[I originally wrote this for a new blog that I set up, "Thanks But No Thanks," that was to be dedicated to drumming up grassroots support to turn the Highway Bill into money for Katrina rebuilding. Because I am so slow, however, events have overtaken me and now there is a growing coalition of bloggers
There’s an old saying that “pigs get fed, but hogs get slaughtered.” Too much of a good thing leads to the butcher’s knife. What the United States is about to discover is that it is living well beyond its means, and without some meaningful cutbacks the future welfare of its citizenry is in dire jeopardy. The federal government is spending money like a crazy uncle and as of September 15, 2005 has amassed a public debt of $7,918,009,471,434.33. Got that number? Almost eight trillion dollars… and we haven’t even begun to count the $200 billion or so that it will take to clean up the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.
The amount of fraud, waste, and mismanagement included in that staggering sum is incalculable. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem, however, the General Accounting Office reported that it discovered $45 billion in overpayments made by just 17 agencies in 2004, and it’s only just getting started on its count.
The outlook is as clear as it is unbearable. As the GAO so bluntly puts it: “Over the next few decades, the nation’s fiscal outlook will be shaped largely by demographics and health care costs. As the baby boom generation retires, federal spending on retirement and health programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—will grow dramatically. A range of other federal fiscal commitments, some explicit and some representing implicit public expectations, also bind the nation’s fiscal future. Absent policy change, a growing imbalance between expected federal spending and tax revenues will mean escalating and ultimately unsustainable federal deficits and debt.”
What to do? Well, we can stand around waiting for the crazy uncle to spend himself, and us, into unsustainable debt, or we can intervene. “Thanks, but no thanks.” Stop throwing money around, Uncle. We love you but we can do with a little less of your largess.
I am not so naïve to think that the ingrained political culture of spending oneself into re-election will suddenly disappear, but casting a little common sense into the discussion can’t hurt either.
“Policy change” requires leadership. “Leadership,” by all accounts, is lacking, on both sides of the political aisle, when it comes to balancing the requirements we believe necessary for our present comfort with the inevitable result that the irresponsibility of our current fiscal culture will drown succeeding generations.
Our forbearers wrote that “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." That sense of “Posterity” has been lost to our representatives in Congress. “We” never decided that bike paths should be built in New Jersey, rainforests in Kansas, or bridges to nowhere in Alaska.
“We” must now decide, and do so as individuals: Does America really need this stuff?
Enter Porkbusters. NZ Bear has put together a really easy way to see what's in the 600 page highway bill . Oops! I mean the "Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005." The very title of the Bill bespeaks of its efficiency, n'est pas?
I have broken down the bill's thousands of projects into word files, but I don't yet know how to post them. In the meantime, pick one or two of those at The Truth Laid Bear and start asking questions of your federal, state and local representatives.
Ask them if we really need this stuff right now.
Tell them to give it back.