Monday, September 26, 2005


The drunken sailors go on another binge

With estimates of rebuilding the Gulf Coast currently running as high as $200 billion, politicians and wonks are scratching their heads wondering where the money is coming from. No doubt, we need to spend whatever is necessary in response to Katrina and Rita. But with fighting a war in Iraq and financing gross tax cuts for the uberwealthy, I'm feeling quite dizzy these days wrapping my little pea brain around the idea of a $4 trillion deficit. It seems like not so long ago, in another presidential administration, we had a budget surplus. But that was then, this is now.

Our Repbublican friends have been clear about where the money is not coming from. It won't be coming from a repeal in the tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans. It also won't come from putting a stop to the $24 billion squealing and oinking highway bill recently passed. Tom Delay told The New York Times that he would be loathe to put a stop all those highway projects his constituents in Houston expect.

"My earmarks are pretty important to building an economy in that region," Delay said of his pet projects, which one watchdog group said would cost $114 million.

So what are the Republicans, who control both the White House and Congress, willing to ax?

Well, let's start with the infamous Medicaid prescription bill, a monstrosity of legendary proportions that deserves to get axed. Of course, that will leave us back at square one on the question of how to make prescription drugs more affordable with no relief going to anyone. Also on the chopping block is all government funding to PBS, something that in theory I support because I'm tired of all the right-wing whining about liberal bias and would like to see public broadcasting earn independence once and for all from the politicians. Yet, here's another instance in which government spending for average folks is seen as a vice.

And we haven't begun to hear about what the right-wingers might propose next. I've already been labeled a conspiracy theorist by some right-wingers, so I'll throw caution to the wind here and suggest that Katrina is the excuse Republicans have been seeking to cut a great deal of government spending that benefits average Americans. No, I don't think there's a secret lab somewhere in Nevada where conservatives manufacture hurricanes to perpetuate their agenda. But we're all aware of the current regime's sense of opportunism and determination to impose its ideological dogma on the rest of America.

Putting aside who would be hurt most by these budget cuts, we should also lament the insanity of the Republican spending spree that has gotten us into this mess in the first place. Our national debt is just under $8 trillion; over 40 percent of that debt is owed to Japan and China. Do you think that partly explains we turn a blind eye to some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet perpetuated from Beijing? Remember the old excuse, "It's OK. That's just money we owe ourselves." Not true anymore! As recently as 10 years ago, we owed 20 percent of our debt to foreighners. And consider this: each of us owes Beijing and Tokyo more than $6,000.

As that debt increases, a larger percentage of each dollar you spend in taxes will be used to pay interest. I know you don't like to pay taxes, but I'm sure you'd at least like for it to be spent on something useful like new highways in Tom Delay's congressional district. Hard to believe isn't it, that just five years ago we had balanced the budget and were running surpluses and were even considering the unthinkable idea of saving Social Security with all that extra money. Now we're even loathe to rebuild a substantial chunk of America wiped out by a hurricane.

Hope you weren't planning to retire anytime in your lifetime. Your country needs you to pay off that debt.

The Concord Coalition, led by former senators Warren Rudman and Bob Kerrey, is one of the leading voices raised against the frightening level of spending going on these days in Washington.

Another good source of information is the Grandfather Economic Reports, which describes in easy-to-understand language how your future, as well your children's and grandchildren's futures are being squandered by our president and Congress.

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