending "for us" is OK, while excessive federal spending "for somebody else" is the only exorbitant spending that needs to be cut.

But it just doesn't work that way.

Sure, some federal spending for us (and for everyone else) is appropriate. We all benefit when Washington carries out its constitutional duty to "provide for the common defense" by funding our military for our national security. And the federal government appropriately handles treaties, certain disputes among the states and some other limited and specified duties listed in the Constitution.

But there are many things that are not the federal government's proper business.

Consider, among many items, federal government funding of Amtrak and a proposal for high-speed rail, for which President Barack Obama is seeking $53 billion. Those are expensive items that constitutionally are not responsibilities of the federal government.

And while we highly value public education, that is not federal government business, either, but constitutionally is a responsibility of state and local governments. (Moreover, federal control of local education policies has hardly proved successful.)

Another example: We surely don't want federal control of medical services through ObamaCare and that law's constitutionally impermissible rule that everyone buy Washington-approved health insurance.

There are countless other expensive and improper federal activities, too. Some such things need to be cut to get us onto a sound financial footing.

A recent headline declared, "Georgians warn of agriculture cuts." A Democrat member of Congress argued that there would be a "pretty devastating effect" from Republicans' proposed $5 billion cut in federal agriculture spending.

But there should not have been such spending in the first place!

And say we take the Democrat's advice and don't cut that $5 billion from unconstitutional farm spending. It would need to be cut elsewhere from the budget - or taxes would need to be raised, or $5 billion would have to be added to the national debt.

But there are some members of Congress and many lobbyists promoting not only that spending, but also insisting on countless other spending items that are unconstitutional, inappropriate, too expensive, not needed or just plain unwise.

They will warn of "devastating effects," too, if we cut the funding they like. "Cut somewhere else," they will insist. But then - surprise! - somebody will insist that we keep that "other" spending intact, too, and will warn of "devastating effects" if we cut it.

In short, we will find that virtually all federal spending has a host of defenders declaring that it simply cannot be cut without horrible consequences.

The only consequence they don't consider is the economic disaster that is rapidly approaching from our continued deficit spending of about $1.5 trillion a year, added to our $14 trillion-plus national debt.

When will that kind of red ink eventually require alarming cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits, or confiscatory tax increases that would slow economic growth and invite further recession?

If we don't cut spending now for many unnecessary things - such as ethanol subsidies, Amtrak and Planned Parenthood - won't we create economic calamity, and then wonder why, when it's too late?