NO SOLUTION, ONLY A REPRIEVE

1/22/13

No Solution, only a Reprieve

Last week the Republicans decided to bend, just a little. They would grant the country a new debt ceiling until April 15th, with the proviso that thereafter spending cuts would tell a story of continued cooperation or not.  Someone finally understood that as a party, the Republicans “had to make nice” if they wanted to continue being relevant to our nation’s history.

Is this enough to take the bitter taste from our mouths as we understood The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012?

That little exercise was how we did not go over, temporarily at least, the feared fiscal cliff.

When we learned that this new bill contained earmarks for industries and causes that had little or nothing to do with the fiscal cliff but in fact, with these earmarks included, increased our peril, I was very close to being actually physically sick.

What astonishingly selfish yet uninformed Tea Partier, or denizen of the Senate, or brilliantly connected lobbyist, would take advantage of slipping these things into a bill designed to help our citizens continue the economic recovery we may or may not be having?

How could politicians not understand that these earmarks were a slap in our faces, a way of telling us that while we may hope for the best, the future contains no changes in how Congress operates. At all. Probably worse is the secondary information offered: the next three months are going to be intolerably partisan since some unknowns are determined to “get theirs” and the rest of us be damned.

To pass this bill was necessary, I agree.

What wasn’t necessary were the earmarks that amounted to more than 100 million dollars, and probably a good deal more, that went to NASCAR racing facilities; extended tax credits to green-energy vehicles; more tax credits for the biodiesel industry; not to mention asparagus growers, Hollywood film-makers, and rum producers in Puerto Rico.

By granting these earmarks, and others through the ages, the US is guaranteeing payment to those generally less than needy recipients by using our tax dollars. The simple but clearly misunderstood lesson of all this is that by handing out unnecessary money to undeserving industries (see the oil industry tax breaks), we are simply making the national debt worse. Which is to say that the national debt increases annually by the amount of money we (or Congress) agree to spend.

The government’s money is what we give it. There may be other sources: industrial settlements or fines for fraudulent behavior or paybacks for TARP’s generosity. But by and large, what we pay in taxes provides the government with walking around money.

So that when we decide, via our representatives in Congress, to assist a nation, an industry, a school system, the oil lobby, the farm lobby, the money that “government” allots for these purposes should be exactly what it has brought in from us in the forms of taxes, penalties, and fees.

It isn’t, and hasn’t been, for years.

It’s important to include the idea that often the money given others by our government has gone to worthy causes, for world health, for world peace or its prospect, for solutions to vexing international problems.

But to all those fool-hardy newcomers on the Hill who think of debt in the future instead of having been racked up by their own institution in the past, here’s a bulletin. The debt ceiling works exactly as your credit cards do.

You order something online, pay via a credit card or Paypal, and you promise to pay that amount to your card-holder. This now becomes a debt, from the past, for which you are on the line. Generationally, if you can’t pay or you die, your heirs are on the hook for your spending.

Our representatives vote to spend. We as voters agree. The bill, whether now or in April, is coming due.

In cause and effect, the debt ceiling idea is simple. Do we as a nation pay our bills for high-living in the past, or do we walk away with a shrug: in the minds of too many, a country too big to fail?

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