Shutdown averted; spending problem remains

Shutdown averted; spending problem remains

September 28th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

There are several versions of a quotation attributed -- frequently but apparently incorrectly -- to Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck.

Here is one: "Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made."

That remark came to mind this week as the federal government was threatened again with a partial shutdown, when Congress got hung up in a dispute about disaster aid.

Republicans in the House of Representatives -- pointing to our nation's $14.7 trillion debt -- wanted to pay for some disaster aid by reducing spending on wasteful "green energy" subsidies. But Democrats in the Senate rejected that because, as The New York Times put it, they felt it "would set a bad precedent."

It seems to us it would set an excellent precedent of focusing limited tax revenue on real needs -- in this case, disaster aid -- rather than on subsidies that we cannot afford. It would also be better than adding to our colossal debt.

Ultimately, it was discovered that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, through which the disaster aid would flow, had more money on hand than previously thought. So a compromise was reached in the Senate to provide a smaller amount of disaster aid and to keep the government running through mid-November. It is expected that the House will go along with that compromise.

But it is not at all clear that Congress as a whole has much interest in beginning to get our nation living within its means.

And it remains painfully true that it is not pleasant to watch law -- or sausages -- being made.